Law Of Demos

In general, when x is being demonstrated, x will fail.

For examples,

One would think the LawOfDemos duefully applied to itself would cause it to disappear, but that would almost be optimistic.

Not related to the LawOfDemeter.

But related to the LawOfStubs.

I have come to the conclusion that a quantum-like psychological effect causes the LawOfDemos, especially the second strange phenomenon listed: the irreproducability of the bug that appears in front on the prospective user/customer/employer/girlfriend/other person you want to impress.

One simply acts differently when being observed by such people. It goes very deep and affects many subconscious details in the way you interact with a system that you are hopefully very familiar with. So you see bugs that you will never see again (sometimes no eventual user ever reports them).

This would imply that there are LimitsToAutomatedTesting?

-- RichardDrake

There is also some correlation between the probability of an undiscovered defect surfacing and the sum of the salaries of the observers. -- AndyMorris

There are several jargon terms for these kind of bugs (Heisenbugs, schroedinbugs, etc...) that manifest what Richard is saying to be the Truth and only the Truth... -- DavidDeLis "fandango on core" (it's Friday)

you mean there's someone else out there that understands...?

I mean it... :-)

This sort of thing always reminds me of one of the examples in ProgrammingPearls. Please feel free to correct this anecdote. My recollections are somewhat hazy, having foolishly lent my copy out a few years ago...

A user complains to support that some of the keys on his/her terminal are intermittent, yet neither the user nor the support engineer can demonstrate the problem when the engineer arrives. Eventually (after a lot of head-scratching) it turns out that the problem is two transposed key caps on the keyboard. When unsupervised, the user mostly touch-types, but under demo pressure, looks at the keys.


[See TheOriginalFolkTale]

I think it has something to do with neckties. The probability of something going wrong is proportional to the density of ties in the neighborhood of a demonstration. This is why you should never let your customer's boss peer too closely at the monitor.

Uniforms seem to spook computers, too. I once saw a demonstration crash and burn when a major general, keenly interested in what was going on, leaned forward and hit the computer's power switch with his knee. -- TomKreitzberg

In a recent job I did it was necessary for all of the team to do lots of demos. When things went wrong it was usually caused by one of three things:

That last one tended to be the most common mistake.

-- ChanningWalton

Even that last point can backfire. A number of years back a story made the rounds telling of a particularly paranoid microsoft project manager who made several dry runs on a clean machine the night before the demo. The next day, the demo failed. The dry runs had been just enough to nearly fill up the disk. -- DaveSmith

Once when working for an online company, I had to drive a demo given to some important stock analysts. The night before I installed and tested everything on the machine that was to be used for the demo. The only thing I was not able to do was test it in the room we were to give the demo in, I had to do everything in another room while various tech minions set the main room up. I left at about 2:30am finally having everything work. (Got home at 3:30 am and left at 6:30 to return) The big issue was the most of the technology being shown was from a recently aquired company, and we had to use a rival service to connect to it. There had been no time to rewrite things to work on our own system. We, of course, did not plan to show this part.

When we arrived the next morning, the presentation had started, and I discovered that the techies had not moved the computer over intact as promised. They figured that since the room had a huge projection screen, we would not need a monitor. My boss gave a very compelling little speech (thank god he was a good speaker) while I, in front of the analysts, tried to look bored while making our initial connections. As far as we know, we got away with it. And words were had with the people who decided we did not need the monitor. Was also a lesson for me about doing things myself. Next time I stay with the machine until it is truly set up, and just go without sleep....

I've got a better one...

Once, we were demonstrating our television product to a potentially big client. The program was faithfully rendering over a lot wire from upstairs to a television set at the back of the conference room. After the initial demo, our Vice President of Imagination, came in, introduced himself, and gave the Visionary Speech. At this point, a couple of us engineers wandered over to the balcony overlooking the conference room to peer in through the glass doors. You guessed it. The demo had crashed. The marketeers noticed us and tried waving us down while our vice president was giving the charismatic speech of his life to stall. We quickly rebooted the system just in time. A year later, I recall enjoying it just a little too much when I got to delete the entire codebase out of our version control system before rewriting it correctly. ;) -- SunirShah

Demos sabotaged by last-minute requirements

I had the misfortune of working for a start-up whose goal was to be the AOL of their city (never mind that AOL already existed). On the morning of our product's demo to the public, the hands-on, won't-take-no-for-an-answer CEO came in very excited about a new program he'd put on his home PC the previous evening. It looks fantastic, he told us; could we put it on the demo machine? It would make our demo so much better!

The program was the just-released MicroSoft Windows 95.

Sensing disaster, the lead programmer and I put up a united front. We won, and the demo ran as planned under Windows 3.1, the environment it had been written on. We were sobered by just how close we'd come to catastrophe.

See: AiKoans

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