back to article 'Please label things so I can tell the difference between a mouse and a microphone'

Thank the Valar it's Friday, because that means it is time to share another of your peers' tales of stupid things happening at work in our weekly On-Call feature. This week, reader DC brings us a tale from his time on the service desk at a large publishing company. “One afternoon the personal assistant for one of the …

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  1. 9Rune5

    Label you, label me, label us all together

    Proceed to the user's car and I am confident you will find an appropriately labeled "steering wheel" and "throttle pedal" + "brake pedal". Bonus if the shifter does not spell out the words "Neutral", "Park" and "Drive".

    I will post this comment as soon as I locate the key called "space".

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

      Is your comment in relation to labels, or to Star Trek?

      That young actor Anton Yelchin was killed by shit user interface design. Fiat Chrysler had already flagged those vehicles for recall because of the gear selector:

      http://money.cnn.com/2016/06/20/autos/jeep-recall-anton-yelchin/

      1. 9Rune5

        Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

        It was purely in relation to that user who required a label for the mouse... Does a person like that drive a car? The mind boggles.

        That Fiat Chrysler UI glitch popped out of my head the minute I read about it and did not influence my original comment at all.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

          Joke about the American south - the cars had the pedals painted to make things understandable - legend has it the cars there had a "green" and a "red" pedal.

      2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

        quite a few people , when learning to drive, have to have their hands labelled "L" and "R"

        1. 404 Silver badge

          Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

          'quite a few people , when learning to drive, have to have their hands labelled "L" and "R"'

          In OSUT (One Station Unit Training) in the early 80's, there was one poor sonuvabitch who couldn't march for shit, always started off on the wrong foot, who was made to carry a rock in his left hand for 13 weeks. If I wasn't preoccupied with perfecting my Zen (becoming One with the Woodwork is very desirable in Basic - Senior Drill Instructor got 137 counts of trainee abuse two cycles after we graduated), I would have felt sorry for him.

          Breaks my heart today when I remember him trying his damnedest to mentally/physically get into rhythm before even moving. I wonder what became of him?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

            Wasn't his first name Donald?

          2. Goobertee

            Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

            During earlier times, recruits came from the countryside with few of the finer skills, but many of the "practical" skills of their lives. Many could tell the difference between hay and straw, so a wisp of each was tied to their left and right boots, respectively, and the cadence was,

            "Hay foot, straw foot, hay foot, straw foot...."

        2. Adam 1 Silver badge

          Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

          > quite a few people , when learning to drive, have to have their hands labelled "L" and "R"

          I know some who need "R" and "the other R"...

    2. Dwarf Silver badge

      Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

      Somehow this old joke seems appropriate.

      BMW customer services complaint about the car that only works during the day

      Night mode does not work

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

        I'm not doing the old underwear labelled C&A joke.

        1. magickmark
          Unhappy

          Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

          @TRT "I'm not doing the old underwear labelled C&A joke."

          Damn, I was going to until is saw your post!!

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

            I wonder what BHS stands for? Well, not that it matters now.

            1. TitterYeNot

              Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

              "I wonder what BHS stands for?"

              Looking at the size and cost of a certain previous BHS owner's boat, I think it stands for 'Bought His Super-yacht'...

              1. Dave 126 Silver badge

                Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

                @9Rune5

                A genuine thank you for your clarification.

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

              "I wonder what BHS stands for?"

              Bloody Huge Studmuffin! Well, that's what I told my (ex) girlfriend anyway. No, as it happens, she wasn't my GF for very long, why would you ask that?

    3. Down not across

      Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

      I will post this comment as soon as I locate the key called "space".

      Never mind space. But I recall instances of "there is no 'any' key on my keyboard"...

      Some things really are best forgotten.

  2. Dan 55 Silver badge

    When we get to the stage where we have to label everything...

    ... People will be so illiterate so they'll want pictures on the labels instead of words.

    You know, a picture of a mouse stuck on a mouse.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: When we get to the stage where we have to label everything...

      Or make the mouse (Human Input Device) look like a mouse (cheese thieving squeeking mammal):

      http://lowendmac.com/wp-content/uploads/kidzmouse.jpg

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: When we get to the stage where we have to label everything...

        You mean like where Word has gone? Where a microscopic picture of a pair of binoculars means "Find", and God alone knows what two parallel grey lines over a pair of green right pointing arrows with some feint dotted motif behind it does, or how it differs from the same but with only one green arrow...

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: When we get to the stage where we have to label everything...

          Or when Teamviewer and Outlook have very similar taskbar icons

          1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

            Re: When we get to the stage where we have to label everything...

            The very worst outbreak of icon disease is the pandemic that has taken over instruction leaflets, especially those for power tools and domestic electrical appliances. These days, before you can use a new purchase, you have to puzzle your way through complex assembly and use advice written entirely in pictograms.

            The manufacturers seem to be unaware that one of the reasons we're now using power tools instead of flint axes is that we developed a sophisticated communication system that allowed us to convey information unambiguously. Their argument, presumably, is that the picture-message transcends language barriers. If so, it's entirely nullified by the fact that their safety warnings are always fully translated, no doubt on the advice of their lawyers.

            1. heyrick Silver badge

              Re: When we get to the stage where we have to label everything...

              It's not that they are trying to transcend language. It's that everybody on the entire planet can get the exact same pictogrammes. Forget about the dozens of EU languages that turn up on every product these days, think of Thai and Japanese and Russian and Breton and Navaho and all... no more weird half assed translations. It's all been replaced by a set of pictures doodled by an executive in the midst of a caffeine crisis...

              1. Captain DaFt

                Re: When we get to the stage where we have to label everything...

                "It's all been replaced by a set of pictures doodled by an executive in the midst of a caffeine crisis..."

                Um... That white powder isn't caffeine!

                1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                  Re: When we get to the stage where we have to label everything...

                  "Um... That white powder isn't caffeine!"

                  But now we know what happens when you snort creamer.

            2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: When we get to the stage where we have to label everything...

              "These days, before you can use a new purchase, you have to puzzle your way through complex assembly and use advice written entirely in pictograms."

              It saves a fortune in translators. They're equally incomprehensible in all languages.

      2. tony2heads

        Re: When we get to the stage where we have to label everything...

        Don't you mean 'Cheese-eating surrender mammal'?

      3. Shart Tank

        Re: When we get to the stage where we have to label everything...

        I used to have one of those mouse mice. I was disappointed when I got a new computer that no longer had a PS2 port for the mouse.

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      But be fair...

      A lot of desktop devices don't look like what they are. I Google search for "conferencing microphone" pictures and I get a lot of things that could be a mouse, including a circular puck, and various things plugged into a laptop USB, which doesn't help.

      Maybe fitting the microphone with big cut-out-of-paper Prince Charles ears would help. Unless that's who you work for. The mouse - how about labelling it with an "arrow pointer icon" label?

      1. Ivan Headache

        Re: But be fair...

        Many years ago when boundary layer microphones were relatively new, Beyer Dynamic produced a model that consisted of a chamfered square piece of oiled teak (or walnut) about six inches square by about one inch deep. It had a small round metal grill less than an inch in diameter in the centre and an XLR socket and a small swirch and little red LED on one of the sides. Very neat looking and apart from the cable, unobtrusive on the boardroom table.

        One of my collegues had to record a breakfast discussion for transcription purposes in a house with a black door somewhere near Parliament Square.

        He decided that instead of setting several individual mics he would try this new Beyer.

        All the setting up went well, good sound from every chair around the table so he went to his recording location in the ante-room to await the participants.

        The first few minutes went very well with all the voices clearly audible when there was a loud metallic 'THUNK' and all the voices became very muffled.

        Panic! The whole purpose of being there was to get a recording that could be transcribed but he wasn't supposed to intrude. He thought that although the voices were muffled it was still possible to just make out the words so he decided to sit it out. Occasionally the sound would clear only to be followed by the same 'thunk' and muffle a few seconds later.

        Eventualy the meeting ended and the group left.

        My collegue went inside to find a large silver coffee-pot sitting on this nice chamfered 'coffee-pot warmer' that was obviously switched on as it had a 'mains' cable plugged into it and a little red light.

        And no it wasn't me, and yes, the transcriber did manage to get most of it.

      2. Ian Emery Silver badge

        Re: But be fair...

        Surely sticking a huge pair of Prince Charles ears on it will make it look MORE like a mouse??

    3. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: When we get to the stage where we have to label everything...

      Funny you mention this... I recently saw an international translation helper/book with only pictures where you pointed to the image you desired, didn't see any pr0n images, but I only saw two pages with coffee.

      Isn't mouse on mouse action forbidden in countries?

      Also, there is an episode of Dexter's Lab where he and Dee Dee label the entire house....

  3. Alister Silver badge

    We don't provide external IT support to the public, thankfully, but as a software house we do provide on-site training for local government users of our product.

    One of our sales staff came back into the office the other day having done a training session at some local government offices, and she was telling us that one of the people she had been trying to train used a wireless mouse at her desk.

    Apparently three times in the course of an hour's training session this user managed to hold the mouse the wrong way up (as in, the buttons at the back) and then complained that her mouse never worked properly and "she'd told IT loads of times, but they didn't listen to her."

    The sales rep said she had to struggle with herself not to just snatch the mouse off the user and turn it round... She said she was rehearsing that old support question (Do you still have the box for your computer... etc)

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      this user managed to hold the mouse the wrong way up

      Back in the mid 80s the company I worked for had just set up its first batch of Sun 2 workstations. The chairman came in to look at them, picked up the mouse to examine it as he'd never seen one before, then put it down the wrong way round. He then proceeded to move it about, and of course the cursor moved the wrong way. At this point he said "bloody thing's broken", picked it up, banged it on the desk a few times, and then put it down the right way round. He then moved the mouse about some more, saw the cursor was doing the right thing, said "that fixed it" and left with a sense of achievement.

      1. BenDwire
        Boffin

        @Arthur

        Those Sun workstations used mice with metal mousepads, requiring a 2-colour printed grid to function correctly. It was really easy to annoy my CAD guys (and any other random PHB) by simply rotating the pad 90 degrees.

        It was almost as good fun as the cron job that turned the whole thing into a cuckoo clock.

        Oh the fun we used to have...

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: @Arthur

          Mouse doesn't work... at an Arts and Design college. Usual cause (until we got the new back to back desks) was that the extra long mouse cables dangled down the back of the desk, where the students would stretch out, catch their foot on the cord, and yank the thing out of the back of the computer.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: @Arthur

            "Usual cause (until we got the new back to back desks)"

            And afterwards? Mice swapped round onto the opposing desks?

            1. Nolveys Silver badge

              Re: @Arthur

              And afterwards? Mice swapped round onto the opposing desks?

              We used to do that with keyboards back in high school. There were two rows of back-to-back computers, just swap the keyboards of the two with their backs to each other and wait for someone to log in, type the user name and password as it comes up along with the next 20 characters or so. When the user starts whacking at the keyboard that's "stopped working" say "there's something wrong with that one, use a different one".

              You have to be a decent typist for that to work. Luckily they still had typing class back then.

              We got the admin password that way. The next day the intern we got it from said that he had a nightmare that we got the admin password. Poor guy.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Arthur

            Ah, even better, as the old ps2 mices would not be recognized by the computer if you just plugged them back into their slot. you had to power down the damn computer (assumes windoz) and power it back up to get the mouses recognized.

      2. Nick Kew Silver badge

        He then moved the mouse about some more, saw the cursor was doing the right thing, said "that fixed it" and left with a sense of achievement.

        If I'd had an audience when I gingerly played with my first mouse, I might easily have done the same. As it was, it just took a couple of simple moves to figure out which way to hold it.

        This thread is clearly the place to post the essential helpdesk video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_p3TYXmJFk

        1. Lars Silver badge
          Happy

          The version in English is here;

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUQRbqc2qtY

          1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

            oh good , ill give that a go .

            Even in norwegian it was funny because i speak fluent "user" and i recognise the bodylanguage anywhere

        2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          I've watched in open-mouthed amazement as somebody has attempted to use a mouse the wrong way around in one hand, with their other hand contorted around to get their fingers onto the buttons. Amazing how the pain and lack of functionality doesn't manage to filter into their brains and suggest something's amiss. Presumably they also keep yanking at a door handle with it never occuring that maybe you need to push it.

          ...though, yes, I *have* watched in gobstopping amazement somebody do this, nearly ripping the door off the hinges in the process.

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            I've watched somebody hold a mouse at 90 degrees to how it's meant to be used, contorting their fingers onto the buttons in a ludicrous manner as well. This came about because one user couldn't understand instructions referring to the left mouse or right mouse buttons... turns out that if you're a complete fuckwit and hold a mouse sideways it's not obvious which is the left or right button.

          2. Mark 85 Silver badge

            Presumably they also keep yanking at a door handle with it never occuring that maybe you need to push it.

            Many seem incapable of reading the sign over the handle that says: "PUSH"....

            1. Vic

              Many seem incapable of reading the sign over the handle that says: "PUSH

              A pub I frequent has a sign on the toilet door that states "PUSH HARD on way out".

              On the inside is a doorhandle on the hinge side of the door...

              Vic.

          3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            "Presumably they also keep yanking at a door handle with it never occuring that maybe you need to push it."

            Ah, but doors have minds of their own and can see you coming. Double door with handles and no push/pull labels? Yep, one is always locked so four possible chances to get it right. You just know that the first two attempts of push/pull will be the locked door and despite the obvious "pull" type handle, the unlocked door will be a push to open. Fourth attempt, guaranteed, every effing time!

          4. SL1979

            I'm really not trying to one-up anyone's tech support stories, because there are some real gems in here. However, I once looked on in equal amounts of horror / amusement as an end-user that I supported attempted to set up her new (evidently first ever) PC, and couldn't figure out why the "foot pedal" wasn't working. I realized that she had connected her mouse, put it on the floor, and was attempting to use it like it was a sewing machine or something. I had to excuse myself, find the nearest restroom, and laugh until every orifice in my body was leaking. At least I was in the right place for that kind of thing.

            1. Vic

              I realized that she had connected her mouse, put it on the floor, and was attempting to use it like it was a sewing machine or something.

              Years ago, that was entirely understandable for secretarial staff; they'd usually come from using typewriters (using both hands) and a dictation machine which was operated by foot pedal.

              Vic.

        3. heyrick Silver badge

          While it's pretty easy to figure out the help desk video, here's one with subtitles: http://youtu.be/pQHX-SjgQvQ

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