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BOFH: Swears, Lies and Videotapes

It could get you into trouble

Episode 7 BOFH 2001: Episode 7

"What seems to be the problem?" The PFY asks helpfully, while focusing all his attention on the game of Solitaire in front of him. (And they said he couldn't multitask.)

"I can't seem to email one of my colleagues in the US any longer - it just gives me an error message!"

"What error message was it then?"

"Oh, I can't remember PRECISELY. Something with a number and some 'nable to deliver' mumbo jumbo."

"Oh, THAT error message. Yes, no worries, I'll look into it."

The Boss leaves and The PFY continues with his game - it's fascinating to watch.

Two hours later The Boss returns for what is probably The PFY's 90th attempt at the Solitaire title.

"I still can't send email," he cries.

"Really!? This is worse than I thought!" The PFY comments, playing on. "Tell you what, can you just write down the email address and I'll trace it from here."

"Would you?" The Boss asks gratefully. "Thanks."

"Don't mention it."

..Two hours later..

"Still not going!" The Boss blurts, and strike me down if I'm over-reading it, but he's seeming slightly annoyed about the whole thing.

"Well I don't know what more I can try," The PFY concedes. "Except - you don't have the ACTUAL error message do you? Sometimes I can fix a problem almost immediately with one of those..."

The Boss stamps off - and again strike me down, but I think he's rather more annoyed than when he came in. He returns still fuming (probably because we're cutting into his lunch hour) and thrusts a bit of paper with some text scrawled on it to me.

"Ah, they have a content filter!" I divine, from the words "CONTENT FILTER BLOCKING" amongst the text of the error message.

"A content filter?" The Boss parrots.

"Yes, their administrator is probably concerned that one or more of the words in your mail message is offensive, and is blocking them."


"Yes, it's the latest in a long line of stupid ideas to sell mail protection programs. Messages are searched for 'bad' words."

"I think it sounds like a great idea - we could really use that!" The Boss chirps thoughtfully, envisaging the kudos he'll get from upper management types when he tells them how protected they are - "Just think - we could protect our users from abuse."

"Yes," I mutter.

"You don't think it would work?"

"Lets put it this way," I respond. "HOW MANY of our users currently complain about the words people use in their email?"

"Well, I've got no ide.."

"Should we go through the helpdesk logs and see?"

"Maybe they're offended but just don't want to say?"

"We're talking about people who complained when you changed the type of biscuits they got at tea break - Serial Whiners. And still they don't complain about email content..."

"Well perhaps we could just do it for upper management - words that would offend them."

"You mean words like 'accountability', 'bonuses-on-results' - that sort of thing?"

"You know what I mean."

"I think you'll find that it'll affect normal email conversations - people have come to expect that certain words will get through - that they've become part of the workplace vocabulary. We're sure to get complaints if we dictate what words can and cannot be used in their correspondence, doubly so if the words have a valid use..."

"In which case you can tell them that it's my new policy that the company correspondence should be cleaned up and that upper levels of management shouldn't be exposed to such abuse!" The Boss responds - eyes on the potential PR win.

"I was talking about them SENDING bad words. Anyway, someone would have to come up with the words to enter into the rejection list."

"You mean we can already do it?!" he gasps.

"Of course. But we've never propagated the database - too hard to think of the words."

"Well, *I* could come up with some starters!"

"Okay then," I sigh. "You tell me them and I'll enter them into the filter."

"Wanker," The Boss cries.

"I don't think we'd want to block that word - you'd never get email from the CEO again!"

Ignoring me, The Boss continues.

"Shit. Bastard!"


And so it goes. The Boss gives it his best for half an hour and takes his leave, wandering back every 10 minutes or so with additions he's thought up in the meantime.

And I wait for the calls which are bound to arrive. As they do.

The next day however, we have bigger fish to deep fry. It would appear that The PFY's selfless pursuit of Solitaire has so rankled The Boss that a meeting has been scheduled for both of them at HR Central.

"High Jump Time," I inform The PFY

"They can't - I've never been warned."

"Not exactly true - I think you're forgetting those three written warnings you've had"

"I've never had three written warnings!!!"

"Of course you did. But I threw them in the bin - Didn't want to upset you!"

"So I'm screwed?"

"Almost. Though there IS this HR consultant I know, who, for a modest fee could have you back in front of the desk in no time. For a small fee."

"How small?"

"Five pints."

"Done. Now what do I do?"

"Deny everything."

"Is that it?"

"Make that 10 pints. Want to try for 20?"

The PFY's silence is all.

Sure enough, in the face of complete denial I'm called to verify one story or another.

"You realise what this is about?" the HR type asks me

"Unprofessional conduct, I'd assume."

"Yes, now what can you tell us about what occurred yesterday."

"Well, normally I try to ignore such things - for the good of morale and all, but I did think that yesterday was a bit extreme. In fact, I've taken the liberty of bringing up the Control Room Video tape from yesterday, if that's OK."

"Well it should certainly help to clear up the matter."

I slap the tape in and press play.

"..CKSUCKER!" The Boss blurts, then leaves the Control Room. I fast forward to a few more of The Boss's greatest hits, finally reaching the decider "CU..>CLICK!>"

"I think we've seen enough" the HR type says.

"It went on all day!" The PFY sniffles, realising the plan "He'd come in, call me some name, then leave. I didn't want to say anything in case it affected my jo.."


"We don't have a mail content filter!" I respond.


"Evidence. I kept all the names you called him on file."


"That pretty much is the beginning of the tape. I could go and get the morning tape I suppose, although that's not really got anything on it, as he only really started during lunchtime, which we don't record.."

"OH VERY BLOODY CONVENIENT!" The Boss adds sarcastically.

"Yes," the HR Type interrupts. "I don't think we'll be needing you or your assistant for the next part of this, so you can go now. Do you mind if we keep the tape."

"Not if we get it back inside a few days - security and all that."

"Oh, I don't think we'll need it that long..."


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