Alt text for your house, in four short lessons

Anyone who tries to drive to our place gets fooled by the satnav. The house isn't where the machine thinks it is.

We found this out on Day 1 - that was the only time when our team of movers was less than superhero-tier:

"We're here."

"No, you're not. I'm here, and here's not where you are."

That was Lesson 1: the machine messed up. Our house needed alt text. All the time. Every week. Sometimes several times a week.

There was the sign by the door, of course - the house number and the street name are there, in fine font on a nice slab of Welsh slate. We used to grumble at first: "Can't they all just read the sign?" No, they can't. Not when it's dark and they've been driving for hours, watching out for traffic and people's cats and directions on their screens. The sign is the last thing they'd look out for. That was Lesson 2: we don't get to decide what counts as helpful. The people who need help do.

So we proceeded to be total assholes about it, for a short while. "It's their job, why don't they work it out?" We'd sit it out, one or two times, forget about picking up our phones, and just let the Deliveroo person find the solution. Results: cold food left on the doorstep by a frustrated human being who, at that point, was late for their next gig and hated our guts - so, in retaliation, didn't bother to knock. Lesson 3: communication breakdowns are nobody's fault, and, since everyone loses when the machine messes up, communication repair is everyone's job. To quote The Boss: "Nobody wins unless everybody wins."

Now we're ready. We've tested and honed the message we type in the "instructions for the driver" box ("It's nearer the roundabout than the satnav says. On the right as you go up."). We've got a tried Y/N procedure for the ones who phone us ("Can you see them out the window?" "Did they drive past the park?") And sometimes, we just traipse out on the sidewalk and wave at cars. We tell everyone not to worry, and that we get it every time. Because we do now. That's Lesson 4: when the machine messes up, the fixes are redundant, messy, and ultimately deeply human.

(Bonus Lesson 5: Royal Mail folks never need any of this. One, they've had plenty of time to learn. Two, they park their cars once and walk to all the doors - they're who the door signs are for.)

You'll only receive email when they publish something new.

More from Vic Work: notes on learning, technology and play
All posts