Between a rock and a support call



  • During college i worked for PolyPictures* Inc. we produced a very capable automation system for a broadcast medium, though it was mainly used for advertising. The "advertising" part of the system was basically a glorified version of powerpoint**; think of the hotel information channel that just runs a loop of slides paired with elevator music. The client in this story actually used the system for its intended purpose of automating a broadcast medium station; we will call them FussyNet.

    A little context is needed for this story. The previous Thursday i was informed i had to implement a feature that a salesperson sold to a client, representing it as a pre-existing feature; this was the first time I was even told about it and it had to be installed by the next day. Due to the very tight deadline there wasn't enough time to turn around a build (also updating a clients server after 12:00 PM Wednesday was forbidden***.) I had to add CD burning capability to Windows NT, and trick the offline production**** system to using it. Windows NT was very obsolete at this time and Microsoft had long since dropped support for it. Amazingly enough there was one CD burning package that worked on windows NT. Miraculously I got it working and deployed to the client that same day, a feat i thought impossible that morning!

    The next day i had to lead the a worker from from FussyNet through the update procedure to load the next weeks schedule. I had to do this since there wasn't time to train support in the new procedure. Most customers updated their servers with a modem, or over their WAN, this customer didn't have their WAN setup yet, and had too much data for the modem, hence the CD. The CD system leveraged a very old update method that was based on floppy disks, it also required the server to be stopped to run. Stopping the server wasn't ideal, but the client could shut off the server while it was waiting for the MPEG player to finish, so the impact was minimal. The CD was made boot-able with modifications to some batch files to trick the old floppy update code to read from the CD. This worked but produced some errors resulting from the read-only nature of CDs. Everything went smoothly, except convincing the client that the "unable to write to disk" errors expected and could be ignored.

    N.b. PolyPictures Inc. was quite a WTF place to work, quitting or threatening to quit was a rite of passage in R&D. This was a place where telling the general manager to "FUCK OFF!" was, on occasion, the correct thing to do! The way one needed to behave at this company would be considered undesirable in most sane work environments.

    The next Friday i was busy finishing up work on some feature due that day, when the owner, Alice*, and the GM, Bob* (he didn't like anyone using his real name, Pierre*) showed up in my office:
    Bob: "We have Bastard* from FussyNet on the phone, he needs help updating their server with next weeks schedule."
    Me: "I'm working on [feature], i don't have the time"
    Alice: "Support contracts pay the bills, ..."
    Me: "I work for R&D not support, have Manuel do it, i wrote up the new procedures"

    Preexisting WTF#1 PolyPictures Inc. represented to support contract holders as having a minimum of 3 support techs on call for the support line. Our support department employed zero techs since Bill* had quit six months prior. Manuel from the assembly dept. was tapped to do tech support.

    Bob: "Manuel doesn't understand the new procedures, and we don't have time for you to train him"

    The procedures were simple, Manuel is either playing dumb or really fucking stupid.

    Me: "Tell them they need blank CD in the tray, coffee won't work."
    Bob: "They burned the CDs just fine, they are having trouble updating the server."
    Me: "The write errors are normal, you cant write to a closed CD."
    Bob: "That's not the problem, they haven't started yet."
    Me: "Why the fuck are they even calling?" (WTF#1)
    Bob: "They want to be walked through it because its not in the manual."
    Me: "I walked them through it last week, the floppy instructions are in the manual, its two additional sentences and a drive letter change, it's not my problem if Bastard can't remember last week."
    Alice: "They refuse to do anything not in the manual without tech support on the line."
    Me: "I already turned in the new procedures, send them the update."
    Alice: "Its not customer facing, the updated hasn't been processed."

    Alice maintains the manual. I wanted to tell her to take the support call, but i also wanted to keep my job.

    Me: "You handle the call Bob, I turned in the procedures last week."
    Bob: "Already working on HickNet. Bastard's on line 3"
    Alice: "Don't forget to smile :)"

    I opened the manual and found the section i needed.
    Me: "Hello Bastard, which step did you have trouble on :)"
    Bastard: "I can't find the instructions in the manual"
    Me: "Open your manual to section 16.5 :)"
    B: "These instructions are for a floppy disk i don't see the page for CD"
    Me: "At the top of the page cross out 'floppy disk' and write CD in its place :)"
    B: "I don't have a pen"
    Me: "Get a pen :) "
    B: "It's against our company policy write in manuals"
    Me: "It's a PolyPictures MediaPro Manual, and i work for PolyPictures so i can give you corrections for the manual :)"
    B: "Can't you just fax me the update"
    Me: "I suggested that, but you'll have to talk to you sales rep for a new manual when they are available :)"
    ...
    Me: "In section 16.5 at the top of the page cross out 'floppy disk' and write CD in its place :)"
    B: "We can't write in the manuals"
    Me: "Get a piece of paper please :)"
    B: "Why?"
    Me: "Its the first step to update your server :)"
    B: "Uhh ... Ok."
    Me: "From Section 16.5 copy the sentence at the top of the page, but replace 'floppy disk' with 'CD' :)"
    B: "You said this was the first step to update the server?"
    Me: "It is :)"
    B: "Just tell me how to update the server"
    Me: "Starting from the top of page of Section 16.5 copy the first sentence, but replace 'floppy disk' with 'CD' :)"
    B: "Hows this going to help me update the server?"
    Me: "I'm giving you the instructions, you need to write them down :)"
    B: "Are you going to help me or not?"
    Me: "Sure, after you write down the instructions :)"
    B: "Could you transfer me to Alice?"
    Me: "Hold on?"

    I wasn't going to transfer him to Alice. I put him back on hold and paged Bob.

    Me: "Bastard wants to talk to Alice"
    Bob: "Any particular reason?"
    Me: "I'm not going to do this every week so I'm not going to help him until he writes down the instructions and he refuses."
    Bob: "I'll talk to him, Don't transfer him to Alice"

    Back on with Bastard

    Me: "Alice seems to be busy but you can talk to dave :)"
    Bastard: "I'd Rather not"
    Me: "Ok you got the pen and paper ready"
    B: "Fine." Me: "Starting from the top of page of Section 16.5 copy the first sentence, but replace 'floppy disk' with 'CD' :)"
    B: "OK."
    Me: "Read that back to me"
    ...
    Me: "You didn't write it down did you"
    ...

    This went on for a while until he finally had written it all down.

    Me: "We are now ready to begin updating the server, please follow the instructions on the paper you have written. :)"
    B: "You said you would help me now."
    Me: "I am, now read me step #1 :)"
    B: "'Shut down the server with CTRl+E' now what?"
    Me: "Do that"
    B: "Do what"

    This also went on quite a while, i had him read each step off of the instructions i instructed him to write, then told him to do that step. The server was offline for an hour, all dead air! The actual update only took 5 min. My boss in his office across the hall overheard everything and he was amused.

    FussyNet did not call back the next week.

    *not the real name; names have been changed
    **actually a little more complicated as the server had 'verification' logs of what ads actually aired
    ***this rule only applied to servers that are functioning normally, obviously
    ****production as in ads/content not a production server!



  • Damn good strategy to make sure they write it down. Must use on parentals next time I need to help Mom update her iPad.



  • Bastard sounds like a willfully ignorant... bastard. There is nothing I hate more.



    He basically wants to be paid to sit on a chair for 8 hours a day, and at no stage ever have to engage his brain beyond simply receiving verbal input and directly translating it into manual output.

    Thankfully, software developers are gradually make his entire existence obsolete... hopefully soon he, and others like him will simply be sitting in a chair, without input, output, or pay.



  • @esoterik said:

    Me: "I work for R&D not support, have Manuel do it, i wrote up the new procedures"


    Bob: "Manuel doesn't understand the new procedures, and we don't have time for you to train him"


    The procedures were simple, Manuel is either playing dumb or really fucking stupid.
     


    ¿qué?





  • MANUEL!



  •  Fun facts:

    1) Andrew Sachs, who played Manuel on Faulty Towers, just turned 84. Remember when you first saw Fawlty Towers? Doesn't he look super young in the above shot? He's old now. So are you.

    2) He starred in a 2003 TV Movie called "Between Iraq and a Hard Place", which uses the same pun structure as this very thread.

    3) He now does voice work for children's books on tape.

    4) IMDB discussion forums will make you yearn for better times-- like when you were locked up in Morbs basement, enjoying the delicious taste of the spiked dildo that was mercifully used on the other person because you begged him to kill her instead of you, please just give you one more day of hell for it isn't worse than death yet-- though you're now questioning that line of logic as the wet mass that was once a living human being is now sluiced down your throat. Yes, much better than reading IMDB message boards.



  • @Lorne Kates said:

    4) IMDB discussion forums will make you yearn for better times-- like when you were locked up in Morbs basement, enjoying the delicious taste of the spiked dildo that was mercifully used on the other person because you begged him to kill her instead of you, please just give you one more day of hell for it isn't worse than death yet-- though you're now questioning that line of logic as the wet mass that was once a living human being is now sluiced down your throat. Yes, much better than reading IMDB message boards.


    Well, at least I don't need to eat lunch today anymore.



  • @Lorne Kates said:

    IMDB discussion forums will make you yearn for better times-- like when you were locked up in Morbs basement, enjoying the delicious taste of the spiked dildo that was mercifully used on the other person because you begged him to kill her instead of you, please just give you one more day of hell for it isn't worse than death yet-- though you're now questioning that line of logic as the wet mass that was once a living human being is now sluiced down your throat. Yes, much better than reading IMDB message boards.




  • I am so proud of you guys.

    snif



  • @esoterik said:

    This also went on quite a while, i had him read each step off of the instructions i instructed him to write, then told him to do that step. The server was offline for an hour, all dead air! The actual update only took 5 min. My boss in his office across the hall overheard everything and he was amused.
     

    Beautiful. I tip my hat.

     



  • @dhromed said:

    I am so proud of you guys.

    snif

    I love that my powers have grown such that I can now derail a thread without stepping foot into it.



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    I love that my powers have grown such that I can now derail a thread without stepping foot into it.

    Pst. I've been able to do that for years.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    Pst. I've been able to do that for years.








Log in to reply
 

Looks like your connection to What the Daily WTF? was lost, please wait while we try to reconnect.