A little helicopter diplomacy
- 29 January, 2012 22:00
The written word is one of mankind’s most useful tools. It conveys ideas from person to person and place to place much more effectively than word of mouth. Imagine if the instructions to fly a helicopter were passed on verbally. Sooner or later someone’s going to forget which way to pull the cyclic and you’ve backed into the hanger. So we can see that English has its uses and we use it all the time in our proposals to try in a desperate attempt to win over the reader in the most convincing way possible. And if that means making them ill by twisting their brains around like they’ve just taken a hit of Amyl Nitrate then so be it. The more we can confuse our dear readers the more they will think we know what we’re talking about. At least when they don’t know what they are talking about. The worst thing we can do is leave them with the impression that our job is easy and that it can be explained in a few short easy to read sentences that make perfect sense and are understood by all and sundry. Madness. Don’t give the game away. We’re selling a complicated solution filled with intricacies and nuances that the normal man in the street has no idea of. Computer solutions are a nightmare of trip ups and gobbledegook with explanations that can only be deciphered by highly qualified engineers of the finest calibre. If you start using plain English to explain what you can achieve all your customer will do is wonder why the thing they want is so simple yet cost a fortune. Let me try to explain my the above facetiouness by simile. A helicopter has four controls: the throttle to control engine speed, giving the craft life; the collective to alter the pitch angle of the blades to control the amount of thrust; the cyclic to controld the direction of the thrust; and the torque to change the rear tail rotor’s speed and thrust in relation to the main body, changing where the craft points. Sounds confusing. Until you realise we're just talking about moving up, down, right and left. Which bring me to the Ministry of Education’s response to a November 25 column regarding Unified Software and a laptop-for-teacher's programme. Unified was meant to supply software and web portal, but went into voluntary liquidation.
The Ministry wrote Reseller News to say that there were mistakes. Specifically they write:
"Mr Davis states the ‘liquidators say the Ministry of Education’s debt … is backed up by minutes taken in meetings with the company. And yet the Ministry has not paid for the development it asked to be done”.
This allegation is categorically denied by the Ministry. No such claim regarding the alleged debt could be substantiated by either the Ministry or Unified Software."
But in point of fact, we only reported what Unified's liquidator's found.
“The Directors view is that the Ministry have commissioned software development work for the payment of which it had no budget," their report, (which can be read in full at states. "This view appears to be supported by the meeting minutes that have been sighted by the liquidator.”
We are not sure what the problem is here, but perhaps the Ministry could have avoided confusion had they responded to liquidator queries. Again, according to the report:
“No communication has been received directly from the Ministry. The liquidator has asked (Deloittes who are acting on behalf of the Ministry) when the required information might be received but was advised on reporting date to ask the Ministry directly. This appears to the liquidator to be reflective of a circular process that has prevailed between the parties since January 2009.” So there we have a circular process of plain English even if it a little hard for the Ministry to understand, which is keeping the whole thing in the air just like our friendly helicopter and it’s four controls. The Ministry has asked us to apologise and print a correction. Correction, or clarification rather, printed above, and I hereby apologise wholeheartedly for failing to understand the plain English that was stated above. I had no idea the liquidators words meant another thing entirely.