A Framework for Explaining Why Things Suck

with 4 comments

What did I mean when I made this comment to Thiggy?

No Trust in Useless

I made this comment after someone I work with (not Thiggy) said:

“Those reports are useless.”

Now, that might be true…the reports could be useless.  It’s possible that there is nobody on Earth who finds the reports valuable or useful.  Truthfully, I don’t know.

But, if you’re the type of person who goes around saying things in extremes—totally useless, completely sucks, the worst, and so on—then it becomes a syndrome of The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf.  That is, there is no trust in those statements, even if they are true.

This is because statement doesn’t explain why it’s useless; it doesn’t convey any information about what’s wrong and how it could be better.  Here’s a way of phrasing that statement that would engender more trust:

“These reports are useless to me because they show X, Y and Z, but what I need is P, D and Q.”

“These reports are useless to our customers because they don’t sort by date.”

So, what we have here is a basic little framework for explaining why things are useless/sucky/awful/etc…and doing it with trust:

  • What it is (“These reports”)
  • How it’s the opposite of awesome (“useless”)
  • To whom it is not great (“to me”, “to our customers”)
  • And why—what it does (“show X, Y and Z” and what the person who doesn’t like it wants it to do (“P, D and Q”).

Ultimately, it’s the “to whom” and the “why” that make the world of difference.

Written by scottporad

September 14th, 2011 at 10:17 am

Posted in Miscellaneous

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4 Responses to 'A Framework for Explaining Why Things Suck'

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  1. Good points. Reminds me that what sucks for one person might be awesome for another. There’s a theory of relativity for suckyness.

    I wrote an essay titled “Why Software Sucks” that makes similar points:

    http://www.scottberkun.com/essays/46-why-software-sucks/

    Scott Berkun

    14 Sep 11 at 10:24 am

  2. In talking with my old boss one day in a deep and periodically heated discussion, he said to me that I spoke in absolutes too often.

    I never really noticed that I did it until he pointed it out & I suddenly noticed how often I was doing it.

    That one throw away comment from that discussion has made me change that behaviour because seldom are things absolute in our world.

    Alistair

    14 Sep 11 at 3:58 pm

  3. This article is interesting because it gives an insight into how we discuss things :)

    Herbert

    15 Sep 11 at 1:24 am

  4. Check out General Semantics in general, and the practice of e-prime in partiular for a slew of ways to become aware of how our language often leads us astray from reality. Tthe guy who said “The map is not the territory” started General Semantics. e-prime asks to us to write without using any form of the verb to be. I find it very challenging.

    I find this post has ood concrete suggestions on how to unpack assumptions and claims.

    Don

    16 Sep 11 at 8:28 am

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