Who knew that hosing a table with copious amounts of cubic metres would trip adult filters?

Another fine mess

On Call Friday is upon us so take a moment from glumly hitting refresh on your government website of choice and join us for a story of abbreviations and adult filters in today's edition of On Call.

"Kate" (for that is not her name) contributed today's tale, which concerns the time, five years ago, when she was tasked with staffing a helpdesk.

Thanks to the technology of the day, she was able to easily remotely access users' computers rather than have to traipse around, sorting out issues. Handy for when telephone diagnosis did not cut the mustard.

On the day in question she was called by a gas engineer who had been contracted out to a hospital. He had sent an energy report to the client and, rather than acceptance or quibbling, had had his message curtly rejected by the trust's systems with a simple error message.

The engineer was a bit baffled by it all so called on the helpdesk for assistance.

Finger pushes power button

When even a power-cycle fandango cannot save your Windows desktop


"I remoted in to take a look at this error message," Kate told us, "and found that the error message was sent by the recipient's firewall and it said ADULT_RULE_TRIGGERED."

"It was a new one for me!" she said.

Perhaps a little fearfully, she asked the engineer what exactly he had sent to the client. It can, after all, get lonely for the long-distance site contractor... but the offending email looked completely clean. At first glance.

"It was indeed an energy report," she told us, "which contained a table embedded in the email, and in the 'units of measurement' column he'd typed the well-known abbreviation for cubic metres over and over again."

The emailed report was festooned with the abbreviation for cubic metres. Positively spattered with it.

It was hardly surprising the firewall had spat it out.

"I smirked," said Kate, "and told him that was never going to get past any good spam filter."

We can only give thanks that the hospital was not at a charming Lincolnshire town located not a million miles from Grimsby. Who knows how the filter might have reacted.

Kate went on to educate the embarrassed engineer in the uses of superscript, adding it to his Quick Access for easy retrieval.

And the engineer himself? He was just glad not to be laughed off the phone line.

Ever been caught out by an abbreviation? Or found an innocent explanation for what at first glance seemed highly questionable? Share the time you dealt with that ticket with an email to On Call. ®

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