What is the German word for: "It only works when I try to show you how it does not work"?

  • In reading a web page on increasing word power, there was a German word with the definition that means:

    It only works when I try to show you how it does not work.

    Is there a single word in German to describe that situation?

    "… there was a German word with the definition …" What was that word? Or did you mean that you a) only remember the definition or b) the word was in another language?

    BTW in English that is called a "demo effect". Using this name could shorten your Q's title substantially.

    If this happens systematically with a specific observer, one also speaks of the Pauli effect or Pauli-Effekt.

    I tend to confuse the Pauli effect with the Peter principle that everybody climbs the career ladder until they reach their personal levels of incompetence.

  • there was a German word with the definition that means:

    It only works when I try to show you how it does not work.

    What you are probably looking for is called the Vorführeffekt.

    It's used like

    Die öffentliche Präsentation der Anwendung scheiterte leider am Vorführeffekt.1

    It basically means that you try to give some evidence in public while showing how something works (or doesn't work), but you fail because it just gives evidence to present the opposite.


    1)That's why we prefer to use power point presentations and (maybe even faked) screen shots to present software in early stages of development, instead of really running a live installation of the program.

    Good explanation.

    In computer terms, the small but relevant part of the computer responsible for this *Vorführeffekt* behaviour is sometimes called *die Admin-Diode*. As soon the computer administrator arrives to confirm the problem, it's not there.

    German with its wonderful inventive words at it again :)

    @Janka: In English, a software defect that cannot be seen when you are specifically looking for it is sometimes called a "Heisenbug" after German physicist Werner Heisenberg, who discovered that you lose information about the position of a particle when you try to measure its velocity. I'd be curious to know if this jargon exists in German as well.

    @EricLippert Of course Heisenbug is used in German as well.

    That word isn't that specific, I have heard the phrase "demo effect" in French and English as well.

    The Vorführeffekt can be thought of as a special case of Murphy's Law: if something can go work, it will go wrong during a demo.

    @EricLippert You confuse uncertainty principle with observer effect. Measurements (observing) change the results of an experiment. ;)

    @Relaxed. Native English speaker here. I've also heard "demo effect" or the opposite "cable guy syndrome" for when something doesn't work or does work when it's not supposed to.

    WOT?!? It's completely reversed? ***"It only does not work, if I show it to you (how it is supposed to work)*** "Usually it works just fine, but now that I have to demonstrate it…" The Q looks like if it's asking for *Vorführeffekt,* but is it, really? (Perhaps the Q got it mixed up, revrese-reverse-reverse translation… but still)

    @LangLangC It works in both directions. I first had the same concerns like you but others convinced me that it's still the same.

    Now that you mention "others", those said "eigentlich, ja, aber"… I see no clarification commemnts on Q, so I suggest to clarify in A: "It only *fails* when I try to show you how *it's supposed* to work." is the default usage. The above may be mishap, creativity, artistic licence, etc [Actual Q as is is a nice one for what follows now…]

    @LangLangC The mentioned comments were deleted meanwhile. That's what makes the difference of comments and answers actually.

    I would say Vorführeffekt is the right word. It is usually used in the sense that something always works a certain way, except when you try to demonstrate it (vorführen), it doesn't. The fact that you are trying to demonstrate a failure adds a logical twist to it, but in the end you are trying to demonstrate failure, e.g., "login won't work with the wrong password". The Vorführeffekt would be that it happens to work during a demo.

    @EricLippert *Heisenbug* is not even close to being similar to *Vorführeffekt*! The latter does not have to be a bug at all. The presentation can fail due to anything. The presence of hard-to-debug random bugs in the system being presented is a *tiny* share of what can be a possible reason for the failure of the presentation. -- By the way, this Q gained popularity on HN: **https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21170732**

    @Relaxed: In France, I've often heard "Effet Bonaldi" but I guess no one born after 1990 would know it.

  • The word is "Vorführeffekt", which translates to "presentation effect". It's used in both cases. Something works fine all the time until you show it your boss / parents / friends. Or something broken magically works again when you are showing it the technician.

    Hi, did you check the other answer before writing yours?

    @EricDuminil This answer adds information that the other one does not, so I don't see a problem.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM