Friday, 13 April 2018

New Sport: IT Streaking

This is an idea in the making. I will edit this post as ideas come into focus.

This morning I was working with a user at their desk. Once I had finished, I looked for possible routes out of the area that would result in the least amount of "oh, since you're here"-type questions. That is when it hit me, this would make a good sport. I present to you -  IT Streaking.

It's simple and safe for work (assuming you set a speed limit)

Complete a circuit in the most amount of time without being stopped for help.

1. You keep your clothes on as well as any identification that you would normally wear as part of your job.
2. Disguises are not allowed
3. Set a speed limit for safety. I suggest nothing above a brisk walk.
4. Determine a course - start/finish lines, path, etc.

The challenge in IT Streaking is completing the course in the slowest time without being stopped to help someone, but at the same time, the ability to help someone quickly should also factor in. With that in mind, count each stop as a fault (same as missing a gate in slalom) and subtract 1 minute from the total course time. Another option would be to subtract the time spent helping from the total course time.

Score= Total course time - (number of faults * 1 minute)  OR
             Total course time - amount of time spent helping people

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Computer upgrades will not cure stupidity

Recent tickets coming in for Excel not autocalculating. The Cliff Clavin caller knows that this is an indication that we should upgrade him to the latest version of Office.

Turned on Automatic calculation in Tools > Options. So much for the upgrade.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

What happened to "the customer is always right"

In my time on this planet I have dealt with a few different companies and a couple governments looking for customer support. Among that group who would you guess has the worst customer support? You'd think the government, wouldn't you? But you'd be wrong!

Several years ago my company signed on with a mid-sized partner to provide us with phone services. At the time we thought it would be better to be a big fish in a small pond because we would be the most important customer in their roster and would reap the benefits. Looking back through the egg on our faces I'm sure we wish we could hop in the old DeLorean and go slap ourselves upside the head.

It turns out that, not only were we the big fish in their little pond, we were like Otto in A Fish Out of Water - we just kept growing and growing until we were too big for them to handle. Now most companies, you'd think, would take one of two paths; 1) Admit that they had bitten off more than they could chew and bow out gracefully or 2) Step up to the plate and use some of the profits we paid them to improve - better infrastructure, more knowledgeable staff, etc. Turns out that this company was not like the others.They chose option 3) Take the money and run the contract into the ground no matter what.

As things started going south with calls dropping, bad quality, people not being able to hear each other, etc. our support desk found itself escalating more and more issues to our partner's support desk. At least that is what they called it. In the 3 years of the contract they had gone through 4 or 5 support desk managers ranging from the fairly knowledgeable and helpful to the downright ignorant and rude. At one point they practically auto-replied to us with "not it" whenever we pushed a ticket their way.

For example, one day, the 5th day of outages which they ignored the first day, blamed on us the second, finally located the problem on their end on the third, blamed us again on the fourth and then, with their admission of guilt still hanging out there, stopped troubleshooting altogether. The issue had happened before several times and always had the same solution. Instead of taking the road well-traveled, however, they wanted us to, once again, prove that water is wet and step through a series of extra troubleshooting steps. This after 4 days of no phone service and horrible customer support.

Now, I'm no businessman, but I fail to see the logic of treating your biggest customer like a stray dog that just crapped on your manicured lawn. According to their press we made them profitable where they weren't before. They even listed us as 5 different clients on their otherwise paltry customer list. Which means that when we dropped their services they lost over half their customer list.

We have since moved to another provider who has not once blamed us for their own failures and has, on several occasions, informed us of outages before we learned of them from our end-users. Our old partner still has the claims on their website that so amused me back then. I find particular humour in the sentence which reads "we provide exemplary customer support" and even more in the promise of 24-hour coverage. I never once was able to reach anyone outside of normal business hours on their "24-hour support line." It reminds me of Steven Wright's joke about going to the 7-11 to find the owner locking up. "What are you doing? Your sign says you're opened 24 hours" "Yes, but not in a row."

Maybe things have changed and they are finally living up to their claims, but I somehow doubt it.

UPDATE: I found this posting in my drafts folder recently and decided to see what the old company was doing. They went bankrupt in 2015, meaning they lasted longer than I expected, but came to the same end.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

O'Brien's Law

The term 'observer effect' in Physics refers to the idea that the act of observation changes the phenomenon being observed. Physics being what it is, this effect is usually seen in the microscopic and smaller scale. However, I have discovered a real-world example of this on the macro scale.

Many times in my career I have stepped up to a computer for the purpose of assessment and eventual repair only to discover that it is now working. The user claims it was broken right up until the point I arrived. Usually this is then followed with claims that they are "not crazy" and other things I am not qualified to determine.

I have often referred to this as the "car mechanic" principle, since it follows a similar situation where that annoying thing your car was doing went away once the mechanic got a hold of it. However, in this case the car is usually sitting idle for some time before a mechanic gets to it, so it does not fit the sudden and dare I say miraculous curing of ailing computers simply by arriving on the scene.

Now that I've put it out there, could it be that we IT professionals are somehow possessed of the ability to cure computers simply by a laying of hands? Discuss.

Contrary to the name of this blog, I do not subscribe to any specific religion, so I'll leave the miracles to others. Instead I postulate this:
The act of observation of an IT-related issue, by a qualified IT professional, can sometimes resolve this issue.
I think this should be called O'Brien's Law of  Quantum Observation as it Relates to IT Issues. Discuss.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Average and Retroactive Stupidity

Have you ever had somebody say something so stupid that it sucks the intelligence out of everything else they say? As if you are averaging their intelligence across their comments. Or are you averaging their stupidity?

Tech support from our printer supplier emailed me to say the user complaining about a smell and noise when they print may "have no toner cartridge installed." I don't know about you, but my printer doesn't print at when the toner or ink cartridge is removed. The printers are intelligent enough to know this, apparently some printer techs are not.

Their next suggestion was actually very insightful and under normal circumstances could have been considered brilliant. Since the printer was reporting toner level at 0% they suggested that installing a fresh toner may resolve the "burning smell" issue. Of course! Why didn't we think of that before?

Unfortunately the ballast of the first comment is dragging the second one down so it is no longer 'brilliant' or 'insightful'. Instead we just have a 'good idea'.

A similar effect can be achieved by stating something intelligent followed by something stupid. In IT support we often see this from Cliff Clavin-type users who say things like "I ran out of hard drive space. I need more RAM" In this case the stupidity is retroactive.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

And you are...?

There are times when I have been able to solve a problem from a brief or poorly worded description. Most of that is experience and intuition getting together for an educated stab in the dark, not clairvoyance or omniscience. Judging from some of the work orders I receive, however, a lot of people think it is the latter.

They must think of us as minor deities to think that we can solve an issue from, "I can't log in." Keep in mind that our ticketing system only identifies the location the complaint is coming from, the rest is up to the person submitting the ticket. We even seed the ticket with reminders, "replace with short description of issue" and that sort of thing. Yet, each day we get tickets with such detailed information as "1 computer not working" when the site has 5 computers.