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Re: [Computerbank] the support curse

On Wed, Jan 09, 2002 at 06:45:52PM +1100, Bruce McCubbery wrote:
> So I've lanced this boil for a few of you?
> Simple.
> If you don't want to do it, then don't.

Cool, thanks- I will pass them on to ummmm, who ...

> * But what about the clients?
> They'll be better off. They'll get a warm hearted, very patient and
> understanding person looking after them instead -- not a distracted
> I-hate-doing-this one -- a people person.
Bruce, what is this magical persons name?, I have some work for them.
After you teach them some basic UNIX trouble shooting (that should only
take 5 years or so), please ask them to move to South Australia and be
expected to drive around, visiting our impatient, rude and sometimes
agressive recips. There are several ways of doing offsite support, but
unfortunately, a recip saying "It's f^#$ed" is not overly helpful for
diagnosis- that happens.

We currently use Linux for recip machines. Many of the boxes out there
can have severe issues if the power simply goes off. We install a
bohemiath of an operating system, because we have to make the systems
easier to use- this means that more stuff goes wrong. We install KDE-
don't get me started on that waste of resources and catalyst for
problems. We then install software to make the machines appear like
Windows because that is thought to be user friendly.
Every one of these steps makes the job of support harder- but
unfortunately marketting always wins over design.

I would enjoy support if I was permitted to install a base freebsd
system, a couple of ports and the machine was connected to the Internet
permenately behind a decent firewall (which I could also ssh into). Then
if someone said It's f^$%ed, I could simply log into it via the firewall
and the previously setup admin account and look at what was wrong. I
could do the trouble shooting, recongigure it, document what I had done
and move on to the next one. That is not an option though:)

What we really have is:
Hardware which is only just good enough for systems that people expect.
Low end users (geek joke there) who think that I should come out and see
them if: an icon stops working, there is a memory leak (usually from
kde or netscape), the can't understand "remember your password", they
can't get their cd copy of MS money out of the 5 1/4 floppy, etc, etc,

Support is easy- I do it for a living, but the more crap we put on these
systems the harder it is. You suggested training up non-geeks who are
people friendly to be unix support- that is impossible. I only know,
probably 10% of what I would like to know about unix, however that took
me 7 years @ ~8 hours per day to learn- that includes weekends. Even
learning the standard unix editor can take years. Perhaps we need
someone on the phone who can interpret "it's f^%$ed" to mean one of the
simms has probably worked loose.

> * Where will these sort of helpers come from?


> Through a four step process:
> First, from recognising the type of person we need to do our support work.


> Second, by publicly saying we need these sort of people, having recognised
> this is truly horses for courses stuff.

and pay them the $130/hr our bosses charge while we are at work

> Third, by recognising a simple fact: techies relate to machines and
> systems, these other sorts of people we will now seek like person to person
> interaction and helping others.
fantastic, so get some people who can do the interpreting and we will
tell them the fix to pass on. When they get fed up dealing with low end
users too, they will stop enjoying support.

> Fourth, by then sourcing people like that with some or all of the skills we
> now are seeking and training them to be Computerbank support/help providers.

Techs became techs by learning a difficult task over time, it is not

> A totally different other type of Computerbank volunteer.
> * While also having the proposed mailing list and website for those not
> needing this one-on-one personal help.

A FAQ will help, but many users don't know enough about what is
happening to even ask the right question. Even then, they often don't
read for themselves and need to be online to see it. If they are already
online, they can come into #computerbank and ask us anyway, or we can
pop into their box and take a peek. 

Shaun Branden, email:  shaun@pcuse.com    It's a damn poor mind
icq: 10469563, homepage: www.pcuse.com    that can only think of
public key www.pcuse.com/shaun/key.txt    one way to spell a word
Computerbank SA:  www.linunix.com/cbsa    -- Andrew Jackson
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