RUDE BUT ON-TOPIC: Great moments in error messages

Subject: RUDE BUT ON-TOPIC: Great moments in error messages
From: Stuart Burnfield <slb -at- FS -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Tue, 29 Oct 1996 14:43:30 +0800

Warning: techwhirlers who dislike the F-word (the one that rhymes with
'duck') are advised to read no further and delete this message.

Last week I posted a message describing some abusive programmer-inspired
error messages. Users were advised that the messages could be disabled
by setting a variable called user-is-pinhead to 'true'.

A list member sent me the following message with a request to 'anonymise'
it so as to protect his former employer.

------- Forwarded Message

The last company I worked for had a really embarrassing moment at a trade
show when displaying a new version of one of its products for an audience
of (I think) about 30-40 potential customers. The program blew up and the
error message that the programmer had embedded in the software displayed
on a jumbo monitor was:

You are well and truly fucked.

One of my coworkers was charged with writing the letter of apology to
those in attendance and afterward claimed as his title "Corporate

------- End of Forwarded Message

If you consider that the message was aimed at the presenter, it was
eerily appropriate.

This is a good laugh, but which of us software documentors can say with
certainty that there isn't a similarly amusing joke lurking in our own
code? In a similar vein, PC Magazine once printed a dialogue box saying
something like: "Error: This shouldn't ever happen."

The moral of the story is that the product is as much a part of the
documentation as the documentation is part of the product. It's well
worth taking responsibility for all help and error messages embedded
in the software, and proof-reading them as you would proof-read any
other contributed text.

Stuart Burnfield (slb -at- fs -dot- com -dot- au) "Ask not for whom the bell tolls.
Functional Software Pty Ltd Ask rather what you can toll for
your. . . no, wait a minute,
that's not right. . ."

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