Things I’ve written that have amused other people, Episode 5


A question was sent to an internal discussion list for users of the XYZ tool:

From: Q
To: XYZ Users The GHI function in the JKL tool doesn't work for me. «description of problem deleted»

I responded with this message:

To: Q, XYZ Users The JKL tool is not part of XYZ. You should contact the author of the JKL tool.

The reason why people were amused by this is that the author of the JKL tool is me. (Says so right there in the online help.)

As a final punch line, the person never did contact me.

Comments (30)
  1. James Schend says:

    You’re going to get critics saying you should have helped him, even if it was the wrong list, but I’m all for your response. Look at it this way, you’re keeping the archives clean and pure for future generations.

  2. Mark (The other Mark) says:

    Well, if the problem was a valid one, still address the issue raised. But yeah, don’t reward someone spamming the wrong support channel if they should have known better.

    Just because they picked a random mailing list that happens to include the correct person this time doesn’t mean they will next time- and learning basic skills like "Talking to the right person" is important.

  3. Scott says:

    You’re going to get burned when the marketing people decide to name one of your products "XYZ" or "JKL". You never know. =)

  4. someone else says:

    “You’re going to get burned when the marketing people decide to name one of your products "XYZ" or "JKL". You never know. =)”

    Probably the Java Kernel Layer.

  5. Cheong says:

    Or J# Kit for Localization (Only if J# still living there… :P)

  6. Maurits says:

    Why didn’t the GHI function work?

  7. mikeb says:

    > Why didn’t the GHI function work?

    Because 789.

  8. Q says:

    I did manage to get it working without your help.

  9. Mr Q says:

    The JKL tool is an unannounced product.

    Then Q is a msoftie? Great teamwork @ ms!

  10. MadQ says:

    Whoa! That was quite a WTF?! moment. Most people call me Q.

  11. someone else says:

    I must say, you did exactly the right thing. If he can’t even figure out who wrote JKL, think about the harm he might cause if he got it to work.

    In unrelated news: You’re censoring you *own* products now?

    [The JKL tool is an unannounced product. You think I’m going to announce it here? (Hint: I value my job.) -Raymond]
  12. Pierre B. says:

    I dunno. If he’s using the JKL tool in the context of XYZ, he was probably expecting that other users of XYZ were also using JKL and could provide help or had encountered the same error.

    My guess? Someone on the mailing *was* indeed using the tool and could help him and answered in private.

  13. !Q says:

    How many commenters on this post will have something involving "Q" as their pseudonym?

  14. Alexey says:

    The person might have decided that you don’t care about quality of your work and switched to a different tool.

    [Good move on their part, because the tool is deprecated. -Raymond]
  15. Worf says:

    Wow, from un-announced product to presumably release and retirement and deprecation in under two years!

    [The product was never released publically and was never intended to be. It was an internal tool. Once again everybody is getting sidetracked and missing the point of the article. Perhaps I should have just called the products “SQL Server” and “Excel.” -Raymond]
  16. Jonathan says:

    Not all tools make it into release. It could’ve gone directly into deprecation.

  17. Jon says:

    It could have been a tool that was only ever intended for internal use, and has now been replaced for internal use with the new, shiny tool MNO.

    [Exactly. -Raymond]
  18. someone else says:

    “Once again everybody is getting sidetracked and missing the point of the article.”

    Aw, come on. Of course we are getting it. We’re just having fun!

  19. asd says:

    "Once again everybody is getting sidetracked and missing the point of the article".

    That is to be expected, with the conversation going like this:

    • You know, while on Mars, I’ve thought of this interesting story to tell you…

    • You’ve been on Mars?!!

    • Duh, once again everybody’s getting sidetracked…

  20. Miles Archer says:

    My reading of this is that Q knew that he wanted help from Raymond, but didn’t want to ask. So, he asks a larger group that he knows Raymond is part of, hoping that he answers.

    I suspect that Raymond knows this and thwarted this tactic deliberately.

  21. dave says:

    because the tool is deprecated

    Unfortunately, I have to use plenty of software that I deprecate every day.

    (Contrariwise to what many geeks think, it does not mean ‘obsolete’, ‘discontinued’, etc.)

    http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/deprecate?view=uk

  22. Stephen Jones says:

    —-"(Contrariwise to what many geeks think, it does not mean ‘obsolete’, ‘discontinued’, etc.)"—-

    It has a very precise meaning in geek speak; it means that it will still work but users are now advised to use alternative methods.

    There are plenty of words with different meanings in a specific technical field than the one they hold with the general public.

  23. keith as "John de Lancie" says:

    If the user really was Q, couldn’t he have momentarily changed the gravitational constant of the universe or something to get the tool to work?  :)

  24. James Schend says:

    dave: A lot of people don’t get "supported" either. I remember an example from the Mac version of Windows Remote Desktop, where it didn’t support entering an IP address for the remote machine.

    A buddy of mine was like, "how am I supposed to connect to it? It only has an IP address!" I said, "just try plugging the IP address in and see if it works."

    It worked, of course. But then he got all worked-up over the fact that the Read Me said it wasn’t supported. Ugh.

    "not supported" != "doesn’t work".

  25. Rick C says:

    "[Perhaps I should have just called the products "<font color="red"><i>ABC</i></font>" and "<font color="red"><i>DEF</i></font>."  -Raymond]"

    FTFY.

  26. porter says:

    > Perhaps I should have just called the products "SQL Server" and "Excel"

    "SQL Server" and "Excel" are now deprecated?

  27. MadQ says:

    @dave: Not to be contrary, but the American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition also has this definition for ‘deprecate’: "Computer Science To mark (a component of a software standard) as obsolete to warn against its use in the future so that it may be phased out."

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/deprecate

  28. Random832 says:

    Wait… you’re the author of SQL Server? Like, personally? (I’m kidding, of course)

    But seriously… “internal tool” isn’t an obvious meaning of “unannounced product”. The default assumption for “unannounced” is that this is not a permanent state, and the most obvious meaning of “product” is something that is or will eventually be sold to “customers”.

    [I was trying to be as vague as possible when I wrote “unannounced product”. -Raymond]
  29. nonsense says:

    R. is afraid of announcing a deprecated internal tool? Who would care? If this could make you lose your job, then your employer isn’t one that you would like to work for anyway.

    [“Hey, Raymond, that’s an interesting name for your tool. What does it do? Wow, that’s a great insight into Microsoft’s proprietary internal systems for managing product development. I had no idea you guys had something like that. I think I’ll develop a system just like it. Oh, and what algorithm does your tool use? Wow, that’s neat. I think I’ll use that cool algorithm and thereby erode Microsoft’s advantage in bringing products to market through more efficient processes. Thanks for all the info. Couldn’t have done it without you! Sorry about the leak investigation, though. I’m sure you’ll find another job somewhere eventually.” -Raymond]
  30. Porgery says:

    Since you didn’t preempt the inevitable snarky comments, I feel I must oblige…

    "Microsoft’s advantage…through more efficient processes"? You mean like Microspeak? Or the Vista development process?

    (Seriously, though, your point is well taken, I just couldn’t let such a golden opportunity pass me by.)

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