Admitting Your Mistakes

When did it become unfashionable to admit to mistakes. We all make mistakes. Why not just own up to them?

Yesterday I got an email from an agent asking if I was available for work. I replied pointing her to the page on my company web site where that information is always available.

Just now I got the same email again from the same agent. Well, the content was identical, but the subject line had changed. Yesterday it was “New Year New Project?”, today it had become “New Projects?”.

I replied to the second email saying that my situation hadn’t changed in twenty-four hours. Her reply to this was:

So sorry for some reason it looks like my outlook has duplicated my emails

Not, “oops, I looks like I sent stff to the same people twice” or “sorry, I should have checked that list of names more closely”. Just “my outlook has duplicated my emails”. It wasn’t her fault – her technology had let her down. Everyone knows that Outlook often sends the same email twice, twenty-four hours apart and changes the subject line as it does it.

Except it doesn’t, does it. I know that Outlook is one of the most broken email clients ever to have been released (only beaten, in my experience, by Lotus Notes) but last time I used it, it wasn’t in the habit of changing subject lines and resending mail. Maybe that’s a new feature.

I pointed out the subject line discrepancy and she replied that she was not “great with Technology!” Which, I suppose, is as close as I’m going to get to an explanation.

Perhaps blaming mistakes on a “computer error” still fools most of the population. But if you’re dealing with IT people, you must realise that most of them will know more about the subject than you. And that must make blaming the technology an extremely risky approach.

It’s certainly one that has moved this recruiter along way down my list of people I want to do business with.


  1. I’ve used Microsoft Outlook for many years, and found it to be a very reliable and easy to use email system. I have no experience administering the server, perhaps that’s more of a problem. I see a lot of Outlook bashing, but no specific reasons – it works and works well from a user point of view.

    It doesn’t randomly email twice changing the subject, as you say :-)

  2. I can think of a couple of specific problems that I have with Outlook.

    * It doesn’t use the standard “References” and “In-Reply-To” headers to denote replies to mail. This can break threading in mail readers that follow the standard. Microsoft instead decided to invent their own “Thread-Index” header.

    * It encourages non-standard ways of formatting replies to email which are largely responsible for the huge number of people who believe that top-posting is a sensible way to carry out a email conversation.

    It may be reliable. It may be easy to use. But because Microsoft have taken their usual approach to standards, it is horrible when you use it to interact with people outside of Microsoft’s bubble. Of course the Outlook user might not notice the horror.

  3. The great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from.

    Threading is so broken everywhere that I turned it off years ago and never use it. I’m sure you’re right about this, but I know no ‘normal’ person who wants to thread their email.

    Again, ‘normal’ people don’t give a toss about top posting. In fact, I am embracing it now and have decided that it is in fact a more correct way to use email. I know you’ve written a similar post about how this war is already lost.

    But I’ll rephrase my earlier comment “In a company where everyone uses Outlook to communicate business email, it is reliable, has all the features you need, and so works very well”.

  4. Do you mean “In a company where everyone uses Outlook to communicate business email, it is reliable, has all the features you need, and so works very well when communicating with people within the same company“?

    Surely everyone eventually needs to communicate with people outside of MS-land at some point.

    And I disagree completely with your comment about standards. When Outlook (or its predecessor MS Mail) was written there were a clear set of useful standards in place for internet email. MS chose to ignore them and implement their own systems which almost interact successfully with the outside world most of the time.

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