back to article Confirmation dialog Groundhog Day: I click OK and it keeps coming back

"We all know what we're doing today? Good. Do your best!" With that cheery note, our new project director sweeps out of the 10:00 stand-up meeting and away to… someplace or another, I don't know, wherever it is that project directors go. Project managers can be found everywhere, usually nearby a waste basket overflowing with …

  1. Warm Braw Silver badge

    They announce a new Number Two

    Hopefully not with the phrase: Whoa! Heavy shit!.

    1. Red Ted Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: They announce a new Number Two

      Does the old one leave in a rocket capsule?

    2. Sam not the Viking Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: They announce a new Number Two

      There's a point in the Slough House books where the boss names the IT guy as his 'Number two'. It's some time before the colloquiaism is explained to the devastated recipient.

    3. captain veg Silver badge

      Re: They announce a new Number Two

      HOPEFULLY = ADVERB

      Adverbs qualify verbs, adjectives or other adverbs. There are none in your sentence.

      (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

      -A.

      1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

        Re: They announce a new Number Two

        1. HOPEFULLY = ADVERB

        2. HOPEFULLY is shorthand for "I am hopeful that..."

        It is a standard part of English, whether you choose to use it or not. And even those who do not use it know what it means, as there is no ambiguity between the two meanings as they are, as you spotted, different parts of speech.

      2. Warm Braw Silver badge

        Re: They announce a new Number Two

        I think that cause was lost around the time people started using plural forms with "none"...

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Oh. My. God.

    Young Mr Grace ?

    Number Two ?

    What is this cornucopia of references that people under 30 have no chance of understanding ?

    Not to mention the rest of the article.

    A resounding thumbs up for a brilliant end of the week.

    1. frabbledeklatter

      Re: Oh. My. God.

      Don't forget the original MS-DOS classic: "Keyboard not found. Press f1 to continue."

      1. SammyB

        Re: Oh. My. God.

        This is as good as the routine to send a message to the printer that the printer is offline.

        1. Daedalus

          Re: Oh. My. God.

          I was once on a project that had an error logger, with output going to a printer when desired. The slightly confused developer was asked what he would do if the error logger had an error. He said he would log the error. We pointed out that he was exclusively in charge of the printer, so he could print whatever he needed to. He said "Oh".

          That was the only good thing in that particular review.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Oh. My. God.

            It was decided that errors should be logged to a file. The file was on the system disk. If there was a minor error to be logged that involved the system disk then everything came to a grinding halt. A lemon scented tissues event.

      2. My-Handle Silver badge

        Re: Oh. My. God.

        I can understand that one, at least. The computer is absolutely unable to do anything about a hardware error, so it tells you about it. Then waits for input indicating that the error has been fixed. Admittedly, it could have been made more coherent by phrasing it "Keyboard not found. Fix it, then press f1 to continue".

        On a complete tangent, this was the first error I ever diagnosed and fixed. I was 8 or so years old, and my dad started discreetly unplugging the keyboard from the computer in an attempt to stop me and my brother from playing Doom on his computer after school before he got home. It worked... the first time. Then it kind of backfired, because I usually remembered to unplug the keyboard again before he got home :D

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Oh. My. God.

          ok, I did fix the keyboard to the wall.

          now what?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oh. My. God.

        That was the PC BIOS, not the OS

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Oh. My. God.

          The BIOS on my Mythbox has been set up with a box ticked to say that a keyboard is not expected. On boot it doesn't stall but still displays an error message saying the keyboard hasn't been found an an error is being logged; where it's being logged is unspecified.

          1. ThatOne Silver badge
            Devil

            Re: Oh. My. God.

            You don't want to know...

            1. David 132 Silver badge
              Thumb Up

              Re: Oh. My. God.

              > > where it’s being logged is unspecified

              > You don’t want to know..

              As ever, Randall has this one covered.

      4. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Oh. My. God.

        That one STILL exists...

        As is proved by my ancient data server in the backroom whenever it forgets it has a USB keyboard

        Anyways... its the BIOS doing that not m$ should be blamed for(for once)

    2. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble?

      Re: Oh. My. God.

      Absolutely, I haven't seen the word "schwing" written down anyway since that 90's throwback film night I attended about a decade ago.

      Seeing it now means I can't stop giggling

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Oh. My. God.

        Yup - Dabbsy is Austin Powers, and I claim my £5.

        Groovy baby, yeah man.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Oh. My. God.

          Wayne Campbell, not Austin Powers.

      2. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

        Re: Oh. My. God.

        Then you will want to watch this.

        1. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble?

          Re: Oh. My. God.

          Indeed, when I read the dialogue back in my head with shwing in place, I read it in Garths voice.

          Nice work my friend!

          Party on!

          1. David 132 Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: Oh. My. God.

            It's a new Dabbs column!

            We are not worthy! We are not worthy!

    3. Martin J Hooper

      Re: Oh. My. God.

      Young Mr Grace is Are you Being Served if I remember rightly and Number 2 was Leo McKern wasn't it?

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

        Re: Oh. My. God.

        Number Two kept changing. Leo McKern was o e of them. The implication is that he was replaced due to his failure to find out why Number Six resigned.

        // Why, yes, I am a fan...have all the episodes

        // No Lotus 7 though

        // KAR 120C

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: Oh. My. God.

          I did a kit Lotus 7 as KAR 120C as a present for a Prisoner loving friend.

          He loved it.

  3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    Golden Path Specifications

    This all comes down to the fact that specifications only ever specify what software should do when it succeeds (the "golden path"), and never, ever, lay out the requirements on how to handle error conditions, exceptions, and so forth. There might be a whole team of UI designers arguing about whether the main screen font should be 9.5 or 10pt and exactly what shade of corporate blue it should be, but they never spare a second's thought to specifying the wording of error messages.

    This is further exacerbated by the fact that most developers aren't English Language graduates, or technical authors, but they are being asked to write simple, concise, yet useful and meaningful messages, and to spend time doing so which has not been budgeted for. Because it hasn't been put on the spec.

    If they have been taught well, a good developer knows that a useful UI message should contain three things: what happened, what this means, and what the user can do about it. A canny developer also knows that the same message should be written to a log file, because the user will ignore it. A developer who has had proper paranoia drilled into them will also add a stack trace to that log file (but not the message box, no need to scare the user with terms like "Illegal Operation"!)

    The solution to this is to employ BAs who can both liaise with users and also understand the software inside and out, so that the mythical complete specification gets written in the first place. Of course, such beings are far too busy off fighting supervillains to do a day-job that pays a BA's salary.

    1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Golden Path Specifications

      Not BAs, BScs, in psychology.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Golden Path Specifications

        BAs as is Business Analyst, not Bachelors of the Arts. A mythical being who can gather complete requirements from a client and translate these into unambiguous instructions, including all those requirements that are "obvious" or "standard" but about which no words have ever been uttered.

        These unspoken requirements may be something as basic as making sure the tab order on a form is correct, to reporting requirements for detailed audit-level reports of every action taken through the system. You know, anything that's "obvious".

        In my experience, specs tend to end up with about 60% of everything that needs to be done. Of the remaining 40%, 30% is obvious stuff like error handling, and the other 10% is the bits where the spec doesn't go into enough detail, and you end up having to go back to the client yourself to tease it from them. Things like "what format do you want this export file in," "what are the valid expected values for this field," and so on. Half the time, you find out that the client hadn't even thought about it and somehow thought that you would magically know what they want before they do.

    2. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Golden Path Specifications

      what happened, what this means, and what the user can do about it

      Frequently, the "what happened" will actually mean nothing to the end user, will not be related to what the user has done and be beyond the user's means to correct.

      A certain online banking system will, in these circumstances, give the user an error code and a phone number to call to report it. If you phone the number, they don't ask for the error code and don't want it if you offer it. And, of course, if you want someone to assist you with the failed transaction, they can't do it unless you're registered for telephone banking - in which case they still have to pass you on to another team. It's not just the developers producing the right message, there has to be a support chain to make use of it.

      And, as we all know, the only real thought that goes into user support is how to reduce its cost.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Golden Path Specifications

        Often, from the user's perspective, the "what happened" part doesn't need to be more than "something went wrong".

        For example, a bad error message might be:

        ERROR 1234 occurred - TRANSACTION FAILED CATASTROPHICALLY.

        Line 43 COMMIT TRANSACTION Stack Trace: ...

        Retry/Abort/Cancel?

        A better message might be:

        A problem occurred when saving the record.

        No changes were saved.

        Please try saving again.

        If this problem persists, please contact support by clicking here.

        (with the "here" part being a link that will post a full error log to a support portal, or provide details of a support helpdesk / number, how to send an appropriate error log, etc.)

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Golden Path Specifications

          Often, from the user's perspective, the "what happened" part doesn't need to be more than "something went wrong".

          While you're right on the customer/user message, sometimes it's a good idea to add to the contact support bit with some details for them to pass along if possible. Hopefully something better than "it's broken".

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Golden Path Specifications

            Hopefully something better than "it's broken"

            It will still be passed on as "It's broken".

            1. ThatOne Silver badge

              Re: Golden Path Specifications

              That's true, but maybe developers could do the rare power users the courtesy to hint about what's going on, since obviously support won't care, even if you manage to get hold of an (alleged) human. After having switched it off and on a couple times you're on your own: Remember, we take our customers' satisfaction very seriously, now get lost already.

              At some point the unfortunate user is sitting there, wondering what might have gone wrong, and most importantly how to fix it somehow (since chances are he wasn't doing that just for fun). He is the one with a deadline over his head, and suddenly that piece of #@%§ announces that it didn't like something, and thus will arbitrarily scuttle all the user's efforts to get his work done on time and go home.

              A hint how to placate this stupid heap of metal and plastic would go a long way...

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

          3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

            Re: Golden Path Specifications

            While you're right on the customer/user message, sometimes it's a good idea to add to the contact support bit with some details for them to pass along if possible. Hopefully something better than "it's broken".

            It's even better to not rely on the user to relay technical details which they don't understand. This is what logging is for (which is where you stick your stack trace / line with error / error details / etc. go). Even better is an automated bug report all wrapped up and ready to submit when click the "contact support" link. Give the user a reference number for it which they can write down. If you're wary of lots of automatically submitted files, for security reasons, give the user the ability to find and email you the log file.

        2. Insert sadsack pun here Silver badge

          Re: Golden Path Specifications

          "Often, from the user's perspective, the "what happened" part doesn't need to be more than "something went wrong".

          Possibly - but I'm reintroducing the Birch for programmers whose error messages are too cutesy..."bruh, totally tough shit occurred, no joke. Better luck next life!"

          1. Martin-73 Silver badge

            Re: Golden Path Specifications

            I would introduce the birch for anyone who says 'bruh' except in single quotes, altho....

            1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: Golden Path Specifications

              Innit, fam?

            2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Golden Path Specifications

              Why the let off for single quotes?

              1. tezboyes

                Re: Golden Path Specifications

                Definitely, double quotes here* - I guess it depends on your primary language ?

                * that includes "air quotes".

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: Golden Path Specifications

          "something went wrong"

          Yeah, MS figured that out too. They even put a sad face next to it.

          Unfortunately, they missed out steps 2 and 3.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Golden Path Specifications

        "the only real thought that goes into user support is how to reduce its cost."

        But never reaches the conclusion that the best way to do that is to get things right in the first place.

        1. ThatOne Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: Golden Path Specifications

          True, except that getting things done right costs money, so "reducing the cost" dictates you do a rushed quick and dirty job.

          Customer support is an automated maze ending in a bottomless pit, and thus can handle as many customers as needed, so why worry? Just promise the next version will be fixed, hope springs eternal.

      3. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: Frequently, the "what happened" will actually mean nothing to the end user

        So give an entertaining response...

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4B832CLc3Q

        Trouble is, everyone will be wanting to hear Spike...

        Mind you, everyone will be able to remember the error message.

  4. Franco Silver badge

    Standup

    I've just started a new contract where they don't call them standups, they call them drumbeats. It was bad enough when "town halls" started to be a thing.

    I think all this naming malarkey might be starting to effect my mental health. ;-)

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Standup

      Colleagues of mine keep getting called into Scrums (which thankfully so far I've avoided).

      I keep asking which one of them is the Hooker, but for some reason they tend to get offended by that?

      1. David Haworth 1

        Re: Standup

        Next time, ask who's going to put the ball in.

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: Standup

          Or just ask if they've got funny shaped balls?

          1. You aint sin me, roit
            Coat

            Re: Standup

            And who's going to get it out...

            Mine's the one... well, it's a bit obvious...

        2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: Standup

          It would surprise me not one jot to hear a "scrum-master" use an analogy of taking the ball and running with it.

          1. Outski Silver badge

            Re: Standup

            Isn't that the scrum-half's job? Surely someone with as vaunted a title as scrum 'master' wouldn't appreciate being called a 'half'

          2. captain veg Silver badge

            Re: Standup

            I refer to mine as "scrumbag". Not to her face, though.

            -A.

      2. captain veg Silver badge

        Re: Standup

        Americans obviously don't understand that in a scrum everyone pushes in opposite directions, generally going nowhere until the whole thing collapses in an untidy heap.

        Agile, my arse. And nobody sprints.

        -A.

      3. tezboyes

        Re: Standup

        Having done a few positions, very briefly a hooker, tried fly too, left back was my norm - these days though it'd have to be touch (line) ...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There are error messages and there are error messages:

    https://multicians.org/hodie-natus-est.html

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Happy

      Well yes, but that was a primitive text-only 1970s system.

      These days you could have that error message sung to you in polyphonic choral 5.1 audio, with an accompanying Moment Of Divine Intervention rendered on the screen.

      The error would be just as impenetrable but would look amazing.

      Progress.

  6. Potemkine! Silver badge
    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ...whether YES should go on the left and NO on the right

      As long as you separate them by at least a hundred pixels all is OK with me.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: ...whether YES should go on the left and NO on the right

        The correct answer is: which way does your language write? The "ok"yness option should always be in the direction of time's arrow as represented by the writing system being used.

  7. Scott 53
    Headmaster

    Effect/affect

    Affect can also be a noun. Ask any psychologist.

    1. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch

      Re: Effect/affect

      A psychologist with a blunted affect?

  8. Dr_N Silver badge

    "Whoa! Heavy shit!"

    Was that linked back to Number 2 ?

  9. Outski Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Effect as a verb

    Absolutely effect can be a verb, as in "to effect a change", ie, put a change into effect

    1. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

      Re: Effect as a verb

      As I think I mentioned in my column. But only a posho or someone showing off on LinkedIn would use "effect" as a verb these days, and there is no real-world use for it in a UI Just imagine a word processor with a Search/Replace dialog that instead of having a REPLACE button had one that read EFFECT THE REPLACEMENT. Like I said, Lord effing Grantham.

      1. Outski Silver badge

        Re: Effect as a verb

        Ah, I took that as an accent thing, like sex being what coal comes in

        1. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

          Re: Effect as a verb

          Ears, ears. (Prince Charles accent)

        2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

          Re: Effect as a verb

          In New Zealand it is the number after five.

          1. MiguelC Silver badge

            Re: Effect as a verb

            Reminds me of a funny old cartoon where Jane is teaching Tarzan to count and having him repeating after her

            - "One" - "One"

            - "Two" - "Two"

            - "Three" - "Three"

            - "Four" - "Four"

            - "Five" - "Five"

            - "Six" - "Sex"

            - "No. Six" - "Noooo. SEX!"

            (censored afterwards)

            1. Negative Charlie

              Re: Effect as a verb

              Immortalised in Carry On Up The Jungle, with Terry Scott as Jungle Boy

              Jungle Boy: One... two... three... four... five...

              [grins lasciviously]

              Jungle Boy: ... sex.

              June: [as Jungle Boy picks her up] I wonder if we'll ever get to seven?

        3. David 132 Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Effect as a verb

          You've reminded me of a story I heard years and years ago. My memory wants to say it was originally related by Alan Bennett, the playwright, but I could be mistaken.

          Anyway, very young AB, or whoever, was due to perform in the school end-of-term play. His mother (working class) spoke to the teacher (posh) and got told in cut-glass tones what costume was needed for the child. Ma worked hard all week stitching and stuffing and sewing and cutting, and made the - unusual - costume for her son. It was a green Brassica sphere, with leaves and a stalk.

          Gets to school on the day of the play, son waddling awkwardly, as wide as he is tall, and the teacher sees the costume.

          "No, Mrs Bennett! I said a sprite!"

        4. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Effect as a verb

          Ah, I took that as an accent thing, like sex being what coal comes in

          No, that is what Candy Dulfer plays (and for which Prince used to call her).

      2. Hero Protagonist
        Coat

        Re: Effect as a verb

        > For old times' sake, I leaned over a shoulder and clicked a few buttons. Sure enough, that message had reverted yet again to "effect."

        So what you’re telling us is that you were unable to effect a permanent change.

        <ducks>

        1. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

          Re: Effect as a verb

          "So what you’re telling us is that you were unable to effect a permanent change."

          --> "So what you’re telling us is that you were unable to change it.".

          1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

            Re: Effect as a verb

            I see what you did there, but to wear my pedant's hat, effecting a change and changing something are semantically different. Of course, most people using the former probably actually mean the latter, but there is a different implication of agency between the two, on the one hand, being the agency that makes something happen, but not necessarily doing it yourself, and on the other, being the one that actually does the thing.

            For example, my boss's boss's boss effects lots of software changes, but, thankfully, doesn't change any code himself.

      3. Martin-73 Silver badge

        Re: Effect as a verb

        Is this the same as the email I got from my former car insurance company asking if I can 'action their previous email'?

        I already did, the action i chose was 'Delete'

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Effect as a verb

      And let's not get started on the American inability to distinguish between assure, ensure and insure.

      1. Outski Silver badge

        Re: Effect as a verb

        or, indeed, enquiry and inquiry

        1. Martin Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Re: Effect as a verb

          In the UK, there is no difference between inquiry and enquiry. I just checked in the Oxford English Dictionary - and if that's not definitive, I don't know what is.

          If you look up "enquire, enquiry" it says "see inquire, inquiry". And when you look up "inquire" it says "inquire, en-".

          They are just two different spellings of exactly the same work.

          1. Martin Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: Effect as a verb

            Or even word...

          2. Outski Silver badge

            Re: Effect as a verb

            Semantics - I've always understood enquire/enquiry as a simple question, with inquire/inquiry being the sort of questions a coroner or other formal body might ask.

    3. Emir Al Weeq

      Re: Effect as a verb

      Many years ago I read about a professor who taught medicine who had failed a student for muddling up "affects" and "effects" when writing "<drug> effects blood clotting". The prof's point being that an error like that could lead to someone's death.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Effect as a verb

        I'd go further and say that even if the student in question had meant to write "affects", they'd not actually specified what the effect would be. You know, whether it does something like blocking thrombogenesis* by some mechanism, useful for example, if someone is suffering from something like a pulmonary embolism, or speeds it up, useful if someone with a clotting disorder is bleeding out...

        In other words, even if they got the right word (affects/effects), the answer is woefully non-specific. A bit like saying "this medicine cures an illness".

        *The formation of blood clots

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sod's law

    The sweary error message that can never happen, yeah, that happens almost immediately when the user gets the software.

    1. SammyB

      Re: Sod's law

      I don's know who Sod is but he/she/it was an optimist.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Sod's law

        Not sweary, but I once used an error message "The trousers of Uncle Vanya are particularly gloomy. Call me."

        It didn't pop up very often, but I always got called when it did.

  11. b0llchit Silver badge
    Coat

    [ae].*tive

    To be affectionately effective you need to affect the effect effectively.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: [ae].*tive

      ...and also if you need to be abortive with your expletive.

      1. b0llchit Silver badge

        Re: [ae].*tive

        affirmative

        1. Jonathan Richards 1
          Go

          Re: [ae].*tive

          If I delimit that regex with ^$ I still get 34 hits by grepping over /etc/dictionaries-common/words. I started to compose a witty post containing all of them, but failed at "appositive" for the good and sufficient reason that I have no idea what it means. Insert evocative attractive alternative here.

          1. b0llchit Silver badge
            Go

            Re: [ae].*tive

            $ egrep '^[ae].*tive$' /usr/share/dict/words | wc -l

            291

            exemplificative estimative

          2. ThatOne Silver badge
            Devil

            Re: [ae].*tive

            > failed at "appositive" for the good and sufficient reason that I have no idea what it means

            It means being in apposition...

          3. A Nother Handle
            Holmes

            Re: [ae].*tive

            You got the word from a dictionary, right? Didn't your digital marvel of time-saving include the definition?

            1. ThatOne Silver badge

              Re: [ae].*tive

              Most (any?) Linux installation has a file in "/etc/dictionaries-common" called "words". Now this isn't what people usually know as a "dictionary" (something explaining words' meanings), it's a computer dictionary, ie. just a long list of English words in alphabetical order. I don't know what it is for, maybe for spellchecking?

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: [ae].*tive

                With the aid of a GUI wrapper it's a crossword assistant for SWMBO.

              2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

                Re: [ae].*tive

                It's not even what some programming languages refer to as a dictionary (a hashtable), which is a fancy lookup table, like... an actual dictionary...

  12. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Error messages have sometimes improved a bit

    It used to be "FILE NOT FOUND" (or for the really old: 2). Unless told to do otherwise Python3 actually tells you which file was not found. Perhaps in a few more decades software will also tell you where the file was not found so you can put it in the right place. (Or possibly RTFantasticM until you find how to tell the software to look in the directory where the file actually is.)

    1. b0llchit Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: Error messages have sometimes improved a bit

      Just say PEBKAC. It is the reason for all our suffering.

      1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

        Re: Error messages have sometimes improved a bit

        There's many a keyboard between the standup meeting and the error message.

      2. MiguelC Silver badge

        Re: Error messages have sometimes improved a bit

        Off the top of my head I remember seeing it codified as PEBKAC, PICNIC and CK Interface Error

        All are WOT issues (waste of time, for the uninitiated)

        1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

          Re: Error messages have sometimes improved a bit

          Better yet, there are WOMBAT issues (Waste Of Money, Brains And Time).

        2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Error messages have sometimes improved a bit

          All are WOT issues (waste of time, for the uninitiated)

          Also knows as ID-ten-T errors ;)

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Error messages have sometimes improved a bit

      Not always. There are still far too many occasions when I see a pop-up "An unexpected error has occurred", which is

      a) irritating since it implies that there are expected errors.

      b) downright annoying: if you don't tell me which fscking error, how can I fix it?

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: Error messages have sometimes improved a bit

        Expected errors are the ones that have distinctive, though not necessarily helpful, error messages. They're often called exceptions. Some people insist there is a difference between errors and exceptions, but I've never been convinced.

        Unexpected errors are the ones that management said to ignore. In theory, they would make that call on the basis that handling the error elegantly is not a cost-effective use of development time. In practice, I often suspect the real reason is that it would be too embarrassing to admit the possibility of this error happening, and would make the entire project look like a colossal waste of time.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Error messages have sometimes improved a bit

          we usually say 'errors' happen in business code, they are the unhappy flows such as input doesn;t pass validation, you can't book that on a holiday day, and can be corrected by the user with a helpful nudge in the right direction with an error message.

          Exceptions are in technical code, disk full, network down, cockup in the code, and there is nothing the user can do except retry (if temporary) or call support and raise a ticket.

    3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: Error messages have sometimes improved a bit

      ERROR: SOMETHING BAD HAS HAPPENED. SEE YOUR SYSTEM MANAGER.

      1. A____B

        Re: Error messages have sometimes improved a bit

        My favourite one (in a development system that somehow made it to live) was a response to a missing mandatory field for the applicant's sex [though I suppose nowadays we should say "gender choice"]

        Sex is mandatory - please make an insertion

  13. F. Frederick Skitty

    Heh, confirmation dialogs. At $newJob they gave me a Windows laptop that's so locked down I can't install the tools I need to develop with it. So I'm using my personal Linux machine, but thanks to Teams on Linux[1] not having video or screen sharing I still have to use the laptop for meetings.

    So yesterday I'm on a call, and a dialog box pops up in the lower right of the screen. Says I need to reboot for "critical updates", and the only way to close the dialog box is to click the sole "OK" button. Cue a spontaneous reboot in the middle of my call.

    This and other Windows usability issues makes me wonder how people put up with this crap. Perhaps if you've only eaten sh*t sandwiches your whole life you think they taste nice and can't imagine anything better?

    [1] Apparently it did at some point and then MS removed the functionality in an update!?!

    1. logicalextreme

      I've got a slightly better one than that. I'd just installed Microsoft's own minidump file analyser for Microsoft's own minidump files onto one of the production database servers (there was some sort of pseudo-justifiable reason for doing this on prod).

      The installer finished and declared that to before using the software there'd need to be a reboot, and asked if I wished to do this now. Two buttons, OK and Cancel (or possibly Yes and No).

      Knowing that this message was almost always untrue and I'd be able to use the software without a reboot, and also knowing that if it didn't work I could just schedule the reboot into a maintenance window, and also liking a tidy desktop, I of course clicked Cancel (or No). Cue immediate reboot of production database server.

      It certainly taught me a lesson but if I ever get locked in a room with the person responsible for that particular dialogue box it won't be pretty.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The times Microsoft heeded users' wishes and decisions are well and truly past.

        Nowadays they still have the courtesy of inform you of the inevitable, but I guess that will be soon streamlined away.

    2. David Haworth 1

      Funny - Teams for Linux does sharing perfectly well on mine (debian unstable). Maybe not the whole screen, but who wants that anyway? Can't comment on the video though.

  14. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

    +++ REINSTALL UNIVERSE +++ REDO FROM START +++

    I really would like to see an error message like that when testing code

    +++ OUT OF CHEESE ERROR +++

    would also be nice

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: +++ REINSTALL UNIVERSE +++ REDO FROM START +++

      ...or at the other extreme,

      "Everything's reet copacetic."

    2. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: +++ REINSTALL UNIVERSE +++ REDO FROM START +++

      But who is REDO and where is START?

    3. ClockworkOwl
      Alert

      Re: +++ REINSTALL UNIVERSE +++ REDO FROM START +++

      +++ WRONG TROUSERLEG ALERT!!! +++

      I actually think I've felt this error subconsciously several times in my life...

  15. Tim99 Silver badge

    Ethnicity

    A customer told me that it was obvious that I was English - I’d used the word "Please" in too many of my dialogue boxes…

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Ethnicity

      "Please" is usually superfluous in dialogues.

      The number of people who will actually read the dialogue is inversely proportional to its length. Most people will manage up to about five words, but beyond that the ratio drops off rapidly. So every word counts.

      Saying "please" actually makes your message harder to read. You can make a good case that it's also, perversely, discourteous, because it's unnecessarily and unproductively increasing the cognitive load on the reader.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: Ethnicity

        > The number of people who will actually read the dialogue is inversely proportional to its length

        But directly proportional to its gravity. The spammy annoying messages like "You've just saved, do you want to save again?!" won't get read, but if your program freezes and you're about to lose hours of work (and potentially your job), chances are you'll read the error message like a holy tenet.

        Of course there are the entitled and the stupid who will rip out the power cord and throw the computer out of the window, expecting their tantrum to scare destiny to fix everything, but most people will have a good look at it (as soon as their hearts start beating again).

        At this point, some intelligible explanation on why the roof caved in would be welcome, something more helpful than a random, nondescript, generic message. It being funny doesn't help any BTW. If there was a time for the developer to brag, this is definitely not it...

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Ethnicity

          "if your program freezes and you're about to lose hours of work (and potentially your job), chances are you'll read the error message like a holy tenet"

          The second time it happens.

  16. Gene Cash Silver badge

    "used the biggest dry marker I could"

    There's your mistake. You needed the most permanent Magic Marker you could find... and surround your advice with sparklies and stars!

    Edit: And every time I hear "do your best!" I also hear "The Middle" from Jimmy Eat World.

  17. Jean Le PHARMACIEN

    Effect and "impacted"

    "This will effect all the files in the current location. Do you wish to continue?"

    This is one of my pet hates...almost always it should be "affect" (or will "have an effect on")

    FFS will someone start teaching grammer again?

    I remember at primary school (late 1960s)having "grammar" and "vocabulary" textbooks to work through..not to mention the *daily* spelling tests of 20 words practised overnight.

    Don't get me started on "x has been IMPACTED by y" currently the new fashion.

    You mean "x has been affected by"...constantly using "impacted" inapproptiately just loses ....er...IMPACT..er...

    Wow, got that off my chest and I need to lie down with a GTN tab (I don't have angina but..)

    1. Outski Silver badge

      Re: Effect and "impacted"

      The one that boils my piss is 'loose' as a verb. That's fine if you're talking about cannons, but not if you've mislaid something.

      1. David 132 Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Effect and "impacted"

        >The one that boils my piss is 'loose' as a verb.

        Ah yes. Far too many people on the Internet "loosing their temper".

        Rogue/Rouge is another one that people seem to have trouble with.

        You may enjoy reading Reddit's /r/BoneAppleTea, which is a home for such perversions of the English language. Don't blame me if it superheats your piss though.

      2. Outski Silver badge

        Re: Effect and "impacted"

        I should also acknowledge that you could loose a canon if you have a particularly intemperate cleric who often needs words of restraint.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Effect and "impacted"

      "FFS will someone start teaching grammer again?

      A certain Grammer School agrees with you :-)

    3. veti Silver badge

      Re: Effect and "impacted"

      My kids' school has taught them to distinguish between effect and affect. I assume it's theoretically done the same for all their peers, but there's always the kids who are too cool for spelling.

      As for "impacted", that hasn't been new since I was doing my time as a tech journalist - in the 1990s.

      The eggcorn that bothers me most, because I see it so often from people who ought to know better, is "free reign" (or, relatedly, "reign in").

      1. Falmari Silver badge

        Re: Effect and "impacted"

        @veti “kids who are too cool for spelling”

        So, when my teachers were calling me thick because I could not spell. They really meant I was the cool kid. That’s nice to know.

        I went to school in the 60’s, we had spelling tests as described by Jean Le PHARMACIEN, no amount of practice resulted in me remembering the spelling for more than a few words. Couple of days later I would have forgotten them as well. Corporal punishment did not seem improve my ability to spell either.

        I still can’t spell, and nothing is going to change that, it is something I and others are not able to master. But whatever the reason it is not because we are too cool for spelling or lazy (as some of my teachers said).

        Thank God for word processors with spellcheckers. Meaning not being able to spell is no longer the problem it was in the past.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Effect and "impacted"

          The point at issue is that there are words which have only a minor difference in spelling, stationary and stationery for example, which mean quite different things. The spillchucker won't help with those, you need to make a personal* effort to distinguish between a shop that's the opposite of mobile and one which sells envelopes.

          * As opposed to personnel.

          1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

            Re: there are words which have only a minor difference in spelling

            Minor difference in spelling, but complete opposite in meaning. How about hyper and hypo? Then there are ones you've got to be careful with, such as ordering tortelloni vs tortellini, ravioli vs raviolo, etc. ad infinitum.

            What is it with the Italians?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: there are words which have only a minor difference in spelling

              We're all devout Pastafarians.

              OM NOM NOM. <Ramen>

            2. Sub 20 Pilot

              Re: there are words which have only a minor difference in spelling

              This one has always confounded me. Being part of a voluntary first responder team where clarity and time are of the essence, why have two words that sound so alike on a radio in bad weather. ''the casualty is hypoglycaemic / hyperglycaemic. Fucking bonkers.

          2. Falmari Silver badge

            Re: Effect and "impacted"

            @Doctor Syntax I can’t spell, but I can read. When I see the word written I recognise it. If I could not do that a spell checker would not be of use to me, as I would not know which of the suggestions is the one, I want.

            Actually, if I could not do that, I would not be able to read. ;)

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Effect and "impacted"

              It's well documented that one's own writing is the most difficult to proof-read because what is "read" is what's intended to be there rather than what is actually there. I'll rely on a spell check for words such as accommodate (yes, missed the double m again) and recommend (got it first time!) but the pairs have to be known.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cancel

    In our Jira system, if you go to cancel something the two buttons in the confirmation dialog are "Cancel" and "Cancel".

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Cancel

      "How do you confuse an idiot?

      ...Lean two shovels against the wall and tell him to take his pick."

    2. captain veg Silver badge

      Re: Cancel

      On PalmOS, long operations would be accompanied by a dialog bearing a button to "Cancel wait". Which sounds like a splendid idea (whose idea was it to make me wait in the first place?), except that it actually cancels the long operation.

      -A.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Cancel

        Maybe you should wait to cancel.

  19. Old Used Programmer Silver badge

    The joys of writting error messages...

    I once logged an error message in a program where it should not have been possible to get to. The message was "Committing seppuku! Arrrgggghhhhh!" followed by the program terminating. One of my fellow programmers on the team managed (somehow) to trigger it. He came to my desk, looked accusingly at me and said, "You wrote this, didn't you?" I had to allow as how I had, so we went over the code together to figure out how he'd managed to trigger the message.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: The joys of writting error messages...

      Back in the early 2000s a colleague showed me a supposedly (his words) ultra-stable if not crash-proof OS: Linux (Red Hat, IIRC). I played with it for a minute, and promptly triggered a kernel panic... How? IIRC while trying to change the wall paper (using the GUI)... I must have clicked the GUI elements in a sequence the desktop program was not built to handle. My colleague, who was quite Linux-savvy, never managed to understand how I had done it, or to reproduce the error...

      My point is, "unlikely" errors aren't unlikely for everyone (as you have all already noticed). What happens is that people "who know" usually stay inside a well-trodden work path, inside which all problems have eventually been found and eliminated. New and still incompetent users won't use those safe paths, simply because they don't know them, and will thus happily step on all those land mines left which the savvy people will never encounter.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The joys of writting error messages...

        "[...] and will thus happily step on all those land mines left [...]"

        Back in my days of in-house mainframe system support. There were days when we would find a stack of OS dumps (post mortems) waiting for us. Our first question was "OK - who has just recruited a new graduate in their application software development team?"

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: a stack of OS dumps

          I worked on a real-time system where run-time errors were heatedly discussed. If abc process crashes, what does abc do with all the other processes sending messages to it? Does it "sink" them? (Maybe then abc process serves no purpose and is redundant). Does abc queue them up? (Which makes the whole system immediately fall off a cliff).

          One thing I built into all my programs (the bosses turned a blind eye to it), was to create a ring buffer containing the last x,000 events. Every time I received a message, or got data from a live input, I would record it in the ring buffer. Many times it covered my backside. The great thing was, I actually enjoyed analysing dumps of my own processes. The best one was where I deduced that a different department had been working over the weekend and they had not designed pull-up resistors into their circuitry when interfacing with our mainframe. My boss got prints of the circuit design first, just to make sure my hunch was right.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Still my proudest grammar nazi response to a comment

    indian call centres fail our children and our banks!

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "[...] with every minor release, it seemed the current dialog scripts would be routinely wiped and reverted to those written a year earlier, [...]"

    An range of X25 switches had an operator's console that was essential after loading an updated version of the OS. There were two development teams for the system - each responsible for producing chronologically alternate versions. They were also located in different US states.

    Unfortunately each team had different basic settings for the management console's asynchronous protocol. You had to remember which team was the current "live" one before you could get the system to respond.

  22. The other JJ

    Cotton-eyed Joe

    Reminds me of a couple of years ago when I was one of a development team of two, struggling to meet increasingly ridiculous deadlines. So obviously to relieve our burden they hired a project mangler to encourage us to work smarter, not harder. They never did figure out why we would mutter darkly about someone called 'Jen'.

  23. MrWibble

    How can we be talking effect / affect, and no-one's posted the relevent XKCD yet?

    https://xkcd.com/326/

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