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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Strong Bad EmailSuppose Bob is George’s manager at your place of business. Suppose now that this email toast pops up on your screen one morning:

From: Bob
Subject: George

That’s kind of ambiguous, don’t you think? What could that mean? What couldn’t that mean? Maybe I’m pessimistic, but my mind immediately jumps to “George is no longer with the organization, please forward all correspondence to Jimmy.”

More often than not, once you actually open the email, it’s “George will be out today. Please get with Jimmy if you need anything.” Dude, why couldn’t you have indicated that in the subject? Instead of just “George”, try “George out today”.

It’s such a little thing but it makes a huge difference in the communication’s effectiveness. I’d go so far as to say it impacts morale, too. If you work at an organization that’s known for having difficulty retaining personnel, you and your colleagues are already primed to think the worst. An email like that popping up reminds everyone for a moment of the fragility of their jobs, and even after they’ve read that George is going to the dentist this morning, they’re still left with the original uncomfortable thought. That’s instant subconscious organization-wide crappy morale. Ruins the day whether you realize it or not.

So remember everyone, choose your words wisely and communicate effectively!

Down the Rabbit HoleSome of my time is spent supporting an aging home-grown CRM. It’s not particularly user-friendly and sometimes the error messages it produces are rather cryptic, but it gets the job done.

Today, one of its users told me he couldn’t pull up a certain ticket, so I tried to pull up the same ticket and successfully reproduced the error. Looked like a pretty run-of-the-mill bug so far, though I had to wonder how something that’s been working fine for months (and has had no recent code or database changes) suddenly stopped working.

About an hour later, I was pretty far down the rabbit hole trying to get as much of the ticket page to load as I could. I eventually narrowed the problem down to the query that selects the tickets, but noticed something strange: when I selected all tickets, it worked. When I tried to select only the ticket ID the user wanted… no rows. Upon closer inspection, I realized the user had given me a bogus ticket ID, one much larger than the largest ticket ID in the system so far.

I know that was 30 seconds you can’t get back, but hey — now there’s no way you’ll ever spend an hour of your own life on such a thing.