The 4 Types of Emails System Administrators Receive

The Vague Email

XYZ isn’t working. Please fix.

Provides next to no information other than at some point, something — possibly XYZ — didn’t function the way a specific user expected it to. Issue could be anything ranging from a catastrophic system failure to a simple misunderstanding on the part of the user. Usually requires a series of follow-up emails, phone calls, and conferences in order to clarify the problem at hand.

The End of the World Email

URGENT!!! System is down! NONE of our users can do XYZ! Please advise!!!11!

Usually flagged as important in Outlook and CC’ed to everyone in the user’s contact list. Grossly overstates the magnitude of the problem either to guarantee an expedited fix or simply because the user would rather yell at someone rather than bother checking. Rarely turns out to be as terrible as originally advertised. Unfortunately, that still won’t save you from having to put out all the fires the email started.

The Red Herring Email

Can you check if XYZ is working?

Actual problem winds up being completely unrelated to XYZ. Unfortunately, you won’t find that out until after you’ve spent several hours poring over code trying to envision the perfect storm of events that would have triggered a failure in XYZ.

The Ideal Email

When I do XYZ, ABC happens. I expected DEF to happen instead. Here are some screenshots showing what happened.

Clear, concise, and doesn’t make any assumptions about the issue at hand. Gives enough information for a programmer to at least approach the problem and is oftentimes sufficient without any additional follow-up. These are rare and far between, yet the amount of effort to type them up isn’t much more than any of the three other types of emails. Wouldn’t life be a lot simpler if all emails came in this format?

“The 4 Types of Emails Programmers Receive” by Kevin Pang