Archive for June, 2011

Labelling fail

Last week, the lady in charge of school administration in our school needed to print some labels. These labels were for envelopes containing acceptance and rejection letters to next year’s prospective parents. This was the first time anybody was using the labelling feature of our new school administration software, which was a nice step forward for us as we continue to get departments to move onto the software.

However, we quickly got called to assist her, as the labels were printing incorrectly after a certain number on the page. We tried to troubleshoot everything, changing layout values in the program and so forth, to no real avail. By chance, I looked at the back of the box of labels and noticed something interesting. While the labels were supposed to be compatible to the Avery standard, I noticed that the box we had was a unique product of the brand that wasn’t compatible. Once I pointed this out, we all realised that this simple oversight was the reason why the labels were not lining up correctly.

My colleague ended up phoning various stationery stores to see if they had the correct labels, but there wasn’t any available at that moment. Eventually he was forced back into trying to adjust the labels to fit the custom label paper we had, which after much fighting, he was able to do.

All the effort and frustration could have been avoided if the lady in charge had noticed the fact that the labels the school had were not the correct type. The support desk of the school administration software couldn’t make heads or tails of the problem either, since they had set up the templates using Avery compatible standard labels.

Although it’s easy to laugh about such things now that the term is over, it’s frustrating things like this that cause unnecessary frustration and fuss. All I hope is that instead of continuing to use the hacked together label, the school will purchase the properly compatible label paper for next term.

Categories: General Tags:

The greatest pitfall of e-mail

E-mail is one of the oldest and most useful tools around. Although the curse of spam is rather irritating and annoying, the system in general works and works well. There is only one area where e-mail (along with all other types of written electronic communication really) falls flat: conveying emotion and body language.

Today, we discovered a learner using a teacher’s class computer. This is against the rules of the acceptable use policy the students signed when getting an account for the network. Thanks to the use of KixStart logon scripts, we are able to identify the exact time, computer and user name of any student who does so. As standard procedure, we mail the relevant member of staff and ask them just to watch out for students doing this. We use a pretty generic template for sending these mails out, with language that is quite neutral and non aggressive.

One of the staff members we mailed replied to our email in a very strange way, written mostly in small letters with occasional words in capitals. Read on its own, the entire email seems quite rude and unprofessional. However, if it was said by a person, it could also be a witty response, depending on body language. Without the ability to read someone’s body language, you don’t really know the tone of the content of their message. My colleague took offence to this email and replied back to said staff member, asking that he be more gentle in his emails in the future. I proofread the email, and at no point do I think we were rude or nasty.

This teacher later came to speak to my colleague, after which things got a bit heated for no reason I could determine. Although I was busy with another staff member at the time, I kept my ears open and at no point do I think my colleague got rude. Nonetheless, the staff member left in a huff.

A short while later, we got another email from said staff member. This time, the first half of the mail could be considered threatening, with him talking about punching us in the face because he has Greek heritage etc… Said person to person, this could normally be taken as a joke, but in email due to lack of body language, those words could be conceived of as a real threat.

My colleague and I were not amused by this at all, though I suggested we just let the matter drop. Although I don’t appreciate such e-mails, pressing the issue may just cause unnecessary anger and frustration. I think my colleague is going to take the situation up with the business manager tomorrow, so I guess I’ll have to see what happens.

One thing I learnt a long time ago when it comes to e-mail is that you have to watch almost every word you write. Sometimes, things can come out in a way you don’t expect at all, causing grief where none was intended. Because e-mail is a lifeless inanimate thing, extra care must be taken to not offend people. Next time you write something, take an extra moment or two to reflect on what you’ve said. Pretend the person you are writing to is in front of you, then think how they would react to something you say. It might just be that moment that averts unnecessary anger and issues.

Categories: Personal Tags: