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Gee, I Wish I Could Do That

July 24, 2014

Thanks for calling WordPerfect Support. My name’s Brian. How can I help you?

Brian wasn’t your typical support operator. In fact, Brian wasn’t a support operator at all. Brian was the lead developer for WordPerfect’s email program. We had just shipped version 3.0 and Brian came down from the mountain to spend a couple of hours hearing how people were using the product. Okay, maybe it wasn’t a mountain, but the programmer’s building was literally up the hill from the support buildings. A large canal separated “them” and “us.” Most of us had never even met one of the programmers.

Brian’s response to customer issues was also not your typical response. I won’t say that we learned by his example, at least we didn’t learn support techniques.

The famous French queen Marie Antoinette was informed that her subjects had no bread. Her response reportedly was,

Then let them eat cake.

20140724-053917-20357925.jpg

And thus a revolution was born.

With software, if you want to know how a program is supposed to work, ask the developer. If you want to know how it actually works, ask a tester. If you want to know how people are using it, ask a support operators.

I once approached a programmer in the WordPerfect cafeteria.

Paul, I had a call today from someone getting the error, “Header File Full.” Any idea what might be causing that?

Wow. We never expected anyone to ever even see that error message.

Such was the life of a WP support operator. We almost never got to see or talk to the programmers. And now, here was Brian sitting in our midst taking calls from customers.

I think I understand your issue Mr. Smith. And we’ll be changing that in the first service pack.

THAT was his answer to some of our most challenging issues? “I’m the programmer, so I’m going to fix it.” It wasn’t even a great answer for the customers. The next service pack might be months away, and in the mean time they have a program that doesn’t work the way they need it to.

As support operators we were constantly looking for ways of configuring the current product, given it’s limitations to solve customers current problems.

The lead programmer on the other hand, had the option of baking the breadless customers a cake.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children and one grandchild.

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

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2 Comments
  1. With havin so much content and articles do you ever run into any issues
    of plagorism or copyright violation? My site has a lot
    of unique content I’ve either created myself or outsourced but it looks like a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my agreement.
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    • I’m kind of bi-polar when it comes to copyrights. For myself, I document everything. If you’ve read my blog much you’ve seen me give photo credit for anything that isn’t mine. At times, the site I was “crediting” didn’t own it either. But, even though I could freely use a lot of content since I don’t charge for my blog.

      On the other hand, I’m not at all concerned with my content being reused. I wrote a blog post about “But, I Really Do Have A Dentist Appointment” about how I have influenced the tech community in Utah. “Dentist Appointment” is code for a job interview when you don’t want your boss to know you are interviewing.

      The fact that story lost it’s connection to me a long time ago doesn’t bother me at all. One of my early blog posts has been almost completely coopted by a writer on forbes. Everyone thinks he wrote it and got 50,000 views. Well, *I* wrote it and on my site it got a few hundred views. Does that bother me? Not a bit. If you are charging for your content, then maybe you put up a paywall or something. But, if it’s a vanity site, like this one, trying to chase down copyright issues would be like chasing feathers in the wind. You might get one or two, but you’d never get very many and you’d spend all your time doing it.

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