Build Airplane Ashtrays

January 03, 2023

A use-case is not supported by a platform, but infeasible to prevent. What is an operator to do?

Prevented, unknown, and supported use-cases

Look to the airplane ashtray for inspiration.


It is impossible to miss that smoking is not allowed on an airplane.

An announcement is made before takeoff. Dozens of illuminated no-smoking signs are visible from any seat. A trip to the bathroom reveals more signage.

Make it clear to users which use-cases are not supported.

Build Ashtrays

Serious investment in communication like the airlines ensures anyone using unsupported options have done so deliberately. These choices introduce significant risk to the platform.

This is where the ashtray comes in.

If a passenger lights up in the bathroom and throws the cigarette in the trash, a fire can start. A midflight fire is a catastrophe for everyone onboard.

Ashtrays are cheap to build. Ashtrays give passengers who make undesirable decisions a way to avoid catastrophe.

Build ashtrays when it’s infeasible to prevent behavior you cannot support.

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Written by @sghill, who works on build, automated change, and continuous integration systems.