Thursday, January 27, 2011

Workarounds - The More We Encounter The Better We Get

The term workaround has begun to pop up (for me) in conversations and meetings more than usual lately.  I seem to hear it everywhere these days and normally the word is spoken in conjunction with some sort of restriction, limitation, or block.  The restriction could be anything, but generally occurs when you are trying to perform an operation (maybe even your job) with a piece of software or hardware. 

Really the term workaround could apply to any non-computer related troubleshooting as well.  An example could be that your wife is adamant that there will be no football watching while her parents come over for dinner on Sunday evening (yet you are secretly working on a "workaround").

Sometimes when hitting a snag, the technology lets you know you are headed for a workaround.  The message usually conveys a vague yet clear message like, "An error has occurred."  A common example could be something simple. Maybe your work email system cannot handle images over a certain size and you were trying (in vain) to email yourself those great photos of the office party you took from your smart phone. 

In my experience you don't get a message, your photos just don't show up, and then you begin to weave your way around the problem on the workaround express.  I am sure that you can think of many ways to get the photos to your work machine without using your work email, you may be on your way to being a workaround Jedi.

Sometimes by mentioning a tech related problem in a gathering you can come away with a proven and valid "workaround".  Someone has probably encountered the same issue that you experienced and has found a way to overcome it.  Or you could say they found a way to go around it, bypass it, or defeat it.  Or maybe you browse YouTube or forum sites and find your workarounds there, the Internet is loaded with workarounds.

While professionals gripe about having to use workarounds to do their jobs efficiently or to accomplish ordinary tasks, I view it as a positive (if not marketable) skill to hone.  Usually a workaround involves troubleshooting which leads to some sort of research or information gathering, which turns to expanded understanding about the technology or systems that we use day in and day out. Like a virtual toolbox we add another tool or technique.

Workarounds in the modern world is all about utilizing tools (often free utilities, open source programs, tweaks, etc.) and employing them to supplement your provided tools, when your employer's offerings don't get the job done.  Initially having to perform workarounds time after time can seem like a time draining experience, but as your proficiency increases those future snags will take less and less time to workaround.

On Monday morning while walking to my office a colleague stopped me and alerted me about the latest workaround (see photo below).
The latest workaround- push IN to flush

*Information contained within these pages do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of Schreiner University.

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