Graceful Failures

Cory Doctorow, on our relationship with technology and a feature we don’t often consider:

I once had a really good KitchenAid mixer. Its merits were that it had limited features that coincided with my needs, and it performed them with superb reliability, and it failed well (had excellent warranty service). That, to me, is the pinnacle of virtue: get out of my way, let me work, fail gracefully.

This is the place where I would typically go on about being mindful of the choices and investments in our digital lifestyles. I’d embroider an elaborate embellishment of the impact of these choices but I think Cory touches on something more important.

Sophisticated computer users pay attention to failure, rather than success.

We need to think not only about how our software behaves in a failed state, but how we behave when we’re broken–when we’ve failed, when we’re down. Startups can get by with just posting a sorry-but-not-sorry letter on their homepage when they can’t pay their hosting bills anymore but is that how we want to treat our friendships and relationships too? Are we able to get work done when our systems are failing? Are we comfortable traveling without the gear that we’re used to having? Are you still you when you’re not in your routine?

I’m realizing that most of the time I’m in some state of failure whether it be my sleeping habits or eating routines, how I’m processing stress or managing friendships and need to better manage responding with grace when I’m tired or stressed.

Are you failing gracefully the same way you hope your software does?