Christian Lawson-Perfect is a user on You can follow them or interact with them if you have an account anywhere in the fediverse. If you don't, you can sign up here.
Christian Lawson-Perfect @christianp

Techy people: how do you feel about the word 'should' when talking to people who use the systems you manage?
For example, "try that now; it should work" or, in response to an error report, "that shouldn't happen!"

· Web · 0 · 0

@christianp I like using it because I don't like to commit 100% to anything working ;-D But perhaps your second example could come across to some people as a bit dismissive maybe, like you're questioning if what they've told you is correct? Maybe e.g. "It's not meant to do that" might be better for that reason?

@peter the first one feels like an abrogation of responsibility. if I use "it should work now", I always follow it up with "let me know if it doesn't".
The second one winds me up no end; my wife (a teacher) has frequent run-ins with her IT support, who rarely has anything to offer beyond "it shouldn't happen". Something like "OK, I'll try to sort it out for you" would be more reassuring

@christianp Ah yeah I was not imagining those words in isolation. The first one I agree should include an option for if it still doesn't work. The second one I prefer your suggestion too.

@peter is "it should work; let me know if it doesn't" more helpful than "it now works", and waiting for a reply of "no it doesn't!"?

@christianp @peter I think it is — unless you really are very certain it's fixed. I find quite often when a user reports something, I investigate, fix a bug, tell them it's fixed, and then discover they were clicking the wrong button all along. "It works now" doesn't legislate for that at all.

There's two "that shouldn't happen"s, though: "that's a bug we ought to fix", and "that's really weird because there is specific code to stop that happening". Both are fine but it's a source of ambiguity.

@christianp I'm not really a techy person, but I'll put in my $0.02 ...

When someone uses language like that, it's an indication of their beliefs and state of mind, not an absolute truth. So when they say "The shouldn't happen!" it's an indication of what they believe.

So the challenge then is to discover what it is that they believe, but that is false.

My *emotional* response to it varies according to how sleep-deprived I am, or how well/badly things have been going.

@paraseba I have, but I hadn't made the link! Following that RFC, I reckon "that shouldn't happen" really often means "that MUST NOT happen"