The hierarchy of user education, as interpreted by a vice president

One of my colleagues told me a story from his days on the Windows team. He had to give a presentation to his vice president on his feature, and he prepared his presentation and demo obsessively to make sure it went smoothly.

At the meeting, there were three presentations on the schedule, all of them with features targeting IT professionals. The first presenter got up and walked through their feature. Upon reaching a particular tricky part of the feature, the vice president asked, "How are customers going to know how to set up those parameters?"

The presenter explained, "We'll have a whitepaper explaining how to set them up."

The vice president growled, "I ☁☆⚕☄ hate whitepapers."

The second presenter's feature was also rather complicated, and the vice president asked the same question. "How are customers supposed to know how to set this up?"

The second presenter explained, "We'll use a wizard to step them through it."

The vice president snarled, "If there's anything I hate more than ☁☆⚕☄ whitepapers, it's ☁☆⚕☄ wizards."

All through this, my colleague was waiting for his turn to present, and one of his nervous habits is to re-run the demo over and over while waiting, making sure it runs smoothly each time. His particular demo required a good amount of effort to reset after each go-round, and just as luck would have it, he was called to present while he was in the middle of resetting his demo. He rushed through the reset as he got up to do his presentation.

My colleague ran through his presentation, but the demo fell apart because he didn't reset his scenario properly. In fact, he got the system into a bad state, because he had been messing with various settings not exposed to users directly. The vice president asked, "How are customers supposed to recover when they get into this state?"

Having watched the first two presentations, my colleague had a good handle on the vice president's mood. He replied, "They're ☁☆⚕☄ed."

Comments (15)
  1. Matt says:

    The default value for a configuration value is just a really complicated CONST value across the entire application.

    Off-by-default === Off for 99.99% of users

    On-by-default === On for 99.99% of users

  2. Boris says:

    But why not make the reset and recovery a part of the presentation? It would be original.

  3. Antonio 'Grijan' says:

    That's why default values should be selected such as they work for 99.99% of users. I spend much time, maybe too much, analyzing user scenarios to select default values in my applications (as a small firm, we don't have budget for formal usability testing, so informally polling coworkers and best guesses must make for it).

  4. Joker_vD says:

    I am afraid to ask what kind of feature it was and whether it still exists/widely used. Thank goodness Raymond doesn't share such sensitive information, so I can sleep relatively well.

  5. JM says:

    It's unfortunate the VP's response wasn't recorded. I'd like to think it was something along the lines of "OK, I can live with that".

  6. Anon says:


    Because it would take ages and, in the end, no one would care, especially not the VP.

  7. Boris says:

    Anon: but the VP wants to see you've got a handle on the application.

    Absolutely agree on default values, whenever it is possible to run with them without mandatory user input.

  8. JDP says:

    That vice president is sure into emoji ☺☺☺

  9. Neil says:

    Based on my limited experience of expletives, I think the first three are the wrong part of speech.

  10. RaceProUK says:

    @Boris: VPs don't really care if you have a handle on the application or not – all they want to see is 'ooh, shiny' and 'how many of these can we sell?'.

  11. Matthew says:

    Reminds me of my first BillG review in Office.   I was new to the group, and was allowed to sit in with the 5 teams in a small-ish conference room.  My manager did the presentation, and carefully took notes of Bill's questions and feedback.  At one point, he even had to answer a question with "I don't know, but we'll get back to you tomorrow or sooner if you need it."   The presentation then moved to the next team – their presenter was in the chair next to me. At one point Bill had to forcefully interrupt the guy (he wasn't taking hints) to ask a question, to which the presenter replied: "Mmmm, I don't know but that's not important" and then kept going.   The presenter didn't notice the look of shock of everyone else in the room, and my manager quietly reached over and pulled my rolling chair closer to him and away from the presenter…  

    Bill had some seriously creative ☁☆⚕☄ when he was pissed.   And I vowed never to be that guy on the other end…    

  12. Fly on the Wall says:

    "To demonstrate my superior intellect, I will now utter profanity you've never heard before."  — BillG

  13. junk says:

    I've read many of MS' whitepapers, but never one that made me understand more of anything.

  14. B-School Billy says:

    @RaceProUK that's true of companies where VPs have come in from sales rather than being promoted from development, as they were at Microsoft in years past.

  15. kog999 says:

    Raymond there seems to be something wrong with your blog software. Random words are appearing as weird symbols. Worst of all its happening in the sentence that contains your colleges reply. I've tried this in multiple browser and its the same result. Now i'll never know how customers are supposed to recover when they get into that state?

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