Thursday, April 19, 2012

Just answer the question (exasperated sigh)

In my job as a technical writer at a software company, a lot of my time is spent talking to developers and QA people about how a new feature works or about how customers are supposed to use it. And very often, no matter how specific I try to make my question, I receive in return a long, complicated answer that starts at home plate and takes a trip around the outfield when all I wanted to do was go from first base to second.

So I chuckled knowingly when I read this paragraph from a news story about Google CEO Larry Page testifying in court in a trial over whether his company legally used technology owned by another:

Page's answers Wednesday were occasionally slow in coming. U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup asked Page several times to answer "yes," "no" or "I don't know" after Page gave answers that the judge said did not address the question.

I mentioned this to Cris, who said, "Reminds me of that joke: A plane is lost in the fog. It flies by a tall building, and the pilot opens the cockpit window and yells out 'Where am I?!' A man in the office building replies: 'You're sitting in the cockpit of an airplane!' Then the pilot punches in a bunch of coordinates, takes the controls, and flies straight to a safe landing. 'How'd you know where we were based on that answer?' asks the dumbfounded co-pilot. 'Well,' the pilot says, 'I asked a question and got an answer that was full, accurate, and completely useless -- so I knew we were flying over Microsoft.'"

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