I just figured out why my users just can’t learn to save their work every couple of minutes. It’s not really them – it’s the system they are working in. I personally have my fingers trained to automatically hit either Ctrl+S as I type. Actually it’s either that or Ctrl+[:w depending on the editor. :) Even when I type stuff in a text box on the web – like this very post for example, I still try to save as often as possible. In WordPress I just use the Save and Continue Editing function every few minutes despite the fact that Firefox should theoretically save my text as part of the session. Also my important documents are usually under some sort of version control but that’s a whole different story.
But then again, let’s look back on what type of things do I type the most. I’m a programmer by trade (and choice, and vocation) so most of the day I write code. And what do you do when you write code? You write 3 lines, save, compile (if needed), run it and check the results. I’m used to saving often because this is the only way I get feedback on how I’m doing.
Next, I write papers and documentation in LaTex which pretty much follows the same routine. Write a paragraph or two, save, compile, preview changes. If I write for an hour without saving, I may make few tiny syntax mistakes (like that time when figure numbers in my whole chapter got screwed up) which may bite me in the ass later on.
Finally, I write here, in a tiny text box with shorter posts or in vim for the longer ones. I don’t use the fancy WYSIWYG editor because frankly these things irritate me. So I usually mark up my text using HTML whenever I insert images, format embed code samples or just want to emphasize some words. And once again the only way I can get good feedback on what I’m doing is to stop, save and look back.
I’m essentially forced to save often and as a result I have never really lost any work due to some unexpected crash, brownout or just accidental closing of the program window. Or at least nothing that could not be re-created within 5-10 minutes.
On the other hand, I have witnessed people losing 6-8 hours of work because it never occurred to them they should save the document. It actually kindoff makes sense now. They get instant feedback on their work, and Office and similar programs will let them do stuff like print preview without the need to save. The WYSIWYG mode actually promotes this kind of reckless behavior. This is of course no excuse for stupidity. They should know better than this. But sometimes habits override the reasonable thought. Perhaps this is why I always save like a maniac, and my co-workers avoid that save button as if it was actually causing them physical discomfort to press it. The years of use of Word and Excel simply taught them that saving is just something that you do when you are finished with your document.
In fact, I hit that wall every time when I teach Access which forces you to create a database file before you start working. Most students just click through the dialog and create the file in the default spot (usually either My Documents or Temp). Then at the end of the lab session they go into panic mode because they don’t know where the file is and the Save As option doesn’t work the way they would expect it to.
Breaking habits is hard – especially the bad ones. This actually gives me some hope for humanity. Perhaps all these people are not to stupid to live, but just unfortunate products of their environment. Perhaps I should cut them some slack. In fact, perhaps I shouldn’t really feel bad for them when they loose their work. I should be happy for them – this sort of thing is a formative experience. After they lose a days worth of work 3 or 4 times in a row they might actually get paranoid and start saving every few sentences. And that’s precisely what a normal, well adjusted person should do. :mrgreen:
[tags]WYSIWYG, word, excel, office, saving, data loss[/tags]