User Error

Burned car wreck, about 3 Miles south of Carca...

I took a drive yesterday to run an errand and managed to avoid the folks who were busy committing user error out on the roads. We seem to hear every day about some recall or major product issue and I’m sure those things are in need of attention. However, if you ask me the one thing that needs the most attention is us: we, the users. Let me explain.
On the way on to a highway, I almost rear-ended a guy who was getting on the road as well except he was going 35 in the acceleration lane and we were about 10 feet from merging into the right lane.  Faulty accelerator? Bad carburetor? Nope – cell phone. He was yakking away oblivious to his speed or location or traffic (and yes, it was in his hand despite the law on that so I’m 100% sure.) User error.

According to the NHTSA, almost one in five Americans (19 percent nationally) still fail to regularly wear their seat belts when driving or riding in a motor vehicle. When they get badly hurt in a minor accident (maybe even just stopping short), did the car design fail to protect them? Was it faulty devices? Nope – user error.

Last one. About a mile from my house yesterday, there was a three-car accident. Witnesses said it appeared one of the vehicles ran a stop sign, sideswiped a pickup truck, and ran into the rear of the second car. I know the stop sign – I pass it every day. It’s very visible and impossible to miss from any of the four directions. Yet this idiot did. My guess is the cell phone thing again – or worse.  Yes, there is worse – I saw it going up the highway.  A woman I passed was – I’m not kidding – reading her blackberry over the sterring wheel while dirinvg at 60MPH.

I’m willing to best, based on personal experience, most of the software issues help desks are called for are, in fact, user error.  Mail and blogs that get posted with spelling and grammar errors (“but I ran it through spell-check!”) – user error (“your” doesn’t equal “you’re,” kids and no spell check will know that).  Think about how many of your business issues might very well be the same.

At its core, this is about responsibility.  When the car wrecks, blaming a faulty accelerator instead of your cell phone is easy but a lie.  As Cassius said, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…”

Was he right?

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