Another overused and inaccurate media term

Stop reporting "glitches"!
© Conrad Weisert, Information Disciplines, Inc., December, 2009

This article may be circulated freely as long as the copyright notice is included.


glitch n
  1. a minor hitch or technical problem
  2. a sudden unwanted electroning signal such as results from a power surge or a temporary irregular supply of power
— Microsoft Encarta Dictionary
glitch…a short-lived fault in a system. The term is particularly common in the computing and electronics industries, and in circuit bending, as well as among players of video games, although it is applied to all types of systems including human organizations and nature…Normally, a glitch occurs once, but can also occur multiple times in a particular software.

— Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia

glitch n (sl.)

sudden irregularity or malfunction of equipment etc.

—Concise Oxford Dictionary


Whenever we hear on radio or televison about some serious collapse of an information system. it is referred to as a "glitch". Some of those glitches have led to multi-million-dollar law suits, hardly a minor incident.

Several years ago I noted an epidemic of news reports that trivialized major "software update failures". A few years earlier we were reading about the "Y2K crisis" as if it were an act of God. Those reports along with current stories about glitches convey the impression that such problems:

  1. are minor
  2. are unavoidable, i.e. no one's fault.
Wrong! Victims don't launch law suits over minor irritations. And nearly all of the reported incidents were very clearly someone's fault.

I suggest to the media that they abandon glitch and replace it with one of these more specific and more accurate terms:

There is also the undiagnosed mystery cause, but follow-up investigation will eventually assign it to one of the above categories. Let's not hear about more glitches.

Let's not hear about "system vulnerabilities" either. They're bugs.


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Last modified December 10, 2009