How to be a shitty customer 101

I’ve been interwebbing for a long time. I’ve had many roles over the years and some of them involved interaction with these quixotic things we call “customers” but I’ve only recently been involved in a role where those “customers” are not internal. My current role periodically exposes me to the unwashed masses of humanity that claw at my door moaning for relief from their busted gear. It didn’t take long to realize there are fairly easily identifiable categories of customers.

We all have disabilities. My particular disability is that I can’t see the colour grey. That means every customer looks like one of these to me:

  • The victim
  • The Passive-Aggressive
  • The psychopath
  • The guy who probably isn’t getting along to well
  • The normal human being

The victim

Crying stickman signifying a victimYou can easily identify the victim. The initial request for helps starts with blame. It begins with phrases like “Your service has broken my thing” or “I am loosing lots of money because of your service” or “YOU ASSHOLE I AM GOING TO SUE YOU”. You know, that type of thing.

I get that we’re selling a technical product and many people are not technical in nature. I can run the shit out of a Linux box, but I have almost no clue how my car works. I understand the frustration, but I’m also not a victim. When my car guy tells me the slarginator needs replacing I don’t fly off the handle and start screaming that he’s costing me $1000 a day because of his incompetence with slarginators. I am not restraining myself because I’m a great guy, I just honestly know that it’s not his fault. I don’t know how the victims of this world end up wandering through life feeling like things are being “done” to them but I can assure you that when you ask someone for help, yelling at them about your broken-ass slarginator ain’t the way to get that thing fixed.

The passive-aggressive

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One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, yo.

Of all the things that interest me most in the world, I think humans might top the list. I’m a scientist at heart and I love to categorize things and learn the rules that apply to situations. Humans have this manifest ability to evade any and all attempts to be classified which simultaneously fascinates and repels me. The cultural concept of value is a good example. Value is one of those human things that is entirely subjective and just can’t be nicely typed. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, yo (Peter Griffin would have loved this). But for certain values of trash, it’s treasure for all. Continue reading “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, yo.”

Elections in the democratic republic of Splunk

If you can’t have fun with your technology, then throw it out and get new technology. The product I interact most with at work is Splunk. It’s very simple in some ways and very complicated in others, but underlying it all is the spirit of fun.

Watching a Splunk instance start up gives some insight into the culture at the company. Startup messages contain gems like:

  • Splunk> All batbelt. No tights.
  • Splunk> Finding your faults, just like mom.
  • Splunk> See your world. Maybe wish you hadn’t.

Or my all time favourite:

  • Splunk> Take the sh out of IT.

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Correlation != Causation

One of the things I love most about science is hearing other people call science a “thing”. “Science says the planets are round”. “Science says vaccines reduce the spread of herd diseases”. While these conclusions are true, the way in which they are spoken belies some level of ignorance as to what science is.

We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.- Carl Sagan

Science is a way of thinking. It is a process that has been developed over generations to support the human endeavour to figure out how things work. The scientific process is not perfect and it certainly has led to some incorrect conclusions from time to time. But a big strength of the scientific process is that it is self-correcting. If you’ve ever spent any time in the open source community, you know how it works. The same organized scepticism and peer review that keep open source projects churning out good code are the same facets of the scientific process that keep good ideas flowing.

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