Here’s a scenario in Windows XP. I print a document. Windows attempts to contact the printer, but something’s wrong, then Windows pops up this deceptively helpful-looking message in the task bar:

WinXP Print Error

Okay, so I open the print queue and open the troubleshooter:

WinXP Print Troubleshooter

Wait a second, you’re asking me what my problem is?

This is worse than useless. Windows has inverted the problem, making its problem into the user’s problem. Notice the wording: “What problem are you having?” The workflow puts the user in an impossible conundrum:

  1. Windows says there’s some problem, but no details on what.

  2. But never fear, the troubleshooter can help!

  3. Troubleshooter asks the user what the problem is. Funny, that’s exactly what the user was wondering, too.

This appears to replace the old way of doing things, where a program would display an error message specific to the problem encountered. But now, with some perverse intent of “helping” the user, we’ve got a generic error message–“This document failed to print”–combined with a troubleshooter that doesn’t have the first clue about what the problem is.