“I know my password but where have I left my iPhone?”.

An advantage when writing a blog is that you get to express a personal point of view in as authoritative manner as you like. Opinion masquerading as fact.

“What this Government needs to do is ……..”

“The best computer on the market is…..”

“Where Microsoft went wrong is……..”

It would be interesting to know how many people actually agree with one opinion or another. The fact is, (there I go again) that people only agree if the opinion expressed happens to match their own.

That’s also the trouble with computer applications. Their ease of use is generally knowledge based. By that I mean if you happen to know how to do something, it’s easy. If you don’t it’s hard. Well, not always. Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto is genuinely hard even if you know how to play the piece because Rachmaninov was a virtuosos pianist with very large hands and could manage the spread of keys. You never hear of anyone saying, “Oh, Microsoft Word is okay to use but that Outlook. Wow it was hard”. I feel that software applications are becoming a bit like the TV quiz, University Challenge. Dead easy if you happen to know the answer. Impossible if you don’t. You see, sitting on the sofa and always yelling “Agamemnon” as the answer, when generally in the arena of the ancient Greeks, does not count as expertise on the subject. Even if now and again it turns out to be the correct answer.

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What about intuition? The problem is that Agamemnon is the only name of an ancient Greek King that I know. To volunteer it in the right context is not only a good starting point, it’s also the only response open to me. But does that work with software? It should. Programs are meant to be logical and intuitive. If you haven’t ever run a computer program in your life you’ll possibly have a problem or two but we are used to pull downs, right clicks, menu operations etc. Until that is we come to the words “Please enter your password”.

Words guaranteed to strike fear into the hearts of the most experienced users. Why? Once upon a time we’d only enter our password to gain entry to a database or to the code itself. But now, we’re on-line. Microsoft’s Office 365 seems to want to know our password at seemingly several points. What’s your user name? it asks. With great trepidation you give it your best shot. Ah, is that your Microsoft Account or your Work or Organisation Account? Well this is Microsoft’s Office 365 isn’t it. My company surely isn’t the right answer……Oh, hang on. “Microsoft” referred to my private account and it’s the company Office 365 account I’m using. Close call that. Now what username? I used the same email address for both. Well it is my email address, what else could I do. OK. That’ll make it easier then. I only have one email address. Now the password. You enter it and wait. You need to update your password it says and takes you off to some other screen. Microsoft or Work or Organisational Account it asks. What again? Never mind. Play it straight. Give them what they want. Now what? How do you want the verification code? Email? I can’t log onto my email yet. Mobile? I don’t have cellular coverage here. Letter in the Times Personal Column? The paper doesn’t come out until tomorrow. Oh hell, I didn’t want to log on anyway.

Then you click on a URL link you left on your desktop and guess what. It opens the Office 365 page you wanted anyway. Go figure!

And that password. I was fond of Agamemnon but it wasn’t a strong password. OK how about Agam3mn0n. Great except they want me to update it. Fair enough, now how about $Agam3mn0n$. Except after several password updates it’s now A$$gam3mn0$$$n and I’m not sure how many $$ I’ve added. Worse still I put that in as my Microsoft password. Not my Work or Organisational password but my Microsoft password (all right, I was tired and I made a mistake!). When it was wrong I asked them to send me a verification code, forced the new password on them and they updated it. Now? Now, I haven’t a clue.

You know I seriously contemplated deleting my Microsoft account and my Office 365 account and starting all over again. Except I don’t seem to have the right password to log onto the admin account, and they have my credit card, valid for another two years so I can’t even take the ‘nuclear option’. To hell with it. It’s all extremely easy to use. Provided that is, you already know the answers.

The moral of the story. Office 365 is easy to use if you know how to log on, so be very, very careful and don’t upset the ‘Passwords Gods’. Good. You’ve logged on. Now what about the easy-to-use question? To continue reading my next point, please jump back to the section starting ßß further up the page.

Ivor Share