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The 5 Users You'd Meet in Hell 649

cweditor writes "The Know-It-All. The Finger-Pointer. The Whiz Kid. "Just as a zookeeper cares for his monkeys one way and his rhinos another (we kid — sort of), so too should IT tailor its responses to fit the individual styles of its end users," according to this Computerworld "rogue's gallery of users (and one angel)". Includes advice on how to best deal with the most common types of users, without having to run screaming into the night. Expect sometime soon to also see reader feedback offering other ideas (and, oh, perhaps some disagreement with the article's)."
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The 5 Users You'd Meet in Hell

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  • by RandoX ( 828285 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:05PM (#21671515)
    I once had to help a user because she had accidentally rearranged the icons on her desktop and didn't know how to do her job. She had meticulously documented her job as follows:

    Step 1: Click the third icon from the top in the second column [...]

    • by dintech ( 998802 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:13PM (#21671653)
      I've seen someone very confused when the mouse reached the right edge of the desk but not the right edge of the screen...
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Greatmoose ( 896405 )
        Sounds like they need the $500 Dogbert (R) Mousepad extension upgrade! /Too obscure?
      • by afc_wimbledon ( 1052878 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:16PM (#21672831)
        I guess we all have true stories like these....my favourite is as follows. An update to users' PCs was sent round in an email which basically said "click on the icon in this email to start the process, then do the following...you may want to print off this email to refer to the instructions as you go along." One user, at a remote office (naturally!) just couldn't get this to work. Several different people tried to talk her through it over the phone, but eventually someone had to drive over to see what was going on. It's obvious really; she'd printed out the email and was carefully putting the mouse on the print out, on top of the image of the icon, and clicking....
      • by beckerist ( 985855 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @04:41PM (#21676077) Homepage
        True story, I used to own a business where I would field off-hours calls from home users (generally not businesses.) I also made house visits off hours too. I was a teen with a car and could undercut everyone in town. This was one of my FIRST calls:

        Me: Thanks for calling, how can I help?
        Her: My computer won't turn on!
        Me: Alright, can you do me a favor and check to see that the cable is plugged into the computer?
        [20 seconds later]
        Me: Good, we've established that! Now, can you follow the cord to ensure it's plugged into an outlet?
        [20 seconds later]
        Her: Yeah, it's plugged right into the desk!
        Me: The desk? Do you have a power strip?
        Her: Yeah, I can wheel this desk around, it's so convenient I can take it all around the house!
        [at this point I'm pondering...]
        Me: What's the power strip on the desk plugged into?
        [20 seconds later]
        Her: You mean the desk? It came with it's own outlet!

        Yes folks, this lady had successfully plugged her power strip into itself! I tried a snarky comment on how if you removed the shielding on the wire and ran a magnet REALLY fast...didn't seem to catch on. I don't think she was the technical type!
    • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:16PM (#21671697)
      > I once had to help a user because she had accidentally rearranged the icons on her desktop and didn't know how to do her job. She had meticulously documented her job as follows:
      > Step 1: Click the third icon from the top in the second column [...]

      That wasn't just any know-nothing. That was the team lead for your company's ISO 9000 programme!

    • by InvisblePinkUnicorn ( 1126837 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:33PM (#21671977)
      It's surprising how many people are like this. I encounter people this clueless on a weekly basis.

      Me: "Right-click on your program shortcut and go to Properties..."

      User: "What?"

      Me: "The shortcut to the program."

      User: "What?"

      Me: "However you normally open the program."

      User: "Ok, the program's open."

      Me: "No, just right-click on that icon."

      User: "So close the program?"

      Me: "Yes"

      User: "It says, 'are you sure you want to exit.' Click ok?"

      Me: "Yes."

      User: "It says, 'An error was encountered.' Click Send?"

      Me: "No, click Do Not Send."

      User: "OK, so go into the program?"

      Me: "No, right-click on the shortcut."

      User: "What?"

      • by Sczi ( 1030288 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:48PM (#21672265)
        My favorite (aka, most hated) is along those lines, but not quite:

        Me: click the thing
        User: Ok
        Me: click the next thing
        User: Ok
        Me: click the next thing
        User: Ok
        Me: right-click the next thing
        User: what?
        Me: click the right button on it
        User: Ok
        Me: click the next thing
        User: Is that left click or right click?
        Me: left click
        User: Ok
        Me: click the next thing
        User: Is that left click or right click?

        And my favorite question:
        User: Is the Internet down?
        Me: Is there panic in the streets today?
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by MightyYar ( 622222 )
          All of the sudden, Jobs seems like a fucking genius keeping Apple's tech support bill so low, eh? :)
          • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @03:40PM (#21675271)

            All of the sudden, Jobs seems like a fucking genius keeping Apple's tech support bill so low, eh? :)

            You joke, but pretty much anyone who has ever done usability testing on modern computer systems has run into difficulty with right and left mouse buttons. It is the single, number one, most common usability problem. The worst are users (about 5%) who always click both buttons at the same time, usually resulting in a left click, but occasionally (and apparently randomly to them) their other finger wins the race and they right click. The problem is not even solely that of novice users. When you use software to record the screen as people work, you see the problem for advanced users, most of whom do not even notice. I saw this once for one of the top security architects for one of the biggest tier 1 ISPs in the US, and he was a really bright guy.

            Apple has largely solved this problem with two major things. First, all systems ship in single button configuration, so developers almost never require right-clicking for any action. (aside from one pro graphics company and a few bad ports of Windows/Linux apps). This means everything accessed by right-clicking is a secondary way to get to that function and can be used for quick shortcuts. The second thing they did was the invention of the mighty mouse. It isn't perfect and I don't use one myself, but they change a mouse from single button to multi-button in software, so different users of the same hardware can have either a simple mouse or an advanced mouse. This is the best thing ever for public machines, family computers, and other shared systems.

            I suppose having actual experience with formal, scientific testing in this area is why all the idiotic comments about 1 button mice and ridicule of people who have problems is so annoying to me.

      • by phantomflanflinger ( 832614 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:49PM (#21672293) Homepage
        You're lucky. This is what I get:

        Me: Right-click on your mouse

        Client: Hang on, I'm getting a pen. (PAUSE) OK.

        Me: Can you see the context menu? Click Properties on it.

        Client: Menu? What menu?

        Me: Did you right-click on your mouse?

        Client: Yes.

        Me: OK do it again then.


        Me: Can you see the context menu?

        Client: No - nothing happens. I've written click on my mouse twice, nothing's happened and now I've got ink on fingers!
        • by InvisblePinkUnicorn ( 1126837 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:08PM (#21672665)
          Some other favorites of mine:

          A tech support rep for another company emailed saying our upgrader didn't work for him. I asked him what the filename of the upgrader was. He replied with the file version and all the other information about the file, but said he couldn't find the filename...


          Me: Here is your registration code: Alpha One Five...

          User: Alpha? Where's the alpha key? I don't see that...


          A user wanted to use a camera with our software, but said it wasn't showing up as an option. I asked her if the camera was plugged in; she said no, but said "that shouldn't matter"...


          Me: Open up Windows Explorer by right clicking Start and going to Explore. Do you see our program folder under C:\Program Files\?

          User: I don't understand what you're talking about! ALL I SEE IS GOOGLE!

          Me: Not Internet Explorer. Windows Explorer. Right click on Start and go to Explore.


          A tech support rep from another company was convinced that our "Watch Guard HTTP Proxy" was blocking him from downloading files from our site. I tried to explain to him that it was HIS proxy, not ours, but he didn't believe me and said he wanted to talk to another tech support here.
          • Military Alphabet (Score:5, Insightful)

            by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:22PM (#21672927)

            Me: Here is your registration code: Alpha One Five...

            User: Alpha? Where's the alpha key? I don't see that...

            I learned the hard way that using military alphabet abbreviations [wikipedia.org] over the phone just confuses most folks who aren't current/ex military or pilots. You end up having to say "A as in Alpha" instead otherwise they can't cope. It's even worse if they are a foreign national whose English language skills aren't so strong.

            Of course most folks here can't deal with metric either so I shouldn't be surprised. (yes I'm an American slamming other Americans on this topic) There are a lot of things people could do to make their lives easier that they don't bother to learn. Sad but true.
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by dcsmith ( 137996 ) *
              You end up having to say "A as in Alpha" instead otherwise they can't cope. It's even worse if they are a foreign national whose English language skills aren't so strong.

              For real fun, make good use of all the possibilities. You can get someone to lose hope if you spell it
              H as in Hour
              O as in Opossum
              P as in Psychic
              E as in Excel

              See also
              A as in Aardvark
              G as in Gnu
              K as in Knife
              M as in Mnemonic
              X as in Xylophone...

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by blhack ( 921171 )
              the worst are those bastards at dell:

              My express service tag is:

              "B as in Bravo, C as in charlie F as in Foxtrot, S as in Seirra, 4 5 9 2 6" to which they respond:
              "So thats B as in Boy, C as in Karen, F as in fun, s as in Cicero? 4 5 9 2 X"?


              "B as in Bravo"
              "B as in boy"
              "c as in charlie"
              "C as in catwalk"
              "F as in foxtrot"
              "F as in Friendly"
              "S as in Sierra"
              "S as in Sam"

              They're worse than the morons at starschmucks...."I'd like a large chocolate latte' please" "venti mocha?"


            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              As a pilot, I automatically think alpha, bravo, charlie, when trying to explain which letter I mean. My girlfriend is an ophthalmologist, and she uses a different phonetic alphabet, kind of impromptu, mostly using common names, and she claims it works much better with people who don't really understand what she's trying to do because they're more familiar with the words. April, Bill, Charlie, Doctor, something like that. Sometimes I get to hang out with one of her friends, who was a P-38 pilot in WWII, a
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by fubar1971 ( 641721 )
      Once again for everyone's reading pleasure:
      Stupid User Story [slashdot.org]
      Of course since then I have had many more, like:
      My printer is printing things upside down.
      What do you mean I can't drag and drop things to a blank CD in my CD-ROM drive, I have no problems doing it at home with my CD burner
      Of course the famous...is the Internet broke, because I have not received any email in the last 5 minutes so the Internet must be broken
      There are so many, that I probably could write a book :)
    • voodoo users (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TheMCP ( 121589 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:39PM (#21673209) Homepage
      One of my professors in college (Hi Prof Pierroule, if you read this!) called that sort "voodoo users": they have no idea whatsoever what they're doing, no amount of training actually gets them to understand the computer, and they have merely memorized (or written down) a series of exact steps and they know that if they perform the magical steps, the magical process occurs and they get the desired output... but if anything goes even the slightest bit wrong with any of those steps, they fail completely.

      My experience with many such people leads me to believe that voodoo users have a mindset that effectively prevents them from learning how computers work: I think in some cases they're so convinced that they can't learn it that they prevent themselves from doing so even if they otherwise could, and in some cases they don't have the sort of brain processes that allow a person to systematize knowledge about how one part of one thing works to understand how other parts or other things work, so memorizing instructions is all they can do.

      I usually make them lavish documentation with lots and lots of color screenshots. (Yes, I've had users that failed because the document was b&w and the screen was color and they couldn't match the two in their heads. This also means the document has to be created with the default system colors, and I have to ensure that their workstation is set to the default system colors.) And over-simplistic language. (You can't say "click 'ok'" and expect them to figure out that there's an on-screen button labeled 'ok' that they're supposed to click with the mouse: you have to say "using the mouse, move the pointer so that it is on the on-screen 'button' labeled 'ok'. [picture of it here] Press the left mouse button and release it.")
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by orclevegam ( 940336 )
        I sometimes wonder if this type of person is a byproduct of the American education system (although I know it's not exclusive to America, I've also heard that the British and Indian school systems are very similar). It seems to me it's designed around (for the most part) rewarding individuals that memorize and repeat word for word an exact set of instructions or information. The few exceptions I see to this are usually in the Mathematics, Science or English departments but even then it's pretty rare. I wasn
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by JohnFluxx ( 413620 )
        > Press the left mouse button and release it.

        Except they'll hold the button down too long and end up dragging and fail to click. They won't retry or even realise it didn't work, but simply get confused by the next instruction.
      • Re:voodoo users (Score:5, Interesting)

        by justinlindh ( 1016121 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @02:24PM (#21673995)
        I think most of these so-called "voodoo users" are the older generation. In the case of the elderly, it's not that they're unable to learn how to use computers... it's just that they're scared to.

        Many of the elderly had occupations or grew up on farms where making a mistake with a piece of machinery would result in them losing a limb. Years of operating under this mindset causes severe paranoia with machinery that they don't understand. Critical thinking involved in figuring out even the simplest of tasks on their own can be frightening for them, but they can follow explicit step-by-step instructions, because they trust them more than themselves.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by toadlife ( 301863 )

        ....they don't have the sort of brain processes that allow a person to systematize knowledge about how one part of one thing works to understand how other parts or other things work, so memorizing instructions is all they can do.
        In other words, they're just not very bright.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Speare ( 84249 )

          ....they don't have the sort of brain processes that allow a person to systematize knowledge about how one part of one thing works to understand how other parts or other things work, so memorizing instructions is all they can do.

          In other words, they're just not very bright.

          I generally agree but I think "brightness" is a composite of several mental feats or traits. Just being enthusiastic about a task or subject can sometimes appear as brightness. Just being able to memorize a metric butt-load of dry facts can sometimes appear as brightness. The above trait is the ability to extrapolate across kinds of information, and/or the ability to generalize various facts by their common aspects, and these are depressingly rare abilities. Some people really do have moments where

      • Re:voodoo users (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Karl Cocknozzle ( 514413 ) <kcocknozzle@ h o t m a i l.com> on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @02:54PM (#21674565) Homepage

        I think in some cases they're so convinced that they can't learn it that they prevent themselves from doing so even if they otherwise could, and in some cases they don't have the sort of brain processes that allow a person to systematize knowledge about how one part of one thing works to understand how other parts or other things work, so memorizing instructions is all they can do.

        The term you're looking for is "learned helplessness." They have either been told so many times, or have told themselves so many times, that they CAN'T do something that these "false facts" become their reality. Since trying to go beyond your limits requires an emotional risk (i.e. "What if I fail? I'll look foolish....") people who learn to be helpless tend to stay that way unless they get help breaking out of it or they accidentally do the thing the "know" they can't and get the idea that they actually can. (Wow, that was one tortured sentence...)
      • Re:voodoo users (Score:4, Insightful)

        by jmoriarty ( 179788 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @03:46PM (#21675341)
        To be fair, this often grips some technical support people. I'm fairly technical, and if I go to tech support I've usually tried the first two or three rounds of things they're going to suggest. I figure I'm just saving us both time if I can explain what I've done already to try and reduce the complexity a bit. If they want me to repeat something I've done just a bit differently, I'm happy to do it.

        However, often they don't even want to hear what I've done. They are reading off of scripts and have no idea how to actually fix the problem. They are in the same voodoo category, and very rarely end up actually helping. A shame, actually, because they either seem unable or (worse) unwilling to learn what they're trying to support. It wastes everyones time.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Jardine ( 398197 )
          However, often they don't even want to hear what I've done. They are reading off of scripts and have no idea how to actually fix the problem. They are in the same voodoo category, and very rarely end up actually helping. A shame, actually, because they either seem unable or (worse) unwilling to learn what they're trying to support. It wastes everyones time.

          It can also be that they're not allowed to deviate from the script. This is especially true in large ISPs. First level support agents are randomly monito
  • Hmm.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by somersault ( 912633 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:05PM (#21671519) Homepage Journal
    Have you tried switching it off and on again?
  • Irony (Score:5, Funny)

    by haystor ( 102186 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:07PM (#21671543)
    There is strong irony in the IT worker complaining about the know-it-all.
    • Re:Irony (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ByOhTek ( 1181381 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:26PM (#21671845) Journal
      Agreed, I've seen help desk personelle fall into those categories listed in that document.

      I'll admit, I fall into the wiz kid category, with a few smatterings of know-it-all (except I'm willing to admit I'm wrong if I screw up, and even temporarily take the blame while we wait to figure out what is really wrong, and I don't install things against company policy). A while ago I had an odd problem on my computer when dealing with a server (the IT area changed settings on the server a while ago related to the server-client connection, and something was cached on the clients computers and not updated). Anyway, the IT guy was the finger pointer. He kept trying to blame me for the problem - jumping from one thing to another, and I just stood there thinking "I don't care if I caused it or not, I want to know what was wrong, and how to fix it. If it was me, I'm more than willing to accept the blame, but without knowing what's wrong, we can't assign blame."

      Turns out it wasn't me and everything he tried to blame me for wasn't the problem. Especially since several users have since had the same problem (The client caching things it shouldn't).

      *sigh* I've been an IT help desk (like the person assiting me was), and I've been on the client end. As much annoyed as I got with some clients, I don't think the worst clients I've delt with are nearly as bad as the worst help desk individuals. Maybe it's just that I have a better personality for helping than being helped (a lot of clients asked for me by name), but I think part of the problem is that some IT desk people can get quite arrogant and put their users into two categories: Those that don't know nearly as much as they should know (the know nothings), and the people who know what they should while still knowing nothing and not having the possibility of knowing more than 'me' (everyone else).

      Sorry about the rant, there are issues with both sides, client and help desk. Many seem to think their own side is perfect, but really neither is.
      • Re:Irony (Score:5, Insightful)

        by haystor ( 102186 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:35PM (#21672029)
        I just don't like being treated as the enemy...and a dumb enemy at that. I fully realize I don't know everything about the desktop or why windows networking can take 30+ seconds to log on (what is it doing?!). But when I drag one of them over to show them how my build which is creating 5000 files takes 100x longer when the virus scanner is operating "on access" I expect an answer better than "corporate policy".

        The unix administrators I've run across certainly have their tyrants but they eventually relent in order to let me get some work done. The windows side of IT seems perfectly willing to let work stop in order to conform to policy.
    • Re:Irony (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ch-chuck ( 9622 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:43PM (#21672165) Homepage
      The olde saying goes: People who think they know everything are particularly annoying to those of us who do.

  • There are more.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:07PM (#21671545)
    1) the mad bcc cya artists, who propagate more messages than the worst spammers on earth

    2) all of the millions of people that don't RTFM or help screens before lifting the phone and calling tech support; yes, the manuals and help screens suck, so did your chemistry book.

    3) people that experiment with key configuration settings. Go ahead, click that DHCP button.

    4) the well-intentioned, yet clueless. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    5) fanboi bigots; these weak ego'd miscreants are so insecure that the mere mention of a competing technology will drive them into brutal defensive postures. Their reactions remind me of our current political upheaval

    • by s20451 ( 410424 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:20PM (#21671755) Journal
      all of the millions of people that don't RTFM or help screens before lifting the phone and calling tech support; yes, the manuals and help screens suck, so did your chemistry book.

      But isn't it your job to be on the other end of the phone to answer a question in ten minutes that would take me an hour to figure out by reading the poorly-written book? If not then why am I paying for support?

      • by zymurgyboy ( 532799 ) <zymurgyboy@[ ]oo.com ['yah' in gap]> on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:02PM (#21672539)
        I reedening form the same bok you are. ifI havening this much truble fixing you CP, some self help is probably not bad idea.

        Is it just yor external email or email or external emais from you hole area?

      • Depends (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 )
        If you've defined your computer support positions as being responsible for being experts at every piece of software your run and to spend their time helping people with all the problems with them then sure. However the problem with that is you are likely to need a very large staff to accomplish anything, and have to pay a fair bit to get them trained in everything.

        Usually IT positions seem to be more responsible for the larger picture, making sure the systems and network operate correctly. Past that, a lot
      • by avronius ( 689343 ) * on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @02:14PM (#21673779) Homepage Journal
        Ultimately, this will depend on the type of service that your help desk provides.

        There are different types of technical support available, and your company may employ some or all of those available. They include (but by no means are limited to) the following:

        Tier 1: First level telephone support
        In general, this level of support will assist you with "I can't find the right mouse button" type questions. The people who work at this level are generally very comfortable with the desktop operating system that your company uses, and can help you find applications, sometimes even help you find departmental data. Some companies even grant Tier 1 support staff the ability to remotely control your PC and help you to launch applications in this manner.

        Tier 2: Second level support
        In general, this level of support is called upon when the Tier 1 support personnel have exhausted their flow charts of canned information. This would include problems like, the computer won't reboot or we can no longer send e-mail.

        Tier 3: Third level support
        In general, this level of support will never talk to the end user. This group of people are involved in building the infrastructure, maintaining servers and network gear, and resolving obscure technical problems that are beyond the scope of responsibility for the Tier 2 support personnel.

        It is important to note that there are many Tier 1 support staff who work their way towards Tier 3. They attempt to learn as much as they can about an area - by resolving problems for people that are outside their sphere of responsibility. These people "go the extra mile" trying to resolve problems that you, as a user, should be able to look up and answer for yourself.

        If you are using CAD applications, Geophysical applications, or an obscure 4GL to compile your custom application, you will not likely get the support that you are looking for from the standard 3 tier support infrastructure. In many cases, you will have a contract with the vendor to obtain support directly from them.

        If you are using obscure functions of "off the shelf software", then you will likely end up being more knowledgeable about the product than your Tier 1, 2 AND 3 support staff, as they have no reason to use the software as intimately as you would.

        Your help desk can only provide the service that your company is willing to support. I somehow doubt that refusing to learn an uncommon application feature for yourself on the basis of "it's too hard" will not make you look good to your manager.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bob9113 ( 14996 )
      5) fanboi bigots; these weak ego'd miscreants are so insecure that the mere mention of a competing technology will drive them into brutal defensive postures.

      Boy can I relate to that. I can't count the number of times I've gotten this blind, dogmatic reaction from Vi users when I explain to them, in the simplest possible terms, why Emacs is The One True Editor.
  • by courteaudotbiz ( 1191083 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:09PM (#21671577) Homepage
    The brother in law!!! It's the worse one, because he is all 5 worst users in the same person!
  • by Recovering Hater ( 833107 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:09PM (#21671579)
    - The BOFH is waiting to greet them.
  • by DriveDog ( 822962 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:09PM (#21671593)
    No, not just enlist their help with other users and throttle their access, actually listen to what they have to say and ask why they do things that don't align with policy.
    • by qortra ( 591818 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:39PM (#21672113)
      Yes, I must agree. IT guys are not at the top of the tech food chain; there are plenty of people in other fields who are just as capable if not more at that kind of work. In situations where you're the IT guy butting heads with the whiz kid, one of two things is happening:

      1) The whiz kid is advocating a violation of protocol. Often, this is the whiz kid not understanding how things work for the average technology user. In this case, you probably should consider but ultimately reject the opinion of the whiz. In other cases, the opinion should be weighed carefully, keeping in mind that protocol should be adapted once in a while.

      2) The whiz kid is telling you how the technology actually works (not how it looks from the perspective of the Windows Management Console). In this case, if you disagree (and/or accuse them of going to hell, as in this article), you have now become the know-it-all, and he is the expert. Show some humility, and try to learn. If he is eventually found to be wrong, your humility will only act as a slap in his face. If he is right, you have potentially avoided losing face.
      • by Mr. Underbridge ( 666784 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:54PM (#21672367)

        1) The whiz kid is advocating a violation of protocol. Often, this is the whiz kid not understanding how things work for the average technology user. In this case, you probably should consider but ultimately reject the opinion of the whiz. In other cases, the opinion should be weighed carefully, keeping in mind that protocol should be adapted once in a while.

        Best way to handle that can be to tell whiz kid that yes, he's technically right, his solution is better in an ideal world. Unfortunately, you're left supporting 1 genius (him) and 499 mouth-breathing retards, so he can thank the retards for forcing you to do things even you'd rather not do. That way you can win his respect and, possibly, some sympathy.

        Personally, I'm probably a somewhat older/more mature version of the 'whiz kid.' I see our poor IT guy swamped by users who fit very well into the other 'demon' user categories. Seeing what the guy goes through, I try to help him out as much as possible and give him long lead times on things I need. As a result, when unforseen things happen that very rarely require me to play the 'I need this NOW' card, he trusts that I'm not being a jackass and I really do need it (most likely, somebody else did the same thing to me and we're in the same boat).

        I pay him back by helping out with our Linux systems since our Windows users usually keep him swamped.

  • 7th graders (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mishelley ( 1202207 )
    7th graders (13 year olds) are the users who will be welcoming me into hell
  • the ex-wife...
  • Or any combination (Score:5, Interesting)

    by alan_dershowitz ( 586542 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:16PM (#21671701)
    I nearly got fired by a Ms. Entitlement Finger-Pointer. Personal secretary for the president of an unnamed fortune 500 company has the president's Active Directory password, and ended up locking the account. This is where I got the "do you know who I am, I am the SECRETARY of mr. So and So. I was just a phone support operator. After a little bit of screaming and accusation, I figure out what the problem is and unlock the account. A week later, she locks the account again, conveniently right before the weekend. Next, I get an angry phone call from the president himself, demanding to know why his account is locked, because HE IS THE PRESIDENT, and is trying to get ready for an important meeting. I end up in a conference call with the secretary, who proceeds to tell the president that I've "done this to her before." Now we've established the finger-pointing. She'd successfully established my guilt as the baseline of the "discussion", and it was downhill after that. After that point, the writing was on the wall, and I got out of there after a few months. Basically, I ended up on the "list" and was not going to get off.

    These people can ruin your job. I'm just glad that I was a lowly operator, it would really suck if I'd have had a good job there and this happened.
    • IT problem (Score:5, Informative)

      by CarpetShark ( 865376 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:49PM (#21672283)
      That's an IT problem, not a user problem. It should NOT give passwords to active directory, even to the company president. In a fortune 500, that's for the head of IT's off-site safe. No, not the safe with the mission-critical backups; the SMALL, discrete, more secure safe. The head of IT should also have been shielding you from that kind of BS, via laying down his own law at board level.
    • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:08PM (#21672647) Journal
      While this is all hind-sight now, handling such people requires a bit of forethought.

      Of course, if you were a semi-BOFH, you would've promptly done some looking, then claim with alacrity that his account was breached by a third party (w/o naming the secretary), and that the lock-out was a safety measure. Then get the alarms going and report it as a security incident... this hands off the problem to the IT manager (hey, he's getting paid the big bucks to deal with crap like that). Eventually the problem gets (naturally) tracked to the secretary (who can no longer credibly claim that you did it, what with all the other uppity-ups getting involved and the log analysis/forensics that go with that), and it has the added benefit of being completely true. As a plus, they can't come back at you because when it comes to IT security, everyone knows that paranoia is a Good Thing(tm).

      (a true full-on BOFH would've had the secretary meet with an 'unfortunate accident' involving either high voltage or a fall from a high place).

    • by TheMCP ( 121589 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @02:31PM (#21674129) Homepage
      I am sometimes an IT manager.

      I find that most of the problem users are also finger pointers. It's rare that I encounter one of the other problem users who isn't also a finger pointer. Usually they'll call my boss, whoever that is, and try to get me fired. This is why I won't even consider an IT job unless I've discussed it thoroughly with my potential new boss and they've made it plain that they will back me up. The finger pointer then usually tries calling my boss's boss. I therefore insist on having enough of a relationship with *that* person that they know me enough to call me and have a friendly discussion about what really happened, rather than flying into a rage as the finger pointer wants them to.

      I've found that attempting to mollify finger pointers is generally a bad idea: they'll get pissed off anyway, either now or later, and go to management and tell whatever kind of outrageous stories they think are necessary to get rid of me (or my staff), even if it means lying outright. (And I don't mean the kind of "they're too ignorant of computers to tell the difference" lies, I mean things like claiming I said a bunch of sexist stuff that I would never say.)

      So, my new method of dealing with finger pointers is "take no prisoners." If something goes wrong and they say "what did you do?" they get a detailed lecture about not jumping to conclusions before analysis. They try to blame something on me and it's their fault, and they get a lecture about exactly what they did wrong and they get told that if they insist on blaming me or my staff for their errors we will withdraw service from them, including their network connection, and they can figure out how to do their job without a computer. (And I mean it - I've done it.) If they claim that they're suffering because me or my staff is slow in responding to them, all work for that user halts while I contact the help desk and get them to retrieve the records to demonstrate our reasonable response times for that user, and then I insist on receiving an apology before I can continue work.

      I then go back to my desk and fire off a very polite email to their boss and mine about their poor behavior and its negative effect on my staff's morale. Since my boss always knows from experience that I am a professional and would never make shit up, when my email and the inevitable one from the finger pointer come in, I am the one who is believed.

      The other consequence of this is that I insist that my staff have no more contact with finger pointers than absolutely necessary. If a finger pointer calls the help desk, the help desk notes what they have to say, tells them they'll get a call back, and then routes the complaint to me, and I handle it personally, calling in other IT people to assist me (not them) as necessary. This means that sometimes they have to wait for me to become available to work on their problem for them. If they complain to me about it, or my staff, they are told that because they've had difficulties in the past they have been placed in a special service category in which they are always taken care of by the top IT people (the managers) to ensure that they receive the best possible quality of service. If they complain to upper management about it, upper management will ask me, and I'll tell them the real reason - that they're not allowed to deal with lower level IT people because they can't be trusted not to tell lies and try to get my people fired, while I have the clout to stand up to them.

      It has happened that management has decided to fire a finger pointer after they told nasty lies about me came to light. (The specific user accused me of making a pass at her and then discriminating against her for being a lesbian. HR called me about this, and I merely informed them that I'm gay. The discussion was over and I was off the hook.) And yes, management did back me when I withdrew all services from a user because of their nasty behavior - the user was fired, on the basis that they had such behavior problems they couldn't get along w
  • Just treat them with a little respect but make sure they know that there are rules. It's hard to have people listen to what you say if they think "well we're friends, he'll let it slide" but they'll become defiant if you're the complete prick IT guy.

    I've found that being respectful but firm with all users they understand what they can and cannot do. If I treat management different than the cube grunts the management become the Mr. Elitist.
  • by coinreturn ( 617535 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:18PM (#21671715)
    The article is, unsurprisingly, written from the typical asshat IT support person point of view. The article doesn't list the user who actually does know a lot more than the clueless freshly-minted IT support guy. As opposed to the "Mr. Know-It-All" who thinks he's an engineer, there are those of us who actually are engineers who are hobbled by Mr. Know-Nothing IT guys who operate blindly. I always laugh at the IT guy who does superstitious things like closing the Explorer window and re-opening a new one so he can navigate somewhere! Or tries the exact same operation four times, thinking it will work the fourth time! Every time some idiotic security application is "pushed" onto all desktops and fucks up my ability to update development software, some IT moron asks "well what did you change?" I remember a dimwit who claimed I needed a new computer because he couldn't figure out how get an encryption certificate working in Outlook. I kid you not, I got a new computer out of it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I agree. There are lots of IT people out there who are actually skilled, but there are tons who think the IT title imputes knowledge on them somehow.

      I went to my school's IT department because I messed up my MBR installing Ubuntu and needed to borrow the Windows install CD so I could run fixmbr in the recovery console. He had no idea what this so-called "recovery console" on the install CD was and had never heard of this "fixmbr" program. So I sat in his office and fixed my computer, but I couldn't help
    • Bribe them. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TheMCP ( 121589 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:45PM (#21673307) Homepage

      As opposed to the "Mr. Know-It-All" who thinks he's an engineer, there are those of us who actually are engineers who are hobbled by Mr. Know-Nothing IT guys who operate blindly.
      I find it pretty effective to bribe them with a pan of homemade fudge to give me the administrative passwords to my workstation.

      Or tries the exact same operation four times, thinking it will work the fourth time!
      Sometimes when I seem to be doing that, I'm actually retrying so I can observe my steps more carefully to make sure I didn't screw up the steps and fail to notice my own error.
  • by greenguy ( 162630 ) <estebandido@gmaE ... m minus math_god> on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:18PM (#21671719) Homepage Journal
    I was the Twentysomething Whiz Kid when I was, er, in my twenties. Then I went to grad school, and got a grasp on just how much there was left to learn. I've learned some humility, but even so, the computers at one of my jobs are so-so, and an absolute catastrophe at the other. The difference is that now I have an MSI, so I can articulate why they're a catastrophe.
  • There always seems to be one user in the office who looks at technology as if it were spawned by demons. They use it, because it is required of their job, but they distrust it, and if something they click on takes 5 ms longer than normal, there must be something wrong. They pine for the day of the typewriter and carbon paper, and hate it when anything is updated/upgraded/replaced, because they don't want to have to learn anything new.

  • I mean, this sort of stuff is HelpDesk 101 around here. Are we ahead of the curve, or is the author just searching for something to write about?
  • by drb_chimaera ( 879110 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:23PM (#21671809)

    ...the dreaded 'family member'

    In some cases, like my dad, it's not so bad, he pays attention to the explanation of whats wrong and is usually pretty good about dealing with problems he's seen before so I rarely have to fix the same problem twice, plus he's as good at fixing cars as I am with computers and I'm *rubbish* with cars so that results in a pretty fair exchange of skills.

    Other members of my family are *much* more irritating and would think nothing of calling me up at 3am because they have a paper due in at 9am that they left to the last minute and couldn't figure out why their printer wouldn't work (for reference: because the dizzy bint had unplugged it to charge up her MP3 player).

    The really shocking thing is that several of my techie friends seem to have it even worse than me with their family!

    In a corporate environment the worst I face on a day to day basis are those I classify as 'know just enough to be dangerous' - its a combination of a modicum of ability with computers combined with just the right level of arrogance that they know more than I do that leads to all sorts of problems.

    Day to day though it's pretty easy - the place I work is only 300 or so people, which is small enough to build reasonably personal relationships with the various staff, so I generally know the best approach to deal with whomever is having a problem - up to and including who can I get away with calling a dumbfuck to their face, and which ones I should save to have a laugh about back at the pen ;)

  • by Joe Jay Bee ( 1151309 ) * <jbsouthsea@ g m a il.com> on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:27PM (#21671881)
    In his cubicle, he has a stuffed [...] Linux penguin mascot. And he's highly likely to be a gamer

    10 points for whoever can spot the huge flaw in this quote! ;)
  • by shaka999 ( 335100 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:29PM (#21671907)
    Guess I'd fall close the the know-it-all category. Personally I'd like to see a list of the IT classes. Towards the top of the list would be the

    Cookie Cutter

    All users everywhere should have the same setup and run the same programs. The engineer working on software/hardware design has no need to use anything more/less that the receptionist at the front desk. Any "rogue" programs will quickly be blamed on why the computer is crashing. Even if they haven't been run in months.

    The Tester

    Any problem must be fully tested and proven before any action is taken. Of course its the users responsibility to do the testing. Having a crash/blue screen. Run tests for 5 days and take detailed notes on when it happens. The users project/schedules don't matter. If tests aren't sufficient or notes don't detail every last action help is denied.

    The Swiper

    Have a problem? The swiper is more very willing to help. They will take your laptop promising to return it within hours. Days later you still haven't gotten it back and you can't find the swiper anywhere. (note, yelling swiper no swiping doesn't seem to help).

  • Not just the users (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:31PM (#21671933) Homepage Journal

    Know-It-Alls often insist on doing things their own way. They change options and settings on their computers just because they can, and they have a tendency to connect devices and download software to their computers that IT does not support.

    Even worse are sysadmins who think that every other tech in the company are Know-It-Alls that must be contained at all costs. At a previous job, I was tasked with installing a rather expensive server application. It was one of those nightmare jobs with a huge spaghetti-coded shell script installer. You know the kind: works great once it's running, but you better have things exactly right before running ./install.sh.

    Anyway, one of its requirements was an empty Oracle database and an account with permissions to create the tables it would be using. Now, I'm sure our DBA was a pretty clever guy, and I understand that he had an important job, but he was a complete ass about giving me that empty database. After all, only a Trained DBA is qualified to know how your schema should be designed; never mind that we were buying the app and didn't have a lot of say over how it was set up. Since he and I reported to different bosses, it finally took a request travelling up to the VP level and back down (plus some not so veiled threats of a beating) to finally get the ability to install the application we'd paid about $50K for. Oh, and the installer ran perfectly the first time. You could actually hear his teeth grind as it completed without so much as a warning.

    I'm sure in his mind I was a pesky Know-It-All who wanted nothing more than to make his life difficult. He probably complained to his friends about the thorn in his side at the office who wanted - can you believe it! - free reign over a corner of his beloved Oracle.

    The moral is that sometimes the people "beneath" you really do know what they're doing if you can bring yourself to give them a chance.

  • by dada21 ( 163177 ) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:32PM (#21671975) Homepage Journal
    Our company would be viewed as evil by some in the IT or the consulting industry. We sell ourselves as "the CEO's consultant." We openly admit that we're working to better the interests of the person in charge of the company, or the ownership, and not necessarily end users. We believe that by making a company more efficient, the employees will profit as the company does. Our 10 year anniversary is this week, and our world has changed greatly in terms of how we're viewed by the "common" employee.

    First of all, if we have bad users, we're the first to highlight them in our quarterly and yearly billing breakdowns. The users who are surly, obnoxious, and complain the most are usually the ones who get the biggest chunk of the maintenance budget. Their name is usually at the top, and each user is also compared to the company average. Many CEOs and owners love our breakdowns, and look forward to them each quarter.

    Secondly, the hard workers in an organization also appreciate our reports, which we request to be open if the company's policy allows it (about half do). They know who the jerks and deadbeats (Finger-pointer and Mr. Entitlement) are, and they're happy to be "below average" in terms of company burden. It is also those users/employees who like us the most because we give them extra-special attention when they really do have emergencies. The guy who cries wolf all the time is still served well, but most quickly learn that they'll be singled out at their next review -- "Why do you need so much support?"

    The finger-pointer loses power under this system. When it is obvious that the finger should point to them (and that's what the report clearly shows) they have little in the way of demanding a change in consultant or operations. Most finger-pointers we've dealt with have been the first to leave or be fired, based on the clarity that we show to the owners to see who is bringing down efficiency. Since we've taken over some telephone system operations, we also generate a report that shows the delay in responding to voice mails (a skewed report in some ways, because we don't use a weight-system for people who get way more voice mails than average), and it's usually the finger pointer and Mr. Entitlement who ignore the voice mails significantly more than average.

    The Whiz-Kid is usually a good person to have for us, as we are open to changes in our system. If the Whiz-Kid gives us a recommendation, we'll include it in our summary of recommendations, and give them the credit. If that recommendation is accepted, and it works, more power to the Whiz-Kid, maybe he should go off on his own and consult. If the recommendation fails, it's also his responsibility. But here's the good part: the Whiz-Kid doesn't have the time to take over our work, so it's not competition for us. Owners should know if they have a talented worker, but they should also be aware that the talented worker should do what his job description says he should do, or he should be moved to a different department. About 20% of our customers have attempted to hire in-house staff, but their costs go up, not down, and the service seems to get worse. Currently, we work with no business with an in-house IT guy (even one customer who generates over $100m a year in income).

    The Know-It-All is not a problem for us, because every invoice we produce references industry recommendations or knowledge base articles as to why we do it. If the Know-It-All calls us out in a meeting (or otherwise), all we have to do is say "Maybe we missed something, can you point us to two industry experts who recommend that action?" So far, maybe 5% of Know-It-All complaints have led us to making changes, but 95% of them fail miserably. And no, slashdot is not a great place to grab links to recommendations, because it also usually has replies from other "experts" who recommend against the same idea.

    The Know-Nothing is our worst user, and maybe the only bad one. Because some WANT to know more, but don't have the aptitude, it seems part
  • by joshv ( 13017 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:33PM (#21671979)
    And then there are the people who actually do know more than the support person tending their needs - and I am surprised the article doesn't address these folks. There is the tacit assumption here that the support guy is always more knowledgeable than the user. This is frequently not the case. I would really appreciate it if support staff could recognize that I actually do know what I am talking about and cut through all the crap.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 2short ( 466733 )
      If you really know more than the support guy, don't call him. If you do call him, be prepared to let him solve the problem.

      I did support for a while, and periodically got users who didn't want to go through the first 10 basic steps of diagnosing the problem. They would assure me that they already tried that, and that's not the problem. 9 times out of 10, they are wrong, and some stupid thing they would swear they on their mothers grave they already tried fixed the problem.

      Maybe you're that 10th guy, ever
  • No useful info (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lars Clausen ( 1208 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:33PM (#21672003)
    This article is fairly content-free. For all the categories, the answer seems to be "let the users bend you over backwards". Nothing useful.
  • by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:34PM (#21672013) Homepage
    The users who think their cluelessness is the fault of a "virus" in the machine.

    The worst thing about these people is they all have a know-it-all friend/relation who'll came over at the weekend and install his pirate copy of Windows/Norton on the machine to "fix" it.

    Now Windows won't validate and Norton, well, it's Norton...

    Now the only way out is to reformat.

  • by skintigh2 ( 456496 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:48PM (#21672261)
    "I is an engineer!" admins
    Sysadmins and wire runners who think one becomes an engineer simply by changing his title to "engineer." This makes for great fun when Systems Engineers (systems integration, production, platform, environmental testing, component, etc. engineers, usually mechanical but also electrical) look for Sys Eng jobs and the search engine keeps returning Sysadmin jobs that were mislabeled by morons who wanted a better title without the schooling. And no, getting an MSCE does not make you an engineer.

    I-never-heard-of-that-problem-so-it's-impossible admins
    We had network tools and browsers that would lock up for minutes at a time, all the time. I reported it again and again and was told it was impossible. I guess I was hallucinating for 300 seconds at a time repeatedly throughout a the day. Months later I mentioned it to an underling and within 2 minutes he changed DNS settings and everything worked perfectly. To the same admin, I asked him to either stop forcing my desktop to sync with their server's clock, or to set their clock to be at least 15 minutes withing the actual time, preferably withing one or two minutes. I was told that it was impossible to sync desktop clocks to remote computers and I was confused. I volunteered to demonstrate it by changing my clock and then waiting a few minutes for it to be changed back to the wrong time, but he was not interested, because it was impossible. That was 5 years ago and the clocks are still off, but only by 4 or so minutes now, not the 17 or 23 or whatever annoying number it was. I also asked why 50% of my hard drive was "reserved" and was told it was impossible, or I didn't know what virtual memory was (40GB of swap?). I caught him once and showed him, and he shrugged and wandered off.

    Slaves-to-super-secret-policy admins
    Briefly I moved in to (and later back out of) another building in the same company with different admins who had to follow corporate policy. That policy forced us, a computer security company, to use IE. An obsolete version of IE. And we were not allowed to install or change anything, no matter how minor. Our homepage was locked to a link that had been broken for over a year and we couldn't even hit "stop" - we had to let it time out before we could use the browser. I once requested a laptop for a 2 week business trip. I told them I needed admin privs so I could install a compiler. They said ok, gave me the laptop, and I was on my way. Once I landed on the other side of the country I tried to install the compiler and found I had no privileges. I called and asked wtf, and they told me they don't give admin privs. They had no explanation as to why they waited until I carried that boat anchor cross country before telling me.
  • by skintigh2 ( 456496 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:58PM (#21672459)
    I was also an admin once. I had a psycho user who would scream and yell and sputter and lose it over minor issues. He completely freaked out because his docs were "gone." I did a search, and there they were in "My Documents." I looked around some more, and he had the usual "My Documents" folder in the usual place, and another folder on the desktop also called "My Documents" and also on the desktop he had a shortcut to a "D:\My Documents." How he had done this I wasn't sure, but it was all my fault.

    Then we had the guy who complained of a slow computer. He had about 30 icons on his taskbar, about 8 of them screen saver programs and who knows what else. I suggested deleting all of them and he balked. I suggested deleting one or more and he balked. Then I started to leave and he asked me if I was going to do anything or not.

    But my FAVORITE story: my ex's dad called completely irate. He wanted us to drive 200 miles to his house on a work night and fix his computer. His daughter was crying, his wife locked herself in the bedroom, and he was in a rage because they did something and now he couldn't print AND his landline didn't work. (Needless to say, I had fixed this computer numerous times only to find 400 pieces of spyware and 15 screensavers and 86 viruses on my next visit) Well, my ex explained that we didn't want to do 8 hours of driving that night so he should call the phone company to fix his landline and we'd see about his computer on the weekend.

    2 days later, a guy from AT&T shows up, unplugs the printer's USB cable from the phone jack and leaves.
  • by Dripdry ( 1062282 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:59PM (#21673515) Journal
    Ultimately, I think IT support can be about building relationships with people, albeit small relationships.

    As a financial planner I have to learn how to be a partner with people, relate to them, and get them to trust me with their money. Helping different types of people is most often about showing them what is in it for them (why should they care), and helping shore up their insecurities. The know it all and whiz kid could be Analytic types who just didn't get enough hugs as a kid (or something) and are insecure. So, trying to out-do them and show them how they are inferior is a BAD idea. However, working as a partner with them, acting like someone who is on their side to offer suggestions, now *that* will get you much farther, in my experience, and you'll also have a person who begins to trust you and who will be loyal over time.

    That's just one personality type I've encountered, there are others of course.

    I know it's a stretch for the metaphor between IT and running a client-based practice, but I thought this might prove useful. Mod me down if it's just a bunch of pie-in-the-sky guff, though.
  • by stuntpope ( 19736 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:59PM (#21673517)
    I support a couple of web applications I developed, don't get too many calls, but the ones I remember most are:

    Caller: I can't get into the site.
    Me: Do you have an account to log in with?
    Caller: Huh?
    Me: Ok, click 'Create Account', you'll see a form to fill out with your information. Fill it out to make an account.
    Caller: Ok (typing noises heard over phone)
    (long pause... no typing noises... getting really long...)
    Me: Are you done?
    Caller: Do you want me to press that 'Submit form' button?

    and a different caller -

    Me: You need to create a password for your account. It should have a lower-case letter, an uppercase letter, and a digit.
    Caller: You mean the number kind of digit?
    Me: (suppressing urge to say, "No, cut off a finger and mail it to me!")

  • by TrailerTrash ( 91309 ) * on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @02:49PM (#21674473)
    Interesting analysis of end users.

    What kind of support techs are there?

    (1) The Whiz-Kid - just scraped by in college, but reached Level Google in every game during those 4 1/2 years. Builds PC's in (inevitibly his) spare time. Has never touched a mainframe in his life and doesn't really understand it, and therefore, looks down on it. Knows every upcoming Intel processor code name, but can't write code, else they would be in "real" IT. How to handle? Empathy. Tell them they are amazing, and let them add that secured printer driver to your system and reboot.

    (2) I'm New Here. Usually female, males will try to BS through it. Will have to check back with someone else on everything. How to handle? Empathy. Show patience. Be tolerant. Followup with an email to their boss thanking them if they didn't royally screw up. They are your friends for life.

    (3) Whatever. The private sector civil servant. Doesn't know, doesn't care, just get the job done and move on. How to handle? Empathy. Tell them they are very busy and you appreciate their time. Won't help move them any faster, but there is a 1% lower chance they'll totally bork your system.

    Interesting, how empathy is the correct response in every situation. There's a life lesson in there, young Jedi.

    On me: I joined a Fortune 25 company as an executive, and have since risen in the executive ranks. I actually am entitled to nearly anything. But I never, ever take that tack. I personally throw out a few questions to see what category they fall into and deal appropriately. Occasionally the newer ones (who haven't heard the rumors) will decide to do what TFA says, dive deep and bury the user (me) in tech talk. It hasn't worked even once. I may have a title, but I write code at home for fun. It's a kind of malicious fun to see them retreat to Executive Support with their wanna-be tech tails between their legs.
  • by dave562 ( 969951 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @03:04PM (#21674719) Journal
    This is just me venting so don't look for any insights or gems here.

    There is a new assistant at the company who at the time of this incident hadn't even made it through her thirty day probation period. She had managed to piss off all three of the other guys in my department by claiming to be a know it all and basically telling them how to do their jobs. Despite that I went into my first encounter with her with a semi-open mind. I was there to deal with some slowness problems that she was having with her computer (she was trying to insert 20 megabyte uncompressed graphic files into her Word document from a file server on the opposite side of a 3mb MPLS circuit.) While I was there diagnosing that problem, she started into me with her, "I need a flat screen." diatribe. I won't bore you with all the details of the multi-week long ordeal, but the conversation involved the lines. "My brother works in IT and he says I need a flat screen. My dad has been developing computers for years." She claimed that she had been working with flat screen monitors for "ten years" at which point I expressed my suprise and shared with her that I had done some market research on flat panels when they were just about to be introduced widely into the market... in 1997. That really flustered her and she mumbled something about how her dad had always been into really advanced computer stuff and that she had been "using computers for fifteen years." Now I'm 29, and she looked younger than me so I was kind of flabergasted and asked, "Wow, that's a long time. How old ARE you?" She got really defensive at that point and told me, "My age doesn't have anything to do with what you are here to fix." to which I replied, "Neither does your "need" for a flat screen monitor."

    During the same conversation I was looking at her computer and I realized that she had both anti-spyware software on there and Symantec corporate edition which also does spyware scanning. I uninstalled the anti-spyware program (it was old and should have been uninstalled long ago. The guy who usually handles the workstations had obviously missed that). She of course needed to know why so I explained to her how when multiple programs try to access a file at the same time to scan it, they can often spike the CPU utilization as they fight to get a lock on the file. She then tried to tell me how she doesn't "scan files" and so obviously that wasn't her problem. I had to explain to her how the programs automatically scan the files any time she opens or saves them and her eyes started to glaze over before she retorted, "You don't have to dumb things down for me. I understand how computers work." I wanted to grab the bitch by the shirt and yell at her, "Then why the fuck are you asking me so many god damn innane questions then?!?!" Some how I resisted the urge.

With all the fancy scientists in the world, why can't they just once build a nuclear balm?