It has been a crazy long time for me not to rant. But Mr. Rant is back and on a repeat of a previous one, no less. September of last year, I posted a not on my old blog---which has apparently stopped functioning...oh well. I'll dump its content into Andrew.Sterling.Hanenkamp.com Blog 3.0. Anyway, I mentioned a few work Pet Peeves. Well, the last few months have given way to a few new ones and I also wanted ot make a three other comments.
One: My job is completely bipolar. It is either way cool or way crap.
Two: My job is way cool because my boss is cool. Dr. Virg Wallentine is da bomb. The toys are nifty-awesome. My employees are easy to manage and are quite capable. I have flexibility in how the systems are managed, so long as I do my job well. My job is cool.
Three: My job is crap because flexibility disappears when things go wrong. Things go wrong about 50% of the time and when that 50% starts (and even ends) is completely unpredictable. I can be having a great day and someone pops in and says, "Is there something wrong with mail?" The great day becomes completely eclipsed by the ensuing hellish one. Which brings me to the second part of this, I just about only hear from folks when stuff breaks. That's the nature of the work; if you fix broken stuff for a living, nobody talks to you when it ain't broke.
Anyway, if you ever pop into my office and get the LookOfDeath(tm), it's probably because you just interrupted Two and I am trying to steel myself for a potential Three. Okay, on to my pet peeves...
But first, the disclaimer: I love my job despite its inherent frustrations. I really like helping folks out and this job is all about helping people. I also want to say that if you've made yourself a nuisance through any of these peeves, this is nothing personal—just don't do it again! Finally, these are mostly directed at students. Faculty and staff are allowed a bit more leeway in a lot of things because we just don't expect as much from you...er...umm...moving along. ;)
- Asking questions that are answered already. Search our site for docs before asking questions. I don't know how many times someone has sent me the message saying, "How do I connect to the Oracle server?" To quote Ren, "You eediot!" Check the FAQ on the support site. The User Guide and FAQ are quite helpful. Read them.
- Replying to a resolved ticket to say, "Thanks." ARG! Thanks for more work. Now I have to resolve the ticket again. We work a thankless job, we'd rather keep it that way.
- Subject lines that say nothing useful like, "HELP!" Help with....what? Or, perhaps worse, "Can't access mail." Subject lines should be helpful so we can get a quick idea on who should take care of it and it's urgency. I suggest never using the word "help" in your subject. Rather, say something meaningful. "Cannot download email via IMAP" "Mail error: Cannot contact imap.cis.ksu.edu" "Progress bar for sending email never goes away in Thunderbird" Each of these would probably be handled by a different student. Descriptions like this help my students know, "Ah, that's my problem." Otherwise, tickets tend to wait for me to assign them and that can take hours longer.
- Subject lines that use lots of exclamation points, "I need access to X!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" These messages tend to turn the systems staff into boiling cauldrons of rage. Angry geeks are frightening to other geeks, but probably a little comical to the rest of the world. Please, don't fuel the worlds fire to laugh at us more.
- Over explanation. If you need something, tell us what the class or project is named and the faculty member involved. We don't need anything else, or we can ask for it. Giving us a 10 page dissertation on the exact nature of your needs usually just makes it harder for us to find what's being asked for.
- Whining. I've gotten a fair share of nasty letters (probably 5 to 10 in the last year or so). Such hate-mail is whiney. We have policies, we have them for a reason. If you don't like them, you can either try and talk to us and figure out why we have the policies and use that information to make a suggestion, or you can deal. Screaming doesn't help the problem. Assuming that we're unreasonable power mongers is insulting rather than constructive (not that I would dispute that fact ;).
- Asking for help without detail. My staff and I aren't prophets, psychic, or otherwise magical. Sending email stating, "Hi, I cannot connect to SSH" is meaningless. You've just guaranteed the maximum possible delay to getting any substantive help. What computer were you using? Where are you? Are you at home? Are you in Nichols? Are you in a campus lab? Are you on a corporate network? What program are you using to connect? Which host did you try to connect to? Did you get an error message? At what part of the process did it fail? Giving a complete explanation will give you the fastest response because we'll spend less time asking you these questions and can instead start fixing the problem.
- Begging for help "ASAP" or giving us a ticket at noon saying, I need this by 2:30 pm today for an assignment. Sorry, dude. You should have planned ahead. We prioritize everything according to the same system, and your statement of urgency is not likely to be an important factor. The systems staff has a complicated list of tasks to do (usually between 100 and 150 at any given moment). These tasks are carefully prioritized by the significance and nature of the problem and based the role of the person who sent it. Unless your request is completely trivial, our turn over is probably going to be longer than 2 hours. My students are part time, and I have a class to teach. These factors interfere. Unless your task is critical or an emergency, we may not even get to in the same day. Large tasks, such as those that require changing policies or installing applications can take weeks. Unless you can convince the department to give me a much larger staff and we can somehow shunt aside the fact that this is a state University and we just take time because of flat beauracracy, you'll just have to be patient.
- Sending us your username and password. Okay, this made it into my list this year because a student did this recently. I believe the joke immediately was something to the effect, "You start enrolling him in classes, I'm going to go take a look at his financial records." Don't ever send anyone your username and password. Your password is your personal secret. Giving that information away is simply not smart.
- Stepping behind my desk without being asked. This is a personal pet peeve of mine. I like to have a certain amount of personal space and keeping you a few feet away at least makes me feel a bit more secure about typing various secret passwords into the machine while you are in the room. Please don't step behind my desk. My employees will make fun of me for this one I'm sure, but pride be damned, this annoys me.
- Leaning over my shoulder or stepping within a couple feet of me to talk. This creeps me out. Again with the personal space. Step back, please. I'd really rather not know how recently you bathed.
- Asking one of my staff for something and then asking me, or vice versa. This is the old trick every 4 year old tries: "Mom, can I do X?" "No." Go to the next room. "Dad, mom says that I can do X if you say it's okay." This is annoying. I have pretty good hearing when my door is open and my music is turned down. If one of my students says, do X to get your problem solved. Do that. Don't come to me and ask the same question again.
So that concludes this year's edition of "Pet Peeves." Thank you and good night.