Never under estimate the user’s creativity to thwart all your best intentions
The following is a true story from my first post college job. It was the 1990s. I worked for a large IT company. The company had a requirement that all print jobs required a “banner page” to protect sensitive data. The banner page contained the username that submitted the print job, the date, and the computer name it was submitted from but was otherwise blank. This page was always on top of the rest of the print out so a casual observer would not see the sensitive data. When the owner picked up the print out the banner page was typically thrown in the recycle bin.
Due to cost cutting measures the company stopped stocking lined notebook paper. One of my-coworkers came up with an idea to make the banner page more useful. They wrote some PostScript code to change the banner page to look like a sheet of lined notebook paper. Your name was still on the banner page to identify you as the owner but we changed it to read “From the Desktop of <Your Name>” giving everyone personalized notebook paper. Everyone was happy; we had note paper again, we were reducing, reusing, and recycling so it with the company’s environmental initiatives. It was a win-win for everyone.
This was in place for about three weeks; working great – until I noticed a co-worker photocopying one of his banner pages because he wanted more personalized stationary. We kept the banner page but felt defeated. That is when I learned to never under estimate the user’s creativity to thwart all your best intentions and break whatever process improvement you come up with.
A final note; I still have some of these pages, I haven’t purchased notebook paper for myself in over 20 years. I am nearly out so I guess it is time to hit the photocopier…
How to translate Engineer Speak into English
|When an Engineer says…
|A number of different approaches are being tried.
||We don’t know where we’re going, but we’re moving.
|An extensive report is being prepared on a fresh approach to the problem.
||We just hired three new guys; we’ll let them kick it around for a while.
|Developed after years of intensive research.
||It was discovered by accident while working on something else.
|Modifications are underway to correct certain minor difficulties.
||We had to scrap the entire design and start over from scratch.
|Preliminary operational tests were inconclusive.
||It blew up when we turned it on.
|Test results were extremely gratifying.
||It works and, boy, are we surprised!
|The design will be finalized in the next reporting period.
||We haven’t started this job yet, but we’ve got to say something.
|The entire concept is unworkable.
||The only guy who understood the thing just quit.
|We need close project coordination.
||We are looking for someone to share the blame.
|I’ll need to research that and get back to you.
||I didn’t even understand the question.
|We are still working out a few bugs.
||The pilot test was a disaster and we don’t know how to fix it.
Ever wonder why engineers rarely run companies?
A large company is interviewing for a new CEO. They have narrowed the candidates to an engineer, a physicist, and an accountant. Each has been asked a series of questions covering a wide range of topics. The interview panel tells each one that they have one final question for them. They are told they can take as much time as they need to answer. The final questions is what is 2 + 2?
After hearing the question the engineer thinks for a moment then asks to have the problem written down. After a minute or two the engineer replies, “assuming all values are in the base 10 number system and given the number of the significant figures shown in the problem the answer is 4”. The interview panel is impressed with the answer and the lead interviewer says “very good answer, please wait in the other room while we talk with the others”.
The physicist is next; after hearing the question thinks about the problem for several minutes and finally says “the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle tells us that we cannot know the exact value, position, and time of an event”. “The more accurately we measure one the more error introduced in the others, so what was two when you asked the question may no longer be two”. “Also, quantum mechanics tells us that objects can exist in multiple quantum states with different values simultaneously; so what was two in your quantum state may not be two in my quantum state”. “Lastly, you have not provided units for the values so addition of the values is meaningless; however; if we assumes a hypothetical unitless universe, and assume a single quantum state, the answer is 4, within the uncertainty error bounds”. The interviewers look at each other, smile and nod slightly and the lead interviewer says “excellent answer, very well thought out; please wait in the other room while we talk with the others”.
The accountant hears the question and without hesitation gets up, walks to windows and closes the blinds, verifies the door is fully shut and that the phone is hung up. He sits down and leans across the table and whispers “How much do you want it to be?”. The interviewers lean back with big smiles and the lead interviewer says “that is the best answer we have heard, when can you start?”
As engineers we often need to chose our words carefully to make sure we are understood.
A scientist and an engineer were sharing a prison cell, both sentenced to be shot at dawn. Fortunately, they came up with a plan. As the physicist was led out to the firing squad, the engineer set fire to a small pile of straw on the window-ledge of their cell.
“Look!” the physicist yelled to his captors. “The prison is burning!” The firing squad dropped their weapons and ran to put out the conflagration. Furthermore, the Warden decided that the scientist deserved a pardon for saving the prison.
The next day the firing squad came for the engineer. As you might guess, the scientist was having a much harder time getting a large enough fire going outside the prison to draw attention. As it happens, it wasn’t until the engineer was staring down the rifle barrels that he finally saw enough smoke. So, as fast as he could, the engineer yelled “Fire!”
This is the story of an optimist, a pessimist, and an engineer…
The optimist says, “The glass is half full”.
The pessimist says, “The glass is half empty”.
The engineer says, “The glass is twice as big as it needs to be”.
- Tech Support: “I need you to right-click on the Open Desktop.”
- Customer: “Ok.”
- Tech Support: “Did you get a pop-up menu?”
- Customer: “No.”
- Tech Support: “Ok. Right click again. Do you see a pop-up menu?”
- Customer: “No.”
- Tech Support: “Ok, sir. Can you tell me what you have done up until this point?”
- Customer: “Sure, you told me to write ‘click’ and I wrote ‘click’.”
(At this point Tech Support puts the caller on hold to tell the rest of the team what had happened and couldn’t stop from giggling when they got back to the call.)
- Tech Support: “Ok, did you type ‘click’ with the keyboard?”
- Customer: “I have done something dumb, right?”
This is a real error message from the 90s…
Error: Keyboard not attached. Press F1 to continue.