Human vs. Machine

Subject: Human vs. Machine
From: "George F. Hayhoe" <gfhayhoe -at- SCESCAPE -dot- NET>
Date: Fri, 21 Mar 1997 09:06:19 -0500

Eric's confession and my own recent encounters with technology have made me
think about how well we technical communicators prepare users for close
encounters of the worst kind with technology.

A week ago, I experienced a hard disk crash. Okay, I admit it: I CAUSED a
hard disk crash. I deliberately attempted to reformat the primary disk
drive of a Windows 95 system with a corrupted registry. I'm not sure
exactly how, but this action resulted in irrecoverable physical damage to
the disk.

Fortunately, I had backed up virtually all of my data--everything but my
saved e-mail files, e-mail address book, and browser bookmarks.

How many of the print and online manuals we write both advise users of the
need to back up their data and describe exactly how to do it? Very few,
I'll bet.

And how many of us or our users remember that some of our data gets stored
in unlikely places?

My story had a relatively happy ending. The experience only cost me two
days of lost productivity, the minor inconvenience of recreating the
address book, and the minor embarrassment of some lost e-mail messages. But
the results could have been devastating to my business.

(I also got the opportunity to buy a new PC a year earlier than I had
planned; that could be an advantage or disadvantage, depending on one's
pocketbook and point of view.)

--George Hayhoe (gfhayhoe -at- scescape -dot- net)

George Hayhoe Associates
Voice: 803 642 2156
Fax: 803 642 9325
http://www.scescape.net/~gfhayhoe/

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