Nice way to word a nasty warning?

Subject: Nice way to word a nasty warning?
From: Geoff Hart <Geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 1999 13:21:57 -0400

Lisa Comeau is <<...working on an internal tips book for
computer users... I need to get across the idea that if you
install your own software, or download stuff from the 'net,
you will be put last on the support list. ... I can't come out and
say "If you have non-standard onfiguratiopn, everyone at the
HelpDesk will know, and you'll be the absolute dead last
person to get help for the day".>>

Why can't you say that? First off, your MIS people should
make a point of expressly forbidding downloads from the 'net
given how much trouble these can cause. If people insist on
breaking the rules, they should pay the price. Second, it's a
really poor use of tech. support time fixing problems created
by people who have no business futzing around with their
computers. Third, .gov employees are hired to do a specific
job using specific applications provided by the employer;
anything else is on their own time, and I have serious
objections to them wasting taxpayer dollars introducing
problems into formerly functional computer systems.

<<This is a Government office we're talking about, and even
if someone does have non-standard equipment, but their job
is crucial, they will get immediate support.>>

Been there, done that: when the Minister (or Secretary of
State) wants a personal tutorial on Windows Solitaire, that
takes priority over the publications group that just lost their
entire publishing system to the latest malignant variant of the
Melissa virus. Don't worry: those of us who worked (or worse
yet, still work) for .gov know that part of the routine.

<<3) This tips book is being written for a group of lawyers -
need I say more?>>

<Fe> Heck, if it's for lawyers, revise it to use nested
compound clauses and no words with less than 6 syllables,
including useful little things such as "the". Payback time!

<<Right now, it's worded like this: "Downloading things like
screensavers form the Internet can cause conflicts with other
programs on your PC. If your PC has a non-standard
configuration, the speed and accuracy of your support may

Getting serious for a moment, I'd revise it like this: "The
technical support group has expertise in solving problems
related to the following software: [bulleted list or better yet, a
pointer to an updated list on the intranet or posted on a
bulletin board somewhere] If you install any additional
software, we may be unable to help you solve problems with
that software." Short and sweet, and .gov employees will
know how to work around the system... and the associated
risks. (That's essentially the message the MIS group gave us
when I worked for the Canadian Forest Service, and more
power to them for being honest about it.)

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"The ability to speak does not make you intelligent."--Qui-Gon Jinn

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