Those clueless users

Sitting in a coffee shop this morning I overheard a story that sounded familiar.

Guy #1: How's it going?

Guy #2: Not so good. They upgraded my computer, and I lost all my files.

The reason this sounded familiar is that I'd heard the same thing last month from a friend. What's more, I had a hunch that Guy #2 works for the same local business as my friend. So I asked, and sure enough, he does.

Here's what happened to both my friend and to Guy #2. Their Windows 2000 systems were upgraded to Windows XP. Unbeknownst to them, the only files subject to automatic backup were those under My Documents. Stuff on the desktop wasn't backed up, they'd put a lot of stuff there, and it all evaporated during the upgrade. For a week afterward, my friend was walking around in a state of amnesiac shock. Guy #2 is going to have that kind of week starting today.

I'm sure there was a policy memo explaining how nothing outside of My Documents was guaranteed to be safe. Probably it was sent more than once. In response to complaints from my friend and Guy #2, I imagine a dialog something like this:

IT person #1: Can you believe it? How many times have we told those users about the policy?

IT person #2: It's hopeless. Users just don't have a clue.

We can draw various conclusions from this little parable. Here's the one I want to stress today. Calling people "users" is pernicious. It distances and dehumanizes. We should probably remove that word from the IT vocabulary.

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