Your status is what?

You’re tired, busy, or overworked. You intend to search for something, but wind up blasting what you’ve just typed to the whole world as a status update instead. I’ve caught myself on the point of doing this myself.

A number of programs, e.g. Chatter desktop, make this really easy: the

  • What are you working on?
  • Share an update
  • Type a note
  • What’s happening?
  • Enter your status here

field is located where many other applications (e.g. Microsoft Outlook, Office Communicator, iOS Mail) put the … search field!

Imagine: an Oracle employee means to search for Microsoft’s Business Rules Framework, only to post  “Microsoft rules” as a status report instead.

Or a government employee searches for info on drunk driving, but mistakenly posts “drunk driving”  as a status report.

Funny, yes, but trouble too. Think of the possibilities: Company secrets, state diplomacy, and not least of all, personal relationships.

I think most or all status update fields should be a little bit better protected, with a final question (dialog): “You’re about to post your status as: XYZ. Are you sure?”

How big a disaster one of these mistaken posts causes also depends on its distribution, e.g. whether it is public or internal to the company. Worse is if any entry indelibly becomes a line in a generally visible flow, maybe gets emailed automatically. Better is if status is visible only to those who happen to be looking at that time, and if it can be overwritten immediately without a permanent record (as in Office Communicator).

One day someone with a popular program will move around fields in their UI; and for a while a lot more users will find themselves entering their search expressions as widely distributed status updates.  Then their friends and employers will know what they really are looking for.

Disclaimer: I’ve observed this issue in a number of programs I’ve used or run across. Other versions could be different.

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