Occam’s Razor Failure


Brief background for those not in the know, Occam’s razor (lex parsimoniae) means roughly “The simplest explanation is usually right.” As in, if someone is late it is more correct to think they over-slept than to think “clearly aliens abducted them and they lost an hour”

However, this does not always hold true. For example, when I scan down the print monitor and see no jobs queued up I make the simple assumption that everything is working fine.

Today I learned that assumption was dead wrong.

See, two of our print queues are virtual with different print settings which redirect to the real queue for the printer. It turns out that when I set up the redirect I accidentally selected the option to pause jobs on redirect…

…which brings me back to Occam’s razor. I saw no jobs paused in the queue, therefore I assumed everything was fine. One assumption passes the Occam’s razor test. It turns out that reality was very different. Instead, for 18 whole months, an entire group of users had been unable to print correctly.  Rather than report the issue, they had hidden it like naughty children and pretended everything was fine.

The kicker was that I found this out via a conversation that went like this.

(ME) “So what seems to be the problem?”

(Them) “Well I’m sick of this printer not working, every time I print it pauses the job.”

I run through the usual solutions: print billing client not started, document exceeds print restrictions etc.

(Them) “No, its none of that its been going on ages why haven’t you fixed it?”

(Me) “This is the first I’ve heard of something being wrong”

(Them) “Well we didn’t report it because nothing would be done about it!”

(Me) *headdesk*

[Picture Source: bjornmeansbear (CC)]


  1. We have a manager who used to pull that crap. Used to. Cash register would break – usually because somebody did something stupid – and he wouldn’t report it. Then, three months later, when he needed it, he’d bitch at my boss it wasn’t fixed. He’s the reason we set up a trouble ticket system. First time he tried that crap after that, my boss asked him where the trouble ticket was, and when said manager sputtered excuses, boss just laughed at him.

    I love where I work.


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