The Company Newsletter

Year 1999 - Episode 7


The boss's latest plan is that we're going to put out a news-letter (not electronic - that would be far too progressive and a paper version is much more useful as it can hang around for years, way after the information has passed its 'use by' date) to boost the department's standing...

The theory is that, by publishing a couple of pages of "The latest technology is...", "We've just bought..." and "What you should know about..." on a bi-monthly basis, the workers at the rock face aren't going to notice that we give all the really good kit to management, and palm off the slow and mutilated crap to them. A cover-up in other words...

A brown-nose type from PR is called in to help us create a marketable image, covering all bases from soft-focus photography (the boss does look like his face caught fire and someone tried to put it out with a potato masher) to non-threatening pseudo-computer vocab and pastel-tint papers.

He also excels in choosing topics as far off the issue of service level as possible: how many miles of Cat-5 (high-speed connection cable) there are in the building, how many support staff have been on training courses, the value of our central computing resource, technology we're investigating...And, of course, the boss wants a quick article from me on new kit we're looking at, when we expect it to be installed, and useful user info...in other words, write the whole bloody thing.

Now, I like giving out info to the users almost as much as MPs like talking to their constituents so, obviously, I'm really looking forward to this idea. Not.

What makes it worse is that my directive is to make it so simple that anyone in the building can understand it. I'm just hoping he's not including the security staff in that statement as I don't think our laser printers produce output in crayon.

Nevertheless, with the input of the PFY, we manage to get enough information to fill the required two pages and whip it off to the printers as a rush job, asap - after clearing it with the boss, of course. So I have to admit to being a bit dismayed, even gobsmacked, when the boss bursts into the office the next day in a mood that can only be described as 'fit to burst'.

"What the hell's this?" he asks, waving something ferociously.

"The newsletter," I cry, not to be confused by the obvious.

"I know that, but it's nothing like the one you gave me to proof-read yesterday!"

"No, I had to translate it from the technical jargon you read into something the users would understand."

"But it's a bloody nightmare!" he shouts. "They're confused."

"Well, I have to admit it's possible that the simplification of the text may have caused one or two technical inaccuracies, but the gist of the information is there."

"TECHNICAL INACCURACIES?! You told them the toner cartridges are refilled with ink and that it's relatively simple."

"Well, I didn't think they'd grasp the idea of toner. And it is a simple job of drilling a hole in the cartridge and replacing the toner - if the drum and fuser are OK, of course."

"Yes, well, thanks to that article we've got a printer in the workshop that's only suitable for parts."

"Well, it's hardly a major problem is it?," the PFY chips in. "After all, they've got a projected lifetime of three years."

"That's not the point. Anyway, it wasn't just that article that was a problem - why did you tell people that they should wash their machines out if the network was going slow?"

"What?! Oh, you mean the analogy of a network connection being a pipe and that a bigger pipe lets more go through it?"

"Yes, but you said they should wash their machines out!"

"No , I simply said that, as an owner, you want as much water into your machine as possible, but I was talking about traffic."

"So, why tell them to connect a firehose to their machine?"

"An analogy - big hose, lots of data. Surely no one would've actually connected a..."

"Security will require a whole new set of machines..."

"Oh. Well, it's hardly my fault. You'd think that even they wouldn't do something as blatantly stupid as that..."

"Yes, but what about something NOT as stupid? Why did you tell them to install 'Infector' on their machines?"

"Infector? No, I told them to install 'Detector'. You'd never want to install Infector - that's a virus detector test package, and would screw up all the files in your..."

"Would you like to recover the CEO secretary's hard drive?"

"I'll get the PFY right onto it!," I say, as the boss storms out.

"So, you won't be writing that again then?," the PFY asks.

"Highly unlikely," I chuckle.

"Bugger. I had this really cool idea for letting everyone access your network shares as a distributed storage pool."

"Much too technical; just change it to 'leave your machine unattended and logged in when you go home'. And it's never too late for an addendum..."

"I'll get right on to it!"

Good lad - always willing to go that extra mile for the client.