Tuesday, December 17, 2013

This Christmas, walk a mile in someone else's shoes

It’s the time of year when we get together with those we know, love or just work with, to share the joy of the holiday season. If your holiday get-togethers include sessions with other network managers, helpdesk professionals, IT or IS personnel I’m sure the chat will eventually turn to “stupid user stories” – tales of the wondrous things that users say and do showing how clueless they are about technology.

You know the sort of stories I mean, they have punch lines like “…so he stuck the floppy in the fax machine!” We all chuckle, take another sip of some fermented or distilled beverage and attempt to top that story with one showing an even more egregious misunderstanding of tech stuff.

But did you ever stop to think that it really isn’t the marketing peoples’ responsibility to know the difference between Oauth and SAML or that salespeople don’t actually have to be able to debug a Windows error message?

It’s not a big stretch to imagine the telecom folks – at their holiday bash – guffawing over how you managed to screw-up the phone system. I don’t even want to think about what the auto mechanics have to say about me!

Every system, technology, discipline or area of activity has users and maintainers. Sometimes we’re the users, sometimes we’re the maintainers but it’s a sure bet that the users (in general) won’t have the same knowledge and expertise as the maintainers I don’t consider helpdesk personnel to be “maintainers”, by the way). Every single one of us is a user of some system, technology or discipline which we don’t fully comprehend – and needn’t fully comprehend. I know when and how to put gas in my car. My mechanic gives me reminders about oil changes and other maintenance requirements. Anything beyond that, I call the mechanic and describe what won’t work. I try not to attempt to demonstrate knowledge beyond my ability by diagnosing the problem, but occasionally I’ll try. I’m sure those stories make the rounds at the next ASE meeting (ASE is the certification program for auto mechanics – just like our MCSE).

So this year, as you gather at the local watering hole for a glass of holiday cheer, if you’re tempted to tell the one about the user and the “cup holder” think twice – remember some of the less-than-knowledgeable comments or activities you’ve perpetrated this year and remember the words of the old Christmas carol: “Peace on Earth, Good Will towards Men”. Make the world a kinder, gentler place – starting with your own organization.

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