Obligatory Whiny Post

This entry was posted by on Wednesday, 7 March, 2007 at

I know that I usually blog about things that excite me, but it just wouldn’t be a blog if there weren’t some sort of rant every now and then, right?

Let me vent about some miscellaneous pet peeves.

  • Digital photo albums:

    I love getting invitations to view friends’ online photo albums as much as the next guy, but it really annoys me when I go to the site and see 100 photos that are clearly nothing more than a thoughtless dump of someone’s digital camera. I don’t want to see blurry photos. I don’t want to see 12 pictures in row that are 99% identical. It’s called a photo album, folks. You know, an album? Like, choose the good photos and put them in a book on your coffee table? Don’t waste my time by making me comb through your ugly contact sheet while trying to spot an interesting photo. Please, put some thought into what you display!

  • Notice people around you:

    Pay attention to your surroundings when in public places; it’s not the place to be self-absorbed — you can do that at home. Don’t block the aisle with your cart in the grocery store while you browse a shelf. If you’re going to stand on the escalator, move to the right so others can pass. (I don’t care if it’s you first time on the subway, notice that everyone around you is standing on the right, climbing on the left? Pay attention to the convention!) When boarding a train, let people off the train before trying to push your way in, you insensitive clod.

  • Learn how to ask for help:

    When asking for help with software in a public forum (like an email list, or chat room), provide complete information. It’s useless to say, “I’m trying to do [general vague task], and I’m seeing an error message that says [some vague recounting of error text]. What is wrong?” It then becomes a game of 20 questions. Those of us trying to help have to repeatedly pull information from you: what exactly did you type? what exactly did you see as output? how did you configure things? Please don’t make us play this game. We can’t read your mind, and it’s a waste of time to have us repeatedly interrogate. Instead, gather up all of the information that describes your environment and what you’ve done, and present it all up front when you ask for help. We need to see literal transcripts of what you’re doing, not vague descriptions of the task.

4 Comments to Obligatory Whiny Post

  1. Andy Chilton says:

    March 7th, 2007 at 10:44 pm

    Ooh, people pushing onto trains are the ones that annoy me the most.

    Then again, linking in with your last point about asking for help, it’s the same with bug reports. Reports such as ‘ and it didn’t work’ or ‘ is broken’ don’t help whatsoever!

    …and the email/bugtracker merry-go-round starts.

  2. Peter Olson says:

    March 8th, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    I particularly like the incomplete bug reports. I got one today from a user who knew we patched a system, and after successfully logging on and using the system to get to a customer’s network, complained that something was not working at the customer’s side. So, according to her logic, the last thing that changed caused the problem on a totally unrelated system. I see.

    Of course, I had to prompt her for more information, because all I got was a partial screen dump of he telnet session, with no identifying information as to which customer and what system she was using, and so on.

    Comment 2 above is why I will not go back to the Bolingbrook Ikea unless I absolutely have to. It is laid out in one giant floor, with very narrow aisles which only one cart can get through. So, browse some more Grandma, I’ve got all the time in the world. The Ikea in Schaumberg is a different story. Wide aisles, multiple floors, a flow and design which is maze like, but not so bad that you cannot find your way around.

  3. Nathaniel Smith says:

    March 8th, 2007 at 6:33 pm

    On annoyance #3, we’ve had good luck with building a really really elaborate debug dump into our automatic crash logs. That way, a typical bug report looks like ” “. So you just ignore the first half of the message and skip the stress. It’s a lot easier to phrase your 20 questions as queries written in code and directed at the user’s computer, than queries written in Hacker’s English and directed at a user who does not speak that language…

    Of course, sometimes the user just leaves that part out entirely anyway, but then at least we can say “please run the following command and send us the output” instead of trying to explain what library dependencies and locales and stuff are.

  4. Karl Fogel says:

    March 10th, 2007 at 1:07 am

    Dude, so with you on #2. Can I contribute my favorite peeve? People who don’t realize that the two-doored little anteroom chamber at restaurant entrances is to enable incoming and outgoing customers to not blow cold air all over the tables near the door. In other words, folks, please step *all the way* into the chamber, then fully close the door you came through first, and only then open the other door. It doesn’t matter whether you’re arriving or leaving, the people seated nearby will be grateful.

    This is especially important in cities with winters.