Design by misuse – Stockholm Scope Creep

A colleague and I identified a specific genus of Scope Creep today. I have labelled it Stockholm Scope Creep*, as you essentially end up helping out someone who is holding you hostage. It is also an example of design by misuse.

Essentially it works like this:

  • You build a system.
  • Someone deliberately or accidentally misuses the system to try to achieve some functionality that the system does not perform.
  • Despite the fact that the system does not do the said functionality, the someone takes their project so far that you are forced to change the system so that it does.

A perfect example would be a client taking out full page newspaper adverts saying that the company website now accepts payment in pine nuts, there by forcing the eCommerce team to add a legume payment method to the credit card screen.

Some classic real world examples I’ve been involved in:

  • People publishing URLs that they aren’t supposed to use (but it’s already printed in the book).
  • Designers redesigning an existing user interface, producing a picture of functionality that isn’t currently supported, and then showing said designs to management (“I know you love the designs sir, but could we just remove the button that says ‘View Products in 3D”).
  • Data authors setting configurations that should never have been allowed (It’s a product, it’s enabled for sale on our eCommerce site, but it doesn’t have a price because it’s not launched til next year… and you only want it to be visible to people with stuffy head colds).

On the plus side often this Scope Creep occurs because a system really should perform the additional functionality, and the user just assumed it would (“I just assumed that if the system lets me add a product to my shopping cart, that I would be able to buy it”).

But often this is just an annoyance. It is the equivalent of my standing naked in the office kitchen, phoning Facilities and demanding that they install a shower (“I don’t care that its not what the office kitchen is for, I’m naked now, I need to be soapy”).

Mild Stockholm involves the misuser sobbing gently down the telephone, not because they have set things so much in stone that you can’t back out, but because they just really want it to be this way… Please. In those cases you do it cause you love them (and because you’re a soft girlie man who can’t say no).

A variation on Stockholm Scope Creep is Paris Hilton Scope Creep. With Stockholm you’re hostage to the circumstance that arises from the users enthusiastic follow through on a functionality that doesn’t exist. In Paris Hilton Scope Creep you just get an idiot shouting at you and telling you to build it cause they want it. The best solution in this case is to wait until they pass out on ludes, or pims, or plum and jack D, and then smear dog food on their faces in the hope that their rank little handbag puppy gets bored of choking on sanitary products and chews off their owners lips. (Ohhhh!!! I went very dark there… sorry. Not a Hilton fan).

*Creep. I toyed with Scope Creep Pride because if this type of creep could chant it would say “We’re Here! We’re extra unplanned work! Get used to it!”.

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