Cem Kaner has written a Software Customer Bill of Rights. His general approach is to require that customers have roughly the same rights when they buy software as when they buy other products.
Much of what Kaner says makes sense. But at least one of his principles seems awfully hard to implement in practice:
2. Disclose known defects. The software company or service provider must disclose the defects that it knows about to potential customers, in a way that is likely to be understood by a typical member of the market for that product or service.
This is hard to implement because software products have so many defects – big mass-market software products typically have thousands of known defects. And this is not just the practice of one or two companies; it’s standard in the industry. If a vendors waited until all the defects were removed from a product, that product would never be finished and would never ship.
Some of the defects in software products are serious, but most are relatively minor. There is simply no way to explain them all to consumers. And sometimes it can be hard to tell in advance which defects will prove to be critical to customers.
Still, Kaner seems to be on the right track. It would be helpful if vendors disclosed the most serious known defects to their customers, so that customers could weight their impact in deciding which product to buy.
[Link credit: Dan Gillmor.]