It was in the mid-1960s when the story joke went around, about passengers of a jet flight who are told, shortly after take-off, “Welcome aboard America’s first fully automated aircraft flight. Under the control of advanced computer systems, this aircraft is perfectly safe. Nothing can possibly go wrong <click> Nothing can possibly go wrong <click> Nothing can possibly go wrong <click> Nothing can possibly go wrong <click>. . .
This morning, WC got an email from the fine folks at IDG.
You see, %%FirstName%%? Nothing can possibly go wrong.
Technology, you see, not only creates its own risks for error; it magnifies humanity’s already amazing powers of error. IDG advertises itself as “the #1 technology media company in the world.” It publishes MacWorld, PC World and Computerworld. And sends emails to %%FirstName%%.
WC loves technology. WC embraces technogeekery. But technology has its limits. It’s mankind’s child, and inherited all of the flaws and limits of mankind. Including the arrogance that leads technologists to think it is flawless, or even capable of perfection. In the case of IDG, for example, it didn’t trouble to use technology to check its technology. A simple scan of emails for the flag “%%” would have caught the error. But IDG assumed it didn’t make errors. As a result, its unintended message to WC is, “We don’t care about errors.”
That’s embarrassing – and self-sabotaging – in an email message. It can be fatal in more important projects.
IDG’s article? It’s pretty good. Here’s the link. Tell them %%FirstName%% sent you.