This is an opinionated rant. If you're offended, that's your problem. Feel free to leave comments about your hurt feelings.
To the secretary/assistant: If you're reading this, I truly apologize for any offense you may take from my article. If you're new to the job, I'll apologize again--it's not always easy to hit the ground running. I'm just trying to understand the world a bit better than I did when I woke up this morning.
Several weeks ago, I received an email from the secretary/assistant of my Computer Information Technology department chairperson. This email contained a request for me, as a student graduating with a degree in CIT, to fill out a survey to gauge how well the program is functioning from my perspective.
Attached to said email was a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, formatted for Excel 2007. As an avid Linux user and open-source advocate, I am appalled when I encounter simple files that are not formatted in what could be considered the "lowest common denominator" format, especially when they come from my CIT department. So many other formats would have worked just fine: .doc, .xls, .rtf, .txt, and even the infamous PDF with editable form fields. Come on folks...
Anyway, it's not so revolting to me when other departments send out such abominations. But when the files come from a department which teaches and encourages the use of Linux and whatnot, there seems to be a problem. Several full-time CIT professors even refuse to use Windows and instead choose to use a Macintosh. Yeah, sure, our university requires that students have Microsoft Office for a lot of classes, and they still provide computer labs with the software if we're too poor (or opinionated, like me) to buy it ourselves.
After getting over my own self-righteousness about file formats, I decided to download the spreadsheet anyway. I opened it up in my trusty OpenOffice and filled in the appropriate details. When it came time to save the file with my responses, I opted for OpenOffice's default spreadsheet format: ODS. In my mind, I figured that this individual, the secretary/assistant to the department chairperson, must have access to something that can at least read ODS files.
Well, I mailed off the survey last night. This morning I received the following response from the department chairperson himself:
I dont know what program you used but it is not working with my computer.If you could save it in another program and send it to me again as soon as possible that would be great. Thanks so much
There's something to be said about a CIT department chairperson, the official representative of the program, who is unaware of the ODS format. There's no excuse for that. I like the department chairperson, so I won't rag on him much. Instead, I'll rag on his little helper. When I returned home from class today, I found this email in my inbox, from the secretary/assistant:
I have an hp computer and my windows programs are 2007. If you could change something on the file that would make it so i can read it that would be very helpful.
Wow. Seriously? Apparently it makes a difference in this person's mind that their computer is an "hp" (so is mine). And the "windows programs are 2007," eh... What an ambiguous statement. I sure hope this individual is not a CIT major, minor, or in any other way affiliated with technology.
My question to you is this: how often do you encounter individuals who are blatantly incompetent to be fulfilling the duties with which they have been tasked? I mean, shouldn't there be some reasonable expectation that a person working in a position, such as this secretary/assistant, have some (even rudimentary) working knowledge of the industry in which they are employed? Or am I simply expecting too much from my peers? Am I asking too much of this poor individual who is the target of today's rant?
If I am not alone in my frustration, please speak up. Please also let me know if I am just being cruel and unusual.
Oh, and if you're wondering, I am going to send the survey back in a format that is more portable... I'm not that mean, despite what you might think after reading this article.