America - its all a bit odd...

When I left the mob and joined the company I currently work for, I did a brief spell helping out our technical publications department. There they had the master sheets for the manuals, and in order to amend them they literally cut the words out, rearranged them and stuck them back down again. I had to make a minor change to one sheet, but because the master was in a secure storage facility it would take two days to arrive. To save twiddling my fingers for two days, I suggested that I draft up the whole page on MSWord (this was the mid 00's) and it would give them an idea of what the finished article would look like. It took me about two hours to get the headers, footers and text drawn up, and when I handed it to the head bloke it was like Guttenberg had just run off the first manuscript! There was much conferring and mumbling and checking for witchcraft before I was asked how long did I reckon it would take to do the whole chapter.

At the end of that short stint in tech pubs I went back to the day job, and they wrote my boss a nice memo saying how useful I had been and had shown them several methods for improving their efficiency. The charmless bottom feeder had the gall to ask me why I didn't work for him like that....!

The problem with ALRS is that they're scattered throughout the world on ships of all types and the only way to get corrections to them is to send them sheets of paper with instructions like 'replace line 2 and 3 on page 453 with the following'. Correcting charts was even worse involving a set of Rotring pens with various coloured inks.
 
When I left the mob and joined the company I currently work for, I did a brief spell helping out our technical publications department. There they had the master sheets for the manuals, and in order to amend them they literally cut the words out, rearranged them and stuck them back down again. I had to make a minor change to one sheet, but because the master was in a secure storage facility it would take two days to arrive. To save twiddling my fingers for two days, I suggested that I draft up the whole page on MSWord (this was the mid 00's) and it would give them an idea of what the finished article would look like. It took me about two hours to get the headers, footers and text drawn up, and when I handed it to the head bloke it was like Guttenberg had just run off the first manuscript! There was much conferring and mumbling and checking for witchcraft before I was asked how long did I reckon it would take to do the whole chapter.

At the end of that short stint in tech pubs I went back to the day job, and they wrote my boss a nice memo saying how useful I had been and had shown them several methods for improving their efficiency. The charmless bottom feeder had the gall to ask me why I didn't work for him like that....!
The example I gave above in the link was from 2006, and they had everything in PDF on their web site well before then. A lot of companies were phasing out printed copies altogether by then and relying on PDF or HTML.
 
The example I gave above in the link was from 2006, and they had everything in PDF on their web site well before then. A lot of companies were phasing out printed copies altogether by then and relying on PDF or HTML.
We use loads of diagrams and lists of various types for engineering, that change very often. The guiding principle is that there is only one official repository and as soon as you print something it may be obsolete already.

We don't even send copies of things by email, just links.
 
We use loads of diagrams and lists of various types for engineering, that change very often. The guiding principle is that there is only one official repository and as soon as you print something it may be obsolete already.

We don't even send copies of things by email, just links.
Yep. This is the standard practice these days for most companies. They clearly mention this on the PDF itself, asking you to check the link given for the latest "live" version.
 
Only in America? In Australia it could have been a similar toll from a single vehicle (ute) accident in the Northern Territory.

'Twenty people were killed when a wedding-limo crash spilt over into a busy restaurant parking lot in upstate New York, officials and reports have said. Eighteen of the dead were travelling in the limo, while two were bystanders, a person with knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press.'

Many dead after wedding limo crash
 
The problem with ALRS is that they're scattered throughout the world on ships of all types and the only way to get corrections to them is to send them sheets of paper with instructions like 'replace line 2 and 3 on page 453 with the following'. Correcting charts was even worse involving a set of Rotring pens with various coloured inks.
A couple of weeks ago a second mate was explaining to me how he does his chart corrections these days. He receives an e-mail with an attachment, the attachment is downloaded onto a USB stick which is then plugged into the ships ECDIS system, press a tit and it all happens. The whole lot done in a few minutes. No paper charts no pens or notices to mariners.
 
A couple of weeks ago a second mate was explaining to me how he does his chart corrections these days. He receives an e-mail with an attachment, the attachment is downloaded onto a USB stick which is then plugged into the ships ECDIS system, press a tit and it all happens. The whole lot done in a few minutes. No paper charts no pens or notices to mariners.
What will they ever think of next?
 
What will they ever think of next?
Corrupting the file so that every chart in his memory bank is erased permanently; or if they're really clever, subtly altering the numbers so the deep water channel is just far enough off for no one to notice until there's that awkward, "Why aren't we moving" moment.
 
Gotta love it.
At the end of this month, millions of kids in the States (and sadly, worldwide) will be dressing up as witches, wizards and the like and 'demanding with menace'.
I find if you sneak out the back door while the first bunch are making their grab, get round behind them and shout "Woo" in a loud voice as they walk back out of the garden they tell all their mates and no one else comes to your house all night; and they were 15 year olds.
 

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We have a new alert system in Canada which works through the cell phones. The web site for it says that Canadians travelling in the US may get the test of the new system there, so I gather that it uses the same underlying software as the US does. We already had a test of it here, and parts of the system failed to function. The system operates over the cell phone system, plus also television and broadcast radio.

Right at the top of the home page on their website, they have the question "why am I not allowed to opt-out?". They give a non-answer answer which amounts to "because we won't let you". That should tell you everything you need to know about how it has been received by the public.

Overall, the software and system were poorly thought out with little thought as to whether or not people can actually make use of this information. I happen to be fortunate enough that my phone is old enough to have been purchased before this system was put in place, so I don't get them. However, the main complaint seems to be that people don't want to be woken up from their sleep to be told things that don't matter to them, and don't want to be forced to turn their phones off and therefore not be able to get phone calls about genuine personal emergencies. They also are not going to drop whatever they are doing at the moment (e.g. pull over to the side of the road when driving) every time the alarm goes off. This is an actual example: "It is important to take action safely, especially if the emergency alert is received while operating a vehicle. If you are driving, it is important to remain calm and pull over at your earliest opportunity to view the emergency alert." You can imagine the chaos that would ensue on a busy highway if everyone followed that advice at once.

What might have been better is to have provided a basic emergency alert app, but then also provided a means to let people install alternate commercial apps which provide them with more control over what they are alerted about and when they receive them.

As I said, my phone doesn't support the emergency alert system, so I haven't seen them. However, one of the examples of the types of message given on the web site is the following: "Environment Canada has issued tornado warnings for Central Ontario. Take cover immediately." Anyone with experience of tornadoes in Ontario can tell you that this is completely useless. Environment Canada issues tornado warnings routinely during hot, humid weather (without the advice to take cover). Any hot humid weather can spawn thunderstorms, which in turn can spawn tornadoes in a matter of a few minutes. All Environment Canada predicts (and all they can predict) is that the conditions for creating tornadoes are present. They make no claims that any will actually occur, and it simply isn't possible to boil a complex question like this down to a yes or no answer. This sort of weather can last for days, and even when a tornado does happen it is almost always something that is discovered retrospectively rather than predicted. The province does not and cannot shut down shut down for days on end each summer for what is realistically a very tiny risk to any individual.

This is one example, but the same principles can be applied to many others.

The better way to have done it is to provide a means of issuing alerts, and then let people write apps to filter and prioritize the alerts to suit individual circumstances. I don't need to be woken from my sleep to be told about a missing child 1,000 km away (this was an actual complaint that many people had). Let the alert apps put these types of messages in the regular message queue along with email, SMS, and social messaging notifications, and people can read about it when they wake up normally.

The problem with deciding that everybody needs to drop everything to read your emergency message right now is that for the overwhelming majority of people it isn't a genuine emergency and they will simply ignore it, like the boy who cried wolf.
And yet the recent tornados in Ottawa saw people saying the system saved their lives. They got the alert, headed to the basement and minutes later the tornado ripped through. We got the alert driving home and immediately rang home to get our daughter down to the basement.
 

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