The computer mouse experience need not be cold and uncomfortable. Dive into the soft billowy bin of computer mouse wrist pillows and stay for a bit. You will be glad you did:)
As a computer programmer, I have zero patience when it comes to poor web site/web application customer service. If you build it (and have methods for users to contact you on a web site) then you had better support it. Anything less is lazy.
I recently visited a state lottery web site. I could tell from the information on the public side of the web site that they allowed the purchasing of lottery tickets to local users (within the state). However, I could not tell if they allowed the purchasing of lottery tickets by a local user (within the state) as a gift to another local user (within the state). I proceeded to go through the tedious process of setting up a login account in the hopes of finding out the answer to my question. What I learned is this:
- The site asked for unnecessary personal information on set up of the online account.
- The site did not allow purchasing lottery tickets as gifts (why isn’t this made clear outside of actually setting up an account and going half way through the purchasing cycle?)
- After I realized the site did not offer the option I wanted, I wandered around the site for 20 minutes trying to find an option to delete my account since I realized by this point that I have no use for it. I found no option to delete or deactivate the account. So I then contacted their customer service using the contact us email on the site and requested the account be deactivated or deleted. Two weeks later I still have not heard from anyone regarding this request.
- I just sent another request again asking that the account be deactivated or deleted.
- If the staff is unable to handle incoming electronic requests, then this needs to be stated on the web site and all electronic means of communication need to be removed from this web site.
Office 365 is a delightfully useful bundle of tools. If you are familiar with it then you are also familiar with one seriously disturbing feature of Office 365. The profile photo. When a user uploads a profile photo to his or her profile, this image shows up in all kinds of places including at the top of ANY email the person sends to other employees.
For some reason I have found this feature to be extremely distracting and disturbing. The issue surfaces when I receive an email from an employee I do not know. Regardless of the content of the email (positive, negative or neutral content), if it is from someone I am not familiar with, and I see their face staring back at me, I instantly have a negative perception of the sender. I think they are either conceited (when they are posing for the photo) or unprofessional (when they are using a fictitious character or famous person for their photo).
I am surprised such a simple feature of showing a face on an email has generated such a harsh reaction from me. Here are a few possible theories as to why this feature bothers me:
- It could have something to do with how I categorize email in my brain. Email is a colorless, ageless and gender-less platform of communication. I like it that way, it forces more of a focus on a task and eliminates the unnecessary weirdness I get from some people when I have to see them in person (elevator eyes, comments regarding my appearance, yada yada yada).
- I am very familiar with how I am treated in public online platforms (like when playing Chess) once users discover I am female so I avoid revealing such information. I have become accustomed to concealing my identity via online communication for so long that I now see any attempt to knowingly reveal such information as a terrible decision that will cause problems.
- Maybe I am just freaked out by a stranger staring at me via the weird little circular photo as I try to read the email. You know, like how that cute little guard dog was trying to do his job at the children’s museum but was freaked by all the teddy bears staring at him: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/14154738/ns/world_news-weird_news/t/elvis-teddy-bear-leaves-building-hard-way/#.Xi8FNWhKhaQ.
We humans are so weird, I cannot imagine what aliens from other galaxies must think of us.
I was shocked at how strange my seemingly simple interaction with customer tech support was with a company over the weekend.
I encountered an issue with a company’s very specialized search engine over the weekend, my instructions to them on how to recreate the issue were so simple and yet the person I was dealing with from their tech support department was incapable of comprehending the 3 easy steps I sent them (the 3 steps were sent in print so there would be no misunderstanding – if for some reason tech support cannot read or cannot read English then there is nothing at all wrong with that – if that is the case then the company needs to switch to phone support instead of their current email ticketing system for support issues).
What should have been no more than 3 messages (1 message from myself highlighting the issue and 1 or 2 messages from tech support acknowledging the issue and then fixing the issue or saying the issue isn’t fixable at this time) has instead escalated to 9 messages so far.
This much chatter is completely unacceptable and unnecessary.
These are the 3 simple steps I sent the company so they could replicate the issue I was seeing:
1. visited this url: http:\\www.[their search site domain here].com
2. in the search box I entered this phrase: bla bla
3. selected enter, the search results appeared on screen
How can anyone not understand the exact 3 steps noted above? I cannot image any 3 steps being easier than what I posted above. How does someone not understand this? This is an example of the chatter going back and forth between myself and tech support:
- tech support: “Works fine for me”
- me: send me a screenshot
- tech support: sends me a screenshot
- me: nope, you did not go through the same 3 steps I did (see my steps), you instead searched on this criteria: bla. bla – I do not include a period in my 3 steps
- tech support: “Went through your steps again, works for me”
- me: send me a screenshot
- tech support: sends me a screenshot
- me: nope, you did not go through the same 3 steps I did (see my 3 steps), you instead searched on this criteria: you selected the category bla first then within that category searched on the phrase bla bla – I do not select a category in my 3 steps
The conversation just keeps going on and on and on like this until the human finally performs the 3 steps and sees the issue (I have truly witnessed a miracle). The human is unable to follow 3 simple instructions until the human is baby fed each step at a ridiculously slow pace. These instructions could not be simpler but this human is incapable of understanding how to perform these 3 steps without a tremendous amount of hand holding.
This person needs to leave customer support immediately and never go back and instead build a roller skating rink in my honor to make up for the damage this unnecessary stress has caused my brain.
I have been a web developer and computer programmer for a long time, so I know how frustrating and complex computers and mobile devices can be. It is because of this experience that my number one rule is to never poke fun at users when they ask questions that make no sense regarding computing. I myself asked all of those same crazy questions when I was learning, and I still ask many today. The world is always kind enough to help me without fanfare, so I always do the same – no matter what. Unfortunately, as hard as I tried, this rule went out the window recently when the effects of Hurricane Florence arrived in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Huddled safe and sound in my mother’s home, with wind howling and trees swaying, we watched a funny show on TV and snacked on Cheez-It crackers (the white cheddar ones, oh yeah). My mind was far from thoughts on technology. My brain was a vortex of worry. Are cows going to fly by the windows? Are we going to run out of TP? Can I swim across torrential rivers while holding onto my mom, my rabbit, my cat and my hamster?
And then it happened.
My mom looked at me from across the room, sitting in her fancy recliner, and said something my brain could not compute. “So what’s this thing called the Black Internet and how do I get on it?”
Initially I did not know how to respond. I remained quiet for a short time as I search every square inch of my brain for some crumb of meaning and I came up empty. I had never heard anyone refer to the internet using color codes before. Finally, I had no choice but to resort to a very sophisticated techy reply of: “Huh?”
“You know, the internet that steals your identity.”
And it finally hit me. “Do you mean the Dark Web?”
“Yes! That’s it! The Dark Web!”
At this point uncontrollable bouts of wild laughter rolled out of me. I tried to contain myself, I really did. Luckily ma took it in stride and rolled her eyes until my fit was over and then we chatted about the Dark Web.
I cannot even type this blog post without laughing. It is just too much. I am sorry, I really am. I guess I am not the IT professional I thought I was😊 I will try harder. I promise.
When a user forgets a password for a device (laptop, tablet, etc.), complete panic sets in because this horrific event often occurs at a critical time for the user (beginning of a presentation, going into a very important meeting, starting a video conference, etc).
Sometimes coworkers will step forward to calm the waters by quickly logging into the device as themselves, thus allowing the user to at least access the company network and hopefully get to critical items long enough to get through the important event at hand.
This is a practice that should be avoided at all costs. Your login and all activities associated with your login are a direct representation of you. All activity occurring under your login are your responsibility and there are no exceptions. Logging into a device, then handing that device over to another user and walking away is putting you and the data within your organization at risk. The other user may have the best of intentions but so many things can go wrong like: if they have network access that is lower than yours within your corporate infrastructure then they may accidentally see or manipulate confidential data and this puts both of you at risk as well as the data itself.
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.
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.
Thank you for your consistent overuse in the workplace. Side effects of no pharmaceutical drugs in our solar system can compare to the thick atmosphere of confusion you create on a daily basis.
I particularly enjoy pausing at various points throughout my workday to reference copious amounts of old documentation in a futile attempt to find your true meaning.
Please keep up the good work. Continue to blanket my world in meaningless character combinations until one day I snap and speak only in numbers for the remainder of my days.
When a user experiences a problem using an application, the list of possible issues can be lengthy depending on the complexity of the environment(s) and dependencies. If the user is unable to clearly articulate to the help desk what application is broken or where they are when issues arise then this is a clear indicator that the training, documentation and application itself are not all using the same language.
Make things easy for your users by following these simple steps with every application your write and/or support:
- Give the application one name and one name only. In this example we will give our application the name “Blue Safari”.
- Place the name of the application prominently on every page of the application. This means “Blue Safari” is on every page of the application. (not “Bls Version 2.0” but “Blue Safari” or “Blue Safari Version 2.0”)
- If your application is a web application, try to place the name of the application somewhere in the url if possible.
- All shortcuts or hyperlinks that take users to the application should be the name of the application (i.e. “Blue Safari”)
- In all documentation and training for users and support staff, refer to your application with the same language. This means all references to the application will be stated as “Blue Safari”.
If you give your application several different names then several problems arise:
- The user either doesn’t know what to call the application when he or she calls the help desk to report the problem or the user calls the application by a name that no one at the help desk recognizes.
- A significant delay occurs before the issue is resolved simply due to the time spent sorting out the confusion over what exactly is broken and where it is.
Avoid contributing to the overall mayhem of our existence, it will only end badly, we both know that. Unless of course your help desk gives out free ponies and chocolate ice cream with every call, then maybe as a caller I will not care so much that I am unable to clearly tell you what is broken. Now I want ice cream.