What Should I Do, Sky?

Last night I put off going to bed so I could watch the Women’s Skeleton in the Winter Olympics.  There was a chance of Britain picking up an unlikely gold medal (we did!).  As the night hours turn into the morning hours, and the skeleton enters its final runs, my Sky+ HD receiver decided to throw this little gem of a message at me.

The message displayed to the user when the Sky+ HD box attempts to go into standby.

Note for foreign readers:  Sky, or BSkyB, is a provider of satellite television in the UK, and occasionally also publishes really good satellite images of earth as an exclusive program.  Their Sky+ HD receiver combines a satellite tuner with an Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) and Personal Video Recorder (PVR) functionality.  This particular box, made by Samsung, has been updated with the newest EPG software, which is exclusive to the high definition edition of their service.

While I applaud Sky for implementing a feature designed to reduce the power consumption of their boxes, this dialogue leaves much to be desired.

The first problem is the use of STB as an acronym.  Presumably this refers to “Set Top Box”, harping back to the days when the Sky Satellite Receiver sat on top of an old CRT Television “Set”.  My television is mounted on the wall, so the receiver clearly isn’t on top of it.  This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if STB was a widely accepted and understood acronym, but it’s not.  It sounds like a term an engineer would use to describe the equipment, which is problematic in this, the most consumer of consumer electronic devices.  I have no doubt that my parents would be confused as to what “STB” referred to.

There is an air of uncertainty introduced by the wording of the instructions.  “Press SELECT to continue” misleads the user.  The implication is that pressing SELECT will continue with putting the box into StandBy.  In fact, it does the opposite.  Whilst this is the least risky position to take (i.e. it would be worse for a user action to accidentally turn off the box as opposed to accidentally leaving it on), any benefit of this is lost through the confusion and uncertainty caused by the poor wording.

There is an easy fix to this:

Your Sky+ HD Receiver is about to go into StandBy mode to conserve power

Press SELECT to leave the receiver on

This particular dialogue, as well as the Auto StandBy feature in general, has been raised by a number of my less technologically experienced friends and family members.  They didn’t realise it could be turned off, and they didn’t know what to do when this confusing dialogue appears.  They also seemed to be confused as to when the receiver would go into Auto StandBy, it would be at different times on different days.

I know that Sky made a fairly big deal of this feature when it was launched, but obviously the pertinent information eluded those who needed it the most.