windows crashes the morning

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Just in case you thought that all my story blog posts mean that I’m neglecting my role of publicising details of software failures, I thought I’d throw this little message in the pot.

Arriving at work to discover that my computer had ‘shutdown unexpectedly’ or some such phrase that completely ignores the emotional impact of a computer crash. I do like that Microsoft wants to know about these events so they can diagnose their causes and work with partners to reduce their occurrence.  I’d rather they used this messaging opportunity to:

  • acknowledged the emotional impact of what happened.
  • told me they will use this information to reduce events like this happening in the future “sending more information can help Microsoft create solutions” is too corporate, formal, impersonal.
  • added a bit of humour to the message to demonstrate that they want me to be happy and they employ expert editors to make that happen.

Eventually these things may well happen, but I’m getting impatient, come-on already!

Crash bang wallop

windows crashes the morning
2 votes rating 4.5

7 bits of lovely banter on “windows crashes the morning”

  1. Scarlet writes:

    Be careful bringing humour to the mix when there has been an emotional impact…. it may encourage raised voices and the hurling of inanimate objects.
    Sx

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  2. Will Watts writes:

    Tend to agree with Scarlet. Not convinced that humour adds:

    ‘D’oh! We screwed up! Pooter needs some TLC. Sorry bout dat.

    Click the button to send us the doings – we’ll try to do better in future. Honest.’

    rapidly becomes MUCH more annoying than the stilted, patronising coporatese MS currently offers.

    As a programmer (there, I’ve said it – I am part of the problem, not the solution) time and disappointment has taught that few users will invest any effort reading error messages. Further, any possible misinterpretation, however obtuse, that can be applied to any error message wording WILL be applied… but actually the punter is most likely to ignore the wording completely and apply the clicking-harder-and-more-rapidly system of software debugging.

    The model for a typical computer user dealing with problematic software is not a Sherlock Holmes thinking through a problem; rather it is John Cleese as Basil Fawlty thrashing his car with a piece of hedge. Attempting to josh the punter along is surely the thing most likely to send him into hedge mode. We all know how easy it is to convey the wrong emotional context in an email – think how much more likely one is to hit the wrong emotional button in an error message.

    I would like to make better software, but I just don’t believe rewording of errors with informality or humour is a goer. Cool, distant neutrality is best, even if – like democracy – it is not a very good best.

    Sorry.

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  3. wendy writes:

    Some good examples here: http://www.sitepen.com/blog/2008/06/11/playfulness-in-interaction-design/

    I think the twitter server-down message achieves it beautifully and creatively. While organisations/people creating these services are limited by the plausible and defeatist attitude that you’ve articulated – design will be limited to achieve ‘patronising corporatese’. So much more is possible. Challenge your preconceptions, user test inspirational alternatives

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  4. Gadjo Dilo writes:

    I wish that every time this happened Microsoft instead of corresponding with their partners to diagnose the cause – come on, who are they kidding? – but instead with one’s less favourite relatives and those people to whom one owes letters but to whom one has nothing much to say. That would be quite a useful service.

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  5. wendy writes:

    welcome Gadjo, indeed that is a service worth having, but as mumsie recently discovered the addresses of these people seem to evade retention and they’re often not online…

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  6. Will Watts writes:

    Sorry, Wendy – I looked at the link and I really don’t like the (as it supposes) playful Twitter iconography, and the Apple-bomb-on-crash, and all that kind of thing. Far from coming across as fresh and direct, it seems to me puerile and inappropriate, and patronising in a different, but more insidious, way than they style you would replace.

    I think this is an excellent opportunity for us to practise our agreeing-to-disagree skills. 🙂

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  7. wendy writes:

    Will, I’ll agree that some customer experience research could provide evidence for the most acceptable design direction.

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