What's The Point?

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My wife will tell you that I'm really not very good at getting the point of things. I mean, when it comes to making typically vital choices such as whether I want brown sauce or ketchup on my sausage sandwiches, I can't see the point of long-winded pondering and tortuous decision making. Just put brown on one half and ketchup on the other. In fact if there was a competition for getting the point, and she made me enter, I probably wouldn't even get the point.

The week after I published this post I was amazed to see the same question appear on the quiz show Million Pound Drop: "According to a recent survey, which do men prefer on their sausage sandwiches, brown sauce or tomato sauce?" The answer was brown sauce...

Yet there are so many other things out there in the real world (which don't involve sausages) that it's hard to see the point of. I watched a main evening news broadcast and noticed that three of the reports included footage from "on the spot" reporters. One stood in the rain outside the House of Commons telling us about this week's faux-pas by some Government minister, but he didn't speak to anyone, or even walk purposely into the building while talking, or actually move at all. There were plenty of people milling around in the background, but nobody I recognized. Why bother? Why not have him stand in front of a photo in the nice warm studio, or even let the rather scary news-anchor lady just read it out?

And then there was one about a huge car pile-up on the motorway, which they think might have been caused by smoke from a golf club fireworks display. There was the intrepid roving reporter standing on the side of a country lane explaining the intricacies of the event. OK, so there was an empty police car parked behind him, but nobody else in sight. And you couldn't see the cars involved, or the motorway itself, or the golf club buildings, or any fireworks, or even any smoke. He might as well have been standing outside our house (maybe he was) for all the point of doing a "live from the scene" report.

I guess all this is done just to try and keep people's attention for the massive fifteen minutes duration of the program. It's almost like they don't expect the people who tune in to actually be interested in the news, so they have to make it exciting with lots of different scenes and people. And, of course, they have to tell you what's in the program at the start, and then keep telling you "what's coming up" between each item. Wow, I really do want to hear about the lady whose cat had to be rescued from a tree, and I need you to keep telling me that you haven't forgotten about it.

Can you imagine trying to create technical documentation based on pointlessness like you see every day in TV news broadcasts? I'd have to recruit dozens of writers who could travel the country writing paragraphs in appropriate locations. Send Fred, together with a huge support team of laptop preparation operators, maintenance engineers, Microsoft Word technical support staff, desk light electricians, and office furniture assembly operatives to sit in our server room and write the part about minimizing server peak load.

Meanwhile Christina would be dispatched, along with half a dozen security staff and experts in the use of pizza- and cola-proof protective clothing, to sit with the development team when writing the paragraph that describes how developers can use Visual Studio to add WIF authentication features to their applications.

And, of course, not forgetting Ravi, who would begin the long journey to the local telephone exchange accompanied by around 50 specially trained health and safety experts, telecommunications jargon translators, public relations staff, company policy compliance advisors, facilitation collaborators (and, hopefully, his laptop) in order to provide the vital paragraph about ADSL networking reliability.

Then, when we come to assemble it into the final book format for release, we'll have to remember to include an "upcoming chapters list" every fifth page, and an index after every first-level heading, so people don't get fed up halfway through - or start to panic that we might have missed out the bit they were really looking forward to.

Just imagine how exciting this kind of technical documentation will be to read...

  • Brown sauce on your sausage sandwich? Is that a german euphemism?

  • Hmmm, I'm not sure how to answer that! No Germanic influence here, though, we're talking good old English H.P Sauce. Mind you, now they've changed the recipe, and they even removed the picture of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament from the label. Maybe I need to start looking for a new brand.

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What's The Point?