Tag Archives: Geek stuff

How to piss off tech support, part infinity

When you are contacting us for support, because you’re working on a site for one of our clients, here are some tips on how to piss off the very people you’re asking for help.

Open a ticket saying you can’t upload to an application you’ve installed. Don’t include any other information. We love trying to figure out what the hell you’ve done to break something that’s been working just fine, and love even more rechecking ownership of and permissions on files, and tracking back through the logs.

While we’re working on that, open yet another ticket saying the site is entirely down. When we look at it, the site is in fact down, because it can’t establish a database connection. That seems odd, since the site has been working just fine. Until…

After we tell you the problem is the configuration file and the credentials the file is trying to use to connect are incorrect, tell us you haven’t changed anything. Except, oh, you changed the password for the main account user.

When we repair the configuration file to use valid and proper credentials, and then tell you that if you change little, minor things like, oh, PASSWORDS, you need to update configuration files that use those passwords, ask us how you’re supposed to change the file without FTP or control panel access. This will surely make us ask you what the hell you’re talking about because you just told us you were in the control panel and changed the password, and this has nothing to do with us correcting a database configuration file. Ergo, you should be able to do whatever it is you need to do, since presumably you were just in the control panel doing whatever it is you were doing.

An HOUR later, complain that you still can’t access FTP or the control panel. Since both are working fine, and the site is working just fine because we repaired things, this will make us even happier as we go hunting through the logs only to find you locked yourself out – and locked out the actual client as well, since you’re at their location – by continually attempting to log in with an incorrect password. A password that you changed from the control panel. A password that you should know. You kept trying to log in with an obviously incorrect password instead of stopping and just contacting us, which triggered the firewall.

When we tell you what you’ve done – without pointing out the definition of futility, I might add – and then tell you we unblocked your IP and reset the password, respond with a request to rest the password to “changeme”. Nothing delights us like easily guessed, massively insecure passwords.

And finally, when we tell you that we’re not resetting the password to that, give us a snotty “Fine.” followed by a haughty “I want it on the record” that you find our response insufficient and too slow. This despite the fact that the entirety of the issue, start to finish, was created by you, and it took you an HOUR to respond to something we managed to reply to in exactly seven minutes.

All of this will certainly ensure that we put you at the top of the douchebag list, and further will ensure that we let the client know – because they also contacted us about the site being down – exactly why everything was a mess. There was insufficiency going on here, that is certain. It is equally certain that it had nothing whatsoever to do with us.

Why, why, why?

Why must people be so freaking rude? Let’s assume some things here: let’s assume you’ve been a client for quite some time, that you know how we operate, that every single issue you’ve ever raised has been addressed, and that we’ve gone outside the normal bounds of technical support to assist you. Let’s assume that I am up at 4AM because our monitoring has picked up some issue on your server, and that I go about trying to repair that problem instead of answering one of the five tickets you open, because I am not in a position to update those, and anyway, getting the problem solved is my highest priority. Do you a) say thanks and go away, problem solved; b) say thanks, ask for more details than those provided in the first ticket you opened after the problem was solved; or c) tell me it is “unacceptable” that you have to take the helpdesk’s autoresponse as an indicator that something is being done, despite the fact that you have been around for awhile and realize this means we have received the ticket and are likely already working on it before you even noticed there was a problem? If you answered (c), then you have managed to match the asinine retort we received, before we received a further retort that we were sarcastic and rude.

Good luck finding a host with proactive monitoring who will immediately bounce out at 4AM to fix your server, who owns their equipment rather than leasing it through some third party (meaning no waiting on relays of information, and so forth, cutting out the middle part of all that), and who will go outside the realm of what is normal technical support as we have done in the past, without charging you a dime for it.

Life is much, much too short to be dealing with people intent on being unhappy because Shit Happens. I am well aware – more aware than some others, at this point – that Shit does in fact Happen. You don’t see me being an ass to people around me because I’ve been affected by some random problem happening on a server.

Calzone for dinner, on the last of the pizza dough batch I made earlier this month. No mushrooms (Shit Happens!), but just as tasty with sauce, onions, pepperoni, mozzarella, and three year aged cheddar. It was probably larger than usual, and I ate almost the entire thing, which has now made me feel stuffed, but that’s nothing a good cappuccino can’t solve. Or at least help.

Made a double batch of dough earlier today, to tide me over until we’re in post-surgery and into recovery time around here. I hope so, anyway.

What word didn’t you understand?

“No action is required on your part.”

This is plain English, I think. Only two words with more than one syllable. Seven words total. This is why it astonishes me that we receive a ticket from someone telling us they don’t understand and asking what they need to do. Is it that they are surprised they have to do nothing, that they don’t believe us, or that they truly don’t understand a simple sentence? I hesitate to claim the latter as the explanation but in reality, it does seem to be that way. How do these people manage to get through a day without killing themselves in some tragically humorous way?

Lessons not learned (Or, why my dogs are smarter than some of our clients)

I don’t mind helping people learn new things. During my college days, I used to tutor people in various subjects, and one of my instructors tried pretty hard to get me to change over to an education major. No thanks.

What I do mind, however, is people who refuse to even attempt to do anything for themselves, or who complain about things being “too technical” when they are not, or who insist that everything is – and this is a direct quote – “ridiculous” or that we must be “kidding”.

I can assure you that the only thing ridiculous when we deal with someone like you – is you. And no, we are most certainly not kidding about any of it.

Let me tell you a story.

We have two dogs now, both rescued from the pound. Great dogs. They have managed to learn a number of things in the course of the last year. One of the dogs will not push open a door. He was the one who was abused by whoever had him previously. The other dog will nose open anything at all, because he’s a goofy puppy. We have taught them to work together for certain situations. For instance, when they have to go outside, we open the door for them, let them out, and then leave the door not quite closed. The little dog does his business and then generally comes right back to the door while the goofy puppy runs around sticking his nose into things. Little dog whines a bit, as a signal, and goofy puppy, having learned that this is his job, comes running over to muscle open the door.

There is a gate to the side yard, and one afternoon, both dogs had gone out the gate. Goofy puppy had come pounding back inside, knocking open the door. I was in the middle of something and did not immediately close it. He ran off to another room. In the meantime, the wind had pushed the gate almost closed, so there was insufficient space for little dog to walk through. We all heard him calling because he could not get back in the gate. That includes goofy puppy, who came tearing around from the other room, flew through the open door, and who went over to the gate and knocked it open for little dog to enter.

Smart. Learned do a task after a couple of tries and subsequently performed that task without any issues at all.

If we could get some of our clients to do the same thing, it would be a miracle, because quite frankly, certain types do not have it in them. If we could get them to simply be less rude, that would work, too, but alas, all hopes we may have had for that have long since passed.

Want to know how to really irritate tech support – people, I might add, that you are contacting for assistance, not the other way around?

Be a jackass, for no reason, or when you are clearly wrong.

For instance, open a ticket with a subject line that does not seem all that incredibly urgent, with a first post that indicates nothing more than the subject does. The problem is solved. Then come back a day or so later, berating us because something was not working for two hours, and now you have to explain it to people. Here’s a tip: if something is an emergency, then say so. If whatever you’re opening a request for means some part of the site or server isn’t working, then perhaps you should indicate that, rather than just saying “abc isn’t working, please check it”, when “abc” isn’t required for the server itself to be operational. If you further bitch about the time it took because your subject line was so nondescript that a level one tech couldn’t really see anything wrong and had to bump it up, then perhaps you should use a tool that is readily available to you to have a higher up look at it immediately.

Or let’s say you want to give someone access to a portion of your site, without giving them your login details. If we give you a step by step on how to create login details for that person and then tell you exactly how to go about accessing the site with that information, and you respond with “It’s not letting me login” with exactly zero further information: you are not helping. If you further bitch and moan about the very precise, very clearly laid out information you are subsequently provided in the course of half a dozen back and forths because you simply were doing it wrong, asking us if we are “kidding”: you are being a jackass. No, we’re not kidding. Neither are we interested in spending boatloads of time telling you exactly how to do something that is not recommended in the first place. That is why we gave you the exact link that you need to use. All you needed to do was cut and paste it. Instead, you’re berating the people who resolved your issue. Do you think that will make us more or less inclined to think you are anything other than a rude moron?

Or, let’s take you, user who hasn’t been able to check his mail for “two weeks”. Who is also emailing us using an address from which you have already said you cannot receive mail. It would behoove you to use some alternate email address to contact us, just as it would behoove you not to let 43,000 (well, technically, 42,749) pieces of mail pile up in the main account that you never check but yet left active anyway despite recommendations that you not do this. We will be polite. We will suggest that you use, or provide, some other email address when you contact us and that you reset the main account not to collect mail. If you write back to us, telling us that you provided otheraddress@somewhere.com to contact you: we can read. Had you provided it, we would have used it. You did not. Therefore, you look even more foolish to us because you can’t read your own original request – which is embedded at the bottom of our response to you, something you received when we cleared out a little room to work in the mailbox.

And finally, if you act indignant, order us to “look into” why your site is deactivated, and we find that you have several invoices outstanding, have ignored the notices from the billing system itself, have ignored the requests that the billing department has sent you about your overdue account, and have not bothered to pay any of those invoices even after we’ve suspended your site: you are being a deadbeat. But I must say that I sometimes get some wry amusement out of the fact that suddenly the situation is rather urgent to you when you seemed to feel no particular urgency previously although you were warned that your account would in fact be suspended. And on this same topic, the reason we are not as lenient as we used to be is precisely because of the people who like to say “we will address all open invoices by specific date” and then do exactly nothing about paying their invoices. That includes you, Miss “I’ll pay all invoices by Friday” who not only didn’t pay a dime but also moved your accounts elsewhere. You, particularly, will be held up as a prime example of why there simply won’t be any exceptions any longer. Congratulations. You are the winning jackass for this round.

Embracing your inner geek

Some days, that’s what it feels like. Especially days where you put seven servers online at once, bringing your total to thirteen in the past six days. And when you have to do the year end inventory audit plus trace wires to make sure everything is labeled properly. Your inner geek can surely make your back hurt. And to make it even better – so that your brain hurts just as much – there is bound to be at least one asshat in the helpdesk telling you that they’re “seriously considering a hosting change” because their mail is delayed. And you look at the delivery attempts, only to find their mailbox is full. And you have to tell them this without just replying with a couple of choice words about that “serious consideration”.

Just once

Just once, for a day, or perhaps two, I’d like to sit people down in our seats and have them try to do the job we do. That includes the hundred little things a day behind the scenes that keeps intact their ability to get the latest forwarded LOLOMGBBQ!!!111!1 emails as well as keeps up the servers and the network. I’m well aware that the Internet now affords people an even easier ability and a larger stage to comment on things about which they know nothing – and make it appear that something rather complicated can be reduced to something that appears to be very simple. It’s still vastly irritating to respond to snarky comments masquerading as questions.

Evening commute

Another trip to the NOC today. Unfortunately, during rush hour. But someone has to go and get the new cage prepped to move gear in, and since we keep tripping one of the big breakers to a circuit feeding multiple racks, the sooner that’s complete, the better. Yours truly gets to move 27 servers, a switch, and four PDUs from our overflow area. Yeeha.

Time for the drive home: the way west.

Heading home

I love this time of day, even if I don’t love the traffic.

Truck

Through the construction zone near the Road to Nowhere (more about that another time).

Crane

I love this. Amazing what you can get from an accidental shot.

Art

So you want to be a geek

Generally, being a geek is not a bad job, even with the snotty people or those who are intentionally obtuse (for instance, those who ignore, three times, the very direct statement “You do not have to make any changes.”). For the most part, people are happy that you’re there, and glad that you know how to repair whatever has gone horribly awry in their technical lives. They are pleasant, civil, and just regular human beings.

Some days, though, can be trying. If you’re thinking of a life in geekdom, let me give you one of those days.

Yesterday ended for me around 2 AM this morning, because my todo list is always rather ambitious and far exceeds the number of hours available in any given day. I signed off, went to bed, and tried to sleep, only to be awakened at around 4:30 AM by our remote server monitor, telling me that there was a vast and wideranging problem and that the servers were not accessible. Crawled out of bed, contacted the NOC, to find that my suspicions were correct: one of the master breakers had tripped, and taken down one of the buss lines, including the circuit where our router was located – for those of you who don’t entirely understand that, it means that although not all of our equipment had lost power, it was in fact entirely inaccessible since our gateway was affected by the abrupt loss of power.

The standby electrician was notified, and in the meantime I had the NOC guys reset the breaker to get things back up. This was done pretty quickly, and things came right back up with very little fuss. With the exception of three servers that suddenly decided their drives needed to be checked. And the exception of one server whose primary drive killed itself due to a power surge.

While we were awaiting the arrival of the electrician to replace the breaker with a spare, I headed to the NOC to address the three recalcitrant machines and the dying server. When I got there, the electrician was there, and unfortunately, they were not able to do the swap without taking out our circuit, so down it went again, for a minute or two for the swap. When things came back up, I took care of the three servers that needed disk checks, started on the one whose primary drive had failed due to the uncontrolled reboot, and discovered that another server’s primary drive didn’t like the bounces and decided to keel over, too. So, I took care of that one as well. Four and a half hours later, I left the NOC, to return to the HQ to finish the restores on the two servers that had their drives replaced – including the one where the primary drive was a mammoth 500G SATA2 drive that will certainly be going back to the manufacturer for a warranty replace as the server is only about two months old and the drive should be within the year they give.

Back at the HQ, I checked in with the staff and began the restores. By 5:30 PM, all the restores had been completed and all the little miscellaneous (non service impacting) issues had been addressed. While those restores were going on, I started on the next batch of kernel updates on about 120 machines, answered helpdesk tickets, had some coffee, and took a break just now to type up this post. My day will probably end once again around 2 AM tomorrow morning.

Most days are not like this, thankfully. But almost every geek will have one (or more) just like it. Keep that in mind when you’re pining away for a career change, and pick something simpler. Lion taming. Stunt work. Eating fire. Something like that.