When a pain becomes every day

A long time ago in a company far far away I had a call from someone who was very nice.  He told me the software I’d written for his department wouldn’t run on his computer.  I made plans to see him after lunch.  I got up walked the mile over to his area just as he was getting back.  He started up his computer.  I was absolutely amazed at the dance he did.  He started pressing keys, hitting escape, pressing more keys.  Error messages were popping up all over.  He was done in about 2 minutes and said, “ok let’s start the program”.

I said, “What, wait, what was all that?”

“I always do that when I start my computer.”

“Why?”

“What else am I going to do?”

So he explained it to me.  “Hold this key down until it errors, the press Esc three times …”

I asked him to get up.  I ran through the start up, read the error messages, fixed a few things, uninstalled a few more, and ta da! it worked on start up.

“How long have you been doing that dance to get started?”

“3 years!” he said.

We tried my program and it didn’t work, but that’s another story.

OK so why am I telling this story.  It is just a reminder that sometimes not asking questions or looking for help can cause pain that is otherwise easily fixed.  I went into a class the other day to help with an issue and listened to the students.  There was someone without a headset that left their mic open.  It was feeding back into the class so that everything that was said was repeated twice.  What amazed me was that nobody seemed to care.  They just pushed right past that issue and kept going.  We have echo cancellation and push to talk, noise filters, and all sorts of ways to keep this problem from happening but if you don’t know about them you won’t use them.  Of course the best solution is a headset, especially since we have spatial sound, which means you can hear someone behind you talking, and that works best with a headset.  Asking the question helps but it also points out that we need to do a better job to automate features, and to communicate what is already there and available to help.

Don’t just accept the pain.  There are lots of ways we can help!  Our software has been used for many years now.  Most of the time when someone asks, “Can you do this?” the answer is “YES!”. I love those questions.