Too Helpful

This isn’t a line drawn in the sand. I like when people are helpful, so the last thing I want to do is discourage helpfulness. But sometimes, being too helpful becomes a burden.
Recently, I had a print job that I handed off to a company through an online uploader. The uploader had a preview feature that showed how the final print would look, but when I picked up the job, my prints were not correct. There was a big white square where an image should have been. I was very willing to admit the error was my fault, until I realized that the person who ran the job saw the same preview as I did. They ran all the prints, even though they were significantly different than the preview. So I went home and called the corporate headquarters, and they agreed to run the print job again. A very helpful representative made sure that the prints would go through this time with everything in place.
Now I had set this print job up with crop marks, meaning that the final size of the job was less than the paper size it was printed on. This is fairly standard in printing. But what I did not do was ask for the prints to be cut down to the final size. I just wanted the prints; however, going above and beyond, the very helpful representative cut my job for me, I assume, to make up for the job not printing right in the first place.
I’m willing to forgive, for an example, the fact that the job was cut incorrectly, because it amounted to about a ¼" difference, but I had to print on the back of this particular job, and this instance of helpfulness made me spend extra time on something that had a looming deadline. I was able to get the job out, but there was a sinking feeling when I pulled those cut prints out of the bag when I went to pick them up.
Again, no names are mentioned here, because I don’t want to discourage helpfulness. The person who helped me with those prints really came through when I needed it. But going beyond what I needed created its own set of problems.
Sometimes, acts of charity come from strange sources. Yesterday, I was working on a bit of web code for a job. I tested the code on **Safari**, the **Apple** browser, and everything was working well. I uploaded the job to the test server, and told my client to check it, and sure enough, it didn’t work for him.
I checked it again, on the server, using Safari, and it worked fine. Now there are several browsers, and they all tend to display web pages slightly differently, but the code that I was writing had to do with a form, and that’s all server-side standards that shouldn’t be affected by what browser sends the data.
And yet, when I tried the same form that was working fine in Safari, it failed in **Firefox** and **Internet Explorer**. I was mightily confused, and it took me about two hours to discover that I had made a spelling mistake. There is an attribute to the form called *enctype*, which stands for encoding type. It helps the browser send data to the server in the proper format. The enctype that I wanted to send was “multipart/form-data,” essentially meaning that I wanted it to send different types of data at once, text and files. Unfortunately, what I typed was “mutlipart/form-data.” I’m willing to bet that many people, at least at first glance, wouldn’t see the difference. It took me quite some time. But when I did find the dyslexic typo, the stress that was building up in me squeezed out like an undone balloon.
And then I thought, Hey! Why did Safari allow the form to go through?
Safari was being helpful. Very helpful. Too helpful. If the form didn’t work when I first typed it, I would have looked for a spelling mistake right away. It’s part of my workflow. I expect to have plenty of spelling errors in my documents, so I would have had to scrutinize my code. I would have caught it at the beginning of my scripting, and not sent it to the client, who’s wondering why I would deem a job finished when it’s throwing errors all over the place.
There is a balance, then, but I guess I’m glad that there are people who err on the side of too helpful. The world would be a genuinely frustrating place if it were filled with those who are too helpful, because we’d all have to backtrack a bit before we could get on with what we were supposed to be doing, but it’d probably be a whole lot better than this selfish, do-unto-others-*before*-they-do-unto-you world.