Wednesday, November 24, 2004

New Directions

I have noticed an unpleasant habit for The Bank's web designers. When they develop a new Intranet website to replace an old site they simply create a new URL. In yesterday's update, they apparently sent an e-mail about this change to SOME users. Users that did not receive this e-mail were getting a number of error messages trying to get into the old site. After a few hours of fielding these calls and opening tickets because we didn't know what was going on, we finally received a copy of the new instruction and new URL.

This happens all the time and our call volume spikes because of it. Sure, they often send out an e-mail warning people about the change but many do not read it. A simple solution would be a redirect at the old page that takes people to the new page or, at the very least, has a message saying that the procedure or URL has changed and providing users with the new information.

It's not hard.

<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0; URL=http://new address">

See? It's pretty much that easy.

In another example, there are a number of web-based applications that use a single password. There is a database within Lotus Notes that allows users to reset this password. Users who are having problems with their password is directed to this database but, of course, they are not told how to get this database if they don't already have it, prompting them to call the Help Desk.

It would be so simple to add a link to this page that would add this database automatically or to have the instructions there. But, no. They say "Call the Help Desk" and we get scores of calls every day for an issue that users could take care of themselves if only they were provided with the information.

Friday, November 19, 2004

ID10T Webcomic Number 1

If I had any sort of artistic talent, I'd try to boil some of my life here at the Help Desk into four panels and try to publish a webcomic. Well, it probably wouldn't go for very long but there are a few incidents and ideas that would be worthy of such a treatment. If you've read my previous posts, you probably have already seen them.

But, I will not be deterred by my own artistic ineptitude. What follows is a text version of what would be my first attempt at a webcomic.

Panel 1:
Close up view of a Help Desk workstation. The Protagonist's hands are seen installing an access point on the telephone. A box is seen labeled "Wireless Headset."

Panel 2:
The Protagonist, wearing his wireless headset, is standing at the copier. The voice bubble has him speaking "Corporate helpdesk, this is Geis. How can I help you? . . . . "

Panel 3:
The Protagonist is in the break room, pouring some coffee. The voice bubble has him speaking; ". . . now, go to the lower right hand corner of the window and click on Office Network. Select Edit. When that comes up . . . ."

Panel 4:
You see the Protagonist's feet in a rest room stall. His pants are bunched around his ankles. The voice bubble through the door has him speaking; ". . . go to Start. Select Settings and then Printers. Do you see your printer listed there?. . ." The Boss is standing outside the restroom stall with his hands on his hips. His voice bubble has him speaking; "Geis, when you're done I want to see you in my office."

Here's Looking at You

On Tuesday, building maintenance went throughout the floor and pulled down all the security cameras watching the emergency stairwells and elevators and replaced them with new cameras.

On Wednesday, they pulled down all the new cameras and replaced them with the original cameras.

Then yesterday they pulled down those cameras (again) and replaced them with a third camera design.

Apparently they discovered that the scores of cameras they had bought were incompatible with the system they had and they had to get a different camera. One would think they would have tested the camera compatibility before buying a huge order for the whole building. And even after that, they installed at least one entire floor of cameras before discovering that none of them worked instead of checking to make sure that one worked before moving on to the other dozen.

Oh, yea. I feel my security being enhanced.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Webcomics as Job Performance Enhansement

Here at the Help Desk, our job performance is rated on a number of metrics. Things like First Call Resolution Rate, Average speed of Answer, Average Call Time, in all, 14 things are rated and we earn "points" for each metric we meet. The names of those who get 14 points each week and each month are put into a hat and one name is drawn to wil an incentive prize. Weekly incentive winners get 4 hours of Paid Time Off (granted without the Corporate central office knowing). Those who win the monthly incentive get taken out to lunch by the Manager in addition to the PTO. (He writes it off on his taxes as a business expense).

Most of the time, my stats are pretty good. I've always earned at least 12 points and often do better. The things I slip on are Average Talk Time and Availablility.

Availability is the most important metric. It's the one The Management is always whining about. It's the percentage of time that you are either on a call or waiting for a call. My availability wasn't bad, it just wasn't regularly quite enough to earn that 14th point.

That is, until Webcomics.

Some months ago, I started reading webcomics. Megatokyo, El Goonish Shive, It's Walky, College Roomies from Hell, Queen of Wands, Nukees, Wapsi Square, The Devil's Panties, Filthy Lies!, The Wotch, Questionable Content and Count Your Sheep. Typically, I discover a webcomic and then go back and start at the begining, catching up between calls. Some, like Megatokyo, I've gone through more than once (That can take days).

The unintended result is that rather than taking short breaks between calls to go to the vending machines or discuss the latest Megas XLR episode with a coworker, I'm sitting at the desk with my phone in the "ready" mode waiting for another call. My availability has gone almost as high as it can go and I am now earning the coveted 14 points nearly every week.

The days seems to go faster as well and, to be honest, I find that much more valuable than lunch with the boss.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

One down

The news of the day is the "retirement" of John Ashcroft. An article in The Register summed it up quite well:

"His legacy includes boosterism of the so-called Patriot Act, a longstanding federal law-enforcement wish list of legal shortcuts that the atrocities of 11 September 2001 made it impossible for Congress to reject; covering the tits on a prominent bronze statue of Justice that always made him twitch; gleeful promotion of capital punishment; rounding up thousands of suspected terrorists, and failing to prosecute any of them successfully; advising the military that torture is fine so long as no one gets caught, and that the Geneva Conventions don't always apply; advising the federal bureaucracy that DoJ would help it fight any FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request from nosy reporters; making a further mockery of the Act of Posse Comitatus by actively encouraging military outfits to participate in terror-related law enforcement; wildly overplaying his hand whenever some small-fry terror suspect like Jose Padilla popped up on the radar; warning the public that criticizing the so-called Patriot Act is an act of disloyalty verging on treason; inventing an arbitrary class of person called an "enemy combatant" so that writs of habeas corpus can be ignored at the government's convenience; prosecuting a crusade against pornography, apparently another deadly threat to US national security; and turning out the DoJ as a sort of "copyright 911" hotline so that the public might pay the bills of companies that wish to defend their intellectual property.

Clearly, he will be missed."

I wonder what caused such a stalwart support of Dubbya's agenda to leave the administration. A pang of conscience, perhaps? Probably not. More likely that he looked out of the world of domestic civil rights and, like Alexander, wept at having no more lands to conquer.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Holiday Snear

The Halloween costumes aren't even back in the closet yet and already the Christmas decorations are going up. Workers are stringing lights in the trees. The 20' tree is on the steps of the City Offices. The life-sized nativity is starting to go up at Steel Plaza. Barnes and Nobel has a table of Christmas books just in the store entrance.

I hate it.

I remember when the "holidays" began after Thanksgiving. That very national holiday is all but forgotten as the Christian majority and capitalist jackals rush to capture more and more of the public's attentions. Veteran's Day, Hanukah, the Winter Solstice and the opening day of whitetail season are also trampled.

So, for the next two months I will become increasingly Grinch-like as I am bombarded with Christian-capitalist messages and images. Carols will fill the public spaces. I will be shown just how much of a minority I am in this country that supposedly has "freedom of religion" as one of its core values.

Fifty-three days and counting.