Defect Seen >10 Million Times and Still not Corrected…

I responded to a recent blog post written by Gareth Bowles today and was struck – again – that a defect that must have been seen >10 million times by now has still not been corrected. When anyone responds to a blog post on Blogger.com, the stat counter says “1 comments” instead of correctly stating “1 comment.” What’s up with that?

The clothing company Lands’ End (with the apostrophe erroneously after the s instead of before it) has a bizarre but somewhat logical explanation for why they have printed their grammatical-mistake-laden brand name on millions of pieces of clothing. According to one version of the story I have heard, they printed their first brochures with the typo and couldn’t afford to get it changed. I also remember reading a more detailed explanation in a catalog in the late 80’s to the effect that by the time the company management realized their mistake and tried to get trademark protection on “Land’s End” they discovered that another firm already had trademarked rights to that name. Quick internet searches can’t verify that so perhaps my memory is just playing tricks on me. But I digress. Here’s the defect I wanted to highlight with this post:

For Blogger.com to leave the extra “s” in has me stumped for several reasons. First, this defect has been seen by a ton of people as Blogger.com is, according to Alexa’s site tracking, the world’s 7th most popular site. Second, Blogger.com is owned by Google (among the most competent, quality-oriented IT wizards on the planet) and no trademark protection is preventing the correction. Third, it would seem to be such an easy thing to fix. Fourth, other sites (like wordpress) don’t make the same mistake. Fifth, it doesn’t seem like a “style preference” issue (like spelling traveled with one “L” or two); it seems to me like a pretty clear case of a mistake. It would be a mistake to say “one cars,” “one computers,” or “one pedantic grammarians”; similarly, it is a mistake to say “one comments”. What gives? Anyone have any ideas?

For anyone wondering where the “>10 million times” figure came from, it is pure conjecture on my part. If anyone has a reasoned way to refute or confirm it or propose a better estimate, I’m all ears.

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9 thoughts on “Defect Seen >10 Million Times and Still not Corrected…

  1. There’s an alternative explanation to Lands’ End.

    If you’re talking about the end of one land, then “land’s end” would be correct. But if you’re talking about the end of many lands, then “lands’ end” would be correct.

    A similar pattern applies to people’s names. This is Justin’s blog, but I also make replies on James’ blog.

    I agree that the “1 comments” business is a silly problem that capable programmers should be able to fix very quickly, but in order to fix it, they’d have to notice it and recognize it as a threat to Blogger’s image. However, so it seems, we’ve come to expect such mistakes and learned to ignore them. Quality is dead.

    —Michael B.

    • Michael,

      Thanks for your post. I’m flattered that you visit my blog.

      As to the lands’ end point…. While I agree with your grammatical analysis, the historical facts don’t leave much doubt as to the founder’s intent (or founders’ intent; I’m not sure about how many people were in on the decision). 🙂 He / they were trying to name their company after this place with a singular “land” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land%27s_End

      – Justin

  2. Going right to the source:

    “Incidentally… ..a lot of people ask why the apostrophe in Lands’ End is in the wrong place. There have been some silly explanations along the way, but the truth is, it was a mistake.

    It was a typo in our first printed piece, and we couldn’t afford to reprint and correct it.

    In the years since, the misplaced apostrophe has continued to grace our name and our label. And while it has prompted some raised eyebrows among English teachers, it also sets us apart as a company whose continuing concern for what’s best for the customer is unmistakably human. ”

    http://www.landsend.com/cd/fp/help/0,,1_36877_36883_37033_,00.html

    • Joe,

      Thanks. Funny thing is I had seen that exact URL and had intended to link to it but accidentally cut and pasted a more generic URL into my post. I’ll fix it now.

      Incidentally, the cynical side of me wonders if that is really “the true source” given that companies’ PR people can and do put a positive spin on the truth to make the company seem less inept than they actually are.

      – Justin

  3. Surely a simple “No of comments: x” statement would be an easier solution – no code changes, just a label / text change on the page.

    Stu (35 miles from the real Land’s End !)

  4. Hi Justin,

    Regarding the Blogger.com bug, I think this is an interesting observation. But maybe it is a simple case of cost versus benefit. The cost may seem small, but when you are talking about a deployed code change, then it is never trivial. Perhaps the code where this needs to be fixed is rarely modified or deployed, then the value of this fix might not be worth changing it. Right now the code is dead simple, but any changes to fix this problem will introduce more complexity (albeit not much more). It then needs to be tested… don’t want it to say “0 comment” for instance. As for the ‘benefit’, it may be small. Probably very few users notice, and among those that do even less care. Of course now that you’ve called it out, the value of fixing it may have gone up.

    In the end who’s to say that the Blogger.com doesn’t have this bug filed and prioritized. It’s then a case of choosing what to work on in a given release… and maybe this bug just hasn’t made the cut yet.

    • Seth,

      Thanks for your comment. If Blogger.com were a shrink-wrapped application, I would agree that the cost vs. benefit point you raise would make a lot of sense.

      But here’s the thing: Blogger.com is a web-based app. The cost to fix a simple bug and push it into production should be trivial. (For my company’s Hexawise test case generating tool, for example, we typically fixes bugs that have snuck into production within a day and we push the fixes into live production during the same day that they were reported).

      So that still leaves me confused as to why it has been unfixed for so long even though it has been seen hundreds of thousands of times. I suspect it has a lot to do with another thing you pointed out, namely “Probably very few users notice, and among those that do even less care.” I wonder, though, if anything else is behind it?

  5. Thanks for a wonderful blog. It is amazing how a defect will be overlooked until disaster strikes! Then the “powers that be” insist the defect was cosmetic, will scream and yell, “Why wasn’t this brought to their attention?”

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