It’s the Law, Part 2

Ritter’s second law of network administration: If you give a user something to click, they’ll click it.

For all the complaints we make about them, users can be a resourceful lot. They seem to find all kinds of ways to get themselves into trouble, from making their desktop fonts so large that windows no longer fit on the screen to sticking a USB drive into the Ethernet port on the side of a laptop and griping that the computer doesn’t “see” the thumb drive anymore. It’s this cleverness for getting themselves into a situation and their unwillingness to extricate themselves from it that leads me to my second law.

The problem is endemic: humans are attracted to something new and different. I have a ball-point pen that has a little blinking blue light on one end. I have no idea what purpose the cool blinking light serves, except that it made me buy the thing. Users, too, will succumb to new icons, buttons, or anything that looks extraordinary, and they often end up sticking their mouse pointer where it doesn’t belong.

The simple administrative solution is to hide things you don’t want users to see. Both Windows and Linux have policy tools that allow an administrator to remove features from the user’s desktop, reducing the probability that they’ll click the wrong thing. This is not a substitute for security: permissions and rights should still be configured to prevent a user from doing anything to the computer that’s not in their job description. But if we can save just one harried help-desk employee the horror of a single clueless call, our work will have been worth the effort.

Be seeing you.


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