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Opinion: Technology, Eh? Can’t Live With It…

four planes flying perilously close together

Formation blog posts, heading for an inbox near you

“To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”

Oscar Wilde’s immortal line, put into the mouth of his character Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest, is what sprang to my mind when I checked my email inbox at the weekend and saw, for the second time in a couple of months, a flurry of ALLi blog posts stacked up, like planes queuing for take-off at an overcrowded airport.

I may be a busy bee, putting up a new post practically every day, but I didn’t remember being that busy. Then I twigged: the RSS feed had just unaccountably decided to store up a bunch of posts, before spitting them all out all in one go. AGAIN! Gah!

Image of two London buses

Like London buses, you wait for ages, then two (or more) come at once

The first time this happened, during the festive season, it probably felt like less of an irritant, because a lot of us will have been steadfastly ignoring our inboxes during the holidays. To pull the same trick in February, when we’re all back into sensible working habits, knuckling down for the long haul till the next big holidays, and when the season of goodwill is definitely over, is rather more annoying.

It was also particularly irritating because our technical team had just spent more hours than ever before (no, make that days, or even weeks) overhauling and upgrading our website’s back end, to make it more robust as it continues to grow like Topsy.

photo of many yellow cabs

The above photo, translated for my American friends

I confess I’ve never entirely understood how RSS feeds work, and to be honest I couldn’t tell you what RSS stands for, but then I don’t usually need to. (This is why I’m only the blog editor.) It’s like the names of those wiggly bits of metal in your car engine that you don’t need to know about until they go wrong or drop off – then suddenly you have to become an instant expert.

photo of a car engine

Maybe it was a crack in the flange sprocket dangle hinge that did it…

I hoped our many subscribers would take the attitude shown by some of the members on our private Facebook forum when the glitch manifested itself.

lottery balls

“Ooh, I’ve hit the jackpot!” said one subscriber

I took heart from the fact that most us, so used to the vagaries of IT, have now hard-wired our brains to tolerate them. Whenever I read a sentence whose meaning has been subverted by autocorrect, I automatically convert it into meaningful human language – a kind of  Google Translate in reverse.

graphic of lots of hearts

“I just thought it meant you really liked me,” said another

I hoped subscribers might also be reminded of other IT hiccups that they’ve encountered over the years and think “Phew, I’m glad it’s not only me that does things like that!” like when you accidentally hit the “send” button too soon on the very early draft of an email, or send your boss a paper with “track changes” inadvertently left on, showing just how indecisive you really are. I hoped they might be amused, as I was, thinking of other such incidents in their past.

#BeamMeUpScotty

To be fair to the high tech world, I have to say my own personal favourite was caused not by machine but by man – or rather woman. Years ago I headed a small team which included a particularly obstreperous individual who spent most of the time sulking and messaging her friends. One quiet afternoon, there landed in my inbox a heartfelt email that she meant to send to her long-suffering husband. According to her message, I had apparently spent the morning being “difficult”, while the male colleague who shared our office was declared to be an “a***”. (Translation for my American friends: that would be an “a**”.) Curiously, that incident made me feel more sympathetic to her than before. I hope my forgiveness made her realise that I was not quite as difficult as she’d painted me.

So I’m hoping our RSS blockages are over now (if it were down to me, I’d be feeding it a high-fibre breakfast every day), and that you, dear subscribers, will forgive us. With our 1,000th post due  to hit the ether soon, I hope you’ll think this blog is too valuable a resource to turn your back on. Or if you don’t yet subscribe, on the basis that the safest time to fly is after a crash, you might even want to hit the subscriber button now.

OVER TO YOU

Now on a brighter note, what’s the most embarrassing technology-related problem that you’ve ever come across? Make me feel better by sharing yours via the comments box!

Embarrassing moments with an RSS feed - @DebbieYoungBN bemoans a technological hitch on the @IndieAuthorALLi #blog Click To Tweet

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14 Responses to Opinion: Technology, Eh? Can’t Live With It…

  1. Jane Steen February 10, 2016 at 2:23 pm #

    My most embarrassing technology moment came when I quit my last salaried job. I was the victim of departmental politics that had to do with the guy who hired me, rather than me, but ended up with a lot of knives in my back at precisely the moment the recession hit hard and a substantial percentage of that workforce were culled. (For context, let me explain that this was Illinois, an “at will” state where you can lose or quit your job at a minute’s notice.)

    An abrupt departure would save someone else’s job, so I departed abruptly. As most of my colleagues were also Facebook friends, I sent a group message, blaming no-one but just announcing my departure.

    A friend in another department, not realizing it was a group message, expressed her feelings about her boss, who was also on the group message. I replied, also not realizing the gaffe.

    My friend was out of her job the next day, and I still feel bad when she blogs about having to short sale her house some months later, even though she’s never blamed me. I got the chance to explain my own remark to a colleague who’d misinterpreted it, but I’m sure the rest of the group similarly interpreted something I said about my own failings to mean THEM.

    Needless to say I’m a lot more careful about group messages now.

  2. Janet Hartman February 9, 2016 at 4:54 pm #

    I’m glad you wrote this and glad to learn that this is not a normal occurrence. I just signed up for ALLi e-mails within the past week. When I saw the flurry of e-mails I wondered if this was normal or if the system was sending me recent ones so I could catch up.
    And as a retired IT professional, I understand that things happen

    • Debbie Young February 9, 2016 at 5:05 pm #

      Well, I’m glad I wrote it too now, Janet – we’d had to have lost you because of the glitch!

  3. Damon J. Gray February 9, 2016 at 2:53 pm #

    Careful Debbie … I work in IT. 😉

    I appreciate your sense of humor about it all. This was a fun read.

    • Debbie Young February 9, 2016 at 5:05 pm #

      Thanks, Damon! I suspect IT professionals like you are the ones who may be the most sympathetic!

  4. Karen Myers February 9, 2016 at 1:37 pm #

    I’ve become very forgiving of human/technology interaction screw ups.

    What I can’t forgive is the cost of technology, in the form of time spent maintaining it as a user. I peg it at about 4 work weeks/year in my case. Really. http://rationaldelight.com/wp/2015/10/the-hidden-personal-cost-of-your-computer-ecosystem/

    • Debbie Young February 9, 2016 at 5:06 pm #

      Gosh, good point, Karen – four weeks that could be better spent writing! Best not to think about that…

  5. Debra Clopton February 9, 2016 at 12:54 pm #

    I’m new to ALLI and loved the inbox full of blog post. It felt like you were catching me up on what ALLI is all about! I haven’t had time to read all of them but I will 🙂

    • Debbie Young February 9, 2016 at 5:26 pm #

      That’s good to hear, Debra – we’ve got plenty more where those came from (but we’ll ration their issue in future!)

  6. Anne Stormont February 9, 2016 at 10:40 am #

    Haha! It’s predictive text that drives me mad and I rarely notice until it’s too late. I realised at the weekend that the deluge of ALLI items was likely to be similar glitch as Christmas. Just thought ALLI was spoiling us 🙂

    Oh, and please accept my best wishes for a speedy recovery from your flange sprocket affliction. Sounds most unpleasant.

    • Debbie Young February 9, 2016 at 5:27 pm #

      Thanks, Anne, for making me laugh there!

  7. David Penny February 9, 2016 at 9:58 am #

    I’ve had a myriad of embarrassing moments – working in IT for over three decades will do that for you. Perhaps the most embarrassing was when I messed up the RSS feed for… oh… too soon, perhaps?

    OK then – many years ago I took delivery of one of the very first Dell computers. Spiffy, with a (I think) 5 GByte hard disk, which in those days was enormous. Who could ever need more that that!
    I was the only programmer at the time working on a major rewrite of our software, which was already used by a quarter of the local councils in the UK, and we were two weeks away from delivering a new release.

    I proudly copied all the old code across to the new machine. And wiped the old machine.
    Then the hard disk in my brand new shiny Dell died.
    Called them up. Sorry, send it back and we’ll put a new one in. And all the data on the old one…?

    Sorry.

    Two weeks to go and I had to rewrite the entire program from scratch.

    After that I became paranoid about backups.

  8. anita dawes February 9, 2016 at 9:52 am #

    I have one…it’s just happened again… Whenever I want to share on google+, and comment, the end of the darn thing drops too low for clicking. And you can guess which bit I cannot click on!

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