The astute user of technology doesn’t trust it.
Some editors auto-convert emoticons to smiley faces – it’s one of the chars in the Wingding font. I migrated my system recently, noticed this, but dismissed it as an annoying new feature for home users. I appreciate the feature in this blog where I just enter a semicolon-parenthesis and some WordPress module converts that to an image tag when the blog is viewed.
But I was looking for text in one of my forum posts in the Google Groups browser UI, and I noticed in the HTML posts that my smileys show up as an extraneous “J”. This is probably because the HTML in the forum can’t display those funky characters. I don’t know if winkies show up at all. (I said Winkies, not Twinkies! Danged auto-correct! I’ll get to that soon too…) 😉
Now I’m wondering how many emails I’ve sent recently where the recipient had no indication that I was trying to be funny about something, and perhaps wondered if I knew that my J key was sticking. How could someone so fond of quality leave those hanging characters in there?
My personal preference is to write everything in plain text. I generally dislike HTML emails and forum threads and usually convert them to text before responding. I’ll probably do a lot more of that now.
Speaking of automation gone wild … it seems more and more software these days is intent on doing auto-correction for us. The textbox in the form is doing it, the browser surrounding the textbox is doing it, the extra software I have in my task tray is doing it. Now that I’ve migrated to Windows 7 and a completely new set of tools, I find that as I type things creep into my text that I know I’m not typing. I see extra spaces between words, double-typed letters, etc. I try to correct these as I see them. But now the blasted automation is actually causing me more work! I have tried to turn all of that stuff off but I lack the time right now to track down exactly what’s twisting my text when I’m typing. After all, the words can’t wait for a research project before they fall out of my head – they want out right now!
Similarly, when I’m done typing something, I almost always go back to re-read, make sure I didn’t say anything stupid (unintentionally) and then I post or send. But increasingly I go back and see stuff I had no intention of typing! It seems various auto-correct mechanisms are modifying the text and sometimes I just don’t catch it. I especially miss it if I don’t see little red squiggly lines because auto-correct has made some invalid rubbish into a real word. There are many examples of this happening to people as they text/SMS, where some simple word or abbreviation gets twisted into something very funny or very humiliating. Google around and I’m sure you’ll find some doosies. (Dang it, that’s “doosies”, not “doses”!) For reference, I know where to go to turn some of this off, (right click, untick the Check Spelling, etc). I just haven’t hit all of them yet because sometimes the feature is actually helpful.
But I’ve never been a fan of auto-correction. When I was QA Manager at Pick Systems I told my staff to turn off that feature when they were checking documentation. The ultimate abuse of this feature is to take a draft document click the auto-correct button for spelling and grammar, and then return it as checked. Yeah, only happened once with me but with the docs some companies put out these days, you can look at a document and wonder.
So anyway. Check your text. Be careful of HTML. And if you see a little face, that may not be what others are going to see, so I recommend you think it through.