On Bugs and Features

Most of developers have heard many times the phrase - it’s not a bug, it’s a feature. Normally considered a joking comment on the state of UX in a product, rather than a serious one. However, sometimes I believe it really rings true. Enter Wallapop.

Wallapop is basically a local classified ads for buying and selling second hand stuff. You find something you like, contact the seller and meet to exchange money for goods. The main problem lies in step two of the process - the chat has a long history of being unusable. It went from a completely broken state where the app would tell you it sent a message, but it never did, to a somewhat annoying state where it just fails to deliver notifications for most of the messages you receive.

That’s hardly surprising, we all know that software is broken in many different ways. What makes this case special, however, is that it made the buying/selling process easier. People who just wrote Hola and waited for a response got vetted out, because you can’t really follow a conversation. You either had to adapt to sending meaningful messages like I’d like to buy your speakers for 10 euros less than you posted. Is that okay? Would you send them to Madrid?. In case you’re unfamiliar with how most of the IM chats go, this is not common.

What happened is the ratio of signal to noise went up, because people wanted to do whatever they can to make sure their message is understood even if it’s read 10 hours later. (Because there’s literally money on the table.) So, instead of spending hours exchanging messages that hardly get to the point, I can just look at my inbox once a day, strike the deals and easily schedule a meeting.

I’m much obliged to the anonymous Wallapop engineer in charge of their ejabberd machine. Your struggle made the product better.

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