If they did, I’m sure you are not alone in having these thoughts. They certainly passed through my mind—along with a few choice curses, imprecations to higher powers, and condemnation of all things silicon.
Before we all get out our hankies, let me tell you how this ended. I did not junk my electronic organizer and go back to paper. And I managed to restore most of my contacts’ names and addresses from a backup, even if not one as recent as I might have liked. We could say that this little episode ended happily.
But did it?
Yes, I got my contacts data back, but two other things happened. First, I endured another episode of “blame the user.” Second, I was given another lesson in why electronic devices can’t be trusted.
Blaming the User
Look at those reactions again. Each and every one of those thoughts blames the user—me—for the problem. But I really didn’t do anything except try to use an expensive piece of electronics for the purpose for which it was intended: carrying information with me in a convenient package. What I didn’t do was make it the center of my attention, so some might attribute this problem to human error.
But why is it that the only humans who seemingly make errors are the people who are trying to use a product? As David Aragon of Voter March said, “All errors are human error.” Why not point the finger at all the other people who had a hand in the situation: programmers, designers, product managers, and quality testers? Whose human error is it, anyway?
My error: I put too much information into my mobile organizer.
In other words, I used the thing. A lot. If it was my old DayRunner notebook, it would have been bristling with slips of paper, addresses scribbled in margins, and directions pasted into the calendar. Instead of all that mess, my data is stored neatly on a chip. But where my DayRunner would literally start to explode when it got too full, there is no visible meter on the Palm to show me how full it is.
I’m sure that, somewhere in the documentation, there is a statement about how many records the device can hold. But what good does it do to have this information buried somewhere? Even if I had read it and remembered the number, what good would it have done me if I were not reminded of it in a timely manner?
Their error: The warning came too late.
The time to warn a user is before a problem happens, not after it occurs. The faster things happen, the earlier the warning needs to be. Think about how early you should warn someone that they are stepping carefully, walking, or running toward the edge of a cliff. If there are any hard-coded limits, warnings should appear when there is room to spare.