We’re interviewing heavily at the moment, and I find myself printing resumes from Outlook. We typically attach them directly to the interview itself (i.e. the “Meeting” or “Appointment” in Outlook).
Since Outlook offers context menu support, right click on the attachment and choose “Print”…
Except this doesn’t actually print the attachment. Instead, Outlook chooses to “stop the proceedings with idiocy” (to borrow a phrase from Cooper in About Face). Note that in Apple’s Mail program, this ridiculous dialog does not appear. I instruct the machine to open a file and it opens it, no questions asked. In Outlook however:
There are numerous problems with this approach:
- The first is the worst – I choose “Print” yet none of the options I provide allow me to print. I bet you’d believe me if I said that since there is no Print button. (Un?)fortunately, clicking “Open” allows me to print.
- We’re used to clicking through these useless confirmations so if there really was a problem, I wouldn’t know it until it was too late.
- There is no information related to the warning. I buy in to the notion that I should only open attachments from trustworthy sources, but why warn me without giving me any way to know that the sender is trusted? If there was a way for me to ask the dialog, “Can I trust this person?” that would be great. Even better would be for the computer to do that work for me and just assume I’d like to know if they can be trusted.
Outlook is passing the buck in an attempt to make me an accomplice, both of us jointly culpable for the opening of a hazardous attachment. They get away with it because we tend to blame ourselves when things go wrong, not the computer. We even hear this as we describe our unfortunate situation to others:
“A virus killed my computer.”
“You don’t have a virus scanner?” (i.e. its your fault)
“No, I do… but it didn’t catch it.”
“Didn’t outlook warn you about potentially bad attachments?” (i.e. it’s your fault)
In Donald Norman’s latest book, The Design of Future Things:
“This kind of blame-and-train philosophy always makes the blamer, the insurance company, the legislative body or society feel good: if people make errors, punish them. But it doesn’t solve the underlying problem. Poor design, and often poor procedures, poor infrastructure, and poor operating practices, are the true culprits: people are simply the last step in this complex process.”
The 99/100 times Outlook prompted me, it was needless. The 1 time I did need this prompt, really needing Outlook to be there for me – it wasn’t. Don’t set me up to fail and blame me for failing after the fact.
So why the prompt?