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Univ. of Illinois Goes War-of-the-Worlds On Students

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the confirmation-dialog-boxes-are-for-wimps dept.

Education 168

theodp writes "'Strange beings who landed in New Jersey tonight are the vanguard of an invading army from Mars.' (Orson Welles, 1938). 'Active shooter at BUILDING NAME/INTERSECTION. Escape area if safe to do so or shield/secure your location.' (Univ. of Illinois, 2011). An alert message sent out Thursday to 87,000 emails and cell phones warning recipients to escape from an 'active shooter' at the University of Illinois was an error, the Office of the Chief of Police confirmed. 'The alert sent today was caused by a person making a mistake,' explained an email. 'Rather than pushing the SAVE button to update the pre-scripted message, the person pushed the SUBMIT button. We are working with the provider of the Illini-Alert service to implement additional security features in the program to prevent this type of error.'"

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168 comments

It Takes TWO controllers (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616486)

To turn keys that initiate the Minute Man launch sequence...

Re:It Takes TWO controllers (2)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616822)

To turn keys that initiate the Minute Man launch sequence...

But this system can be triggered by someone with poor hand-eye coordination. This is why developing your FPS skills are more important than ever!

Re:It Takes TWO controllers (3, Funny)

517714 (762276) | more than 3 years ago | (#35617018)

In this case FPS skills apply whether the warning is mistaken or not.

Epic Fail (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35616504)

Epic fail, where is windows when you need it. YES I WANT TO DO THIS.

Re:Epic Fail (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35616736)

Epic fail, where is windows when you need it. YES I WANT TO DO THIS.

Lol what? Windows is EASIER TO USE THAN EVAR!!! If it wasn't then government idiots (redundant I know) who couldn't tell the difference between SAVE and SUBMIT would never be behind a keyboard in the first place. You can bet a lot of money that this computer was NOT running a command line Unix of any sort.

Just a typo (2)

GPLDAN (732269) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616512)

It meant to say "Reactive HOOTERS at State & Main."


It's part of a new network detection system for big, non-artificial breasts detected by a camera system. The roll out is initially for Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, the AI is being perfected by the NCSA guys.

Umm, 'scuse me? (5, Interesting)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616518)

But Schroyer said some students were shaken by the initial alert and criticized the university for taking about 12 minutes to send an email confirming it was false.

"That was unacceptable in my opinion," he said.

Really? 12 minutes is too slow? The thing sent out 87,000 e-mails (which takes a while no matter how big and distributed your mail system is), and the person who made the error probably didn't notice until either they got the e-mail or somebody who did told them.

I think 12 minute response time for something like this is pretty impressive.

Re:Umm, 'scuse me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35616554)

I was just about to complain about the same thing, 12 min is awesome to correct a mistake like this.

Ohh noes I was mildly worried for 12 min, Schroyer can suck a cock.

Re:Umm, 'scuse me? (2)

halfEvilTech (1171369) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616564)

apparently those same students thought that the sender had their email open as well and recieved it right away. Of course you need to the proper people that this happened and compose the confirmation. At this point said person is really wanting to make sure they get it correct which takes a few minutes.

But I guess that is not good enough for the TGIF (twitter, google, ipad, facebook) generation and their I want it now mentality

Re:Umm, 'scuse me? (3, Informative)

DisKurzion (662299) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616640)

At the school I work for, there was a major outcry when we implemented a universal SSO for the ever-increasing amount of online tools put out by our school.

There were numerous articles in the school paper decrying the change.

5 years later, and we could only imagine the outcry if we got rid of it: "WHAT DO YOU MEAN I'D HAVE TO MAINTAIN A SEPARATE PASSWORD FOR EVERY SYSTEM!!!???"

Students complain for the sake of complaining.

Re:Umm, 'scuse me? (1)

jdoverholt (1229898) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616910)

I'm curious, as the school I work for is currently rolling out SSO for the various staff and student systems, what sort of things were they complaining about? Try as I might, I just can't comprehend anybody thinking it's a bad idea.

Re:Umm, 'scuse me? (4, Insightful)

McKing (1017) | more than 3 years ago | (#35617070)

Two things I've learned working at a University:

1) Students will complain about anything.
2) Faculty will complain more than students.

Re:Umm, 'scuse me? (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 3 years ago | (#35617144)

it ties your all of your records to a single point of failure. We have that for faculty where I am. I happen to be on the department faculty e-mailing list, though I'm not faculty, and I see what they say about it, and some faculty absolutely refuse to participate in certain online activites specifically because of SSO. If you have a vote for say members for a committee, or room bookings, or your e-mail, it's the same as the marks database, and your HR record etc.

I'm torn. On one hand, a single point of failure, since you have to know people will use the same PWD for work/school as they do else where is a serious risk. But having too many systems where they need to keep separate passwords, and therefore write them all down, is probably equally bad. Building 'throw away' passwords for every little thing seems like a difficult system to build and manage effectively.

Re:Umm, 'scuse me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35616932)

People complain for the sake of complaining.

Fixed that for you.

Re:Umm, 'scuse me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35617102)

Really? 12 minutes is too slow? The thing sent out 87,000 e-mails (which takes a while no matter how big and distributed your mail system is), and the person who made the error probably didn't notice until either they got the e-mail or somebody who did told them.

Unsurprisingly, all complaining students are enrolled in the Business Administration program. The four remaining CS students could not be reached for comment.

Re:Umm, 'scuse me? (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#35617338)

Unsurprisingly, all complaining students are enrolled in the Business Administration program. The four remaining CS students could not be reached for comment.

Probably embarrassed that one of their own had done such a poor job of designing the alert system interface.

Re:Umm, 'scuse me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35617452)

If you have constructed a public warning system bulk emailer and you don't have sentinel email addresses at the head and tail of the run, you have no business being anywhere near a computer. 12 minutes is horrible, absolutely horrible, because it takes no effort at all to do much better.

Implemented! (5, Funny)

kanweg (771128) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616526)

Do you want to cancel the alarm?
[Cancel] [Cancel]

Bert

Re:Implemented! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35616904)

Believe it or not, my order processing system at work asks a very similar question when canceling an order....

speaking of poor UX, the /. comment system is weaksauce...

It would suck... (1)

sltd (1182933) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616530)

... if there was a real shooter, and it still said BUILDING NAME/INTERSECTION. Thanks for the heads up, morons!

Re:It would suck... (1)

magarity (164372) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616572)

... if there was a real shooter, and it still said BUILDING NAME/INTERSECTION. Thanks for the heads up, morons!

Maybe that's what they can send when there's a shooter at every building and intersection.

personalization (1)

wsanders (114993) | more than 3 years ago | (#35617478)

No, the real version will say "shooter at BUILDING NAME/INTERSECTION, looking for INSERT NAME HERE".

Re:It would suck... (1)

Kilrah_il (1692978) | more than 3 years ago | (#35617314)

And worse, suppose it wasn't an active shooter, but a passive one?

WTF is an "active shooter"? Anyone? Please???

Adition security (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35616566)

They will revive clippy from the dead to assist the user in sending the message. This way he will only be able to send the message if he really wants to.

Although.. He may go postal afterwards..

Easy solution (2)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616570)

How about prompting for a CONFIRMATION before spamming thousands of text messages/emails out?

Re:Easy solution (2, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616598)

Anyone who does usability studies can assure you that people won't read confirmations, they'll just blindly click OK. And it's worth noting here that this was entirely an ID10T error, not a computer glitch, although I'm sure a fair number of folks will try to blame it on the computer.

Re:Easy solution (2)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616628)

Yes, but seeing *something* pop-up when the action you're taking doesn't usually produce a pop-up should be indication enough that something isn't right, even if the user doesn't take the time to read it.

Re:Easy solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35616662)

You know, I think "Please confirm: this will sent out 85,000 emails telling people THERE IS SOMEONE WITH A GUN ON CAMPUS. Do you wish send out the emails?" would probably override my default yes-clicking tendency.

Re:Easy solution (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35616800)

No, no it won't.

-- UX Designer

Re:Easy solution (1)

aix tom (902140) | more than 3 years ago | (#35617032)

The design we have in place to reset a specific data pool in our system:

The first try required the user to enter a random 5-letter code that gets *displayed* to him, sorta like a captcha, but it's not there to prevent bots it's there to prevent users on auto-pilot.

Then we had the first case of "OH, I did it by mistake" a few month later.

Then we changed it, that the 5-letter code got *mailed* to the person requestion the reset.

Then we had the next case of "OH, I did it by mistake" a few month later.

Now when someone clicks that button different 5-letter codes get sent to everyone in the department (~6 people) and at least 2 have to be entered to do the reset.

I wonder how long it will take for THAT to be done "by mistake"

Re:Easy solution (2)

Rary (566291) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616680)

Anyone who does usability studies can assure you that people won't read confirmations, they'll just blindly click OK.

This is true if you're discussing confirmations that come up for frequent actions. However, if your normal action (save) just happens without any confirmation, and your non-normal action (submit— how often do they actually need to use this system?) pops up a confirmation, it tends to catch you off guard and make you take notice that something unexpected is happening. This would be precisely the correct use of a confirmation dialog.

Re:Easy solution (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35617334)

Better idea: A modal dialog pops up, with a big red countdown from thirty seconds before the 'ok' and 'cancel' buttons become enabled, to make sure the user reads it. It also plays an audio clip at full volume to tell everyone else in the office to check it.

Re:Easy solution (3, Funny)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 3 years ago | (#35617428)

Better idea: A modal dialog pops up, with a big red countdown from thirty seconds before the 'ok' and 'cancel' buttons become enabled, to make sure the user reads it. It also plays an audio clip at full volume to tell everyone else in the office to check it.

Michael Bolton: That is the worst idea I've ever heard in my life.
Samir: Yes, this is horrible, this idea.

Re:Easy solution (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35616716)

Anyone who does usability studies can assure you that it's a bad idea to have a button labeled "submit" close to one labeled "save".

I am pretty sure this was some kind of web app. A lot of web apps use the standard "submit" button for saving form entries.

This was neither an ID-ten-T, nor a system glitch, but a badly thought through design.

Re:Easy solution (3, Insightful)

blacklint (985235) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616786)

Well, yes. Most of the time people think "Of course I want to do !" when they see a dialog, because they actually did intend to press that button at the time. But they do solve the problem of "Oh no, I didn't mean to click that!" (I've accidentally sent uncompleted emails an embarrassing number of times), and really are useful for things that cannot be undone. Such as, oh, I don't know, sending mass text messages.

This most certainly was an interface problem. If someone is intending to update a template, if they can accidentally send an uncompleted message to thousands of people, the interface designer horribly screwed up. Those options should be no where near each other. Humans routinely make small mistakes, and blaming the user for interface problems only makes things worse.

Re:Easy solution (5, Insightful)

Chuckstar (799005) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616854)

This was not an ID10T error. This was bad human interface design.

The user had two choices: "Save" and "Submit". My first reaction to seeing that was "what's the hell is the difference between Save and Submit?"

Apparently:
"Save" = update the template
"Submit" = send out the alert

IMHO, that's a terrible choice of verbs. You could almost reverse the two and still have them make just as much sense. How about "Update" and "Send"? Or this might even be one of those rare times when you want to use longer button names -- "Update Template" and "Send Out Alert". Much less likely for a mix-up like this if those were the button titles.

Re:Easy solution (2)

aix tom (902140) | more than 3 years ago | (#35617126)

Yep. I would probably have labelled the buttons "Save Text" ( normal grey ) and "SEND ALERT" ( Red, and in a completely different location, with a big ALERT Icon on it. )

( And, of course, the "SEND ALERT" shouldn't be the default action of the form that gets triggered when you hit enter. Just saying. ;-P )

Re:Easy solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35617168)

As in update everybody with this alert and send the file to disk?

Re:Easy solution (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616866)

err, no. It depends on the user and user training. A person trained in a specific piece of software can be trained to read messages under specific instance. Many people using SCADA tools do so everyday.

Re:Easy solution (1)

thesandtiger (819476) | more than 3 years ago | (#35617002)

That's why you don't make the confirmations a yes/no box on big things like that.

You make them a text box where it says you have to type a specific message that basically requires you *think* before you send it. For example, requiring someone to type "SEND THIS MESSAGE" to actually send out a message over the warning network would probably have gotten them to think twice.

I mean, even World of Warcraft requires that you type "DELETE" in a text field in order to delete a character or rare item - you'd think an emergency warning system would be better designed.

The ID10T error was 99% on the end of the people who designed the system such that a mistake like this is possible, and 1% on the end of the person who clicked "ok."

Re:Easy solution (1)

magarity (164372) | more than 3 years ago | (#35617044)

Anyone who does usability studies can assure you that people won't read confirmations, they'll just blindly click OK. And it's worth noting here that this was entirely an ID10T error, not a computer glitch, although I'm sure a fair number of folks will try to blame it on the computer.

To be fair though, it does say this was a mistake of choosing between 'save' and 'submit'. Those choices could have been worded a lot more clearly. Something like 'save template' and 'activate alarm' would be much clearer to an end user.

Irony (5, Funny)

ncttrnl (773936) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616580)

Sounds like UI needs a better UI on their emergency notification system.

Re:Irony (1)

astern (1823792) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616590)

ZING

Don't they have a test system? (2)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616584)

It sounds like they have no way to test the message other than it sending it out to every address in the alert list.

Let's say in this case after updating the message templates, the person hit 'save' rather than 'submit'. On the bright side, then no message would have been sent. On the not-so-bright side, no message would have been sent!

Don't you want to know before there's an actual emergency that your emergency message is working? Not that this incident was an intentional test, but shouldn't they have a test after updating the message template?

Re:Don't they have a test system? (2)

aztektum (170569) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616748)

It sounds like they were adding some campus specific default messages into the system to use in a hurry.

Re:Don't they have a test system? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35616802)

At my school, every few months they test the system by sending out a "This is a test" sort of message.

Re:Don't they have a test system? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35617072)

They periodically test the system, sending out a message that says something like, "This is a test of the Illini-Alert system. There is no actual emergency."

In this case, they had used the system the previous day to send out an alert about a fire on campus. From what I hear, it exposed some issues with the system that they were trying to correct. I don't know why a programming change would require the template to be updated but it's clearly a poorly designed system.

Scary (1, Interesting)

Mullen (14656) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616610)

The really scary part is that we live in a society where the police have to pre-prepare texts and emails to warn students that someone is shooting up their school.

Re:Scary (2)

Reapman (740286) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616654)

No, we live in a society that THINKS they have to pre-prepare texts and emails to warn students of this. To be honest considering the time it takes to fire off an email saying "get the hell away from here" having prepared messages for this is kinda dumb in my not so humble opinion.

I wonder what the odds are in fact of getting shot at school...

Re:Scary (5, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616792)

No, we live in a society that THINKS they have to pre-prepare texts and emails to warn students of this. To be honest considering the time it takes to fire off an email saying "get the hell away from here" having prepared messages for this is kinda dumb in my not so humble opinion.

I wonder what the odds are in fact of getting shot at school...

But schools are gun-free zones. No murderer would ever carry a gun into a gun-free zone and start shooting! It's not allowed.

Re:Scary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35616810)

I wonder what the odds are in fact of getting shot at school...

That depends on if your school has a message prepared or not.

Re:Scary (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616976)

No, we live in a society that THINKS they have to pre-prepare texts and emails to warn students of this.

Ten to one the set of various emergency messages has been vetted by the school lawyers in an attempt to reduce liability.

I wonder what the odds are in fact of getting shot at school...

For all practical purposes, zero.

Re:Scary (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35617358)

I suspect the chances of getting shot on the way to or from school are higher - and the chances of getting hit by a car on the same journey a lot higher still.

Re:Scary (3, Insightful)

VolciMaster (821873) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616682)

The really scary part is that we live in a society where the police have to pre-prepare texts and emails to warn students that someone is shooting up their school.

"pre-prepare"?!?

Re:Scary (2)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616778)

Now I have to watch some George Carlin when I get home :(

Re:Scary (1)

Bucky24 (1943328) | more than 3 years ago | (#35617504)

pre-prepare is when you prepare to prepare. It's like meta-preparation.

Re:Scary (1)

LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616712)

Yeah. It really goes to show that correspondence writing skills are being sorely neglected throughout the education system.

Re:Scary (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616732)

No, we don't have to do this at all. Our society today is no more dangerous than society 10, 20, 50, or 100 years ago. The only difference is that we hear about every violent act that takes place across the country and across the world. There is less violent crime today than there was during the '40s and '50s, but in the '40s and '50s you didn't have the 24 hour news channels or constant internet access telling you about it, and telling you that you should be worried, and telling you that there were 2 more violent crimes this year than last year (despite the fact that it is statistically insignificant or even against their argument on a per capita basis).

Re:Scary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35616750)

Let's hope that if this type of incident actually happens, they won't panic and fire off the first "criminal alert" template they happen to find in their database, which might turn out to be something like "Armed intruder at BUILDING NAME/INTERSECTION spotted assaulting Prof Cleese with fresh fruit."

Re:Scary (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616844)

Why is it scary to be prepared? we live in a world where many ecenrios are prepared for, even if their use is unlikely. It's about risk mitigation. WHat is the effort and risk of adding a text message like that? low risk, low effort. You would be foolish not to put it in their.
I am sure there are many other alerts this is used for. school closures, and what not.

Re:Scary (1, Troll)

guruevi (827432) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616872)

It's a University, people in the administration of those institutions waste massive amounts of taxpayer money doing other random stuff that nobody asks for and nobody wants. At least they did something somewhat productive with their time. When you can explain to me why a 15,000 University where individual departments take charge of their own IT need ~1,500 heads in the Central IT department to keep a network, a datacenter and some phones running, let me know.

Re:Scary (2)

Chuckstar (799005) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616916)

You don't think it makes sense to sit down ahead of time and think of appropriate wording for an emergency email before an actual emergency occurs? Quick... where should we tell them to go? or should we tell them to stay put? What's the best way to word this to get their attention, but without creating too much panic?

In an actual emergency, you wouldn't want to take even 5 seconds to think of those answers.

Re:Scary (2)

UBfusion (1303959) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616926)

The really scary part is that both the authorities think they are properly protecting citizens by sending electronic messages and the the citizens think they are properly protected by receiving said warnings. To the point that if authorities don't send any they are considered accountable or accomplices and if citizens don't receive any they are feeling safe.

Re:Scary (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35617026)

We don't, though.

Football kills more kids every year than school shootings.

For the love of... (0)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616620)

We are working with the provider of the Illini-Alert service to implement additional security features in the program to prevent this type of error.'"

A security feature is not what you need.

I predict in a few years we'll never hear the truth about how "the employee was hurriedly trying to send a message to alert the students about the shooter....... BUT couldn't get the message out due to a new security feature implemented in the Illini-Alert service, requiring knowledge of a manager's password. The manager was either (choose one): [unavailable at the time, OR unable to properly enter the password] before the shooter stormed in the room and blasted the pair of them."

You need an auditing function to make sure the person who causes the message to be sent is accountable, proper training, AND a reasonable precaution to ensure they won't do it accidentally, while ensuring you don't make it any harder to do so, or do anything that will make the authorities unable to send a message; extravagant security features have that risk, especially if implemented improperly.

And given their track record of having an unconfirmed "submit" button right by a safe button.... I wouldn't hold hopes too high. Either the user was doing it wrong, or the design is flawwed.

Re:For the love of... (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616832)

Ultimately this seems like a very over-elaborate system anyway. Why do they need to have a bunch of prepared single line warnings anyway. In the time it takes to select one of probably several warnings from the system, a user could have typed the message in themselves.

The whole thing could probably be handled with an updated email distribution list and _maybe_ a shortcut on the desktop to quickly start a new message to said list.

Re:For the love of... (2)

BBTaeKwonDo (1540945) | more than 3 years ago | (#35617030)

>a user could have typed the message in themselves

They set up a template so that, in the stress of the moment, the person sending the message wouldn't forget to include some important detail (e.g., location of the emergency, what to do, etc.)

Re:For the love of... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35616988)

It's not that difficult to add security features that don't make it more difficult to use when the system is actually needed. One idea off the top of my head: don't have a "save" and "submit" button side by side on the screen. Instead, before you even get to the recording screen, have a big green button that says something like "record but DON'T SEND message" and a big red button that says "record AND SEND message". The user clicks the button indicating their intended action, which takes them to a screen that either has lots of green messages saying "recording only", or lots of red messages saying "SENDING EMERGENCY MESSAGE", so that it's very clear at recording time which action they're doing. When they're done, they just click "OK". There's no reason to initiate the same function, and then just click one of two similar, nondescript buttons, one of which does a simple save, and the other of which does something pretty drastic.

scary, but.. (1)

BitwiseX (300405) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616622)

at least all these students know that there's a system in place, and that it works!

I just hope it doesn't turn into an inordinate amount of "Are you SURE?" prompts.

"Are you sure you want to send this alert?" YES / NO
"Are you SURE? You're saying there's a shooter on the loose.." YES / NO
"OK, so you're certain.. *BLAM*

I kid...I'm sure they'll implement a better system then that.. but really.. is it broken? How long have they had this system? How many false alarms have there been before?

Re:scary, but.. (2)

LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616738)

Clicking one wrong button lead to 87,000 emails being sent out saying there was a gunman on the campus and you're asking if the system is broken? What would it take for you to be sure the system was broken, if pressing the wrong button actually unleashed a gunman onto the campus?

Re:scary, but.. (1)

Garble Snarky (715674) | more than 3 years ago | (#35617062)

Pushing one wrong pedal in my car can cause thousands of dollars of property damage, if I'm parked in front of a store. Is my car broken?

Re:scary, but.. (1)

LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) | more than 3 years ago | (#35617206)

Your car must be controlled in real-time. It doesn't have the luxury of checking each time you make a potentially hazardous action. It may surprise you to learn that this is not the case for computers.

Even then, you'd have to push the wrong pedal hard and maintain pressure to accidentally drive into something. That's not even close to the same thing as clicking a button.

Hopefully this was all obvious to you and you were simply being facetious. I'd rather the world was populated with assholes than idiots.

Re:scary, but.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35617210)

I subscribe to illini alerts and have not seen any false alarms.
They did use it legitimately the day before to announce a major fire on campus.

The Daily Chimpout (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35616644)

Today, featuring PCB BK [youtube.com]

Button Label Fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35616648)

Sounds like yet another case of "label everything as 'submit' syndrome". In my opinion "Submit" should be banned as a button label. It's only used by people too lazy to come up with a proper label. In this case I recommend "Broadcast now", with a red background and a suitable "alert" icon (eg. yellow triangle with an exclamation mark).

If you want an extra layer of protection, require a checkbox labelled "enabled broadcast button" to be checked first. While unchecked, the Broadcast Now button is grey.

Also, this wasn't a "War of the Worlds scenario". In the WotW scenario, an fake broadcast is intentionally staged as a real broadcast. In this scenario, a real broadcast was accidentally sent at the wrong time.

Re:Button Label Fail (1)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616942)

I am picturing a glowing screen with a a blinking popup dialog box reading "Are you SURE you want to send this message? [OK] [CANCEL]" with blood dripping down the screen.

Send rather than save? Unlikely excuse! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35616708)

``Gee, I was going to edit that before sending it, but I pressed the wrong button!

What I was going to write was

    "NO active shooter at /"

But my butterfingers slipped before I had a chance to put in the "NO". ''

I'm sorry, but this looks like an obvious attempt to try to mitigate the consequences of playing a prank.

Whew (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616758)

I was passing BUILDING NAME/INTERSECTION just when I got the text and really panicked.

Instead of a confirmation... (1)

DeweyQ (1247570) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616794)

All the poor souls who are looking down and reading a text while the shooter stalks... How about a "heads up" policy being instituted at the school? Or a directional gunfire analysis certificate mandatory for all students? Or a "Typing Under Pressure" exam followed by a "How to Use the Illi-Alert System" for all shooting alert writers?

Re:Instead of a confirmation... (1)

Zan Lynx (87672) | more than 3 years ago | (#35617456)

Or if the school is really worried about it, a mandatory three day course at the beginning of each semester. Along with properly responding to a fire alarm or where to find, when and how to use an AED, one of the classes would of course be navigating an obstacle course while being shot at, how to take cover and how to best evade and escape the shooter. Concealed carry permit holders get a paintball gun to shoot back with if they choose.

A chance to shoot paintball guns at freshmen? I'd sign up to teach that every chance I got!

Poor design (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616804)

Poor GUI bite another person in the ass.

I already have redundant systems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35616860)

I have a built in warning system, mother nature gave it to me, it's called a pair of ears. Unless the shooter(s) is/are using a silencer, I can HEAR the shots fired, and the general direction they are coming from. The other warning system (fight or flight) tells me to either return fire or duck and cover. Are people too busy twittering to pay attention to the world around them?

Mod up the poster who said we're in no more danger than we were in years past.

Re:I already have redundant systems (1)

IdolizingStewie (878683) | more than 3 years ago | (#35617122)

I suspect this meant more for a student who has a class in BUILDING NAME/INTERSECTION 10 minutes from now. I would hope that you wouldn't have to tell people to hit the deck when they hear gunfire.

In regards to the question of whether we're in more danger than we were in years past, I would agree that we are not, but point out that if UT had had such a system in 1966, it might have saved some people then, too.

We were unable to send an alert.. (1)

jswinth (528529) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616884)

"We are working with the provider of the Illini-Alert service to implement additional security features in the program to prevent this type of error."

After implementing the "additional security" we will hear how they were unable to send an alert for an actual event because the Chief of Police was dealing with the problem and couldn't come in to put his code in.

Poor UI design? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35616886)

How close together did the developers put the SAVE and SUBMIT buttons? And was there an "Are you sure?" Yes/No prompt?

This reminds me of when I was trying to submit new media content to a website which shall remain unnamed...the delete button was just next to the post new button, and when I accidentally clicked on delete...poof. There goes my existing content. Not even a confirmation prompt.

Are you sure prompt? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35616898)

Why isn't there a "Are you sure?" prompt after you click send to prevent this kind of thing.

INterface guidlines (4, Insightful)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 3 years ago | (#35616912)

And this is why "[SAVE MESSAGE TEMPLATE FOR LATER USE] [SEND MESSAGE IMMEDIATELY]"

is better than "[OK] [CANCEL] [ABORT] [ERROR] [RETRY]"

Re:INterface guidlines (2)

Mr 44 (180750) | more than 3 years ago | (#35617212)

This is actually one of the improvements in Windows Vista:

The TaskDialog [microsoft.com] is the OS functionality for easily showing a dialog with descriptive button labels instead of just old school MessageBox with OK/Cancel/etc.

Why bad design is criminal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35616994)

Really? Mass Panic for no reason. The person shouldn't be held accountable the lame mass notification vendor should be...MyStateUSA. Horrible.

Button Pushers (0)

BoRegardless (721219) | more than 3 years ago | (#35617042)

This is why we need to get bureaucrats out of every possible office as they obviously do not think.

Those that can, do. Those that can not, suck off the Federal pig .

Do Not Let Them Manage my Healthcare.

   

The solution... (1)

Bobfrankly1 (1043848) | more than 3 years ago | (#35617076)

The solution is a lot more simple then everyone is making it. "Update" should be a button you click with a mouse. Actually sending the message shouldn't be a button, rather it should be a multi-key sequence/shortcut that either sends the message or better yet, produces the actual send button. The shortcut can be listed on the dialog box where it currently exists, and a properly composed paragraph can encourage reading of the short warning about sending, since the operator is reading for the shortcut already. The lack of being presented right away with a simple button *should* (there are ALWAYS exceptions to the rule) prevent accidental occurrences like this one. The extra work involved should break the pattern/trance we tend to fall into when doing repetitive tasks.

Re:The solution... (1)

Bobfrankly1 (1043848) | more than 3 years ago | (#35617134)

Or as an alternative, display both buttons, but require the send button to be accompanied by a few held down keys. Directions can be in the same dialog box, but the unexpected behavior of the button that can't simply be clicked will prompt comprehensive reading, at which point the operator can make an informed choice about what button to push. Both of these are elements that I've seen integrated somewhere else, and though I can't remember where, I do remember how they broke me of my point click repeat monotony.

Re:The solution... (1)

Marc_Hawke (130338) | more than 3 years ago | (#35617362)

That was the most convoluted fix I saw presented.

My opinion was that the screen for editing the templates shouldn't have a "SEND" button on it at all.

To the rescue... (3, Informative)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 3 years ago | (#35617258)

We are working with the provider of the Illini-Alert service to implement additional security features in the program to prevent this type of error.

Clippy: [wikipedia.org]

"It looks like you're about to panic thousands of people. Would you like help?

  • Get help panicking people.
  • Just panic people without help.
  • Don't show this tip again.

Reply to ALL? (1)

AirDave (188249) | more than 3 years ago | (#35617274)

The real question is what happened after the everyone starting hitting Reply to All?

Notification System (4, Insightful)

dlapine (131282) | more than 3 years ago | (#35617342)

I'm an alumni of the U of I, and I work here as well. I get these notifications. I thought I'd bring up 2 points:

  1. Fortunately, given the spring break, the actual number of people on campus able to read this was was quite low.
  2. Unfortunately, we just had a fire on Green street [chicagotribune.com] 2 days ago, and we got an alert from the same system informing us about it. So this warning was probably taken very seriously for those 12 minutes.

Overall, I'm satisfied with the system and I was impressed by the very explicit letter from the chief both explaining the error and accepting the blame for the mistake. She also detailed the upcoming efforts to address the error. I'd like to see the same level of accountability from my ISP or phone company.

In other words "Are you SURE you want to do this?" (0)

Chas (5144) | more than 3 years ago | (#35617376)

Essentially they just need to add an interrogatory screen that says "This will actually SEND the message out. Are you SURE you want to do this?"

13 minutes of panic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35617408)

From: Illini-Alert
To: "Alert Recipients"
Reply-To: "Division of Public Safety"
Date: 24 Mar 2011 09:40:51 -0600
Subject: Active Shooter/Threat

Active shooter at BUILDING NAME/INTERSECTION. Escape area if safe to do=
  so or shield/secure your location.

From: Illini-Alert
To: "Alert Recipients"
Reply-To: "Division of Public Safety"
Date: 24 Mar 2011 09:53:34 -0600
Subject: All Clear

The previous message was sent in error. For details, please read forthcoming=
  MassMail.

Awful summary (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 3 years ago | (#35617494)

This has nothing to do with War-of-the-Worlds, except that there was false panic. The Orson Welles broadcast was done as a fictional story, this incident was an accidental broadcast of an alert.

Next up, a headline saying "Oncologist Pretends to be Orson Welles with Wrong Diagnosis!"

Pre scripted message lol (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35617502)

Isn't anyone bothered with the necessity of having THAT as a pre scripted message ? "active shooter". I'll take my euro trash with a side order of Amsterdam any time over your american dream.

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