Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Taking Politics Seriously

Sorry for the gap in posting; it's just been one of those weeks, and the fine folks at MegaCom Inc.[1] have been running me ragged.

Still, it seems others are having worse days:
A man who was angered by Michelle Obama's speech at Democratic National Convention was taken into custody after a six-hour standoff with SWAT team members, Pasco County authorities said. Sheriff's office spokesman Kevin Doll said the man, whose name was not released, will undergo a psychological evaluation.
It's quite the time-saver when I don't have to write a punchline.

[1]Not a real company name, or at least not the name of the company I work for.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

New or Old Media?

As a rule I will avoid politics on this blog. Not because I don't have political thoughts (because, boy howdy, I do) but because I'm more interested in ranting about stuff that's demonstrably dumb regardless of political viewpoint. (Since it's my rule, I will violate it when I see fit, such as with the post about teachers carrying guns.)

Having said that...I signed up on Barack Obama's website a few days ago to get the text message about his pick for the VP candidate, not because I'm an Obama fanboy (or hater) but because I liked the idea of an announcement being made this way. For good or ill Obama has made a big deal out of being a new-technology candidate, and this seemed to fit.

Well, it's Saturday afternoon, and not only has the announcement been made but the pundits are already wagging about the merits of the choice.

My phone, meanwhile, is silent. Swing and a miss, President Tech!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lots of Miles From Vietnam

The next time you think your government is utterly ridiculous...remember this.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Who Watches the Distribution Rights?

After getting me all excited with a kick-ass trailer, now comes news that Fox is attempting to block distribution of the new Watchmen movie:
Fox argues it acquired motion picture rights to the "Watchmen" graphic novel in the last 1980s, and that even though it relinquished certain rights to the material in 1991 it held onto the right to distribute the first movie.

"We will be asking the court to enforce Fox's copyright interests in "The Watchmen" and enjoin the release of the Warner Brothers film and any related 'Watchmen' media that violate our copyright interests in that property," said Fox spokesman Gregg Brilliant.
I'm not going to comment on the legal merits of the claim since (A) I'm not an attorney, and (B) even if I were, it's not like I've ever seen the relevant contracts, etc.

I'm simply going to suggest that if this movie isn't released on time, certain individuals may find themselves dropped down elevator shafts.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I'm Goin' On Tour, Mom!

Y'know, at least when I was a kid, we dropped out of high school to join an actual band:
In fact, young Mr. Peebles is dropping out of high school... in order to focus on Guitar Hero full time. Peebles hopes to join the small but growing crew of players looking to make gaming a job.

Citing his victories in Guitar Hero tournaments, which include "gift certificates, gaming equipment, and chicken sandwiches," Peebles thinks he has the chops to play competitively and earn actual money in the process.
I have to say...if there's real money to be made in this, then I just don't understand the world at all.

Coming next from Activision: Guitar Loser. This is more of a role-playing game; players tell their parents that they're quitting school to go on tour, attempt (and fail) to get a paying gig, then decide just what kind of part-time job they're willing to do in order to finance their weed.

Friday, August 15, 2008

"Common" Sense

A Texas school district is planning to let teachers bring guns to school:

The board of the small rural Harrold Independent School District
unanimously approved the plan and parents have not objected, said the district's
superintendent, David Thweatt.

School experts backed Thweatt's claim that Harrold, a system of about
110 students 150 miles northwest of Fort Worth, may be the first to let teachers
bring guns to the classroom.

Thweatt said it is a matter of safety.

"We have a lock-down situation, we have cameras, but the question we
had to answer is, 'What if somebody gets in? What are we going to do?" he said.
"It's just common sense."

Clearly this is a new and rather different definition of "common sense" of which I was previously unaware.

Nobody "Gets" Customer Service

Customer service in the IT industry seems designed more to frustrate than solve problems these days. Some of this is to be expected: as competition heats up and prices (and margins) fall, it becomes harder to fund really good customer service organizations. When your broadband Internet access runs you $25/month, it's hard to expect white-glove service.

Having said that, there are some things that just make me crazy that should be fixable for little or no cost:

Stop reading from a script. This is like nails on a freaking chalkboard to me. "I do apologize for any inconvenience, Mr. Heer. So I understand that you are having a problem with XXXXXX?" It's not even the words themselves -- though they don't help -- so much as the way they are read with porn-star-quality delivery. It sounds forced and wrong, and it doesn't help. It's meant to make me feel like the person really is sorry and cares about my problem, but we all know that's a bunch of crap so let's drop the pretense. Is it really that hard to hire people with the basic communications skills necessary to ad-lib that response in a natural fashion?

Once I've heard that rote response, I'm on edge. I already know what I'm dealing with: a flunky with a decision tree. The person I'm talking to doesn't have any actual technical knowledge or skill; s/he simply has a list of questions, with instructions on what to say or do based on my responses. The idea is to handle the most common, simple questions, and I get that; I really do. The problem is that the first series of "actions" the flunky says I must do are the same actions that everyone is told to do, no matter what the actual problem might be.

For example, I was having a problem over the weekend trying to change my Internet logon password. I went to the self-service web page and clicked on the link, entered my old pw, entered my new pw, and clicked Change. It sat for a while, and then told me, "Sorry, services currently not available." So I called...and spent 20 minutes running through the usual crap: delete my temporary files, remove my cookies, clear my browser history, etc. Now anyone with half a brain knows that these things have absolutely nothing to do with my problem, but the first-line support personnel don't apply logic -- or, really, any kind of diagnostic thought -- to problems. They have a list of questions, with actions and more questions based upon the customer's response. Yet those 20 minutes were a total waste: not only did my problem not get solved, but the results didn't produce any information helpful in diagnosing the problem. Once we got through all that nonsense, the support person put me on hold for 5 minutes, only to come back and tell me that my ISP's authentication server was down.

This is just dumb.

Look, I've worked in customer support for pretty much my entire career. I've been on the other end of the phone call, and I had multiple occasions where someone would call because his or her PC wouldn't power up. I've asked the question, "Did you check to make sure it's plugged in?" I've heard the response, "Uh, well...ohhhhhhh. Nevermind." So I get it. There are dumb people out there, and there are even non-dumb people who do dumb things out there.

But...I asked the question because, hey, not plugging the computer in can indeed cause the computer to fail to power up. The chances of my temporary files causing a problem with changing my ISP password (I do NOT mean a browser-based logon, here)? Nil. Come to think of it, does that fix anything anymore? I can't remember the last time I solved any problem by deleting temporary files. It's probably been a couple of years, at least.

Yes, engineers with some knowledge cost more. I get that. But I have to wonder how much of the savings is eaten up by wasting time with unnecessary steps? In the time it took that support person to deal with me, a barely-trained engineer could've dispo'd four or five simple calls.

And not annoyed anybody.


OK, the idea is that I'll blog frequently about whatever I think deserves a rant. The only topic I will probably avoid is sports, since I have another place to do that.