Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Clever vs Smart

Editor's note: Additional titles for this post could have been:
Testing in Production
Guilt by association

This is a fond(?) memory from several years back, from right after I took over the leadership of the Training and Office Automation team, of which Joe F (remember... one of my favorites) was a new member. Joe was working as my email postmaster, the duties of which are to provide solutions to questions posed by various email users on campus. The question of "how to best configure a rule in Lotus Notes to send an autoreply in response to a received message" was asked. I had no idea that the question had been posed to Joe, until....

Testing in Production:
Joe proceeded to create a new rule in his mail file that was supposed to reply to new messages. Within this message, he typed something to the effect of "For a good time visit http://....", with the URL of a personal website of wav files and celebrity photos he was running on a University system. Thinking that he would only receive a few test messages in the short amount of time the rule was running, he activated the rule. To make a long story short(er), let's just say the rule worked against all the mail in his account, including messages from a couple of listserv lists on campus. Yep ... Joe, in essence, spam the majority of the technical population with several "For a good time..." messages. Needless to say, after I got half a dozen of these messages, I called Joe to ask him what was going on. He was already in a huge firefighting mode attempting to douse the blaze he had started.

Guilt by association:
Needless to say, I was called in to visit my director and I was advised to bring "Joe in tow". When we entered, we sat across from the director's desk, and I planned to remain quiet during this session. Dan, the director, was really a cool guy, but he could get ugly when/if he needed to. Conversation when something like:
Dan: Ron, did you hire Joe to be your postmaster ... the guy who is supposed to be knowledgeable about how the email system works?
Me: Yes sir
Dan: Joe, you seem like a pretty bright guy, and I thought Ron's selection was a good one, but I am being to wonder about that decision.
Joe: I understand
Dan: Let me explain about the situation. We have reasons why we don't test ideas in production, and I think you see the reason for that now.
Joe: Yes sir
Dan: And if you have to test in production, there is a difference between being clever and smart. Let me explain. Smart would have been to put in the test message "I am currently testing a new rule in Lotus Notes, please disregard this message", whereas clever is putting anything like "For a good time.." in a test message. I won't even expand on the fact that it appears you are running a personal website on University equipment.
Joe: Yes sir .... and the web site has already been removed from that computer.
Dan: Good
Dan (to Ron): And you, don't think that I don't know that you have the ability to be a smart @$$ at times also, so I am lumping you into this "Smart vs Clever" talk as well
Ron: Yes Sir (but thinking, dang .... I'm getting slammed for Joe's mistake .. oh, well)
Dan: Do either of you have any questions about the concept of Clever vs Smart?
Ron & Joe (in unison): No sir
Joe: I was preparing an email message to send to all the identified people of my message this morning, explaining what happened and apologizing.
Dan: Delete the message ... don't send it. No use in adding any additional fuel to any fire that may be out there. If someone calls you, talk to them, but don't send out any more messages.
Joe: Yes sir
Dan: You guys probably need to get out of here, but I have some explaining to do to my boss now.
Ron and Joe (in unison): Yes sir
Joe (to Ron, after we left the office): Sorry
Ron: Hey, it wasn't near as bad as I expected. Just don't forget the difference between clever and smart
Joe: Don't worry, I don't think I will ever forget it

Needless to say, that "conversation" with Dan has had a lasting impression on both Joe and I since that day. We have often pointed out 'clever' actions we have observed others perform and commented on what would have been the 'smart' way to handle the situation.

I'm sure I'll get at least one comment to this post ... from Joe ... adding his (fond) memories of this day.

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1 comment:

Nancy said...

Love this post about Dan. Thanks for sharing!