Day 20,324…aargh!

If you are:  an introvert, extremely busy or not a fan of yammering on the phone, then you have probably been down this familiar road:

  1. You visit a web site that offers a service you are interested in but the web site has very little information regarding the service posted on the web site.
  2. You visit the “contact us” section of the web site and see a phone number or feedback form listed.  Instead of calling the company you fill out the feedback form (you provide your email address as well as several other bits of “required” data) to request more information.
  3. Starting the next day, you ignore two phone calls per day from this company for the rest of your life.

I find a few things strange about this outcome:

  1. The company is aware of how the visitor reached out to them (by feedback form instead of phone call).  The company seems to ignore this critical piece of information.  Instead of emailing the requested information to the visitor, they choose to contact the visitor repeatedly through other methods.
  2. The company is aware that the visitor has not answered the first 9,000 call attempts they have made.  The company seems to ignore this critical piece of information.  Instead of halting the calls and pursuing another method of communication (like email), the company chooses to call the visitor’s number for a long period of time.  When I say long, I mean well after the visitor has died and his or her phone number has been transferred to other humans.  These poor humans of the future find themselves in a constant state of confusion over the daily calls they are receiving from a company they have never heard of .

Is the human voice so miraculous that its sound must be present in order to unlock the wisdom of this company?

Is this company so fearful that their information will fall into the hands of robots that its employees feel they must verify the “humanness” of each inquiry by scrutinizing voices over the phone?

Is a mischievous person intercepting all incoming communication between visitors and the company and then robocalling all visitors in a crude attempt at being a nuisance with the intent of inflicting financial loss for the company and mental anguish for the visitor?

These questions are too complex for my little mind to answer.  I can only hope for a phone-free afterlife.

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Door Access Control Systems can create SERIOUS CONFLICT

A door access control system is an electronically based means of entering a building, usually through the use of a card or keypad.

If you have a door access control system at your place of work or at home then you know that a system like this can create serious conflict with your coworkers or neighbors. This access system often places the responsibility of securing an entire structure solely on your shoulders when you are faced with piggybackers or tailgaters. Piggybacking occurs when someone with legitimate access to a building allows someone without access to the building to come in with them. Tailgating occurs when an intruder slips into the building with a person without their knowledge.

If you are uncomfortable with your door access control system or if you are considering having one installed then note the following suggestions and warnings listed below to help you better deal with a security system like this.

  • Understand that people will attempt (and may succeed) to piggyback or tailgate their way into the building.
  • Understand that no matter how much you train employees or neighbors on the importance of the system, many will become infuriated if they forget their access code or badge and are confronted when attempting to piggyback.
  • Understand that every time you allow a piggybacker or tailgater to come into a facility with you, you could be putting the safety of people or property inside the building at risk.
  • Have a plan ready to implement should you be faced with a piggybacker or tailgater:
    • Avoid confronting a person who is attempting entry via unapproved methods unless you are ready for the repercussions of doing so.  Repercussions could be anything from an unpleasant exchange all the way up to being accused of targeting people in some way to even violence, all of which could create long-lasting problems for both of you.   Many humans do not do well with confrontation or having to explain their behavior or whereabouts to others and you questioning motive in times of piggybacking or tailgating may create a very bad situation with someone you might have to see on a regular basis.
    • Scan the perimeter before entry and exit EVERY time. If you see someone lingering then do not go through the door, it is that simple. Just do not go through the door. Instead just smile at them if they have seen you and walk away as if you have forgotten to do something. This strategy is a huge time waster, especially if your arms are full of boxes or groceries, but it prevents confrontation and potential long-term animosity on the part of the person you would be questioning for access. What if the person asks you if they can come in with you? What if, what if, what if. Blah, blah, blah. You are already worrying too much. It does not matter what they say to you if you are implementing the strategy of just walking away instead of going through the door. If they ask you to let them in you can just tell them you cannot because you forgot the code. This strategy can still cause long-term animosity from the person you ignored because they may have a valid reason to gain entry but I have found this to be the calmest method of dealing with people attempting to gain access through alternative methods.  If they refuse to leave then finally break the news to them that you will not let them in.  But do not get angry if someone else lets them in.  You can only do what you can do.  You cannot control the behavior of others and there are always going to be people who do not care about security just like there are always going to be people who forget that it is because of proper security protocol that they are being questioned.
  • I do not recommend a door access control system when only ONE door makes up the whole system. I have been using door access control systems for about 15 years now and I am not impressed with one door just based on the high number of piggyback and tailgating attempts I have witnessed and then the fallout that occurs between coworkers or neighbors should someone be questioned when he or she attempts entry without proper codes or cards.
  • However, I really like a door access control system when TWO or more doors make up the whole system. It is a setup that creates a great deal of work for potentially malicious visitors and it also creates second chances for people with proper access who have concerns about who has entered the facility with them. Here is an example of a setup I like: the outer perimeter of the building has a door access control system. Once people make it through this first door, they are in a waiting area where there is a table and a phone. This waiting area allows a person to compose themselves should they be second-guessing a piggybacker or tailgater. A legitimate person has an opportunity to call someone from this area, set down packages or simply sit down themselves to kill time to avoid letting the questionable party through the second door. Several feet away is the second door access control system that must be used to actually get into the main part of the building. Beware, this waiting area is an enclosed space that could be putting you face to face with a malicious party. This waiting area can quickly become a dangerous space so train to fight like a warrior now should you ever need to protect yourself:)

Google Ads = Descent into mind-numbing world of no answers

I had the strangest experience with Google Ads.  Interacting with this system and customer service required so much of my attention that I unfortunately had to wash my hands of the entire project and just walk away.

The problems started a few hours after creating a very simple ad for a pet calendar.  The entire ordeal went like this:

  1. The ad I created was short and to the point. I mentioned the price in the ad, included a picture of one of the pets and a brief description of the calendar along with the link to buy the calendar.
  2. The interface showed the ad had been approved after a few hours.
  3. But then the interface changed its mind a few hours later and rejected the ad so I proceeded to read the fine print for ads thinking maybe they had an unusual policy where they ban all cute kittens or bunnies.
  4. I found nothing unusual in the documentation. I also found nothing that gave me a clue as to why the ad was rejected.  So, I reworded the ad just in case the phrase “wall calendar” means something naughty in another language.   I submitted the ad again.
  5. No luck. The ad was rejected again several hours later.
  6. I reworded the ad again and submitted the ad again.
  7. No luck. The ad was rejected again several hours later.
  8. I called customer service by phone. They assigned the ticket to someone and said they would get back to me.  They could not tell me why the ad was rejected.  The customer service employees were very nice.
  9. I received an email from customer service informing me that my ad had been approved.
  10. Nope. The interface showed it had been rejected.
  11. I reworded the ad again and submitted the ad again.
  12. No luck. The ad was rejected again several hours later.
  13. I contacted customer service by email informing them of the problem.
  14. I received an email from customer service informing me that my ad had been approved.
  15. Nope. The interface showed it had been rejected.
  16. Customer service emailed me back saying it was rejected because I keep changing the ad and it must go through the approval process each time it is changed (hmmm….even if this is true, this in no way answers the question as to why this simple ad is rejected repeatedly).
  17. With no patience left, I deleted the ad and have abandoned use of this system.

Life is good again.

If you feel you must try using this system, then I recommend only submitting your ad once.  If your ad is rejected, then just walk away.  If you do not walk away at this point, then you will spend a great deal of time going in circles with people and reading documentation where, in the end, may offer up no clear solution.

When faced with endless exchanges of nothingness with other humans or automated systems, there is a chance of one’s own head popping off (or at least blood pressure rising) so proceed with caution.

Dealing with the IPERCTV disorder during the holidays – remote control mayhem

The holidays are going to be here before you know it and that means many of you are going to have a house full of relatives.  This quick post will help you prepare for the impending onslaught of freakish family behavior regarding electronics.

Most of my relatives are afflicted with a very strange disorder.  The “I must point every remote control at the TV and see what happens” disorder (also known as IPERCTV).  The scene usually unfolds at dawn.  One early riser must immediately know the weather conditions of all cities in the world via the gorgeous people on The Weather Channel.  Since no one else is up, and since the guest is incapable of complex thought at such an early hour, he or she proceeds to pick up all 37 remote controls lying around the house to try them out.  The behavior with each remote control is the same:  point the remote control at the TV, press every button on the remote control, move on to the next remote control and repeat.

It does not matter that the remote control says “General Motors” on it, clearly indicating that it is in fact a key fob for the car in the driveway, the guest is going to point it at the TV and click every button on it anyway.  One of these button presses inevitably sets off the car alarm of the car in the driveway and wakes up everyone in the house.  The rest of the family comes downstairs to investigate the alarm.  It is at this point that the guest quickly demands someone turn on the TV for the latest weather report.

For the next two hours the host attempts to sync back up the 985 audio and visual systems to the one remote control that they all used to successfully communicate with.  During the first hour and a half of troubleshooting, there is a tremendous amount of cussing.  The final thirty minutes is dedicated to testing, lecturing guests on remembering to use only one remote control and drinking beer for breakfast to deal with the stress.

To save your sanity, lock your extraneous remote controls away NOW.  Do not wait until your guests are in your living room.  To make for an even smoother visit, put a piece of paper next to the TV remote control that shows guests what buttons to push.

Good luck.

Gadget mania:)

With the number of electronic devices in the hands of our clients now it is truly a miracle they have not rioted against all of IT.  I have a sincere respect for them just based on the massive amount of patience they have for learning, caring for and using the large number of crazy devices we support for them.

If you have a full arsenal of gadgets for work and home and feel as if you are reaching your breaking point, then take a deep breath and keep the following tips noted below in mind for a happy life.

  • If you are unable to turn off all devices for quality time with other humans or for strolls in nature for a set amount of time each day, then you are probably going to self-destruct in some weird and ugly way in front of witnesses in a public place.  No one wants that.  Just turn the gadgets off and do your thing.
  • Understand how to update the gadget to keep it running well.  Check for updates weekly.
  • Understand how to turn off, turn on and hard reboot the gadget.  Avoid leaving computer-like gadgets in an on state for weeks at a time, rebooting is very important as is normally shutting down every few days to avoid all sorts of performance issues.
  • Understand how to backup data from the gadget to another gadget (like to an external hard drive) that you then store in a separate place (any detached structure from your home or office that is secure).  Backup your data on a regular schedule and never deviate from this schedule.
  • Know that if you enjoy a huge bowl of Captain Crunch while reaching over your gadget to snag a book that is sliding off of a shelf, then the Captain Crunch is going to spill all over the gadget rendering it completely unusable…probably forever.

Noting the creepy factor when implementing video conferencing or video chatting tools like Skype in the workplace

Video conferencing and video chat are seriously valuable tools for businesses and families alike. This article focuses on the use of these tools in a business setting and how to identify and deal with misuse.

Two types of employees make the use of these tools a problem in the workplace: the gossiper and the pervert. These types of employees already make normal employees uncomfortable in everyday office situations. When employers add in forced face-to-face video communication where normal employees are on display (with zoom capability) with undesirables, the meetings become unsettling.

The gossiper is very easy to identify. He or she, after the meeting, quickly relays to anyone who will listen inappropriate information regarding meeting attendees.

Though easy to identify, the gossiper may be hard to silence. Over time the gossiper may also create a truly toxic environment and even jeopardize the welfare of the company or safety of other employees if they spill company secrets or safety protocols to other people. If you have trouble with gossipers in the workplace now, incorporating video communication may intensify the toxicity. Proceed with caution.

Perverts can be extremely difficult to identify because they often make inappropriate comments or gestures towards others in one-on-one encounters. This behavior is difficult to identify in a group setting. Employees may also misidentify someone as being a pervert and immediately shut down all communication with them. This strategy of course will never solve the problem if there in fact is a problem.

If you are running video meetings or managing people that are participating in them, carefully examine how people are interacting during the meetings. If something seems off, like communication is not natural, there is too much silence, or a normal employee is suddenly agitated then there could be a problem.

Here are a few suggestions that may make meetings like this bearable if you notice issues in current video-enabled meetings:

  • Make it part of the meeting policy to include meeting rules (rules are short and easy to understand) inside the meeting invitation (at the very top) of every video-enabled meeting invitation sent out so all participants understand how to behave during and after all video-enabled meetings. In the rules, be sure to clearly identify the types of inappropriate employees that make meetings difficult in the workplace.
  • Recommend that employees sit several feet away from the camera and behind a desk, so they are viewed as they are in normal in-person meetings where personal space is acknowledged (no one is looking up anyone else’s nose).
  • Give employees the option to turn the video portion off so participants cannot see them.

Good luck:)

Being internet stupid must stop, how can people believe this junk?

Holy schnikes.  I ran into another case of a person being duped by misinformation on Facebook this weekend.  I’ve lost my patience with the spread of misinformation and from now on the nicest thing I can call it is being internet stupid.

This is the conversation I had that brought this issue to light for the 8 billionth time:

An educated adult who has been in the workforce for many years was telling me about the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood show and various facts about Mr. Rogers himself.  Facts about Mr. Rogers are well known and are easy to verify so I was really surprised that this person was so drastically misinformed about Mr. Rogers.  When I inquired as to where they had uncovered such nonsense, the reply was something I had already suspected:  Facebook.  The person was stunned that what they had read about Mr. Rogers on a Facebook post was so far from the truth.  The person kept repeating things like “the post seemed so believable”, “I can’t believe I was fooled”, blah blah blah blah.  I will not link to the actual Facebook post here because I do not want to contribute to the spread of misinformation but the post went into detail about a military career that is purely fiction.

I avoided launching into a tirade about misinformation because we all must deal with it so I kept it light and just reminded the person that a social network is just a social network, expect no more than what you would obtain from conversations in a public place with strangers and if you are going to pass along information you have learned from these encounters then you need to fact check first.

Everyone complains about our news organizations (ABC, NBC, FOX, CNN, newspapers, etc) but these news organizations have shown for many, many, many, many years an attempt to deliver news to us with an attempt to fact check and they are held accountable for their mistakes – not always immediately – but they are in many cases.  Random morons floating around Facebook (and other areas of the Internet) that are posting information that has in no way been checked for accuracy are rarely held accountable for the misinformation they spread.  If their account is blocked, they just open another one.  It is up to you to do proper research before spreading information to the entire world with one click of a button.

Good luck.

Feedback form landfill

Why would a perfectly good company with a sweet web site have a feedback form on the web site yet never reply in any way to anything submitted via the feedback form?  I bet the Magic 8 Ball cannot even answer this one.

As an introvert, I love the feedback form.  The feedback form allows me to submit my question or request without interacting with humans.  If I have not heard back from anyone at the company within three weeks then I assume copious amounts of infighting are taking place within the organization causing normal day-to-day operations to cease.

I guess I could blame the webmaster but since I am a webmaster as well, I just cannot do that.  I realize some of these form submissions go straight to the email box of specific individuals within an organization and depending on those persons goals in life, my data coming into their email box may be the number one priority or not even fall on their radar.

If you are a webmaster, and you or your clients are ignoring feedback form requests coming in, I recommend removing the feedback form from the web site immediately.  Ignoring requests coming in is not only wasting the time of the visitor filling the form out but it is also generating content that you or your clients have to read and deal with and if no one is caring for this data then the process needs to stop.  This stop action will now free up the time of the visitors so they may begin their lifelong wish of learning how to cross-country ski and you and your clients now have the opportunity to play Pac-Man without interruption.

To give you an idea of how frustrating it is to be ignored, I have included a feedback form below, please fill it out and I promise I will never acknowledge the existence of your form submission.  After about one month of waiting for a reply from me, you will find yourself slightly agitated and morose.  These feelings will soon pass but then a giant wave of regret will follow and you will wish you had never filled this form out.  Once you have reached this stage there is nothing you can do but wait it out, preferably in a hot tub on cool nights and just hope for the best.

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