Unix has some very powerful commands available. For instance, the simple combination of “rm -rf” if invoked by a superuser at the root would pretty much delete every file and directory on the system. Because such power is available systems are often configured to provide for some measure of protection from accidental disaster (e.g. thinking that you are in some directory way down the tree when you invoke rm when in fact you are in the root directory).
This week I encountered two situations where I would have loved to have a bit more protection from operator error. The first one involved tungle.me. I was trying to use tungle.me to set up individual phone screens for 25 applicants, where each of the applicants would be able to pick from the same set of available times. What I was doing instead was setting up a single meeting with all 25 applicants and the invitation was showing everyone’s email address! Would have been great if the system had prompted me *before* sending the emails to double check what I want to do. This could be a one time check with a box that says “Don’t ask me again.” I recognized my mistake within seconds but it was already too late.
The second case involved Jobscore. I was using the system to send emails to a large number of candidates to let them know that we were not going to phone screen them. On the plus side, Jobscore makes it very easy to send notes to a lot of people in one go. On the minus side, there is no check if you just sent a person the same note a short time ago. I wound up — by operator error — sending several people the notice twice within minutes. Again there are clearly scenarios where you do want to send the notice again (e.g. you have updated it), but at least the first time you do this, the system should ask whether you really meant to.
At some level, neither of these is on the order of a disastrously misplaced rm, but the issue here is that I was causing harm/distress to third parties and not just shooting myself in the foot. Also unlike rm where you at least might have a backup from which you can restore, there was no “undo” operation available here as the emails had already gone out.