Learning to take blame: humans and computers

In what can only be described as a comedy of errors, a member of staff at the University Counselling Service managed to send an email out to staff and students indirectly informing them of every person who has had counseling via the carbon copy option in Outlook Express. A costly, irresponsible but ultimately simple mistake you might think. Perhaps. Not a mistake you’d make twice in a hurry, you might think. Apparently not.

In a society where paper, pigeons and postmen have become expendable commodities, data transfer via Her Majesty’s interweb has become the norm. Which of course means that the humble computer has to take the blame for anything that goes wrong. The person responsible for sending out the emails is not likely to face any form of reprimand for his or her actions, but I imagine the PC or Mac in their office is getting a damned good rollocking – and so it should.

It seems as though computers have been screwing things up for us for years now. Those people who play video games on a regular basis will insist vehemently that just when they are about to turn the game around and “hand out some serious ownage”, the controller stops working and they can’t play properly.

In all seriousness, the person responsible for this error should actually be held accountable. Action should definitely be taken to make sure that something like this doesn’t happen again.
The Counselling Service has lost the trust of many students and staff over this issue, who in their time of need may feel that they have to look elsewhere for support that won’t be made public by some bumbling idiot on a computer.

When commenting on the debacle, Student Support Services Manager, Steve Page, ironically refused to name the person responsible for informing 344 people of everyone who was receiving counselling. All is not lost however, as I imagine that if we keep a close eye on our inboxes, the guilty party will erroneously send out an email letting everyone know exactly who they are soon enough.


  1. Surely the administrative person in question would appear in the ‘From’ field of the original dodgy e-mails?

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  2. Maybe there’s a service account like [email protected] or something which more than one person have access to; in that case the person responsible wouldn’t be identifiable in the “from” field. That’s certainly the situation with society e-mails.

    Also, although I haven’t used the counselling service I think there’s absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about in doing so and I fully agree with yours and Cristina’s comments on the related article.

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