Friday, February 25, 2011


From January 2007, posted by Roy Batty68.

Ok, to set the stage:
I'm a programmer from the US working in europe. However, since outsourcing and COTS has become the only way to go for many managers, 95% of the time I end up playing tech support. I've just spent most of my workday answering numerous emails and phone calls about a certain software system that decided it was going to try something different in 07. A certain software system that I didn't design, program, or test but somehow I got tagged to "support" it.

It's been one of those days where the phone won't stop ringing, my email Inbox looks like it's sweating to the oldies, impatient people keep invading my office, and every 13th call is the same guy from 12 calls ago wanting to know why his situation hasn't improved in the last 20 minutes.

Yeah. Plenty of IT people have had these sort of days. Sure. But try it working in an international setting with people from 26 different countries as your user base. Kicks it up a notch, eh?

Phone call 1: Lively Italian Swearing!
Phone call 2: Please, my view stare blankly! (my german is rusty)
Phone call 3: I've either been hexed by a Romanian or he wants to buy me a document... I'm not sure.
Phone call 4: Turkish sergeant. Pretty good english. Very committed to describing exactly how this system failure makes him feel.
Phone call 5: No, the French didn't win the world cup, the Italians did and no, I would not like a cigar. What does all this have to do with your system not working?
Phone call 6: Yes sir, I'm aware there are people fighting in Afghanistan and quite frankly I wish I was with them!
Phone call ...n^42

Beat that, Mr Been-There-Done-That techy guy! Your IT-foo is weak. Twisted Evil

Anyway, needless to say when I finally got home today I was in the mood to kick my cat. Thankfully I don't own a cat (and never will since 1] cats have no concept of ownership and 2] me and all cats seem to have an inherent Seinfeld Jerry versus Newman relationship) so no animals were harmed in the making of this day. But I was very tempted to ask my dutch neighbor if I could borrow his cat for a few minutes. He already looks at me weird so I decided not to risk escalating any Milagro Beanfield War this guy might have brewing in the back of his head.

So, long story short:
Bad day. Get home feeling a bit punch drunk. Plop down in front of my computer and fire up EVE. EVE no worky.
Double-Ewe Tee Eff?

Oh yeah! Today was patch day. EVE was down for 24 hours. Uber. Neutral

I glance at the Message of the Day window on the EVE logon client and notice that it appears blank but has this tiny little scroll bar like it's ready to scroll quite a distance. Being the compulsive scroll bar scroller that I am and irrationally hopeful that I might find some hidden message about the server coming back early, I do some scrolling. Clear at the bottom of this otherwise blank message box, in big white letters it says,


I literally had one of those dramatic movie pauses where the sound track goes silent with an expectant hush as I sat staring at this this simple message and my brain struggled to digest it's meaning. Approximately .053 seconds later the sound track came back on and I laughed hysterically for the next 6 minutes. It probably would have been longer but my wife came in, smacked me in the back of the head, and said my "crazy man" laugh was scaring the kids. Through uncontrollable giggles and teary eyes I tried to explain to her that I had just found THE MOST perfect software error message in the history of everything. All I got for my trouble was one of her patented wifely eye-rolls that all girls are taught by age 11. 

Now truth be told, what the message really said was, "We're sorry, something happened to our plonk bubble stabilizer" or something like that which is CCP's way of saying, "yep, web servers are down again" only in spacey EVE talk or something. And since the Message of the Day is hosted on their web servers, all I was really seeing was that web server down message jammed into a two inch by two inch message box with the format all jacked up.

But it kept resonating around my cranial cavity like a buddist chant in an echoey temple high up in yeti-ville. I simply HAD to be on to something here.


Error messages, all software has them. We've all seen them. That is if we're "lucky" and it doesn't just crash to desktop or make the machine reboot. And nearly all software error messages are completely useless. I don't want to know that the Kernal has gone off and invaded some part of memory in an unauthorized fashion. What the heck does that do for me?

It's not like you get error messages that say, "Sorry, but you can't play Call of Duty IX until you update your video drivers and then refresh your Direct-X build". Or maybe, "Yep, that crappy audio card you've got installed is causing yet another BSD. See ya". Nope. That would be too useful. Instead you get crap things like General Protection Fault followed by some hexadecimal or something. Great! Even better are the messages that offer false hope like, "An unknown error has occured, would you like to close the application?" followed only by an OK button.

Well, maybe I took one too many emails to the head today or something but I really think this simple phrase could be the Rosetta Stone of software engineering. Let's break it down.

What's happened? Software has gone off to land of no return and we need to say something to the user. Probably shouldn't say "I" or "I'm", people get ****ed easily at a target of one. So "we" is good because people reconsider their anger level if it might be directed at a crowd. So starting off with "We're" is a good start.

"Sorry". We're all taught you do wrong, you say you're sorry. Evens the tally sheet some. My software has wronged me!!! And it's immediately "sorry". Well, ok then. I suppose I'm not so upset at my software if it appologizes.

And not only is it sorry, there's apparently a crowd somewhere that's sorry as well. "We're Sorry". Damn fine start.

So now what? Well people are going to want to know why this maybe forgiveable sitatuation has occured. But us programmers aren't sure why it happened either. Probably don't want to admit that... And even if we do know, it's often so cryptic that what's the use of being honest? So let's just say "something" has happened. Not going to say whether it was good or bad. Just... something.


It's perfect!

So there you go. The ultimate error message released to the public domain. Yours for free.
You're welcome.

This has been brought to you by My Crap Day, EVE Servers being down, the letter C (cat), and the letter E (eyeroll)

------( Back to Yosagi Land )-----------------------

Quite the entertaining read, well at least I thought so, but why did I re-post this?

The error message mentioned in that post will be no more with the introduction of the new forums, say goodbye to "we're sorry, something happened to our planck bubble stabilizer".

We will miss you.

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