Here's a little anecdote from personal experience about why bad
decisions sometimes end up happening, then staying around. I'm not
quite sure how big companies can institutionally resolve this kind of
Those of you who know me well know that I'm opinionated. I don't
mind telling people that something is shit if that's what I believe.
I carry a lot of this into my work, and I think it's why I'm good at
what I do. I care about my work, passionately, which means I'll
defend my corner of an argument. Not to say I can't change my mind,
but you've got to convince me.
Much of my most recent project has involved wrangling copy into
shape to go online, checking it sticks to the company's style guide
and professed commitment to staightforward communication. This can be
difficult when you're dealing with people who are used to a certain,
legalistic style of language.
There's nothing about legally-correct text that requires it to be
convoluted and difficult for the ordinary human being to understand,
but that seems to be the default setting for lawyers. They have their
own set of very precise linguistic tools to say exactly what
they mean in a minimum of words. You can translate this into very
clear, very accurate language that is parseable by mere mortals, but
it takes time and energy.
This has been my job for the last while. It can be exhausting
work, but it's also quite rewarding when you've managed to wrangle a
site into something that contains no sneaky weasel words, no sneaky
"conditions apply", excising all asterisks and other symbols pointing
to impenetrable fine print, in an industry that is more confuspoly than
So anyway, on to my point. At one stage we were working on system
requirements copy for the broadband products. These specify the usual
things that are actually requirements to run Internet Explorer,
nothing really to do with the hardware and service we supply. As some
kind of concession to a small minority of the marketplace, we seem to
also list versions of Mac operating systems.
I went to the product manager involved and suggested we change it
from requirements to just saying what we support. I suggested some
copy along the lines of "if you know what you're doing, you'll have no
trouble connecting with other operating systems but please understand
we can't support you with these operating systems". After all, it's
just TCP/IP and the hardware we supply has ethernet coming out. I
pointed out the very enlightened approach used
Now this is an issue I care about a lot. There's really no reason
this company couldn't support other operating systems, at least for
knowledgable users. What's more, there's no reason other operating
systems can't use the service, so limiting the "system requirements"
is actually incorrect.
But in the end, the product manager won the argument, because it
was the end of a very long cycle of "discussions", and I was worn
down. We needed to get things moving, and all parties were pretty
over the process. So the site still says something incorrect,
misleading even. We might even be losing some customers, though I
guess Linux and BSD users are used this and ignore it routinely
It's not something I'm happy about, but it's also not something I'm
willing to revisit. I'd have to use up some of my reputation in the
company, throwing my weight around on what really isn't an earth
shattering issue. It still bugs me, but the idea of going back to it
makes me feel world weary.
This is how the world can grind you down.