MonthNovember 2012

15 Minutes to Critical

Critical ticket comes in 15 minutes before I’m scheduled leave work. Computer won’t boot. I cringe. I debate. I call the customer. He is there. I act nice even though I’m secretly disappointed. I agree to see him. I race upstairs.

Windows 7 greets me. Looking cranky as ever. “Inaccessible Boot Device” flashed across the screen.

I cringe again. This could be fast or this could be days. I say a silent prayer as I calmly reboot and talk to the customer. Reassuring him everything will be OK.

Inside I pray louder. It shuts down.

A pause.

It starts up again. Black screen. Blank. No beep. No messages. Yet.

I wait. Milliseconds seem like eternity as the machine decides my fate.

It sings to us. I see blue. Not a sickly error blue but a soothing corporate blue.

Windows Starts Up.

Press Ctrl + Alt + Del to Logon.

Success.
Inside I cheer.
Outside I’m calm and smiling confidently.

My customer thanks me for my quick response. I thank him for his patience.

He logs in.
I leave.

Victorious.

Please contact your system administrator

I’ve thought a lot about how people interact with the computers they use. I’ve often wondered why people in offices know so little about the computers they use 40 hours a week. In many cases, the machine has not changed in years. The Operating System is the same. The Office applications are the same. They perform the same tasks day in and day out. They’re the 21st Century versions of assembly line workers.

They perform a skill. They perform it repeatedly and anything outside that small skill set is foreign and deemed impossible in their minds.

I often thought about the several times I’ve had to revisit the same people for the same problem over the course of weeks, months, or in some cases years. I see the same people for the same problems and I ask myself, Why?

Why am I solving the same problem for the same person so many times?

I thought perhaps it was a lack of understanding. Maybe the tasks were too difficult, but in comparison to what they did everyday, it was no more difficult, just different.

I thought maybe it was willful ignorance. They knew what they needed. They didn’t like computers. They resented having to use the computer so they were determined to learn as little as possible about it.1

I thought I was failing them in some way. I was not educating them. I was not providing a way for them to understand. I was speaking to them in techno-gibberish. I needed show them. I needed to help them to understand.

I was wrong. Thomas Brand and he gets to the root of it better than I ever could.

He writes,

Windows users are different though. Enterprise Windows users never had to fend for themselves. They never made a meaningful transition to the new and different. They stuck with what the company gave them, the clear and popular choice, and never identified themselves by the technology they were provided.

Relegated to having to ask for administrative rights to do anything on their computers, most Enterprise Windows users never learned to take an interest in administering their own machines because they never could.

This lack of understanding, and the security vulnerabilities of early Windows operating systems made Windows users the primary targets of malicious software and phishing attacks.

Worst still, companies reactions to these threats have been less about user education and more about tightening controls. This gave Windows users even less of an incentive to learn about the machines they sit in front of 40 hours a week.

He works in a role where he supports Mac and Windows computers and the people who use them. He is writing about Enterprise Windows customers in comparison to the Enterprise Mac customers. 2

They have never been challenged. They have never had the ability to go outside of their pre-defined corporate box. I’ve seen effects of his last paragraph all too often.

Anytime there is a threat, the immediate reaction is to clamp down on rights and abilities on the computers instead of educating people about the problem. Security is always the battle cry instead of Education. Why educate people when you can simply ban them from doing anything to hurt themselves or the company’s equipment? Security seems like the easy answer.

Working in the IT field, I have never been on the other side of the administrative rights fence. I have always had the ability and knowledge of working around problems and the abilities to do so.

I never had to call and ask for permission to install software. When I wanted something, I would load it on to a USB drive and run portable versions of the software I wanted to use I knew the company would not approve.

Corporate computing rewards the compliant and punishes the inquisitive. There is no benefit in learning more than what is required to perform a task. There is no room for exploration and learning. The corporate world rewards conformity and obedience. The structure of the system explains the results of that system. Why would anyone take in interest in something denied to them anyway?


  1. There is some truth to this one. Certain people are set in their ways and no amount of help you can offer will make them help themselves. 

  2. Macs and PCs in an Enterprise environment versus a Home environment are extremely different, especially on the Apple side. 

Question 6 has passed.

My Fellow Marylanders,
Thank you. Thank for you allowing people to marry those they love. Thank you for voting yes on Question 6.

You have changed lives tonight. You are affirming the good decision to allow people to marry those they love and to have civil rights and protections afforded by marriage.

I am extremely proud to have been a single vote in this measure passing. I am extremely proud to have played a small role in allowing people in my state to enjoy the same benefits of marriage I have been able to enjoy just for being a straight white man.

Thank you Maryland.
Thank you voters.
Thank you all.

Vote for Equal Rights

My Fellow Marylanders,

We have a very important question in front of us on Tuesday. Yes, there is a are offices to place people in and 7 ballot initiatives. I don’t care who you vote for. I don’t care who you support and who you like. **Vote for who you believe in.** That’s what we’re all going to do and no amount of debate or discussion will change that.

What I want you to carefully consider is Question 6 on the ballot.

[It reads](http://www.elections.state.md.us/elections/2012/ballot_question_language.html),

>Establishes that Maryland’s civil marriage laws allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license, provided they are not otherwise prohibited from marrying; protects clergy from having to perform any particular marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs; affirms that each religious faith has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine regarding who may marry within that faith; and provides that religious organizations and certain related entities are not required to provide goods, services, or benefits to an individual related to the celebration or promotion of marriage in violation of their religious beliefs.

So many people are going to vote against this, stripping marital rights from couples all across the state due to religious beliefs. I ask that for one day, you divorce your religious views from the rights of your friends, colleagues and neighbors. There is a separation between church and state this country was founded on because of the persecutions of religious groups in Europe.

Our ancestors fled here to this continent to escape those persecutions. The rights being given in this question are legal rights under the state. They are not attacking religious. Nor are there forcing anything on religious people or authorities.

There is a difference between the civil benefits of marriage and the religious benefits of marriage. These are not the same.

* Same-sex couple will have a **civil** marriage license.
This has **nothing** to do with religion. A courthouse is not a house of God.
* It protects clergy from performing ceremonies which violate their beliefs.
No one is going to force anyone to do anything they don’t believe in and support. Religious authorities are free to perform or not perform services as they see fit.
* Religions have the right to say who they believe should and should not marry.
Again, this is not an attack on religion. This is about two people who want to share in the [legal benefits of marriage](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rights_and_responsibilities_of_marriages_in_the_United_States).

I could go on, but the important thing is this vote will help those people who want to share in the joy and happiness of marriage. It will also allow them to visit their spouse in the hospital in the event of injury or illness.

How would you like to be denied access to your spouse in the hospital because you *aren’t really married?*

What about not being able to adopt a child or having your stepchild taken away because you have *no legal right* of guardianship?

There are tax benefits. There are adoption rights. **These are the same rights available to every man and woman who want to marry in this country.**

This is *not* an attack on religion. **This is not about religion.** This is about getting a group of people the same rights and benefits as millions of others in the country.

*Women* had to fight for rights.
*African-Americans* had to fight for rights.
*White men* never had to right for rights. But historically did an excellent job of taking them away from everyone else.

**There are enough rights to go around.**
There can be marriage for everyone.
This is not an attack on your marriage.
This is not an attack on your religion.

**This is about equal rights.**

I ask all of my fellow Maryland voters, when you go to the polls, consider this question.

Would you really vote to keep the joys and benefits of marriage from a group of people because they are different from you?

If you’re voting because of your religion, try to separate people’s rights from your religious rights. If you’re living in this country and you’re not of Native American descent, your ancestors may have fled to *The New World* to escape religious oppression and persecution. Why would you perpetuate that hateful act?

I am a white man. I am married. I am a Christian.

But I am voting **For Question 6.** And I urge you to do the same. Vote to give rights unjustly taken away. Stand with me on the right side of history.

NanOMGWriMo

Ambition

I am starting an ambitious plan this month. I am going to get the book that’s been in my head out and into a form for people to read and enjoy.

Technical Support is Customer Service

I’ve been working a series of customer service and technical support jobs for nearly a decade. I’ve come to realize they are the same. I am passionate about customer service and treating people right.

Technical Support has long been about supporting technology first and people second. I want to turn that idea on its ear. Technical Support is more about supporting the people using technology than the technology itself. Technology is merely a tool to accomplish a task.

Planning

I’ve planned and thought and read. Trying to give form to this idea inside my brain. And all of a sudden, it became November. And with November, comes NanoWriMo.

I am going to write my book this month. I am going to take the collection of thoughts and experienced inside my head and put them into words. Then turn those words into a book after the month ends.

It has begun and I have written the first 2,000 words towards explaining why I care so much about customer service in technical support and how other people can learn from my near decade of experience in support companies and government agencies big and small.

Metamorphosis

As the month started and I signed up for NanoWriMo I had no idea how I was going to write 50,000 words on customer service. I care about it a lot and I have some good ideas around making people better at it. But I had no idea how I would fill those virtual pages.

Until it hit me.

Becoming a Well-Rounded Technician

The idea was bigger than simple tech support or customer service. The idea I had in my head all along was about becoming a better technician and all the parts that go into the job.

So the book was born. Becoming a Well-Rounded Technician is my working title and terrible name but it’s what I’ve titled this adventure.

I’ve got 2,000 words down and another 48,000 to go to complete NanoWriMo successfully and by that time, have enough of my ideas fleshed out I can organize them and put them into a book.

I am excited. I am scared. This is going to be great fun and a huge challenge.

The longest thing I ever recall writing was a 20 page story in a creative writing class in 8th grade.

Wish me luck. The adventure has begun and I’ve leapt in with both feet. If you want to follow along, this is my NanoWriMo page and if you’re writing too, let me know, I could use some buddies.