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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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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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.

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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.

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push button on for quick release

I once knew a couple with a partially crippled daughter. I watched them one day struggling to get her walker into their car. When I asked them why they didn't fold the walker, I got a blank stare. I strolled over, pushed the button releases on the legs and collapsed the walker. What was their reaction? "We've been using that thing for years and didn't know it folded!"

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Yesterday I had an email from one of the senior management team here.

They "had lost all their email folders".

Somehow, they managed to provide a screenshot (without asking, in the same email, with the entire screen! That almost redeemed them instantly!).

I replied with a cropped section of that screenshot, with a big red arrow pointing to the tree-expanding arrow that collapsed folders such as "Inbox" have on Outlook.

I usually do my own Friday Funny emails around my workplace, when there's something worthy. I already today's...

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You are not alone

I get that once every few months too

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Anonymous Coward

I used to see the single missing folder issue where the user had inadvertently dragged a folder of e-mails into another folder (or sometimes a folder of files on the fileshare).

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I used to see the single missing folder issue where the user had inadvertently dragged a folder of e-mails into another folder (or sometimes a folder of files on the fileshare).

Ooh, that reminds me of the time one of our developers put a textbook down on top of his mouse, whilst the files in Visual Source Safe were open in an Explorer window which had focus, and managed to drag and drop half the projects into an unrelated folder. Cue panic as he looks at the screen to find all his source code suddenly missing...

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"I used to see the single missing folder issue where the user had inadvertently dragged a folder of e-mails into another folder"

That's an interface issue really. Stupid Microsoft.

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Yeah, where's the confirmation dialog? I mean, how often do you MEAN to move a whole folder of thousands of emails somewhere else?

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big red arrows

" cropped section of that screenshot, with a big red arrow "

oh yes , a favourite technique of mine too . Its the only way to be sure.

My email folder has disappeared - click the little box to expand

My file folder has disappeared - look in the folder next to it - what? - never mind ive done it for you - ah yes ooh you are magic you computer whizzes

My floppy disk has stopped working - Its a floppy disk I have no sympathy . there is no good reason you should have data on there that is not somewhere else. - "thats how they told me to do it"

(dont get that one so much these days)

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Anonymous Coward

thank the lord for message tracking in Exchange. We get several "I've never received an email but everyone else has" per year, but with the power of message tracking its yep you have, you moved it to etz \deleted it, etc

And still the user will try and argue the toss, just admit you're a TWAT and feck off out of my office

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Back when hard disks were expensive extras ...

A customer complained that the hard disk didn't work. He knew it didn't work because file access hadn't got any faster. After a few minutes of confused conversation, I discovered that the files being accessed were on floppy disk. After a reasonably short explanation of copying files to the hard disk and accessing them from there, I had a contented customer (he was unhappy that this was not explained in the installation manual for the disk). The customer was not thick - explaining the solution went far more smoothly than I expected. He had read the manual, and it did not explain what a hard disk is, and that files have to be stored there for it to do anything useful.

The problem was the transition from computers being exclusively for techies to being a device used by computer illiterates whose illiteracy was far beyond the understanding of techies.

Now for the really difficult problems I have with computer illiterates:

1) Type date<enter>. Look at the number of seconds. Count to three. Look at the number of seconds. See that a terminal emulator shows a record of past interactions that are not updated. Demonstrate this every week for months. The user still complains that old contents of a terminal window are not up to date.

2) Two websites need to be updated with the same information. For the one I set up, user types one word<enter> and it is done - correctly every week. The other one I have no control over and uses wordpress. It requires about 30 seconds of typing/clicking, 3 minutes of waiting for the browser to update. One step is typing most of the file name and using tab completion to ensure it is typed correctly. The user will not use tab completion. The user types the file name wrong about one time in four. The shell says no such file, but she carries on regardless. The user looks at a blank text editor, realises something is wrong, and types shell commands into the editor expecting something to happen. (The file has to be damaged so wordpress can understand it, then she can use xclip to type it in). Has anyone successfully explained that typing shell commands into a text editor doesn't work?

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but she carries on regardless.

" The shell says no such file, but she carries on regardless. The user looks at a blank text editor, realises something is wrong, and types shell commands into the editor expecting something to happen"

Just trained monkeys . no concept of what they are doing.

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Anonymous Coward

The old joke about the blond Executive Assistant...

She wore shoes with the legend TGIF so she would remember that Toes Go In First.

I'll get my coat, it's the one that has COAT written across it...

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Coat

Re: The old joke about the blond Executive Assistant...

You seem to have picked up the anonymous Mask instead .. here, let me hand you a coat... ;P

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Facepalm

Re: The old joke about the blond Executive Assistant...

You can tell she's been using the computer, because there's white-out all over the screen

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Re: The old joke about the blond Executive Assistant...

"You can tell she's been using the computer, because there's white-out all over the screen"

Fixed that for you.

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Labelling

I work in a corporate with a load of engineers in an office, we have manufacturing too.

We had an initiative to tidy everything up, after a few years back a 28m order was delayed by 2 days whilst they tried to find the right socket on the shop floor. Now we have "a place for everything, and everything in its place." Which C suite decided was such a good idea, everyone must do it, and made it mandatory not only for the shop, but all the design and research offices too.

It also applies to individually owned engineering desks. Cue Mike from R&D, who is a genius but about as organised as a street-hookers diary (you know, desk permanently bowed from the stack of paper which has probably been there since 1992.) After recieving his 6th weekly red card in a row, HR sent their best droid to tell him that he was not immune and would face disciplinary action if he didn't conform to the new policy.

He mumbled about quitting, but he still had about 8 months until his retirement, so he got on with clearing his desk. Took him the best part of a week to dismantle his paper mountains, and he was so cross by the end of it that he labelled everything on his desk, phone, keyboard, mouse, and even put coloured taped rectangles for his laptop, keyboard position, phone position, mouse position and a little rectangle labelled "Green Card" for the HR droid to place on his next rounds.

Said droid came on the Friday and stopped dead looking at Mikes desk. Mike was in attendance at the time with a murderous glare fixated on him. Both Mike and the droid remained entirely silent throughout the ordeal, but the rest of the office were wetting themselves trying to stifle the giggles. He got his green card that day.

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Re: Labelling

"Which C suite decided was such a good idea, everyone must do it, and made it mandatory not only for the shop, but all the design and research offices too."

I'm with Mike on this one. An empty desk is a sign of an empty head.

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PK

"...reboot the internet"

I had a project leader who once asked if we could do a local backup of the web. It was the 90s and not quite as big though...

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Go

"a local backup of the web"

"Your attempt to download allthepornontheinternet.zip has failed at 99% due to insufficient disk space. Free up additional space and retry."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "a local backup of the web"

Apparently there was someone in the IT department at UWE in Bristol about fifteen-twenty years ago, who had a bot set up to download every new image from alt.porn. He would then archive them all to tape and take them home.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "...reboot the internet"

Yeah, I've still got a copy on a floppy somewhere...

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Re: "a local backup of the web"

Hilariously enough, I have a friend of mine who has taken it upon himself to pull down a copy of every anime ever produced. *ALL OF IT*.

He's been buying 3 TB drives in pairs for the last month or so.

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Anonymous Coward

Easily fixed...

Reminds me of a customer at a place I used to work at.

A colleague got a call demanding that "It always goes wrong at the same point and someone needs to be here to fix it right away". As they were a big account and would not accept help over the phone, he gets in his car and makes the four hour drive to their site.

When he arrives, he's taken straight to the PC and shown the problem.

"See, I get to here, click the right mouse button as the manual says and nothing happens" says the customer.

"Right" says my colleague, "I can see what the problem is here. Do you have a marker pen"?

They go off and find one, and he is then able to put an "L" and and "R" on the mouse buttons and then make the four hour journey back to the office.

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Happy

Re: Easily fixed...

That's quite amusing - and I'm by no means defending the bloke, but I'd like to note there are people genuinely incapable of ever learning which side is left and which one is right; I'm one of them. After many decades, I still have to conjure up memory aids and parse them to consciously derive the proper side each and every time I need to use them - the words themselves utterly failed to ever associate with anything meaningful in my brain all these years. My spatial orientation and 3D-thinking skills are more than fine, thank you, it's just that the labels themselves seem unable to stick. No idea why. All I know is if we are ever heading into a collision with something never, ever shout "RIGHT!!!" at me, because you've got a 25% chance of me going left, a 50% of freezing up confused, and only a 25% chance of actually steering to the right...

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DJO
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Re: Easily fixed...

After many decades, I still have to conjure up memory aids and parse them to consciously derive the proper side each and every time I need to use them

Easy mnemonic: You Write with the Right.

In a similar vein for the nautically minded, "Port" has 4 letters, just like "Left"

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TRT
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Re: Easily fixed...

The number of times I've seen manuals that say "right click" when they mean "secondary" or "contextual" click... because you can swap the button functions over for left handers, and you do get people with three button mice etc etc. And people who use trackpads or digitiser tablets.

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Re: Easily fixed...

This is why, when driving, my wife has learnt to use "your side" or "my side"... :)

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Re: Easily fixed...

> ...genuinely incapable...

And you know that, and you compensate for it yourself. You don't start demanding that the world is changed to accommodate the few* who have difficulties.

* OTOH** genuine barriers - Like kerbs for wheelchair users, or a single button mouse, need to be addressed.

** Pun not intended. OTOOH, a picture of a hand with the thumb sticking out towards the middle might actually be helpful.

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Vic

Re: Easily fixed...

I still have to conjure up memory aids and parse them to consciously derive the proper side each and every time I need to use them

My mate's girlfriend is much the same. When he's giving her directions, he doesn't use "left" and "right", but rather "watch" and "bangles".

And that's fine. But I don't wear bangles, so when I'm approaching a crossroads and he tells me to turn bangles, it can get a little confusing...

Vic.

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Re: Easily fixed...

@DropBear, the labels left and right are completely arbitrary too. There is also no way to describe them in language alone without actually using the words left and right and assuming the other person knows what those are. Seriously, try it. There is no way to explain left or right without external reference and just pointing "that side".

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Re: Easily fixed...

For the mouse button scenario, I think what happens is that right handers will tend to replace the word "right" with "the one you use automatically", and "left" with "the other one".

The basic problem is that the primary mouse button is (by default) on the left instead of the right. And that many - if not most - people don't have the concepts of "left" and "right" hardwired into the way they think about their bodies.

(If it's of significance, I'm right handed, but usually use my mouse with the left hand, with the buttons in their default configuration.)

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Boffin

@ DJO

"for the nautically minded..." - the mnemonic I was taught was :

Is there any Red Port Left in the bottle ?

(As the red light on ships (and aircraft) is on the port (left) side)

HTH !

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Re: Easily fixed...

Pedestrian crossings on dual carriageways often have instructions painted on the road telling you which way to look to avoid being run over (because you have to look right, not left, when crossing from the central reservation).

The trouble is that when I'm preparing to cross a busy road I don't look down at the gutter just in front of my feet, where it says "Look left", I look across towards my destination, where it says "Look right". The writing is upside-down, of course, but most people find that easy enough to read, and, as far as I'm aware, there is no law of the universe that says things in upside-down writing mean the opposite of what they say.

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Re: Easily fixed...

@DJO "In a similar vein for the nautically minded, "Port" has 4 letters, just like "Left""

And Sherry has more letters, just like "Not Left".

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Re: Easily fixed...

there are people genuinely incapable of ever learning which side is left and which one is right

This is not completely uncommon ... My Pop once got directions to someone's home, to look at a piece of furniture that my Mom was interested in. After driving for nearly an hour in confusion, he went back home and decided to retrace the route, substituting left for right and right for left in the directions had had been given. Straight to the house he went.

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Re: Easily fixed...

But surely - and I say this with tongue firmly planted in my cheek - you only need to learn *one* of them?

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aqk
Windows

Re: Easily fixed...The "Right" Key not often used.

I have that problem all the time.

I have to emphasize "click the RIGHT button, not the left" usually used to bring up a context menu in Windows.

They'll often pause and ask "the right one?" as though they had just discovered it.

Of course, normally when you say "click the button", you imply the left one by default.

Luckily, the more advanced Macintosh users have no such problem! (ducks!)

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aqk
IT Angle

Re: Easily fixed...port? uh.. oh yeah- left

It doesn't work like that.

I can easily figure out which is port or starboard etc, after a couple seconds through the use of conscious thought, but NOT when I'm driving a car at high speed and someone shouts "Turn LEFT NOW!"

I'd prefer they simultaneously point with their finger.

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aqk
Facepalm

Re: @ DJO

Ahh.. are you coming it to PORT or leaving it?

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Re: Easily fixed...

This is a genuine problem at some airports. Runways are numbered according to the first two digits of their (magnetic) heading. Thus an East/West runway would be numbered "09" when landing toward the East, and "27" when the Westerly direction was in use. The numbers are written in large numerals at the threshold of the runway facing the direction of the landing aircraft. A runway with a heading of 20 degrees is thus "02" and its reciprocal is "20" When written in squared numerals it is very easy to look down and confuse which end is which, and end up landing in the wrong direction.

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Re: @ DJO

"

Ahh.. are you coming it to PORT or leaving it?

"

That is only of concern regarding the colour of the entrance buoys and lights. And although the convention in the UK is that red is to port and green to starboard when entering the port, it is the exact opposite in many other places in the World (e.g. the US), where you would keep the green lights to port and the red to starboard when entering a harbour. Vice-versa when leaving, of course.

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Joke

@DJO -- Re: Easily fixed...

Easy mnemonic: You Write with the Right.

No I don't. I'm left-handed. However, use the mouse with my right, swing a golf club like a righty, and am somewhat ambidextrous with everything else. So which side is the "right"????

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Re: Easily fixed...

@Cynic_999

To avoid confusion many airports actually just number their runway 01-19 or 03-21 in those cases. Magnetic drift means most runways are no longer aligned to their actual magnetic heading anyway so playing around with the numbers a bit to avoid unwanted numbers does happen.

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Anonymous Coward

At DropBear & others with direction issues.

My father had this issue as well & came up with a rather ingenious way of solving it while driving in his car. Go to an office supply store & pick up a packet of the filmy, clear plastic, self adhesive arrows, such as what you might use on a report to indicate an important passage. Peel off an arrow, stick it to the inside of the windscreen at just above eye level, so that the arrow points to the Left. Use a heavy black pen to label it "Left". Now you have an instant, visual, easily seen through (it's clear plastic after all), directional reminder.

He remembered his Left from Right when walking about by remembering that his shirt pocket was over the Left breast, thus making it easier to navigate.

If you purchase one of those enclosed spherical "bubble compass" things from an auto parts store, you can draw an arrow to the Left on it & label it as such, thus every time you look at the keyfob so the letters are the right side up, the arrow points & says Left.

You'll want someone else to verify that you've pointed them correctly the first time, but once you have it's easy enough to write "Left" on all the other arrows so the only way the writing is right side up is if the arrow is facing to the Left. Now you've got a pocket packet full of sticky reminders you can use elsewhere as you need.

Happy navigating!

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Anonymous Coward

At ImAnIdiot re directions.

"Your heart is in the left side of your chest. When you place your hand over your heart to say a pledge, you are typicly doing so with your right hand. A military salute is given using the right hand to the brow over the right eye, unless one has that arm in a cast or is otherwise unable to use that hand."

There are many ways to indicate which side is left & which is right, you just have to remember to use your imagination.

"American's drive on the right, everyone else drives on the PROPER side of the road!" is a great way to impress that lesson to any of you whiners on the wrong side of our Pond. =-)P Plbplbplbplblblblbbllbbllblb...

(I was being sarcastic. Please don't down vote me too hard for trying to use humour to make a difficult situation a little less so. Thank you.)

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Re: Easily fixed...

No I don't. I write with the left.

That is how I remember Port and starboard though.

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Re: Easily fixed...port? uh.. oh yeah- left

Usually just at the point of no return and sometime in the wrong lane even.

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