Help Me To Help You

Psychic Spell Breaker
Image by Metrix X via Flickr

Folks seem to have a lot of faith in the IT department. Not only can we fix anything we can do but we do so because we are psychic. Just takes a laying on of hands or a mere mention “it doesn’t work” and we know everything required to solve your issue. There have been numerous jokes, YouTube videos and the like making fun of the “stupid” other person (be it an employee or customer). I don’t like to poke fun at other people’s expense but there is a grain of truth in there somewhere. Let me shed some light on things from the other side. You want help –

You want help – so help me to help you.

Bad example:

Dear IT,

I can’t access _____.

This is the equivalent of saying “I can’t see the blue sky.” There could be many reasons why you can’t see the blue sky. Are your eyes closed? Are you looking up? Is it day time? Is it cloudy? Is something blocking your view?

Good Example:

Dear IT,

I can’t access _____. I tried to do this and then this and when I finally did this I wasn’t able to access ____.

Using the same analogy again. This lets IT know that your eyes are open, you are looking up, it is daytime but alas you are still unable to see the blue sky. This gives us a starting point, a reference. It let’s us know what you did up to the point where you had a problem.

I don’t expect everyone to understand every piece of technology that crosses their path. But I do expect people to tell me more than it just isn’t working. Try helping someone without knowing what they did or where they started. Not every person starts from the same point (e.g. I might type in a URL, someone else might have it already bookmarked and a third might do a Google search to find the URL).

I know folks get frustrated, I do too with technology sometimes (but that is usually due to my expectations – expectations just set you up for disappointment). I want things to work properly as well. But often I’ve found that user error (too fast clicking, not waiting for something to load, using the wrong software to do the job, etc.) gets in the way.

So just breathe, try again and when you still can’t get what you want – document all the steps you took up until the problem occurred. It will help me to help you and hopefully get you back on the road to what you were doing – sooner!

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Home Away From Home – Day 2

Ah, day two and it should have started off better.  Knew I had to leave a bit early from home to drop my son off at his Dad’s new house.  Still trying to figure out best routes to and from his house.  This morning with the hazy fog it didn’t help and I was a few minutes late getting to work.

EntranceFirst one in the office this morning.  Dropped my stuff at my work space and scurried to get to the morning duties (I had switched days with a co-worker).  Unforwarded the helpdesk phone and then proceeded to swap the tapes on both the Horizon and Authority Works servers.

This was to be my IT @ Admin day so I needed to focus on the morning duties and get them out of the way.  Once logged into my Ubuntu and Windows machines I did a quick cursory check of email (no dire messages).  I then proceeded to do the morning duties (just like yesterday).

Once they were out of the way I checked the helpdesk tickets and assigned them accordingly to my co-workers (seems some days I get a lot and others I don’t – it all evens out in the end).  Opened Twirl so I can peruse Twitter (both my personal account – @mlibrarianus and the library’s official account @HoCo_Library).  Then I queued up a Tweet for the library’s account using TweetFunnel.

Our Network Administrator came into the office and had mentioned that we had a power outage (clock in the workroom before ours was behind).   PACs were showing red on PACMON (our own montioring system that our web programmer wrote) but luckily the Day End computer finished running Day End before the power outage (having to run day end in the morning before people start logging into Horizon is not a fun thing to coordinate).

I proceeded to work on the email bouncebacks.  I’m still amazed at how many we get.  Are that many people really changing their email addresses and not updating them with us or what?  Still trying to figure out the best way to ensure our customers get notified without this having to deal with bouncebacks.  It is a labor intensive process that should not be handled by IT.  Haven’t come up with the answer as I know that there isn’t a “one size fits all” solution.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a tweet that made me chuckle.  I don’t normally follow the trends on Twitter but this one caught my eye #verydullbands.  Some were pretty good.  tumour seemed to be on a roll.  Time to head to our Administrative office in the East Columbia Branch and be the IT guru of the day (each of us takes turns spending a day at Admin helping with computer/software related issues that arise).

Home away from homeAfter getting my lunch in the fridge and things settled into the IT cubicle, I logged into the Ubuntu machine we have set aside for us.  Last time I was there I used Good OS – as if Google and Mac had a love child this would be it.  I really liked the operating system and having the Google gadgets.  Alas I was back to our staff desktop version of Ubuntu which is nice too.

Queued up another tweet for the library’s official account (which is approved by our Public Relations dept. and released to the Twitterverse).   Talked to a colleague who had heard I’d been recently to Spain recently and was thinking of going.  So I sent her a link to my photos from Espana on Flickr.

Consulted with fellow IT co-worker about iTouch and our collaborative software, DeskNow.  He had a Blackberry and wasn’t familiar with the iTouch.  Went around the Admin office asking staff if they had an iPhone or iTouch.  Found someone in Public Relations that had an iTouch who was able to help with the question another staff member had asked me.  I won’t mention my extreme jealousy of those with the iPhone or Blackberry (I soooo miss my Blackberry).

Helped another colleague with a PrintNow problem.  Think the delay was due to her Java update message wanting attention.  Once I clicked on that PrintNow printed the screen shot she needed.  Stopped by the cubicle of our Training Coordinator to discuss a request that had come up in my visits to the branches regarding our Staff Intranet.  She was open to the suggestion that the less formal “Lunch and Learns” be part of the training calendar as well as a notice on the Staff Intranet.

ITBack to my cubicle.  Checked on the Merlin site since I was playing admin while Nini Beegan was on vacation.  Cleaned up a bunch of registered users that were clearly spammers.

Consulted with web programmer and network administrator about the best way to get a new image onto our PAC screensavers.  The library’s unofficial (yet very professional and wonderfully talented) photography, Fritzi Newton, had taken shots of each of our 6 branches along with iconic views of our county and mixed them with photos she was able to obtain from Enoch Pratt.  She put these altogether as a screensaver for our public computers.  There was wording on each saying where the photo was taken.  After 2 years of these being out there for the public someone had realized that one of the slides had Maryland misspelled.  Fritzi corrected this and gave us the new image (with correctly spelled state) to use.

Realized I hadn’t really talked to our staff at Admin about the revamping the Staff Intranet.  I had been to all the branches to get feedback so I wondered around the office and talked to different staff.  Along the way I helped with a couple browser settings.  The one feature that I love on our Intranet was one that I pointed out to several folks.  Our web programmer had created a staff directory – the staff search box searches that directory.  So if you don’t know what branch, the phone number, the exact spelling of their email, what title they have, etc you can search for a person (last name or first name or full name) and see all of that plus a picture.  I convinced several people that using the staff directory search was 100 times easier than scrolling through the phone list.  This made me realize that this well used by many but missed by some box needed a more prominent spot on our Intranet.  So I moved that up further on the left hand side along with moving the Quick Links further to the top as well.  These are just temporary stop gaps until we revamp the whole Intranet.

LUNCH!

Assigned to myself and closed helpdesk ticket regarding receiving spam from old email address.  *sigh* The only 100% sure fire way to not receive spam is to not use email.

Played telephone tag with the editor of our reader’s advisory blog, Highly Recommended, regarding a few tweaks and a new idea that had come up in a meeting.  Then I went about interviewing more of the Admin staff about our Intranet and what ideas they might have.

Dealt with calendar settings for two people in Public Relations.  They didn’t have a box checked so the calendar invites were not showing up on their calendars the way they should.

Debunked an Urban Legend that was sent via email to IT.  I love Snopes.com.  I used to hang out on their bulletin board and I do miss the folks from there.

Discussed ideas with the Events & Seminars Manager about the use of voice recorders regarding local authors.  Getting them to read excerpts from their books or interviews with them as part of a podcast.

Answered an email from staff about the spam filtering option setting in our email.  Explained that we use Barracuda, spam filter, on the main email server so there is no need to use the one provided by DeskNow (if you do it actually creates more work).

Decided to make another change to the current Staff Intranet (that was brought up by staff at the branch) and managed to not screw it up.  Deleted code and things still worked properly.  Then I got a little too confident and removed some more – this time I did screw it up.  THANKFULLY, our web programmer who has the patience of a saint with me was able to figure out what I did wrong and fix it.

Way past time for me to go, so I turned off my machine and headed home.  I had to pack and drive to PA that night since I going with my parents the next morning to the hospital.  My Mother was having a biopsy of her lung done.  Here’s hoping it all goes well and the results are good.

Why Is This Even a Question?

What is a Browser?

I have the utmost respect for LibrarianbyDay but I’m going to have to disagree (again) with her latest blog post.   She commented on this video too and feels that the average Joe doesn’t necessarily need to know what a browser is.  Personally I think that is root of most computer problems – people (average Joe or not) don’t know ENOUGH about the machines they use.

Computers are pretty much a part of all of our lives.  We use them at work, at home and they are in almost everything from our cars to our electronic equipment.  I feel that people DO need to know not only what things are called but how to use them properly.  I’m not saying we all need to be programmer and start writing code but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have some computer competencies.

It is important to call things by the right name.  If I call it a whatizt but it is actually a howzer you won’t understand what I’m talking about, you won’t be able to help me and I’ll just get frustrated.   As someone who has to troubleshoot computer problems (which can often be user problems) nothing is more frustrating to both the user and me then when we can’t communicate.  Some might say “but you are speaking techie” – no, I am not.  I am known for using plain English but I will call things what they are (often followed by a short description or analogy so non-techies get it).

So let’s not perpuate this culture of not knowing what a browser or an operating system or anything else to do with these machines that are such a part of our lives.  Let’s educate people in at least the basics of computer literacy.  As a trainer I try to pass along nuggets every time I teach a class regardless of the main content.  If they are using computers in the class I’m going to be sure they know the browser we use is Firefox, that tab browsing is fantastic way to make your life easier (CtrlT), keyboard commands, etc.  I don’t think it is expecting too much of people that work with computers daily to know not only the correct words but some basic literacy when it comes to computers.

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No Woman is an Island

Forgive me John Donne (1572-1631) for taking poetic license.

I’ve been training staff members over the last 3-4 years (maybe more my memory ain’t what it used to be). It was something I stumbled into and found that I not only enjoyed but actually good at (or at least according to comments and evaluations). With each class that I taught, I’ve gained some insight. I love the give and take of training, the flow of not only energy but information. I believe that training should be a two-way street. It isn’t all about ME passing on information. I can learn a lot as well. I can learn what does or doesn’t work for a particular curriculum or for a particular learning style. I can sometimes learn a new way or shortcut of doing something even thought I thought I knew them all. To me it’s important to keep on learning as I help others to learn.

Recently I gave my first training for the public. What a great unknown that was for me. How computer savvy would they be? How do you create a training not knowing the skill level of your auidence? It was a good thing because I had gotten comfortable with training the staff and sometimes comfort can equate to being stale. The last thing I want to be is stale.

Most importantly this series of Web 2.0 classes wasn’t all about me. I wasn’t alone. No woman is an island or at least this woman wasn’t. So far the series has been pretty much a big success. I’ve been encouraged to offer this to staff and again to the public since we had such good turn out. But I could not have done this alone. So taking a nod from the Oscars….

I’d like to thank the academy:

  • Luis Salazar for diligently working to get me a viewsonic that gave a clear picture and worked with our Ubuntu laptop (at one point we had tried Ubuntu, Windows and Mac before we realized it was the viewsonic not the laptop)
  • Donna Metcalf for her support (attending a class) and helping Luis w/viewsonic issue.
  • Dennis Wood for being my AV man. He not only got me setup correctly on the sound portion but also tried to get the viewsonic working for another instructor in the Web 2.0 series.
  • Amy de Groff for allowing and encouraging me to do this. Also for her flexibility with my schedule (being boss and all).
  • Ruth Vargas and Danny Bouman for also being flexible and allowing me to switch my morning duties so I could present these classes at night.
  • Kim Ha for willing taking on a class on wikis (her passion) by herself.
  • Katie George for an outstanding job during our social networking class. I honestly couldn’t have done a better job and she was a hard act to follow.
  • Brian Auger for being willing to share our mutual passion of music and help me with tonight’s class on music social networking.
  • Fritzi Newton, photographer extraordinaire, for sharing her passion of photography and allowing me to sneak in a few moments about YouTube and Veho during Tuesday’s class.
  • my hubby for dealing with the dogs and dinner without me there – yes, dear we are a team
  • and most importantly the public for embracing this series so far

If I left anyone out it is not intentional.  I thank you all for helping me with this endeavor and I’ve learned a lot from each one of you.

Patience is a Virtue, Virtue is a Grace, Grace is a Little Girl ….

… who can’t watch long YouTube videos.  Has MTV ruined me?  Has it shortened the attention span of the average computer user?  Or is it just old age in my case?

I’m finding that I can’t put up videos on YouTube that are longer than 3 minutes or so.  Wanted to watch a colleague’s YouTube video for a program they did at their library but after first 3 minutes I found my attention wondering.  It wasn’t that the video was extremely boring or anything (although some editing would have been in order) but it was more like …cut to the chase.

So is this impatience setting in with old age?  Is this being raised on the fast paced editing of MTV videos?  Or is this because most YouTube videos used to be short and sweet now longer ones are available and my mind hasn’t adjusted?

Please tell me I’m not the only one.