back to article BOFH: Licence to grill ... stupid users

... "Hello, You're speaking with Simon – or rather, Version 3.1 recurring" "Sorry?" my user asks. "Version 3.1 recurring. Speaking." "Can't you just give me Office 2003 back?" he whines. "Sorry, Office 2003 is ancient history – like calculator watches, white jeans for men and the expression 'snazzy'." "Why?" "It was …


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  1. phuzz Silver badge
    Big Brother

    It's funny, pretty much all the users complained when we upgraded from office 2003 to 2007, but within two week's they'd all stopped complaining and I bet now I'd have to beat them with a stick to make them go back to 2003.

    This is why you should never listen to user complaints.

    Bib brother because he looks most like a BOFH

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: why you should never listen

      Let's see. The users complained. You ignored them. After a couple of weeks, they (being intelligent) realised that you weren't going to even listen, let alone change your mind. You (being less intelligent) decided that this proves they were wrong in the first place.

      Do you work for Microsoft's user experience division?

      1. Rick Giles

        Re: Re: why you should never listen

        Not dealt with to many (l)users have you?

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Maybe they stopped complaining when it became obvious you weren't listening to the complaints?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Beat with a stick?

      After a couple of years using daily the unremitting pile of rodent excrement that is Office 2007, I would willingly upgrade to Office 2003.


      1. perlcat

        I prefer Office 97.

        It did everything I needed, right up until the incompatibility patches were applied. Now it is incompatible with everything, including itself.

        Now I run open office. I guess that makes me a hippy or a mental patient. Can't figure out which.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Office 97

          It also ran under NT 3.5.1, which freaked people out, seeing a Win9x app running on a Win3.1 GUI :)

          Handy for old laptops too.

        2. Rick Giles

          Re: I prefer Office 97.

          Me too.

      2. TSM

        I've been using Office 2007 at work for quite a while now and I still have trouble finding things in the ribbon. But once I put all my most used commands into the quick access toolbar it wasn't too bad - I only need to go to the ribbon occasionally instead of all the time.

        As I've said on other forums: if the first thing I have to do to make the ribbon useful is put all the stuff I use frequently onto the quick access toolbar, then there's something wrong with the ribbon as a user interface.

        There are a few features in Excel 2007 that I like. One that I've been wanting for many years is autofiltering on "Contains" rather than just "Begins With" or "Ends With". Also, the new COUNTIFS and SUMIFS functions are useful. But that's about all. I don't use Word as much, and I haven't seen many differences; certainly not enough to offset the pain of learning the new interface.

        At home I use Office 2000, and there's very little I can do with 2007 that I can't do with 2000. I can even handle version 2007 file formats thanks to the compatibility pack. I'm not planning on buying a new version of Office for the home in the forseeable future, especially since I'd need the Professional version to get Publisher etc (which I do use), and that's the best part of $1000.

        Oh, the article? Yeah, pretty good, but I think I'll wait for version 3 before I buy it.

    4. Captain Underpants

      Playing the Devil's Apricot here, I have friends from college in Ireland who've secured lucrative software development jobs in COBOL working for the Civil Service because their staff have been known to demand intensive paid retraining courses for such massive system overhauls as... minor changes to the UI (where minor means "the functions are the same, the menu looks the same, a couple of the buttons have been made a bit smaller but otherwise look the same").

      Ignoring "Wah, it's different!" is not the same as ignoring "Over the last three months we've done productivity monitoring and found that even with training the new product is slowing us down and costing the company money".

    5. laird cummings
      Big Brother

      :: ...I bet now I'd have to beat them with a stick to make them go back to 2003. ::

      Mostly, I bet, that's because users are generally lazy and ignorant, and fear any change - even for the better.

      1. mego

        "Mostly, I bet, that's because users are generally lazy and ignorant, and fear any change - even for the better."

        Absolutely. We had the situation about eight months back where an upgrade to an inhouse database application required users to perform about 6 pages of instructions. I say six, but in reality it was about half a page of numbered steps with screenshots of everything making up the bulk of each page.

        We get a support call on day one. "Uh, yeah I read step one and I'm just lost. Can someone come help?", or to translate into user-speak "I can't be arsed to try doing this, you come do it for me". Scarily enough, some of these people asking for this kind of help are senior engineers and high level accountants: people who should be at least intelligent enough to read instructions and follow them.

        We have 1500 employees and 12 IT staff members. We had less than two weeks to complete the changeover or be charged exhorbitant fees by the consultants for "supporting legacy systems".

        Steps 1 through 10 (yeah it was one of those apps) has things like "Open the application", "Click File -> Settings and write the informaiton in the field that says User Name", followed with gratuitous screen shots of what the user will see, circuling what information to copy, etc. Seriously, I don't know what it is about some users that once they see a keyboard and a mouse it's all baffling as hell but they can figure out just fine how to tie their shoelaces and drive a big, dangerous car around.

  2. Why Not?
    Thumb Up

    Now that I liked

    Office 2010 upgrade being pushed out from the IT stratosphere as we speak, the issues are piling up and a similar conversation is being had with users daily.

    Simon (Version 3.51 - the only one that worked properly until Ver 7) Thank you for lightening my day.

  3. Chris007

    who else

    could regurgitate the last BOFH and still make it funny. Thanks Simon

    1. Wize

      Its an upgrade

      V2.0 of the last BOFH story

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Deja vu

      Apparently whoever it is can't be found here

  4. paultnl

    real life

    The trouble is that it is so horribly true

  5. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    Someone has just had an upgrade foisted upon them

    Blessedly, it is not me!

    Nice episode

  6. HP Cynic

    I never really read BOFH but this title of this one hooked me, reeled me in and left me flapping about gasping for breath.

    OK I was not literally rolling about on the floor laughing but this was damn good :)

  7. DayDragon

    Sorry but...

    Where's the entertainment value gone out of the BOFH. I remember eagerly waiting for the next issue of Networking Week, or whatever it was called, to read the next exciting installment of the BOFH.

    There have been some brilliant ones over the years but this isn't one of them.

    I say bring back Maureen the Serial Whiner :)

    1. Chad H.

      Don't worry

      It will be fixed in the next version...

  8. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    screwed again

    I think I had that conversation yesterday with my supplier ... you hit the nail right in the head.

  9. Cheeky Chappie

    Funny but......

    Isn't this just a rehash of last weeks episode?

    1. Hugh Pumphrey

      Rehash ...

      "...rehash of last weeks episode?" I think that is the meta-humour-style point, is it not?

    2. Annihilator

      @Cheeky Chappie

      I think you've just been hooked by fishing rod v7.6. If you'll inspect the wall behind you, you will see if large divot where the joke flew over your head and cracked the plaster.

  10. John I'm only dancing


    Very fishy if you ask me.

  11. Roger Kynaston

    So I'm a hippy then

    or a small child or a mental patient. Good company if you ask me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      ... or a mental hippy patient?

  12. Fred Mbogo


    If you sent a certain package containing certain substances and then called the fishing implements company, offering them a cheap, one-time, proof-of-purchase license not to breathe that particular substance and therefore miss out on the limited time offer of retaining the use of their breathing systems in full, unassisted would be called a criminal.

    To paraphrase Raymond Chandler: "The only difference between crime and business? Business requires money."

  13. ygdrazil

    Only reason to pirate for me is licensing humbug

    This on hit the nail, realy like the suport licens at the end!!!

  14. Dave Bell

    This story is horribly unrealistic.

    The support-thing should not be speaking with an intelligible accent

    1. mittfh

      Unintelligible accent

      Ah, but what you don't realise is that Simon's installed a voice modulator in the computerised switchboard which will automatically transform his voice into that of someone with an unintelligible accent based (very) loosely on speakers from a certain subcontinent. For added fun, it also adds a tinge of a thick regional UK accent to ensure that even people originating from the certain subcontinent couldn't make head or tail of what he's saying.

      Megaphone as it's usually another method of rendering a person's voice unintelligible :)

  15. Christian Berger

    Nice description

    It's a nice description of commercial software licensing... and also the reason why I avoid commercially licensed software. It's not like I don't want to pay, but I want to be treated in a decent way.

    1. PyLETS

      Gnome and KDE equally bad

      Tried Gnome 3 or KDE 4 lately, found stuff that used to work missing or in obscure and wrong places ? Anything they can do we seem to be able to do better.

      Vigor the manic opensource paperclip turned out not to be just a joke, it was a working software product - after a fashion. .

    2. perlcat

      Oh come on...

      Phuzz up there at the top wants to beat you with a stick and call it decent. (...and it will be. For Phuzz.)

  16. Jonathan White

    " I bet now I'd have to beat them with a stick to make them go back to 2003"

    Well, there's only one way to find out for sure. I'd describe it as 'user requirement research'.

    1. Captain Underpants
      Thumb Down

      Nononono, you don't ask the *user* what they want^W"require", that tends to give answers like "full admin rights", "the shiniest possible machine with a glowing fruit logo on the back so I can show it off down the pub" and "the following media acquisition/playback software that have nothing to do with my day-to-day work but which will be used to abuse the living hell out of the company network in a decidedly non-compliant-with-the-terms-of-use-mentioned-in-my-contract sort of way".

      The *correct* way to do this is to talk to the line manager of the people involved, determine what they're being paid to do, conduct testing if necessary to determine the best way of doing it (which may well *not* involve using a software package the best part of a decade old, and may well involve a bit of training on how to use software written in the current rather than previous century) and then determine a plan for implementing any changes that are needed.

      1. Robert E A Harvey




        All words entirely unknown in $MEGACORP IT management.

        "We use MSoffice because everyone knows how to use it"

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Oh - But what the manager *really* wants ... err Needs ... is to bloat his/her budget to the point of "strategic importance" in order to get a comfy & lucrative seat on the board.

        I.O.W: Just give up / forget about "the correct way" and think of what *you* want! The business is sunk anyways!!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Agree with the Captain. Last thing you EVER want to do is ask a user what they want. The best approach is to understand what they want to achieve from the tools they have, and/or get the same from their supervisor.

      Seriously, asking users what they want opens up way too many cans of worms. In a previous company, thanks to one of our managers in IT (apparently now holds the rank of the CTO), a policy got ratified by the CEO that allowed users to bring in their own home machines, plug into the network (!!) and work as they please. Can you imagine the sheer damage to our environment this brings into play? Never mind the occasional ass that has naked (and sometimes, um, "active") backgrounds on their personal machine..

  17. Tom Maddox Silver badge

    Missing the point

    For people who complain that this episode is the same as the last one, I recommend you look at the episode number, and then look at the URL for the page. Notice anything?

  18. A J Stiles

    Or to put it another way .....

    Sell a man a fish, and you have sold one fish.

    Teach a man to fish, and you can sell him expensive proprietary bait and tackle for the rest of his life.

    1. Captain Underpants

      @ A J Stiles

      I quite like the Pratchett version myself.

      "Give a man a fire and he's warm for a day, but set him on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life".

  19. Craig 28

    Re:Unintelligible accent

    Shh, what Simon's really got set up... and this isn't for the ears of the lusing masses... is an accent recognition system which automatically identifies the caller's accent and adjusts the voice to the accent most calculated to make the least sense. Starting with a generic unintelligible accent in the greeting and gradually morphing it slowly so as not to draw too much suspicion.

    That said I think I've heard a few systems like that on the telly before now. Some of the people they've had on the news for interviews are pretty shocking.

  20. Charlie van Becelaere
    Big Brother

    While I may be

    a small mental hippie child, I must deny being at all patient.

    Thanks, Simon.

  21. Camilla Smythe

    I will be wrong.

    The reference to 3.1..... Windows Write?

    A text editor that....

    I'll get my ZimmerFrame.

  22. Herby

    And then I note that...

    Microsoft opened up a "store" across the mall from the local Apple store. This was with great fanfare and lines and all that. What I need to do is burn a bunch of Knoppix CDs and boot up machines with them. That would be exciting to see the droids wonder why the machines were working so well, and didn't need updates.

    Task for another day (*SIGH*).

  23. Wombling_Free


    ohh, yes, it was worth it for that single sentence alone!

  24. Marshalltown
    Thumb Down

    Upgrades? What are upgrades?

    What upgrades?

    Mines the one with the Word Star manual in the pocket.

  25. fearnothing

    I actually found this one more entertaining than the previous BOFH. Good job, this time it was actually funny.

  26. Paul 129

    Someones got to say it

    This is why I moved.... Amazingly as a bonus it works! (until you upgrade your umboinggo, then you'll have to re-fix everything, but I'm getting the hang of automating that)

  27. ChessGeek

    Users are pretty Basic

    My experience with Office goes back to version 4.x, and my experience with users suggests that if you could actually get that version to run on today's computers few of them would know the difference.

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