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January 4, 2007 / Bob Black

I Got an Error

Words that instill horror in developers and support persons everywhere. Because usually the question, “What error did you get?” remains unanswered.

I got an email from a user today complaining that security settings prevented them from seeing some events in our internal event management system. My followup question was obviously, “What event(s) can you not access?”

I also get this from fellow developers and power users, which is almost unpardonable. When I get a bug ticket that contains a screenshot of a .Net error dialog, with the “Details” pane collapsed and only the generic message visible, it’s a mite frustratin’.

What if we applied this lack of communication to other common situations we encounter in life. Like for example, this one…

A man and his wife come out of the grocery store and head for their minivan. Both have forgotten that the man gave the car keys to his wife earlier, and as the man reaches into his pocket for the keys he suddenly stops and turns to his wife and says, “I can’t get in the car!”

Incredulously, she turns to him and says, “Why not?”

Immediately realizing he obviously hadn’t supplied enough information, he says, “Oh… I don’t have the car keys.”

Or, what about this (maybe better) example…

A couple of landscapers are digging a whole to plant a bush, when one of them loudly exclaims, “Something’s wrong! Why isn’t it working?”

The other worker says, “What do you mean? Let me take a look.” And upon closer investigation discovers that the first worker had merely struck a rock.

“Take this rock out, and then you can keep digging”, says the second worker to the first.

And so with that said, I would like to take this opportunity to say, with great passion and urgency, to all of the users out there, “Help me help you. Give me some details.”

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