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I'm looking for a German saying that embodies the idea that if you check something (a program, a device, a work etc.) and you find one obvious mistake/problem, then further mistakes/problems/errors will follow.

Something like Where there's smoke, there's fire. Or The fish rots from the head. But these are not really right in this context.

The concept is so common, there must be something.

Since it came up in comments, I'll explain why I think this concept is common:

There're solid logical reasons why there would be correlations in terms of error frequency between different programs. Say, two programmers write an app. One is good, one is bad. You test both blindly. If you find one mistake quickly, you'll have a high chance of testing the bad one, which means more mistakes are going to come along. This is basic Bayesian thinking. A fun manifestation is the German tank problem

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    "There must be more where that came from..." – Peter - Reinstate Monica Feb 15 at 12:47
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    I don't think either of your suggestions are quite right. The English equivalent that comes to mind is: "There's never just one cockroach". – Kaz Feb 15 at 15:51
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    @Kaz Ah, nice one (yuck)! Related from the animal kingdom: Can of worms, hornets' nest. But I can't think of a cockroach equivalent in German -- bummer, it's very fitting. – Peter - Reinstate Monica Feb 15 at 19:11
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    @Peter-ReinstateMonica That's because there aren't many cockroaches in Germany. Not the right climate I think. – kutschkem Feb 17 at 11:16
  • @kaz You're right, my English sayings were rough approximations - I wasn't aware of the right English saying either. – Cornelius Roemer Feb 17 at 14:09
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Try

ein Fehler kommt selten allein

(Note the saying is actually with "Unglück", which could be used as well if you don't mind a more unspecific translation)

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    Ah that's good! Repurposing a known saying for a new use by switching out a word. Sweet! – Cornelius Roemer Feb 14 at 12:09
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    Where is that concept common, please? I've never heard anything close to that in English and Google doesn't seem to have, either. – Robbie Goodwin Feb 14 at 22:29
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    We have the same saying in Danish - "en ulykke kommer sjældent alene" (an accident rarely comes alone) which is the same word as Unglück - but it has been a while since I've heard it used. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Feb 14 at 23:19
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    @RobbieGoodwin, there is an English saying about bad luck / accidents / trouble coming in threes. – J W Feb 15 at 17:28
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    @RobbieGoodwin if you doubt the assertion of commonality, comment unter the questioner's post where it was actually made – Leif Willerts Feb 16 at 3:57
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Das ist wahrscheinlich nur die Spitze des Eisbergs: The visible part indicates the presence of a larger, not yet discovered part.

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  • Good one! Unfortunately icebergs are continuous things that come in one big lump. Whereas bugs/problems/mistakes are distinct, countable instances. – Cornelius Roemer Feb 17 at 14:11
  • Well, there are atoms... consider the iceberg the totality of the errors. – Peter - Reinstate Monica Feb 17 at 15:00
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One could say

Manchmal zieht ein Programmierfehler einen (ganzen) Rattenschwanz an weiteren Problemen nach sich.

Rattenschwanz meaning generally a series of negative consequences resulting from a problem. But that does not exactly reflect your idea.

A further quite usual and more or less unidomatic way to say what tofro means is

Wo ein Fehler ist, da finden sich (auch) noch weitere

in many variations:

Wo ein Fehler ist, da sind auch noch mehr / da findet sich gewiss / bestimmt auch ein zweiter or hat man erst mal einen Fehler gefunden, werden die nächsten nicht lange auf sich warten lassen / braucht man nach den nächsten nicht mehr lange zu suchen / braucht man auf die nächsten nicht mehr lange zu warten.

Anyway, tofro's answer is the best.

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    Talking about coding: 'Der gefundene Fehler ist nicht der gesuchte Fehler' – TaW Feb 14 at 20:53
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    Well. as you say yourself: The Rattenschwanz indicates consequential errors, not independent ones. I suppose the OP did not (necessarily) mean that the suspected additional errors were a consequence of the first one; but rather that the first one indicated a general state of affairs (sloppiness etc.) which made more errors likely. – Peter - Reinstate Monica Feb 15 at 9:21
  • I didn't interpret Rattenschwanz as being consequential errors, but more, somehow related ones. It's more like a rabbit hole in meaning, isn't it? – OmarL Feb 17 at 16:22
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I don't think it is the German phrase you are looking for, but "There's never only one cockroach" works.

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    Except, that's English and not German ... – Roland Feb 16 at 8:57
  • But since I use both languages a lot and wasn't aware of a good saying in either language, this is much appreciated! – Cornelius Roemer Feb 17 at 14:12
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The concept that where you find one mistake there must be others, isn't common. In fact that is a dysfunctional mindset and found in many psychological disorders.

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  • The key word here is "obvious", which is not in the title, but in the body of the question. – Jann Poppinga Feb 16 at 14:38
  • I don't think it's a disorder -- we are surrounded by evil that's just waiting to lay hands on us! – Peter - Reinstate Monica Feb 17 at 9:35
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    That doesn't devalue the question. There are ALWAYS mistakes and errors in code, always, whether you find them or not. Finding obvious mistakes is a good indicator that there are other less obvious problems to be found in that general area of code. It is a common concept, even if it were to be false and biased. – kutschkem Feb 17 at 11:17
  • Sorry, this is wrong. There're solid logical reasons why there would be correlations in terms of error frequency between different programs. Say, two programmers write an app. One is good, one is bad. You test both blindly. If you find one mistake quickly, you'll have a high chance of testing the bad one, which means more mistakes are going to come along. This is basic Bayesian thinking. You can also have a look at the German tank problem. It's fun to think about! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_tank_problem – Cornelius Roemer Feb 17 at 14:16

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