The world is round now
Mole would have given anything to have been a switchboard operator at Credit Lyonnais last Thursday. The bank will have taken some very interesting calls from corporate clients, particularly those from the Middle East, about its Web site, which for a few very entertaining hours didn't convey quite the impression of gravitas that world-class financial institutions like to engender. Anyone who visited www.credit-lyonnais.com in the course of the morning was greeted by the image of a naked woman - how shall we put this? - amusing herself in a manner usually reserved for the privacy of the boudoir. A crude speech-bubble emanating from the young lady's mouth declared "I like Arab men".
Quite why this image had replaced the usual picture of corporate restraint and financial probity befitting a bank is unclear, but the mischievous individuals who wrote to Mole to tip him off reckon it was not unconnected with the sacking of parts of the Credit Lyonnais IT department last week.
The late Kenneth Williams was credited with the invention of a piece of rhyming slang that would have been appropriate in these circumstances.
Mole can only hope that Britain's high street banks have taken steps to ensure that no one is having a Barclays at their expense.
As Mole pointed out last week, there are more embarrassing things that can happen in the world of information technology than the publication of a few dirty pictures. He refers, of course, to the super-creep from USA Global Link who sucked up so fulsomely to Bill Gates at a conference where the Prince of Dorkness had been speaking.
Mole's invitation to come up with alternative grovels has had a predictably good response. Here is a lightly edited selection of the best. So, on behalf of the human race ...
"... I would like to thank you for making computers seem so easy to use that any idiot can believe that he is a technical wizard - thus allowing me to charge enormous amounts of money to fix their mistakes."
From another programmer: "... I would like to thank you for providing jobs instead of productivity."
And finally, from a fan: "... I would like to thank you for making the back page of PC Week what it is today. I'm glad someone is there to remind us what a ludicrous industry it is that we work in." This last is not, Mole hastens to add, a case of blowing one's own trumpet. Mole is merely the messenger; His Billness can take the rest of the credit.
Well not quite all of it, perhaps. Other senior Microsoft executives make occasional contributions to the sum of human ludicrousness. Last week's tale of world-class fawning reminded one reader of a conference howler from Bob Muglia, vice president of Microsoft's server applications division, or SAD as it should perhaps be known. On 11 September, Mr Muglia announced brightly from the podium that, thanks to Microsoft Exchange, "the world is global now". What is particularly striking about this anecdote, according to the man who passed it on, is that most of the people in an audience of hundreds let this remark go without so much as a titter. In fact, says Mole's source, "the majority of participants took this insightful comment as entirely plausible."
Anyone that regards this as evidence that the average intelligence of IT staff is falling is probably right. Mole has come across two other examples recently, both concerning the tedious subject of the year 2000.
It is a fact that roughly three in 10 people can't even spell millennium, which casts some doubt on their ability to address the more taxing problems arising from the event. You can verify this for yourselves by performing a search on the term millennium on the AltaVista search engine, which returns around 700,000 results. The same exercise using the common misspelling "millenium" yields a fairly staggering 300,000 entries.
The second tale is that of the young man who answered an advertisement for a programmer. After bringing him in for an interview, the IT manager fairly quickly concluded that this was unlikely to be the preferred candidate, but in the interests of giving a sucker an even break he proceeded to outline the company's history and the state of the department responsible for keeping its computers running. The manager concluded his sketch with a summary of work to date. "We are now two weeks from completing our five-month reprogram schedule and things are going quite well." At this point, practically any response would have done, but not this one, which the doomed candidate delivered in a broad Yorkshire accent: "So what's tha think of this millennium thing, then? Ah reckon it's just a big prank like what them viruses were in t'eighties."
Finally a rather charming story about the abuse of computers, but for once the motive was not mischief-making or financial but merely intellectual.
AP reports that a 28-year-old employee of US telephone company US West was investigated for suspected computer fraud after he diverted processing power from no less than 2,585 machines for his own ends. The "criminal" was let off after admitting that he had merely been trying to solve a maths problem - the quest for the world's largest prime number. "I've worked on this problem for a long time," he confessed. "When I started working at US West, all that computational power was just too tempting for me."
Give in to temptation and give Mole a call on 0171 316 9068. Better still, send him a message to the usual address.
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