Friday, September 24, 2010

Explanation fail

 You know how when experts give you a quote filled with jargon that you then have to turn into plain English if your reader has any hope of understanding what the person is saying? Mashable (apparently) attempted to do that when writing about yesterday's Facebook outage. Here is how the writer broke down what FB's engineer said:
 Johnson said the downtime today was caused by “an unfortunate handling of an error condition” involving an automated system designed to verify configuration values in the cache and replace invalid values with updated values from the persistent store.
What the ...? Does that mean anything to anyone? Granted, Mashable is a tech blog, and is probably read by tons of code-people who would ask what's wrong with me that I don't understand that. But to many people, that makes about as much sense as:
 Johnson said the downtime today was caused by “an unfortunate handling of an error condition” involving an ignoramus procedure designed to populate refrigeration cathedrals in the atmosphere and rejigger concomitant T-shirts with differentiated threads from the fiery earth.
 Couldn't Mashable have just said: Facebook said it ran a program to update information in its database, but something went wrong and too many computers tried to fix the problem at once and it crashed the system.

 I'm sure that's not exactly what happened ... but that's my point. The way Mashable wrote it, I don't know any more about what happened at FB today than I did yesterday.