back to article Linux-loving lecturer 'lost' email, was actually confused by Outlook

Friday means a few things at El Reg: a new BOFH. A couple of beers. And another instalment of On-Call, our weekly column in which we take reader-contributed tales of being asked to do horrible things for horrible people, scrub them up and hope you click. This week, meet “Newt” who a dozen or more years ago worked at a College …

  1. GlenP Silver badge
    Facepalm

    The Usual...

    "Some of my emails are missing!" problem is 'cause they've accidentally dragged the folder into another one, surprising how often that happens. Still, IT look good for solving the problem in a few seconds.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: The Usual...

      you mean in 2 weeks?

      If any of the I.T staff were any good the one who recieved the first communication should have instantly replied with "Click on the little cross to collapse the folders" before doing any investigation, let alone visiting the person.

      Same when user says my files are missing. - look in the nearest folder.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The Usual...

        Oh I've been there done that. A one time employer was moving everyone from Groupwise to Outlook. My job as part of this was to go and help users slim down their mailboxes. Some people had only 1GB some had the full 4GB and there was normally no need to convert everything over. That included those NSFW emails with the large GIF attachments, powerpoint files where every version of a 10MB presentation up to and including the final one were there. So with one of the really heavy users I said we'd archive all those attachments from the year dot onto a CDRom (or six) and they'd be able to find them there. This wasn't really work stuff and therefore there was no need to keep it on any of our hardware but it was stuff she needed. We select the first lot of files that she really couldn't do without and put them onto the burner software. At her insistence we left the disc open so that she could add a text file with something relevant to the files in it.

        I said I'd be back presently to do the next disc and went for a quick coffee. When I returned she was looking at me and shouted "All my files aren't on the disc!" I told her to calm down and explain what she meant by this please. She had taken the disc which had finished burning put it into her laptop (with a CDRom drive only) and couldn't see the files. She'd just deleted the files off her computer and now "everything is gone you IDIOT" This was in an open plan office with a load of people watching and I wasn't impressed. I opened the recycle bin and restored her files to where they had been to her utter amazement. I then took the disc out of her laptop and put it back in the CDRW drive and showed her that her files were on the disc. Explained that they wouldn't show up on her laptop until she'd added her text file and we finalised the disc. She said in a nice loud voice that I wasn't an idiot and she was very sorry then in a lower tone asked how I'd found her deleted files. She'd never seen the recycle bin before and found somethings in there that she thought were long gone and a couple of NSFW pictures a girlfriend had sent her that she'd "deleted straight away". Yeah she'd deleted them but not before she'd downloaded them onto her computer.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Usual...

      Whilst everyone here knows about treeview, clearly the lecturer didn't and presumably neither did his colleages, to me this clearly suggests lack of what should have been necessary user training.

      Unlike IT, where most emails are at best read once and thrown away, most professional academic correspondance is very very important, this is not mentioned and I suggest understood by the author.

      When your words are your repretation then having them disappear is indeed a major disaster, that the local IT support left the lecturer in panic for weeks until the author returned suggests that the lack of product training/understanding extended to the support staff as well.

      Having seen similar balls ups where systems that have worked for years are ripped out and replaced with a new system seemingly because the non-IT purse holder has been to some expo and believed the BS that said interface is intuitive then my sympathies are with the lecturer.

      I too, have been out to a number of problems that were actually down to lack of user training and were resolved (on paper) by a single click. It did not make me feel clever or superior meerly ashamed and embaressed for being associated with such a fkup.

      1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        Re: The Usual...

        @AC - One major flaw is to assume users are familiar with many of the conventions used by a particular OS and that migrating from one to another is always trivial for the user. There will be certain amount of hand-holding required with each user as they learn the quirks of the new system.

      2. Snorlax Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: The Usual...

        @Anonymous Coward:"Unlike IT, where most emails are at best read once and thrown away, most professional academic correspondance is very very important, this is not mentioned and I suggest understood by the author."

        One simple rule:

        If your shit is important to you. BACK IT UP YOURSELF!

        Don't make it somebody else's responsibility. Because it's not.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: The Usual...

          Even more important: IF YOUR SHIT IS IMPORTANT, DON'T STORE IT IN AN EMAIL FOLDER!

          If you're treating an email folder as though it is a filestore, you're not competant to be using the computer. If the days of typewriters did you keep your sole only copy of your thesis in your letterbox?

          1. Pompous Git Silver badge

            Re: The Usual...

            "IF YOUR SHIT IS IMPORTANT, DON'T STORE IT IN AN EMAIL FOLDER! If you're treating an email folder as though it is a filestore, you're not competant [sic] to be using the computer."
            Shouty, shouty! So where would you store emails that are sent out on a regular basis in response to email queries about your work, or business? In the days of typewriters we kept such documents in the form of photocopies in a filing cabinet when we were responding to snail-mail. Presumably you would have had the typist typing each one out as the queries arrived...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The Usual...

          @Snorlax and "If your shit is important to you. BACK IT UP YOURSELF!"

          I agree that everyone responsible should be certain that important stuff is backed up but then again that is part of what they normally are paying IT support for.

          Why not just decentralise everything and return to isolated machines without network connectivity? the answer is because it is too expensive in redundant hardware and limiting on team based working. Then add in that for security reasons that data tends to be centralised with controlled access against just taking the storage out of the PC along with all the backups and walking out.

          If you do understand that you need to deal with the customers requirements then you are not going to work for long in pretty much any field.

    3. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: The Usual...

      That constantly happens here... Touchpad and all that... I detest Outlook. But it could be worse...

    4. Oh Homer
      Paris Hilton

      Clever Idiot Syndrome

      That's me. A lot.

      Despite my supposedly high IQ, if something isn't exactly (and I mean within a millimetre) of where I expect it to be, I can't see it, in fact I can spend literally months looking for it to no avail, with it sitting there right in front of my face.

      My uninformed theory is that the whole concept of "IQ" is deeply flawed, and that everyone's brain is just wired differently, with some better at certain kinds of tasks and worse at others. I'm definitely with Sir Ken Robinson on that one.

      Conventional wisdom dictates that I should be terrible at pattern recognition, but that isn't the case. I just seem to be better at finding things I'm not looking for. This is the main reason that I've given up wearing socks.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Usual...

      Had one guy where his emails kept disappearing a few seconds after he'd open them.

      Turned out he had Outlook set to only show unread messages. Another one click solution once you understand the problem.

      1. psychonaut

        Re: The Usual...

        code2 do a great free program for this. it pops up an alert if you drag a folder to another one or delete a folder

        https://www.codetwo.com/freeware/move-and-delete-watchdog/

  2. Camilla Smythe

    Shit Happens

    I moved off XP to Linux and chose Evolution. No problems at all. I also moved someone else over. Despite my setting things up such that they make 'sense' I still have to repeatedly go back and set them up so that they make sense. I have no idea what the person is doing in the interim periods in order to make things not make sense.

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      Linux

      Re: Shit Happens

      I use Thunderbird wherever I go, as it has a consistent UI (and storage structure) on Windows and Linux.

      1. Camilla Smythe

        Re: Shit Happens

        Sorry. I am renowned for my clarity. When I moved off XP to Linux I was offered Thunderbird by default and thought Meh, it was a bit 'shouty'. Evolution was closer to Outhouse and over three upgrades I have had no issues with it.

        I have had no problems setting up Evolution such that it made sense for myself. It's the other user who, despite my efforts, keeps messing things up which is kind of in line with the article. I guess they would have the same problems with Thunderbird.

        Either way I am becoming proficient at identifying what they may have clicked on in order to mess things up so I can put things back together again.

      2. EVMonster
        Unhappy

        Re: Shit Happens

        And this is the best thing you can say about thunderbird ... I agree it is.

      3. Snorlax Silver badge

        Re: Shit Happens

        @Uncle Slacky:"I use Thunderbird wherever I go, as it has a consistent UI (and storage structure) on Windows and Linux."

        ...and MacOS.

  3. Alister Silver badge

    One of our company directors regularly deletes important emails, and then swears blind he never touched them.

    Invariably we find them in his deleted items folder, and restore them, and every time he says "well I don't know how that happened!".

    No-one has yet dared to respond "because you're an idiot" out loud, but it's only a matter of time.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      "well I don't know how that happened!"

      Keyboard shortcuts when the wrong window has focus? Happens to me occasionally, and very annoying it can be.

      I don't know what email client he uses, but if it has a way to turn off the shortcuts you could try that.

      1. Alister Silver badge

        It's Outlook on a Mac.

        It is nice of you to try and find him a technical excuse, but he's just not safe to be let near technology, really :) He's also the most likely member of staff to click on attachments in dodgy emails, or forget his domain password every time he logs in.

        We bought him a Mac in self defense, as at least it's less likely to lead to a network wide infection when he screws up.

    2. DailyLlama

      We had a user who kept coiming back to us at least once a week saying ALL his emails had disappeared. We found them all in Deleted Items, and after a few weeks of this, we had a proper look at his laptop, and found that the keyboard hadn't been installed correctly, and the delete key was ever so slightly proud... so that when he closed the lid with Outlook open, the screen would press delete and remove everything for him.

      1. itzman
        Paris Hilton

        when he closed the lid with Outlook open, the screen would press delete and remove everything for him.

        Sounds like a perfect sort of laptop to me.

      2. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Joke

        We bought him a Mac in self defense, as at least it's less likely to lead to a network wide infection when he screws up.

        @alister - see that was your problem. You shouldn't have bought him a Mac, you should have bought him an Etch-a-Sketch...

        1. Robert Moore
          Coat

          You shouldn't have bought him a Mac, you should have bought him an Etch-a-Sketch...

          I used to threaten one of my managers with an Etch-a-Sketch, from time to time. He had the most amazing ability to mess up his laptop in strange, new and baffling ways. I bought one and was going to replace his laptop, when he was on vacation, but at the last moment I chickened out.

          I still think I should have done it.

      3. Archtech Silver badge

        Obligatory Dilbert reference

        Sounds like the Dilbert strip where Dilbert and Wally persuade the PHB that the shredder is a fax machine.

      4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "and found that the keyboard hadn't been installed correctly, and the delete key was ever so slightly proud... so that when he closed the lid with Outlook open, the screen would press delete and remove everything for him."

        Sounds like you have an undercover BOFH. Be careful out there!

    3. phuzz Silver badge
      Facepalm

      My old boss, (an experienced IT manager who'd worked his way up, so not just a random user) used to basically delete every email unless it represented a current task. If he needed an old email, he'd just go search in the deleted items.

      He was most annoyed when I empted his deleted emails without thinking, but had to admit that it was entirely his fault for having such a non-standard workflow.

      (and M, if you're reading, sorry, but I'll stop taking the piss when you start using your inbox like a regular person ;)

      1. AMBxx Silver badge

        I guess that's why MS have introduced the Archival folder in the latest updates. Sort of deleted, but not. No use to me, but sounds like your user needs it.

      2. Justin Clift

        Interesting. I have a folder called "Done" for that purpose. After things are complete they're moved into that. Keeping the Inbox for stuff-still-needing-effort.

        Same principle, but less potential for someone emptying that folder. :)

      3. Shane McCarrick

        If it were possible to post screenshots here- I could show you a deleted folder- with over 120,000 e-mails and god only knows how many folders and subdirectories in it.

        The user claims it works for him- perhaps it does- not sure how many of us have accidentally cleaned out his deleted items folder in the past though- its definitely a few of us.

        Honestly- I reckon these users have to be related to one another!

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "Honestly- I reckon these users have to be related to one another!"

          Probably not but they do train each other, especially if IT doesn't make the effort to do so themselves.

          I can't imagine why they think it's a good idea but it seems to have been something that's happened for years so IT really should be aware of it and try to break the cycle by emphasising that what goes into Deleted can't be assured of coming out again.

          1. Alan Thompson

            The issue is simple: outlook has never implemented a single-key "I'm done; file this email" button. Users of this ilk use the delete key instead.

            1. Pompous Git Silver badge

              "outlook has never implemented a single-key "I'm done; file this email" button. "
              That's because Outlook can't read your mind. Right click, choose Quick Steps, choose a Quick Step which can do any of several things such as:

              * generate an email to the team,

              * mark as read and move to a particular folder,

              * reply and delete...

              1. Red Bren

                Don't know why you've been downvoted. My boss has insisted we implement a "4D" strategy for email:

                1. Deal with it

                2. Defer it

                3. Delegate it

                4. Delete it

                Quick steps let me speed up converting emails to appointments for option 2 or tasks for option 3.

                1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                  "Don't know why you've been downvoted. My boss has insisted we implement a "4D" strategy for email"
                  There are people in IT who see their role as preventing the worker bees from doing their work efficiently. Note all the badmouthing of sales by those oblivious of the fact that without sales there's no revenue stream which is where their wages come from.

                  Outlook might not be the best CRM out there, but since it comes bundled with Office it's certainly the most widely used. Not that the majority of Outlook users know they have a passable CRM that can make their workflow more efficient if only they had the training...

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            "Probably not but they do train each other, especially if IT doesn't make the effort to do so themselves.

            I can't imagine why they think it's a good idea but it seems to have been something that's happened for years"

            That's because the vast majority of companies don't do training after the initial HR H&S and Procedures induction. Especially in SMEs, which are the majority of employers. People *may* be shown how new kit works or new software works by the people doing the installation, but that's about it. But then the people who "know" move on and the new people are expected to learn by osmosis. It wasn't quite so bad when computers were first coming into the work place because no one knew how they worked, but even then, many learned by read the manuals (for you kids, they were paper books that told you all you needed to know). Nowadays, it's simply assumed that staff know what they are doing because "well, everybody uses computers these days"

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          " not sure how many of us have accidentally cleaned out his deleted items folder in the past though"

          I have scripts running on our mailservers which clear anything more than 2 weeks old out of deleted folders.

          Users learn not to use it as a repository.

      4. Alan W. Rateliff, II

        If he needed an old email, he'd just go search in the deleted items.

        I have asked users before, "would you keep your lunch in the trash can?" Then I spent some time showing them how to use mailbox folders or archives.

        I never really liked the archives because they were always stored in the local Application Data (or %localappdata%) directory which is not subject to roaming profiles or folder redirection. If the user moved to a new computer the archive PST would have to be moved manually, or worse if the computer tanked it was lost. Storing the PST in "My Documents" is not much better because Outlook has the habit of continuing to run after its GUI is closed, thus holding open PSTs which would wreak havoc with roaming profiles in particular since users have the habit of logging off or shutting down without closing programs.

        It rather amuses me how Outlook now likes to use the "Outlook files" folder in "My Documents" and Microsoft encourages the use of redirected folders, considering Microsoft also warns against using PST files over the network. (Unfortunately, the blog post link in that article is no longer a direct link but can be found in plenty of other resources. GFI has a really nice write-up on this.)

      5. Wensleydale Cheese

        "He was most annoyed when I empted his deleted emails without thinking, but had to admit that it was entirely his fault for having such a non-standard workflow."

        Back in the days that a 250MB disk drive cost what I paid for my first house, I used to set up a daily job to delete compiler and utility listings with a file extension of ".LIS" or ".LST", and various others which denoted temporary files which both took up lots of space and could be easily regenerated.

        Along comes the user who thinks that he's above naming conventions and was writing memos with those extensions.

        Oops.

        I managed to survive his complaints to management with ease, and rub his nose in it at the same time.

        He was one of life's back stabbers, so justice was done :-)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > Along comes the user who thinks that he's above naming

          > conventions and was writing memos with those extensions.

          As opposed to an admin who thinks he's above user preference?

          Who are you to dictate file extensions? What if he didn't want to use them at all? What if he had never heard of those particular extensions. What if another program used the same extensions?

          You remind me of the admin who blindly deleted someones file called "penis" that contained biological research data.

          He didn't get away with it. I'm surprised that you did.

          1. Deckard_C

            >As opposed to an admin who thinks he's above user preference?

            Extensions isn't a user preference, that's decided by OS and software makers. A bit like putting bleach in a bottle labeled milk.

            Who are you to dictate file extensions?

            >Admins don't it's the software makers

            >What if he didn't want to use them at all?

            What if he wanted to drive on the other side of the road.

            >What if he had never heard of those particular extensions. What if another program used the same extensions?

            That's why you don't make you own extensions, as he picked one which meant this is not need and can be deleted.

            Not that I go around deleting files. But I do have to deal with people asking me to open files because they can't as the extension is wrong. So they get this file is corrupt or unknown file. Luckly most modern common files I can identify looking at the raw file as they have a 4 byte identifier. But not all software providers include sech an identifer in there file format.

            Also I've seen backup software have default exclusion of file extensions of known temporary files. And of course emails clients and email security software will block attachments of a whole load of extension which identify files which contain code. A lot more than I can list.

            Suprising how often this happens on an urgent email sent by someone as they just go on holiday.

            These days with more of this stuff in the cloud your admin won't have control to override this. Cloud provider may say they just don't have that option. Like you can't send certain things in the post.

            I think story was from a time when extensions where less standard and the risk lower.

          2. Alan W. Rateliff, II

            As opposed to an admin who thinks he's above user preference?

            Who are you to dictate file extensions? What if he didn't want to use them at all? What if he had never heard of those particular extensions. What if another program used the same extensions?

            Okay, I'll bite. Your last assertion seems valid, but cannot validate the rest of the shenanigans in your post. If a user wants to name paper files which exist in a complete vacuum relative to standards, that is how someone wants to file their papers is generally an arbitrary choice, then that is fine. However, if users want to maintain data in an environment which consists of standards then it most certainly is the admin's responsibility to ensure the users stay withing those standards, or at least in most cases it should be safe to assume those standards are valid and followed.

            Of course, we know how assumptions work, so it is also the responsibility of the admin the event that valid data is affected by such automated processes. As a matter of policy I do not delete data in customer use areas and leave that up to the users, even in times when space is low and I have to guide the user through the process I stay away from the liability.

            I will agree that if the admin acts maliciously in a this-will-teach-them approach, without ever having taken the time to advise or guide the user, said admin is not meeting his responsibility, but certainly, yes, standards trump the user's preferences, especially for forward usability.

            You remind me of the admin who blindly deleted someones file called "penis" that contained biological research data.

            He didn't get away with it. I'm surprised that you did.

            This is not even close to the same thing. If someone wants to put the name "penis" in their files, then so be it, even more so in a biological research environment. Stipulation this is a real even in the first place and your retelling of the tale is a 100% true representation of the event, the admin who did this sounds like a penis, himself.

      6. Garfunkle

        I won't say that it was "entirely his fault for having such a non-standard workflow". It was just as much your own fault, for not having the wisdom, the intelligence or the experience to realize that users will do all kinds of stuff...

        It's a 50/50 case. You were at fault, he was at fault.

        It's important to remember that users are never at fault for not having the same amount of IT-knowledge as you do yourself. If they did have the same amount, they'd be doing your job, and they'd be your colleagues.

    4. Hey Nonny Nonny Mouse

      Nah, I've done it.

      had to enforce the emptying of recycle bin on exit, sent round *lots* of emails advising people, asking them to sign off that they'd read and understood it.

      Got a shitogram from the MD's son because 'all my important emails have gone', said idiot was in the habit of putting all his read emails in the recycle bin but opened them from there if he needed to read them again.

      I called him an idiot, in front of his dad and a few members of staff.

      This was the same idiot who wrestled the advertising copy role out of the hands of a graduate who could read, write and spell to replace it with semi-literate drivel.

      After three issues of the national magazine they spent a not insignificant amount on advertising with his father persuaded the graduate to 'proof read' all future advertising copy.

      Moron.

  4. mr_souter_Working

    been there - seen that - never been shouted at to that extent (yet)

    collapsing folders and complaining that everything is gone - check

    deleting emails/folders and complaining that they don't know what happened - check

    dragging items/folders into other locations and not being able to find them - check

    users (and helplessdesk staff) not being able to use the search function to find items - check

    users complaining that the never received an email (and being proven wrong) - check

    junk mail settings that the user configured causing emails to disappear - check

    helpdesk staff restoring most of a mailbox because the user insisted that everything was gone (just moved) - check

    users complaining that they are not able to send/receive email, because they have ignored the warnings every day for the last 3 months about the quota - check

    Been in the game so long (as many of us have), that I have seen just about every form of stupidity users can come up with for email (not limited to Exchange and Outlook either).

    I think that if I'd encountered that individual, he would have been told succinctly exactly where he could shove his attitude, before showing him exactly how stupid he was being.

    Then I would have torn my boss a new one, and my colleagues, all while pointing out that we had backups of the PST files for this very reason (assuming he had actually lost any emails).

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: been there - seen that - never been shouted at to that extent (yet)

      "I have seen just about every form of stupidity users can come up with"

      Fatal words there.

      I thought the same once, but now realise how naive I was... users can always come up with more stupidity.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: been there - seen that - never been shouted at to that extent (yet)

        "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

        Albert Einstein

      2. mr_souter_Working

        Re: been there - seen that - never been shouted at to that extent (yet)

        yep - every time i thought that i'd seen it all, someone came up with another way to screw up.

        that's why I said "just about every form of stupidity" - but not every variant on that stupidity

        :D

        luckily, I only deal with servers, project managers and other techs

        of course that does present a whole new level of stupidity and its own problems

      3. Marvin the Martian

        Re: been there - seen that - never been shouted at to that extent (yet)

        It's the usual "You can make it foolproof, but you can't make it damnfoolproof" and "Just when you've made it totally idiotproof, the universe throws up a better idiot".

        1. David Nash Silver badge

          Re: been there - seen that - never been shouted at to that extent (yet)

          "Nothing is foolproof, because fools are so ingenious"

        2. Quinch

          Re: been there - seen that - never been shouted at to that extent (yet)

          "A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools."

          - Sir Adams, Duke of Towel

      4. D@v3

        Re: when you think you have made something foolproof

        Nature makes a better fool

    2. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: been there - seen that - never been shouted at to that extent (yet)

      dragging items/folders into other locations and not being able to find them - check

      helpdesk staff restoring most of a mailbox because the user insisted that everything was gone (just moved) - check

      Oh yeah moving the entire folder containing mails from one project to another one without realising it is a classic. I had a call from someone who'd done that thinking they were moving one file. Then immediately afterwards spotted the folder was missing and called me. As they'd phoned immediately after doing it I was able to say "Press CTRL and Z" which fixed the problem. I then had to explain that this would not always work and the minute they spot something is amiss they should phone for help and stop using the pc.

      users complaining that they are not able to send/receive email, because they have ignored the warnings every day for the last 3 months about the quota - check

      I've had someone go on on holiday with a nearly full (but not enough to trigger warnings) mailbox and then when they came back complained that they were unable to send/recieve. I did explain the concept of a quota and that they would have to delete somethings first only to be told couldn't you make an exception?

      1. J. Cook Silver badge

        Re: been there - seen that - never been shouted at to that extent (yet)

        My last boss blew through his 2 GB quota in *THREE MONTHS*. (everyone in the company had something like a single gig for mail storage, which worked out pretty well as long as you got used to the concept of deleting the chaff and useless crap.)

        Then he threw a compleat and utter tantrum when I told him that he needed to maybe clear stuff out.

        glad he's gone.

    3. EVMonster
      Thumb Down

      Re: been there - seen that - never been shouted at to that extent (yet)

      You missed the two users who have a 500Mb attachment (Excel) and keep updating it and resending to one another without removing it until the .pst file hits 10Gb and Outlook stops working ... had this toooooo many times especially from merchant bankers (not cockney rhyming slang) who always work out of Excel.

      1. Hans 1 Silver badge

        Re: been there - seen that - never been shouted at to that extent (yet)

        I had that with a sales Droid and a customer's access db, zipped, a meeting Mb, unzipped, 250 ... Kept mailing it back and forward .... Sent it zipped ONCE, message understood ...

      2. Trixr Bronze badge

        Re: been there - seen that - never been shouted at to that extent (yet)

        Sorry, why on earth would you allow a 500MB message size??????

        Internally or externally.

        I'm afraid that's the fault of the administrators, not the users exploiting the really stupid system.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Client support, we've heard about it

    “I paused for effect,” Newt wrote, “and then replied. No. I don't think you're an idiot.” And then he walked away.

    Having been on both sides of a discussion like this, I can only say that 99% of the fault here is Newt's and his manager's (and I will let them apportion the blame any way they see fit).

    Any substantial change of the UI will confuse the end users, no matter how intelligent or knowledgeable they are. It is the job the IT department to make sure end users understand the changes, and to walk the users through the changes if they don't. And then do it again and again, when and if necessary. And it will be necessary - any work process you've been using for years ends up wired to your bones. People will automatically revert to it given a slightest chance, and then will be confused and angry when it does not work (I speak from experience here!).

    Absolutely the worst thing an IT support person could do is to be condescending and snarky towards the end users: when all is said and done, the reason any organization or company exists is the work done by these end users. Without that work and these users there will be no company, and no IT support to go with it. If you are feeling snappy (and everybody has bad days) it is better to find something else to do for the day, and to pass the direct support tasks to one of your colleagues. If you feel snappy all the time, then it is the time to move on: the IT support is not for you anymore.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Client support, we've heard about it

      Some people don't want to learn anything new. I had to deal with faculty back in the late 90s, and there was one guy in particular who was hugely resistant to change. He still had a VT terminal in his office next to his Sun workstation, because the VT terminal connected to an RS6000 just like it had for the past decade and he was used to it. There was a common filesystem and mail was accessible from either, but he was used to reading his email on that VT terminal.

      It took an extra year longer than it should have to dump that aging RS6000 because he didn't want to let it go, and it took some extra convincing to prove to him that he could access his mail (using the Unix 'mail' command, because that's what he was used to, nothing fancy like 'elm' for him!) just as well from a terminal on the Sun as he could if we connected his VT terminal to his Sun like he wanted at first. Honestly the only reason I think he was willing to part with the VT was he was getting an SGI workstation as well and didn't have desk space for both of those and the VT! :)

      The funny thing was he was a Comp Sci professor, and was doing cutting edge research in parallel programming. He just didn't want to be bothered to learn anything new outside his interests.

      1. Roo
        Windows

        Re: Client support, we've heard about it

        "The funny thing was he was a Comp Sci professor, and was doing cutting edge research in parallel programming. He just didn't want to be bothered to learn anything new outside his interests."

        I have some sympathy for that position. If you are really busy there are few things more irritating than having your working environment turned upside down because someone else has decided it needs to change for their benefit rather than yours. This is a regular occurrence at my current workplace - the tools are changing faster than anyone can learn to use and apply them (entire teams have this issue, it's not just me). :)

        1. ibmalone Silver badge

          Re: Client support, we've heard about it

          From the story, it appears someone who was probably exceptionally busy was left to their own devices with a problem for two weeks and by the end of that they were fuming. Then the IT department toss someone junior in front of them to as appeasement. I'm sure everyone here could have worked out the collapsed view quickly enough, but that's not everyone's skillset or their actual job. They had nobody who could be sent to take a quick look at the problem while waiting for our protagonist to return?

        2. Allonymous Coward

          Re: Client support, we've heard about it

          because someone else has decided it needs to change for their benefit rather than yours

          One of my bugbears with $CURRENT_EMPLOYER's corporate IT department. Many (not all) of the changes and processes they put in place seem designed to make their own jobs easier. Sometimes at the expense of making service users' jobs easier.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Client support, we've heard about it

        "Some people don't want to learn anything new."

        A middle manager in an IT networking products company had started his career as a programmer in the 1960s. So he had been in technical development teams for a long time.

        When email systems became standard in the 1980s he always had his secretary print out his emails for him to read. He then hand wrote his replies and gave them to her to type in and send.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Client support, we've heard about it

        "He just didn't want to be bothered to learn anything new outside his interests."

        Understandable. Time spent learning something deemed unnecessary is time not available to do what is deemed necessary.

      4. bobajob12

        Re: Client support, we've heard about it

        I sympathize 'n all, but the keyboard on the old DEC VT220 terminal was wonderful and I miss it to this day. Just the right combination of rubbery travel. And I still find the amber color combo very easy on the eyes. It's the first thing I set up in my PuTTY preferences to this day.

        RS/6000 on the other hand I do *not* miss.

    2. RealBigAl

      Re: Client support, we've heard about it

      He shouldn't have snarked at the user, he should have reported him to HR for unprofessional conduct.

    3. blcollier

      Re: Client support, we've heard about it

      So you're supposed to be meek and simpering when someone has just publicly berated you and threatened your job? The lecturer was being a belligerent ass; the IT dept. could (and should) have handled the situation much better than they did, but that doesn't give you the right to give someone a public dressing down and threaten their livelihood - that's called unprofessional behaviour. Newt was right to be livid with the rest of his dept. for not even attempting to resolve this, and the lecturer was right to apologise for his behaviour. Having a little dig of your own after being unjustifiably bollocked in public doesn't mean you shouldn't be in support.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Client support, we've heard about it

        So you're supposed to be meek and simpering when someone has just publicly berated you and threatened your job?

        Simpering? No. Polite, helpful, and professional - even if you are being unfairly put upon? Absolutely yes.

        The only reason the situation described in the main article escalated to that point was because the IT department manager didn't do his/her job and was effectively baiting the user. Who regrettably lost his temper and then apologized for it.

        Put blame where blame's due.

      2. Chris King Silver badge

        Re: Client support, we've heard about it

        In a previous job, a lecturer stormed into my office, dragged me into a lab and tore me a new orifice in front of his students, because he claimed the PC's I installed were crap and buggy.

        Seems he was trying to teach final-year Informatics students Visual Basic (!), and was having problems that were caused by his own incompetence with VB.

        I handled that situation in a way that he didn't bargain for.

        He expected me to justify myself and apologise to his students.

        I just took over his class for a bit and answered questions from the students, while he sat at a desk fuming.

        Sure, I had a good case for assault, and I could have raised a case with HR, but I figured the student feedback at the end of the module would sting a whole lot more.

        "The sysadmin guy taught us more about VB in fifteen minutes than the lecturer managed in a term" was particularly satisfying.

        Revenge is a dish best served on something they can't smack you over the head with.

    4. Alister Silver badge

      Re: Client support, we've heard about it

      If you feel snappy all the time, then it is the time to move on: the IT support is not for you anymore.

      Feeling "snappy" as you put it, is the ground state for all those who undertake IT support, a world weary cynicism, and contempt for the users, is how you survive.

      You don't read the BOFH, obviously, or perhaps you think it's fiction?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Client support, we've heard about it

        Alister,

        Totally agree with the sentiment and BOFH is more true than non-IT people would believe!!! :) BUT being in the aforementioned ground state for too long does have a very negative impact on you.

        If that is the state of your job, you do need to look at options to get out of the 'tarpit' now and again to replenish your sanity and get a balanced view of the Users again. IT support grinds you down eventually !!!

        As has been mentioned the Users are there to perform whatever function that makes the company money and pays for your wages, you need to remember that it is quite possible that you would have problems if the tables were turned and you did their job, with their level of IT training. :)

        It is always useful to try to learn more about the Users jobs and anticipate the problems by thinking like them. ["A mile in someone elses shoes !!!" so to speak.]

        Keep fighting the good fight and if you must 'Bury the Bodies deep' !!! ;)

        1. Alister Silver badge

          Re: Client support, we've heard about it

          @AC

          If that is the state of your job, you do need to look at options to get out of the 'tarpit' now and again to replenish your sanity and get a balanced view of the Users again. IT support grinds you down eventually !!!

          Thankfully, the majority of the time, I'm not involved in user level support, and spend most of my life wrangling servers and networks, so my sanity is comparatively unscathed.

          Unfortunately, when company directors are involved, I'm the mug who has to attend to their exalted needs. The bloke at issue does nothing to inspire respect.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @AC, re: "Bury the Bodies deep".

          I no longer bother to bury the bodies. I've purchased a couple of Kimodo Dragons & let them "dispose of the evidence" in a much more ecologicly friendly manner.

          Sure it costs me a bit more in bribes to the janitorial staff to clean up all the 'Dragon shit, but that's a small price to pay for never having to deal with the idiots again.

          *COUGH*

          Gotta go, the "Kids" are getting hungry & there's a marketing meeting I need to visit to find them a nice & fat meal...

    5. Korev Silver badge

      Re: Client support, we've heard about it

      Any substantial change of the UI will confuse the end users, no matter how intelligent or knowledgeable they are. It is the job the IT department to make sure end users understand the changes, and to walk the users through the changes if they don't.

      When we migrated from Notes to Outlook we had loads of IT guys run around in red T shirts for this very reason. Some of the server guys even actually liked talking to humans for a bit :)

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Client support, we've heard about it

        Some of the server guys even actually liked talking to humans for a bit :)

        I don't believe you. Who threatened to take away their coffee machine and move their desks from the cubbyhole to an open-plan office?

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
          Devil

          Re: Client support, we've heard about it

          I don't believe you. Who threatened to take away their coffee machine and move their desks from the cubbyhole to an open-plan office?

          I think you missed the vital part of his post, where he said the server techs were sent out in red shirts.

          Basically they were the expendable ones, and weren't expected to make it back. So it really didn't matter...

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Client support, we've heard about it

        Some of the server guys even actually liked talking to humans for a bit :)

        How weird. I went into infrastructure support *because* it got me away from having to deal with people..

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: ...IT guys run around in red T shirts

          Yeah, expendable crew members. I see where you're coming from. ;)

      3. Chris King Silver badge

        Re: Client support, we've heard about it

        "When we migrated from Notes to Outlook we had loads of IT guys run around in red T shirts for this very reason".

        So you were expecting the users to eat, crush, or disintegrate your staff ?

      4. bobajob12
        Pint

        Re: Client support, we've heard about it

        That is a frickin' genius idea. Have a pint.

    6. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Client support, we've heard about it

      Other staff have just the same responsibility to learn how to continue to do their job, be reasonable, respectful, and proportionate to the problem at hand, as we do.

      I'm afraid that the words "I'm sorry, I'm not very good on these things, I don't know how... could I book some time for you to show me so I don't have to keep bothering you?" are frighteningly rare, despite being quite sensible, reasonable, realistic and actionable (I will move heaven and earth to do this for you, if you ask like that).

      Instead it's "all IT's fault", we "shouldn't change things" (I'll just tell Microsoft that, I'm sure they'll listen), it's "not working", it's "stupid that we have to do this", etc. etc. etc.

      Sorry, but it's a two-way street. If you refuse to learn, I can't make you drink at that water. It's not my job to ensure you want to continue doing yours, and part of your job is/was/should be keeping up with the processes necessary to do your job.

      In the same way I don't expect you to blame me because I'm not up on the intricacies of the double-entry bookkeeping system and ledgers, I don't expect you to automatically understand how to write a Junk Mail filter in Outlook. But you can be damn sure that if it becomes a required part of my job, I'll be a damn sight more respectful and will INSIST on learning the tools I need to use rather than just expecting someone else to do it for me.

      1. blcollier

        Re: Client support, we've heard about it

        Aye, what @Lee D said. Respect & professionalism goes both ways.

        1. Paul Kinsler

          Re: Respect & professionalism goes both ways.

          Indeed so. But when all sides are respectful and professional, it is likely to make for a terribly dull "on call" column. So it's (also) what happens when one side or the other cracks that counts - in on-call, and in real life.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Client support, we've heard about it

        It's not my job to ensure you want to continue doing yours ..

        As a matter of fact, if you provide a support service of any kind (not just the IT), it is.

        And most people in IT support I encounter are doing it very well - which, incidentally, means that they rarely if ever encounter impolite and irate users.

        As you say, it is a two-way street, and it takes two people behaving unprofessionally to start a real kerfuffle.

        1. Lee D Silver badge

          Re: Client support, we've heard about it

          "It's not my job to ensure you ******want to****** continue doing yours .."

          "As a matter of fact, if you provide a support service of any kind (not just the IT), it is."

          No, it's not. It's my job to ensure you CAN still continue doing yours.

          But if your job suddenly requires you to do something, and you don't want to learn how to do it, there's nothing I can do about that, and it's not my job to try.

          I can *MAKE* you do it. Possibly. I can certainly ensure you CAN do it. Obviously. But I cannot provide you the desire to bother to learn how to, or teach you if you DON'T want to learn how to.

          Jobs evolve. Nobody today is doing the same job in the same way with the same tools as the guy who did it 10 years before them. Or the guy 10 years before that. Not even artisans. Run a pottery now? Oops. You're still covered by the latest health & safety legislation about hot appliances, fumes, personal protective equipment etc. You may not have been 10 years ago. You are now. So either a) the way you do things must have changed or b) your compliance with the way things MUST be done has changed (to non-compliance).

          I agree this story has elements that are factors, but that's not what we were talking about.

          Your job will change. Because my job will make me change it for you. It's as simple as that. You need to learn how to continue doing your job. If you do not WANT to, I can't do anything about that. It's still your job to learn how to, whether you like it or not.

          1. nijam

            Re: Client support, we've heard about it

            > But if your job suddenly requires you to do something, and you don't want to learn how to do it, ...

            If your job requires you to do something, and you already know how to do it, and you have been doing it successfully for years, then I change the system so that you can no longer do it, ...

            1. Lilolefrostback

              Re: Client support, we've heard about it

              Welcome to the real world, where your new computer comes with Windows 10, as opposed to the Windows XP found on your old computer. Or HP Unix instead of Solaris. Or the new ribbon interface on Word. Heck, the user interface on my first CD player was radically different from the UI on my mom's phonograph. Maybe we should dump on the CD player manufacturers?

              Change is the only constant in this world (well, that and the presence of idiots).

              Part of the problem is that we don't really train our end users properly. We teach them that to do task X, you click here, then you click here, then you click here. They don't understand why they do these things, or what each step accomplishes; they only know to blindly follow a sequence. Part of the fault belongs to IT. Part of the fault belongs to training. Part of the fault belongs to the users' management. And part of the fault belongs to the users.

            2. Red Bren

              Re: Client support, we've heard about it

              Our IT department forced my employer to upgrade from Windows XP. Some of the software my team rely on had to be upgraded. Some software was no longer available. It was a ball-ache but we learned, we adapted and in many instances, used the opportunity to improve some long established working processes. Just because you've been doing something the same way for years, doesn't mean there isn't a better way of doing it.

              Perhaps we should have pushed back and told IT we were not going to change our way of doing things, just because some unsupported operating system was vulnerable to attack. After all, I only work for a bank...

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Client support, we've heard about it

            But if your job suddenly requires you to do something, and you don't want to learn how to do it, there's nothing I can do about that, and it's not my job to try.

            Ok, so your position is that anything the IT does to users' systems and workplaces is a users' problem to adjust to the best they could. Fair enough.

            In this case, how about this scenario:

            You are doing your job as an IT support person - and you are truly good and excellent at it. As most people do, you perform your job with your backside firmly in a comfly swivel chair.

            I, as the company's ergonomics officer trying to encourage healthy posture at work, spend an entertaing and busy weekend replacing all the chairs in the IT department by stability balls.

            Now come the questions:

            Q1. Are you going to be mildly pissed at me for doing so?

            Q2. Would you expect help and instruction for using your new backside supports?

            Q3. Will you demand the pink and blue stability balls to be replaced with manly black and khaki versions?

            Q4. All of the above?

            1. Barry Rueger

              Re: Client support, we've heard about it

              Up vote for Q3.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Client support, we've heard about it

        "Other staff have just the same responsibility to learn how to continue to do their job, be reasonable, respectful, and proportionate to the problem at hand, as we do."

        You need to be able to see it from the other side.

        The user has been doing their job for years. They know how to do it Doing it is their job.

        Suddenly an unasked for change is imposed which means they now find themselves in the position that what they've known for a long time no longer amounts to knowing how to do their job.

        Their job hasn't changed.

        What they know hasn't changed.

        What they need to know has been arbitrarily (at least as far as they can tell) changed.

        So now instead of doing their job they need to acquire a whole lot of new knowledge which takes time and doing that isn't their job, at least not as they see it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Client support, we've heard about it

          "So now instead of doing their job they need to acquire a whole lot of new knowledge which takes time and doing that isn't their job, at least not as they see it."

          A totally fair point from their point of view and also it explains why learning the 'New' way of working is so problematic as they have to still keep up with the 'Old' processes & timescales while 'Fighting' the 'New' System.

          Expectations of reduced throughput and time out for training needs to be set up front, so that the Users are under reduced pressure while coming up to speed.

          If this is communicated clearly to their managers etc and the Users themselves it demonstrates that you are working for them as well as for the IT Dept. (Gets rid of some of the 'Them & Us' attitudes.)

      4. Brangdon

        Re: If you refuse to learn

        In this story, he didn't refuse to learn. IT broke his email and then left it broke for two weeks. He asked for help and didn't get it, for two weeks. He has every right to be upset. If someone had explained to him he just had to click in the right place on day one, he'd have been fine, but the IT department didn't do that. They left him to stew. This may not have been Newt's fault, but he was there as the representative of IT so he should have been polite. IT was in the wrong here, not the user.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: If you refuse to learn

          "IT was in the wrong here, not the user."

          At no point in the article is it mentioned how much, if any, training was provided to the users so it's impossible to apportion blame in such a black and white fashion. For all we know, all users were invited to a training session and provided with documentation on how the new system worked. Having worked with academics, I can assure you there will be some who assume they are intelligent enough to figure it out for themselves and won't bother with the training or reading the cheat-sheets. Of those, some will fail miserably.

          Often, this information is passed out before the summer holiday. Many academics won't place much emphasis on it and by the time they get back will have forgotten it all. The help desk gets very, very busy as the academics start filtering back into work. "My icons have changed!!!"

      5. JimC

        Re:"shouldn't change things"

        Damn right we (as an industry) shouldn't change things. Imagine if every time you bought a new car the pedals were in a different order, and after you'd hit the brake instead of the accellerator you were told you should have practised more before going out on the road. With CUA we had a reasonable standard interface that was becoming widely understood, and changing with ribbons and things was a damn stupid idea.

        And in many ways a car is a good example, because basically the user interface isn't very good and it would be quite possible to improve it, but...

        1. Kiwi Silver badge

          Re: shouldn't change things"

          and after you'd hit the brake instead of the accellerator you were told you should have practised more before going out on the road

          We had to read a book called "you and your first motorcycle' when I got my license. They recommended exactly this - get to know the controls of any new vehicle before taking it out on the road. Was also taught that when handling heavy machinery. When I trained for my HT license we did all the training OFF the road so when we were first on the road with 11 tonne of plaything, we at least were familliar with the vehicle and controls.

          Not a bad idea to familiarise yourself with a new vehicle in the carpark rather than a few milliseconds before you discover the location of that parked car....

          And in many ways a car is a good example, because basically the user interface isn't very good and it would be quite possible to improve it, but...

          In one day I've driven 2 seperate tracked vehicles with differnt controls, driven a small-but-utterly-shiite truck, and ridden a motorbike. Had no issues with the different controls, perhaps because they were very different.

          #hatebeingsolatetoathread

      6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Client support, we've heard about it

        "I'll be a damn sight more respectful and will INSIST on learning the tools I need to use rather than just expecting someone else to do it for me."

        Again, it needs to be pointed out that the user had learned the tools he needed. He never asked for them to be changed but someone did just that.

        Remember that IT exists to help the business as a whole operate. As an IT staffer you can't exist without the operational people* because they earn the money to pay your salary. They, on the other hand, may take the view that they can do without you, especially if you don't appear helpful; they can outsource your job.

        *Yes, I know IT can be part of the delivery system. Been there, done that. It was an aspect of being part of the business as a whole.

    7. Hans 1 Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Client support, we've heard about it

      Absolutely the worst thing an IT support person could do is to be condescending and snarky towards the end users

      We all know that IT support personnel are in exactly THAT position because they only have a quarter of a clue, anyway ... and have by no means earned their arrogance!

      Apparently, this simple truth seems to hurt a lot of IT staffers, sorry ...again, I do not care about downvotes, feel free ...

      Trump icon because you are no better ... arrogant and clueless ...

    8. EyePeaSea
      IT Angle

      Re: Client support, we've heard about it

      I'm at an absolute loss as to why ACs comment had so many down votes for that post.

      As far as I'm concerned, the lecturer was guilty of being rude and abusive (various verbal abuse and threats). But s/he wasn't an "idiot". New UI (and no mention of training being given) so the mistake is understandable. It's also understandable that the lecturer was irate/worried/upset. However, the abuse was wrong. Period. And that's what the lecturer should be apologising for.

      Kind of a bizarre IT setup in that company. Migrate across platforms and have zero ability to go back and get the data from the source (Linux).... I assume that was the case, as the other IT support staff didn't just re-migrate the data (during which process, they'd probably have found the 'hidden' folders).

      Other IT support users avoiding an important problem that was causing a user real stress. IT Management allowing that culture to exist in the first place. And Newt - understandably pissed off about the abuse, but s/he lost most of the moral high ground by reacting like a petty child. Sad to see stories like this confirming so many of the negative stereotypes that 'users' have of IT.

    9. VanguardG

      Re: Client support, we've heard about it

      Due respect, AC, but a grown adult should be able to rationally address the problems they face...this academic had quite some time to get a leash on his temper (the tech was gone two weeks) and chose not to. While the "technical problem" was possibly just a stray mouse click, the show of rage was unprofessional. Sometimes, one needs to be sniped at in return to realize they're dealing with fellow humans and should offer the respect they expect to receive.

      1. Hans 1 Silver badge

        Re: Client support, we've heard about it

        "While the "technical problem" was possibly just a stray mouse click, the show of rage was unprofessional."

        No, no, no ... they changed the system from Linux to Windows, apparently, without adequate training. A boffin, in psychology, could not access his email FOR TWO WEEKS and you want the gentleman to remain calm? That boffin HAD REAL WORK TO DO, not dick around with pst files or take the piss out of the post doc because the bloke did not know how to create a shortcut ...

        Go write published scientific paper on whatever, THEN, and ONLY THEN, have you have earned the right to be arrogant! You cannot, then listen, in your field of expertise, if all you know s how to troubleshoot Windows desktops, you can STFU, I can probably teach a random tramp more than you know about computers in less than a fortnight. Downvoters, welcome!

        I love it when Window cleaners and Surface experts get on their high horses ... ROFL.

    10. DropBear Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Client support, we've heard about it

      "It is the job the IT department"

      Wrong. If you're the kind of "user" that is used to flush / flappy door handles on cars and gets confused and unable to enter the vehicle when presented with one of the protruding grab-handle types then do kindly fuck right the fuck off and abstain from using cars. Same applies to a trivial concept called "collapsing stuff" and IT.

  6. Archtech Silver badge

    Cruel and unusual

    Asking anyone who is used to Linux to move to Windows - and, worse still, to use Outhouse - is cruel and unusual punishment.

    No wonder the man was dazed and bewildered. He probably *expected* to lose all his emails. "What more can they do to me??"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cruel and unusual

      Agreed, but I can't help wondering why the IT department went along with the backward step of moving from a more secure system to a totally insecure system, apparently without a fight.

      1. Archtech Silver badge

        Re: Cruel and unusual

        A Microsoft sales droid took the right person out to lunch?

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Cruel and unusual

          A Microsoft sales droid took the right wrong person out to lunch?

          FTFY

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Cruel and unusual

      "Asking anyone who is used to Linux to move to Windows - and, worse still, to use Outhouse - is cruel and unusual punishment."

      As far as I can make out from the article it was a Linux server that was being replaced and we're not told what the previous desktop or mail client was. It seems unlikely that they'd have swapped a Linux desktop out just because they'd swapped the server. So here we have a Windows or Mac user having their mail client swapped out. If the user had actually been, as the headline almost certainly misstates, a Linux user he'd just have fired up his existing mail client and connected it to the new server.

  7. wolfetone Silver badge

    I remember once some arsehole gave me grief for a week because a document on the web portal I built wouldn't print for her at home. She escalated it to the CEO, to the Chairman, who then both gave me grief about the problem.

    Turned out her printer wouldn't print anything. It was her printer that was the problem, absolutely nothing to do with what I built. Repeatedly told her this twice a day for the week she'd ring up ranting and raving. Even though I'd never met the woman, never seen her computer, didn't even know what type of printer she had, and the computer wasn't the property or anything to do with the charity I worked for, it was all my fault and I should fix it.

    Do you think I got an apology from any of the people mentioned? Did I fuck.

    1. Roo

      Looks like she got free fault diagnosis on her own kit at the Charity's expense. Nice.

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        To be fair to her the "charity" gets up to a lot worse. It's a charity for tax reasons. Not because it's charitable.

  8. Korev Silver badge
    Unhappy

    New BOFH?

    ON-CALL Friday means a few things at El Reg: a new BOFH.

    You got me all excited there for a second and I was a bit sad to see no new BOFHage since July...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: New BOFH?

      ..and is Mr Dabbs on holiday?

      1. Anonymous IV

        Re: New BOFH?

        > ..and is Mr Dabbs on holiday?

        I do hope so. It will save me the trouble of looking at a perhaps interesting headline, then finding that he had written the article.

    2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: New BOFH?

      " no new BOFHage"

      Damn! i was gonna read that after this :(

    3. Mindfart

      Re: New BOFH?

      Same!! Wish simon could go back to doing them weekly, sad times, sad times.

  9. adam payne Silver badge

    Oh the good old collapsed folder. If I had a pound for every time i've had to make someone look stupid because the folder was collapsed I would be a millionaire.

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: "If I had a pound for every time"

      You'd collapse under the weight?

  10. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    "Newt waited until he'd run out of steam and asked him to boot his PC and open Outlook."

    First mistake right there. The FIRST thing you do when entering a hostile users environment is make sure the computer is on , and they are logged in , or booting.

    1. Camilla Smythe

      Make sure the computer is on..

      I have to agree there. All my calls from the Lads and Lasses at Microsoft Support begin with them asking me to please be turning on my computer before we get into arguing the toss about whether I have pressed the Windows and R key at the same time. It has on occasion taken an hour or so before I manage to download the RDP program and have to ask them how to install Wine. Useless shits repeatedly do not have a clue about that one so I guess my computer is still broken and that's why they keep on calling me. Perhaps someone who has contacts at Microsoft can ask them to educate their support department about such things.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Make sure the computer is on..

        "All my calls from the Lads and Lasses at Microsoft Support"

        I envy you. The only one that ever came my way was a missed call and I've two scripts prepared which don't even get them as far as asking me to turn on the computer.

        1. Camilla Smythe

          Re: Make sure the computer is on..

          Obviously you are not the right kind of shit and as a result attract no flies. I would not be able to advise you as to how to try harder to become the right sort of shit because I have no idea how I became so attractive, TalkTalk CoughCough, but it sounds like you are not really up for the job in the first place unless your counter scripts, which appear not to, involve an extended discussion as to how to turn your computer on including the usual about power switches, lights, screen, cables and other such stuff. The opening gambit of "Fuck Off I run Linux" or "Go Shag Your Goat" are quite good for listening to lost connections but, should you be in the mood, you have to be more creative in order to have Microsoft Support spend a few hours teaching you a bit more about the intricacies of your operating system. I was amazed to discover that they bank with Western Union.

      2. JJKing Silver badge

        Re: Make sure the computer is on..

        First thing Microsoft Support ask me is for my credit card number.

    2. PerlyKing Bronze badge

      Basic psychology

      I suspect that Newt had a pretty good idea what the problem was likely to be, and he was in fact able to fix it very quickly. But if he hadn't started off by at least pretending to listen to the user's concerns (aka "waited until he'd run out of steam") the user would have felt ignored and it could easily have developed into a shouting match. Even if Newt had just ignored the user and fixed the immediate problem, the user would probably have been concentrating on his own rant rather than the solution, and nothing would have been gained.

      Most people are easier to deal with when they feel that they've had their say, and are more likely to listen to what you have to say.

      In a perfect world Newt wouldn't have had the last word in the way that he did, but we're all human.

      1. Mark York 3 Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: Basic psychology

        I've had that, from reading the call notes (especially with a known issue) & going straight in to apply the fix, only for feedback to say I didn't listen to them explain the problem & was condescending.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "The FIRST thing you do when entering a hostile users environment is make sure the computer is on , and they are logged in , or booting."

      This doesn't work if the problem is related to a boot-time failure so you miss the error message.

  11. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    “I could immediately see his folder tree had been collapsed,”

    I could have told you that on the phone from holiday location without even looking.

    "colleagues who didn't visit the lecturer while he was on holidays."

    Gross negligence and denial of service right there.

    How could they possibly think that was ok?

    No wonder the users anger and frustration was multiplied by 14 days!

  12. akoepke
    Facepalm

    "Have you found something a user swore was lost?"

    Many many times. Most common one is people moving the mouse when they go to double click on a folder. The result is them dragging it and moving it into another folder. The operation happens instantly and suddenly their folder is "gone" and they panic.

    As for losing emails, people who create folders and use the Deleted Items as their filing cabinet. Back in the days when we had an in-house Exchange server with a hard storage limit I was coming close and used GPO to clear people's deleted items when they closed Outlook. Oh the wailing and gnashing of teeth that happened after that and people complained that they I had deleted the emails they wanted to keep.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
      Facepalm

      yup. Also people will keep email just because it has a URL or a network shortcut in them.

      "Ok, show me the problem you reported about your shared drive"

      <user opens outlook>

      Oh its one of those i think to myself , the user is now going to spend 5 minutes trawling through emails looking for the one from her manager , 18 months ago , that says "Our new shared area is on this filepath : S:\idiots\idiot-team-B , or click here". , and I know that she has done that every day for 18 months.

      Thats 18x4 weeks x 5 days x 5 minutes / 60 = 30 hours wasted.

  13. nikosal

    What user's OS (or profession) has to do with the whole story? You guys love clever article titles, but this time I believe you outdid yourself. This is a story of a guy who didn't quite understand a new app (and he didn't have to, in a few minutes time), the guy who installed it failed to help him familiarize with it properly and then a supporting unit head didn't even try to help for two weeks. Complete failure of the IT unit, manager and Newt alike. At least that's what I see there. Not to mention that we professionals in various fields don't make public the countless similar stories we could share, just to brag or because someone has threatened us. Shit easily happens and next time Newt may find himself in the other position in front of a doctor, a traffic policeman, the teacher of his kids or anything.

  14. Tigra 07 Silver badge
    Mushroom

    I was once asked by my manager to help figure out how to edit a PDF from the police relating to a court issue he was involved in...Yeah...I'm not tampering with evidence and risking prison for him lol

    1. Adam 1 Silver badge

      You didn't show him how to change the font to white?

      1. Tigra 07 Silver badge

        It related to changing a single number relating to the speed he was caught travelling...

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Late night copy shop, hefty bribe, a scalpel and a Pritt stick.

          Better call Saul.

  15. Lee D Silver badge

    I have had almost exactly the identical scenario myself, about the same feature, with the same kind of person.

    After one such incident, I'm afraid I put you on the "extended diagnosis" tier, which means we talk to you over the phone like an idiot first, before we come and see you in person and realise you have not been doing something quite basic and obvious all along.

    Like in my personal life, I assume nobody is an idiot or a genius, and pitch my assistance at that level. Then as I discover more about you, I may categorise you in either of those categories. Then technical conversations become much easier: "Have you plugged it in?" or "Yeah, you just need to resync the account" or whatever is appropriate to that level.

    The fact that I have "downgraded" my support for you should tell you a lot about how skilled you actually are, and whether you should really be handling the kinds of data / responsibilities / systems that you are.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Lee D,

      How many of your users have reached the level where you feel the need to ask them, "have you remembered to breathe in?"

      "Have you remembered to breathe out?"

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I am fairly sure

    I have navigated trees with a + and - to collapse structures even in Linux apps. This is not "new", he had clearly got past the real changes i.e. having to start double clicking etc.

    I blame the angry user most, followed by weak newt "boss" should should have had the balls to deal with it himself, and apart from being a bit snarky newt comes of relatively free of trouble.

    Note to boss, significant user experience changes can be hard for non-techies - printed FAQ in plastic film is cheap to produce and can be left on desk out of hours for the really scary uses...

    1. Roo
      Windows

      Re: I am fairly sure

      "I have navigated trees with a + and - to collapse structures even in Linux apps. This is not "new", he had clearly got past the real changes i.e. having to start double clicking etc."

      You could have read the article and realised that he was using the UNIX 'mail' application on a VT (aka dumb terminal) - likely a text only one... Some apps *did* run on VTs and offer the +/- idiom (ISTR trn did that) 'mail' most definitely did not.

      Also note this guy was 'placid' - therefore it is extremely unlikely that he used a Windows box very often. Windows has a habit of making people permanently angry - compare and contrast Steve Ballmer with Dennis Ritchie for example.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: I am fairly sure

        "You could have read the article and realised that he was using the UNIX 'mail' application on a VT (aka dumb terminal) - likely a text only one... Some apps *did* run on VTs and offer the +/- idiom (ISTR trn did that) 'mail' most definitely did not."

        The article isn't explicit about this.

        All we're told is:

        Server: Unstated on Linux -> Exchange on unstated (but a Windows server of some vintage)

        Client: Unstated -> Outlook

        Desktop: No information

        In fact, at the technical level we're not even told half the story. If this is indicative of Newt's communication skills it's no wonder there were problems.

  17. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Flame

    Who isn't confused by Outlook?

    I mean, is an "open containing folder" option on the context menu in the search window too much to ask for?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I annoy me when i see I.T departments running like that , when I know how *should* be done , but no one ever asks me to run one , just stay at the bottom and go along with the idiotic practices in place

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Dear Register --- Careers Advice Column :)

      "I annoy me when i see I.T departments running like that , when I know how *should* be done , but no one ever asks me to run one , just stay at the bottom and go along with the idiotic practices in place"

      *Life lesson 1*.

      No-One will ask !!!

      If you think you can do better, push yourself forward and try to get a promotion up the tree.

      Show everyone how good you are and win the promotions that are going.

      Have a long term aim to get the job to run the Dept if you want to change things.

      The higher up the chain you get the more likely your opinions will listened to ..... although there is no promise they will be actioned, depending on your Colleagues / Managers etc :)

      If you are *really* stuck at the bottom, look at your options elsewhere to do the job you want.

      Few people are given the opportunities they want, you have to fight for them !!!

      This may mean you have to push yourself outside your comfort zone but it is all good.

      The hardest part, particularly if you are naturally introverted, is to promote yourself but is the only way.

      (Lots of very good but introverted people in IT, don't get stuck or put upon it's your career !!!)

      Best of luck !!!

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Dear Register --- Careers Advice Column :)

        One should also survey the terrain and the job they seek. Our department changed management seemingly yearly for a lot of dumb reasons. The biggest though is the manager at the next level got promoted or quit and then the new manager wanted his/her 'friends' in the group supervisor position. I watched that for many years. I had a lot of people pushed me to apply for the supervisor of Support the next time it came up. I never did. I was happier being a grunt in a remote office (one man show there) and remained gainfully employed unlike others who tried to jump up the company ladder.

  19. beaker_72
    Trollface

    I call bulls**t

    "The lecturer apologised for his behaviour a week later."

    I worked in academia for 5 years, these people are never wrong and never apologise even when they are.

  20. chivo243 Silver badge
    Pint

    Same old story, same old song and dance

    I've been ripped up one side down the other. I couldn't get a word in edgewise. When the steam stopped coming out of a D levels ears, I finally got to say "please show me the issue." After moments of furrowed brow and teeth sucking, it appeared that there was no issue. Everything was as I left it and still intact. I didn't receive an apology, or a thank you...

    Pint as it's behind me and it's Friday!

  21. james 68

    Worked in a TV company for a while and one git sticks in my mind.

    He was always taking credit for other peoples work while doing none of his own and berating everyone else for being lazy and not good enough to work there, unlike him...yadda yadda.

    Well, we were working on an outside docu series and I'd finished a number of possible intros and outros and this clown was supposed to be giving a presentation the next day to the execs and needed the intros to work into his speal.I personally took him the clips on an external drive and watched him copy them to his laptop.

    Next day rolls around. He's exploding at everyone because he can't do the presentation because nobody had done the necessary work (the intro and outro clips), bosses aren't happy, outside execs aren't happy and everyone comes down on me.

    After a lot of being screamed at (one of the bosses lost his voice he literally screamed so much) I finally got to telling them that yes, the clips are done, yes I had given them to the clown and no, I really didn't give a shit about keeping my job anymore if this was how I was to be treated. Cue clown screaming even more that I'm a liar and should be fired immediately.

    Boss #1 who is actually a nice guy normally but who should never have been working in a tech related role nevermind in a senior position shows some sense and says "If you're so certain that the files were put on the clowns laptop then we should have a look and see" only for no files to be found.

    After much more being screamed at and the clown egging everyone on, I made them an offer. We would run undelete software on the laptop, if it didn't find the files they could have my resignation there and then, if it did find the files then clown would be gone or they could fire me because I would not work with him again.

    Clown starts arguing that the laptop is his property and has personal details on it that I shouldn't be allowed near so we couldn't run the software, I point out that the laptop is bought and paid for by the company and has only been allocated to him... anyway software is run files were found and timestamp on the delete is 5 mins before he was supposed to give the presentation - for which he had done no work and decided to blame his cockup on someone else.

    He was fired that day.

    I left about 6 months later because the whole damned job had turned toxic because I'd caused boss #2 & #3 to lose their little brown-nosed arse polisher.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Remember those days when you'd go on a course...

    ..to learn how to use the new email/application?

    Well they used to do that for a reason.

    God only knows why we all stopped doing it about fifteen years ago.

    1. PerlyKing Bronze badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Remember those days when you'd go on a course...

      I was once told that the answer to any question which starts with "why don't they..." is "money".

      1. David Nash Silver badge

        Re: Remember those days when you'd go on a course...

        Remember the days when software came with a printed manual?

        1. Barry Rueger

          Re: Remember those days when you'd go on a course...

          Still have my copy of Acerson's WordPerfect manual!

        2. Down not across Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Remember those days when you'd go on a course...

          Remember the days when software came with a printed manual?

          Yes.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Remember those days when you'd go on a course...

      "we all stopped doing it about fifteen years ago."

      Because vendors arbitrarily changed UIs so fact the courses couldn't keep up?

    3. onceuponatime

      Re: Remember those days when you'd go on a course...

      Money and it didn't actually benefit the people who needed it most as they found ways to skive off or completely ignore everything that was "taught" to them.

  23. Hans 1 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    I seriously think Newt is an idiot for not understanding that we all have our strengths and that computer literacy is not a panacea ... would love to see Newt write a book on psychology ... New gui system for the guy, of course he will have to learn it ...

    I once helped a doctor who claimed the page was all small in Word, simple zoom-in did the trick, that was easy for me, however, when I came to see him for a cough, I did not know what it was (what treatment was required), he took one look at my throat, listened to my lungs and nailed it ... we all have our strengths ... imagine the doctor taking the piss out of his patients all day (or treating them like idiots) because they are useless at medical diagnosis ?

    Newt, you are an IDIOT!

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "imagine the doctor taking the piss out of his patients all day"

      It's called a sample.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You canna change the laws of physics captain....

    We've all had the "Your network has lost all my files.." only for us to look in a folder and recover them, the "I don't like this version of office I only like the previous version", when up to that point their view of the previous version was.... "I don't like this version of office I only like the previous version" ad infinitum and I can generally withhold my distaste to users and smile ..

    The ones that REALLY annoy me are the ones who can't understand simple physics.

    "I want this (huge) spreadsheet printed on one piece of paper" - I show them how to do that..

    "It's too small I can't read it can you make it bigger?" - I show them how to do that

    "But I wanted it on one piece of paper!"

    Prints it off to large format plotter... they didn't say how BIG the single piece of paper had to be!!!!

    1. Roo
      Windows

      Re: You canna change the laws of physics captain....

      "The ones that REALLY annoy me are the ones who can't understand simple physics."

      Ah yes, I worked at a place where the chief was a Salesperson. Said Chief had a number of cracks at changing the laws of physics with their considerable physical presence. Two events stand out in my memory. The first was a heated argument between said Chief and a usually quiet spoken very intelligent academic.

      The Chief had decided that the product said academic had produced would be far better if it used an IR camera, the Academic disagreed because the whole point was to pick out dark colored particles in a light background. The academic did try to point out that an IR camera would simply measure temperature and therefore be no use in the application, and the discussion ended with much shouting from the Chief and the Academic quietly resigning.

      The second stand out moment (there were a lot of memorable FUBARs in that brief 18 month stint) was when the Chief returned beaming from his latest sales trip, having flogged something that would be physically impossible to build, and on the off chance that we did make some magic happen it would be physically impossible to operate. Apparently the customer agreed with this assessment, but the Chef decided it was possible, and came back to base with a signed contract featuring a termination/non-delivery penalty clause. The Chief checked in on the engineering team who timidly and gently told him it wasn't possible... Some point later in the afternoon I had the unhappy experience of watching a very large and angry Chief trash an office, punching a few holes through the partition wall after a phone call with said customer.

      It was an unhappy occasion because he came out of the office and bellowed lots of unpleasant things about engineers after cooling off a little.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You canna change the laws of physics captain....

      The company was fond of outsourcing departments half-way across the world. Then they complained that the remote users' desktop applications were crawling - so the network must be at fault.

      Did some packet captures and measured the latency - which was the relatively large figure one expected for that distance. The dynamics showed that the application did several server small data interactions for each user action. On the in-house network the tiny latency had not noticeably affected the response time of a user action. The overall response times for the remote users was simple arithmetic.

      When told to make the network faster by increasing the bandwidth - we repeatedly told them "you can't change the Laws of Physics".

      A customer had a similar problem. A department had developed their own application using Visual Basic. When they linked it to their in-house server database they complained that the internal network was too slow. It took 30 seconds to put a one line result on the user's screen.

      A packet capture analysis showed that the server round trip latency was 1 millisecond. The desktop application issued 30,000 server interactions to do the one user action.

  25. Steve Kerr

    Shouting managers

    Working for one bank had the following

    PHB - "I want you to do A, B, C"

    Me - "That's a bad idea becaseu......"

    PHB - "I'm tell you what to do, do it"

    Me - "Fine, I'll do it against my better judgement"

    3 Years later

    PHB Approaches desk in front on lots of peopl"

    PHB - "Why the <swear swear swear....did you do this?"

    PHB - More sweary stuff

    2 days of email searching later and email forwarded to PHB with comment "here's what you asked me to do"

    Response from PHB......Tumbleweeds blowing past in silence.

    No apologies, nothing.

    Arse that he was

    1. PerlyKing Bronze badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Shouting managers

      And this is why you always get stupid decisions in writing - it's either useful as evidence or makes the PHB think again about what they're asking you to do.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Shouting managers

        "And this is why you always get stupid decisions in writing - it's either useful as evidence or makes the PHB think again about what they're asking you to do."

        This works fine until you get to Roo's situation: it's not a PHB, it's a salesperson and it's already written down and signed before it even gets near you. And yes, I have resigned after being faced with such a situation although it did help that I'd met a former client at the station who asked did I want to come back.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Shouting managers

          "[...] it's not a PHB, it's a salesperson and it's already written down and signed before it even gets near you."

          Had that situation - where it was aggravated by a very senior technical person who tried to block our project's attempts to overcome the apparently insurmountable technical difficulties.

          The memorable point was when we sent our office junior to the development centre with a blank disk - and a large bottle of whisky. His instructions were not to go near the main building - but meet an O/S development team contact at the machine room door. The disk and bottle were exchanged for a disk with the latest software update that we needed.

          Our very experienced two man (and a dog) team's project was a success - and the customer was very delighted. We had met their expectations - and inside their "must do" timescale on which hung a major building relocation.

          The obstructive senior technical person was backing another project with similar aims. That involved assembling a very large team - none of whom had ever worked on the system before. It was no surprise to hear they had eventually run out of time and funding and had abandoned their attempt.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Shouting managers

          "it's not a PHB, it's a salesperson and it's already written down and signed before it even gets near you"

          Then you put in writing why it can't be done and/or your misgivings about why it is a supremely bad idea.

          That way when the salesidiot blames everyone but himself, you have a comeback - and yes, salesidiots who sell impossible things do get terminated.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Shouting managers

            "Then you put in writing why it can't be done and/or your misgivings about why it is a supremely bad idea."

            It still leaves you as the man in the middle between sales and customer in a situation which could potentially end up in court. It's still not your job to manage customers' expectations.

            In fact, in the case I was thinking of someone must have done that because the product, although ricocheting between a number of software firms seemed to have been successful in its niche market. I had a couple of short testing gigs much later when a client was migrating to bigger and bigger hardware. Because the name had changed I didn't recognising it when the first of these was proposed but hanging around in the front office waiting to meet the client I could see a use screen and thought that it was laid out just the way I'd have done it. Not surprising as I had. I also found that one screen still had place-holder text in the menu produced by my home-made code generator and left unchanged for 11 years.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Shouting managers

        With management churn the PHB has usually moved on to his next promotion - often outside the company - on the strength of his success in "getting things done".

  26. Daedalus Silver badge

    Wow, UI is HARD!

    I sympathize with the various grumblers and rumblers, but the truth is that people are dumb and the only way to stop them doing something stupid is to make it impossible.

    A certain large document company knew what it was doing when it put a Big Green Button on its products, along with a smaller Red, or sometimes Yellow one. The BGB tells the thing to do what you want it to do, the R/Y button tells it to stop. Add a green light to say things are OK and a red light to say otherwise, and you've got a UI that just about stretches the limit of what the average drone can handle.

    Then along come Micros**t and their sales droids, convincing TPTB that everybody wants hugely intricate and "powerful" user interfaces, ignoring the fact that G. T. Tippler wants to sit down at a computer and have it show him/her what he/she needs to see without having to be asked, let alone launched, commanded and visualized. The document company had a similar problem, but convinced itself that the features were there to sell the machine, and the money, as in razor blades, was in the re-supply. MS has no such excuse.

  27. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  28. Korev Silver badge
    Coat

    Linux mail client

    Did he start to Pine for his old Linux system?

  29. Lord_Beavis
    Facepalm

    Left hand - Right hand

    I guess Simon and Simon need to talk to each other as I don't see a new BOFH this week.

  30. MathUHenry

    Sooooo ... you set this guy up on a piece of software that he's new to, and you immediately leave for vacation. While you're gone, he stumbles across a software behavior that he's not familiar with, and it makes him think he has lost everything. Apparently, you didn't show him how to access the backup, or where to find it. For two weeks he can't get anyone from IT to address the problem (for IT, trivial; for him, critical). And somehow he's the idiot?

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      No, but yes.

      The solution is to expand the tree. That takes 1 click. The boffin does not know this and is strung out by "the rest of the IT dept" for a fortnight. Understandably he is a bit pissed off by the time anyone "from IT" shows up.

      Our hero takes it on the chin but shows the 1-click solution. At this point it is clear to anyone with a brain that "the rest of the IT dept" are a waste of oxygen. The boffin acknowledges this immediately and later adds an apology once the adrenalin rush wears off. Kudos to them. The audience of other boffins presumably also note this. Our hero confines himself to a single snark.

      I think everyone comes out looking pretty good except for "the rest of the IT dept".

    2. james 68

      @MathUHenry,

      "Apparently, you didn't show him how to access the backup."

      Users should NEVER have access to the backups. That is how data gets lost, projects fail and in some circumstances things can become legally disastrous for the company. If they need something restored from the backup they have 2 choices: restore from a personal backup on their own machine or place a request with IT.

    3. Hans 1 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      @ MathUHenry

      Do not worry about the downvotes, it is just the bunch of Window Cleaner and Surface Experts that are a bit miffed because they think that because they can use a pointing device, they have earned their arrogance,when clearly they have not and we have managed to explain THAT to them .... truth hurts ...

  31. Michael Strorm

    “I paused for effect,” Newt wrote, “and then replied. No. I don't think you're an idiot.”

    Good example of how adding emphasis to a sentence can completely alter the meaning and tone. What's even better about this example is that we can change what's being insinuated a further three times, simply by moving the emphasis elsewhere, like so:-

    "I don't think you're an idiot."

    "I don't think you're an idiot."

    "I don't think you're an idiot."

    "I don't think you're an idiot."

    "I don't think you're an idiot."

  32. onceuponatime

    Well some academics are decent, the education department was always polite and thankful for help. The comp sci department on the other hand thought they knew better about everything.........

    Job after the uni I spent four years being the entire IT department for a small company which ended after I took a week's vacation to pack my grandfather's house up. During that time they had deleted one of the two admin accounts in quickbooks which broke the backup which was on the user's PC (not my choice.) The VP who I'd had issues with previously including threats to fire me DEMANDED the IT staff get a backup going. I had no email or internet for a week ($diety I miss Colorado.) I get back Monday morning and see all of the emails and write up instructions for the one person left who had admin access since she only showed up about twice a week and backed up the file manually.

    VP walks in and immediately starts screaming at me and decided he felt he needed to swing at me because it was my fault the backup broke even though I'd been gone a week and had no admin access to quickbooks. Fortunately one of the other managers was there and pulled him away from me. Two days later I got a significant pay raise right before I put my two weeks in.

    I should have probably filed an assault charge against him but was so glad I was out of there that didn't bother.

    Sadly in Newt's case he got the fallout from someone else not doing their job. I don't take him as being overly snarky and it was enough with that professor to get him to realize he was being an arsehole, deserved or not. The user's frustration is completely understandable but sometimes you get users who blow up at the smallest things and can't verbalize what their issue is. In this case the IT department manager should have done his job rather than leave it lay around.

  33. Andy Taylor

    The diplomatic answer

    when someone says "you must think I'm an idiot" is to tell them how there's no way you could do whatever their job is (so long as it's not IT). I like to make the point that my job is IT, so I am expected to know this stuff whereas their job is something they should know all about.

    I'm also reminded of a couple of stories:

    Over 20 years ago now, I was doing an on-site install and training session for a customer. I was half way through the install when I was called back to the office (for what turned out to be nothing more than my colleague not wanting to answer the phone all afternoon by himself). Customer was not happy with me leaving, cue much grovelling and apologies etc. When I went back the following week to complete the install, I was met with a rather frosty reception. Right up to the point I started the training part of the process where I quickly discovered that my customer had never used a mouse before. She was so grateful that I patiently showed her how it worked and made sure she was familiar with using the new software that the complaint was forgotten.

    I've also seen real email disasters - I was working for an organisation that had a) outsourced its IT and b) had some users with a lot of archival email going back many years. Due to mailbox quotas, these users had their archive on their local drive, which was bad enough, but one evening a helpful admin decided to run a script that would search local drives and remove any PST files from them, because local PST files were "not allowed".

    The next day I had 6 or 7 PCs sitting in my test suite running data recovery on them. The users eventually got all their emails back and all their attachments, sadly none of the attachments were connected to the original emails and they were all called <generic filename xxx>.doc.

    1. JimC

      Re: The diplomatic answer

      Exactly right.

      And besides, users who don't understand the software are on the whole greatly to be preferred over the ones who *know everything* about it.

  34. Herby Silver badge

    Lesson to be learned...

    Nice goes a long way. You hope that the user is as nice as you are.

    Unfortunately, it doesn't always go that way. I've learned that starting out "small" and then escalating is much better than starting out at the loudest level.

    Patience is a virtue.

  35. Tezfair
    Facepalm

    ahh yes

    The old + in Outlook and the disappearing emails. Oh how many times I have told the user to click on the plus sign. But around 3 years ago I managed to persuade a client to move away from a 2Gb web hosted imap to an onprem exchange (internal reasons, don't need downvotes because it's not on someone elses server). Anyway, bucket loads of space, 60 users, 50Gb mailboxes so each staffs email archives were all pulled in to the live mailbox. At least once a month I get a call from someone asking where the archive is as they are looking for an email from year dot. I always tell them to actually search in outlook as everything is there.

    :::sigh:::

    1. onceuponatime

      Re: ahh yes

      "But we've always done it this way and nothing should ever change!!!!!!!!!"

  36. NBCanuck

    So many levels of fail

    End-user - while it is understandable that he was upset when he thought he had lost all of his email, he did himself no favour in blasting the IT department. All he accomplished was to alienate them so bad that no one wanted to help him. If you need something from someone always make them WANT to assist you.

    IT Dept - while no one enjoys dealing with a verbally abusive customer, they really messed up when they put off helping him until the other tech returned from vacation. Instead of a quick investigation and providing great relief to the user they contributed to an environment where the user was left to get angrier and I'm sure this generated a lot of talk about lack of support from IT. Even with it being user-error and a good outcome, complaints about poor support would have been valid.

    Techie - he did everything right before going on vacation, and patiently allowed the user to vent a bit while explaining the issue, AND quickly resolved the problem. All aces until he had to go and get his dig in. So much potential to help undo some damage but his need for revenge for the rant lost him his high ground.

    1. Hans 1 Silver badge

      Re: So many levels of fail

      End-user - while it is understandable that he was upset when he thought he had lost all of his email, he did himself no favour in blasting the IT department.

      For the 1000th time, this guyz HAD WORK TO DO, REAL WORK TO DO, AND WAS LEFT IN THE SHIT.

      When you plan a migration, you plan TRAINING! His mail was transferred and the employee who did the transfer left on vacation the day after, big no-no, never, ever do you do such a thing. The guy apparently NEVER received adequate training, could not access his work for TWO WEEKS .... these guyz have high wages, they cost plenty per day, in this case DOING NOTHING ...

      IT support personnel, seriously, STFU, Newt F'd up big time, more so his manager, and the entire IT team while Newt was off ... fact, undeniable fact. Typical arrogant Window Cleaners and Surface Experts, I have the same bunch ... too F'ing stupid to put together a working routing table, I work remote, use my own .... Ok, we have subnets in multiple continents which complicates things, slightly, but still ... "man route" + 5 minutes and I am done, not my job so "I am not used to doing it and do need to read the man page" but at least it works ....

      You generally know your IT team is a bunch of morons when they favor Windows .... old fart, here, verified at multiple employers ...

      1. DropBear Silver badge

        Re: So many levels of fail

        Your need to do whatever* does not make you exempt from regarding other human beings as human beings and treating them accordingly, with at least a modicum of professionalism and respect. No, you're not the centre of the Universe even though you clearly think you are. If you think you have been wronged and/or neglected you're welcome to complain, but your self-assigned importance absolves you of precisely nothing when you're plainly being an over-the-top asshole. And if you choose to be one, getting the same in return is the absolute minimum you deserve. Actually, what you deserve for that is more in line with "I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers". A single line of snark is actually a superhumanly reserved reply for any attempt to demean a fellow human being. But when you look around you clearly see servants instead of people, so feel free to carry on defending childlike histrionics and entitlement...

        *You clearly identify strongly with Newt's "client"; the tone of the following, rather than being personally directed, merely accommodates that choice. Well, except the last sentence. That's squarely on you.

  37. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Techie - he did everything right before going on vacation"

    Making a big change just prior to going on vacation isn't doing everything right; just the opposite. Assume there will be teething troubles and make sure you'll be there to deal with them.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "Making a big change just prior to going on vacation isn't doing everything right; just the opposite."

      Indeed. If you're a critical staffer then the 2-3 days before going on vacation should have _nothing_ scheduled except a few rounds of mahjong.

    2. JJKing Silver badge
      Megaphone

      Really?

      Making a big change just prior to going on vacation isn't doing everything right; just the opposite. Assume there will be teething troubles and make sure you'll be there to deal with them.

      Wrong! There was a whole IT department and a manager available when Newt was away who should have been able rectify any teething troubles.

  38. psychonaut

    how difficult is it?

    "how dare the make us learn a new email program when we are 5 years away from retirement"

    jesus. how difficult is it? its not like email interfaces do very much is it?

    on the other hand, i tried to buy some screws from screwfix yesterday.

    i hate imperial, but there are some things burned into my psyche. miles for distance. gauge and inches for for screws.

    i wanted to buy a load of 10, 12 and 8 gauge screws in various inch lengths.

    all the screw sizes are in mm on the website. took me flipping ages to figure out which ones i wanted.

    so, i can see both sides....

    1. Hans 1 Silver badge

      Re: how difficult is it?

      jesus. how difficult is it? its not like email interfaces do very much is it?

      Hm, have you ever heard of the command line ? I assume the guy was using pine, a command line email client .... does not use 1Gb of RAM, 15 dialogs, 25% CPU time to display the contents of your 5Gb email folder ...

      For Foutlook, you need a "pointing" device, so you waste time moving hand to mouse, to keyboard, to mouse .... when you type fast and use a command line email client, you get more shit done ....

      During a migration of this kind, you also have to ensure the guy knows how to use Windows, which, given this story, was CLEARLY not the case ...

      You know what, switch to pine for a week, enable IMAP on your Exchange and use pine ... since you can only type with two fingers, panic when you see a blinking cursor and are lost without a mouse, let us laugh two minutes .... now please, STFU, you have NO CLUE!

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: how difficult is it?

        "For Foutlook, you need a "pointing" device, so you waste time moving hand to mouse, to keyboard, to mouse"
        Horseshit!

        Keyboard shortcuts for Outlook

        STFU, you have NO CLUE!
        And there squeaks someone who hasn't a clue how to use Outlook efficiently...

      2. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: how difficult is it?

        "switch to pine for a week"
        and forget about:

        * working with your POP account

        * MIME and OpenPGP email security support (only the guilty need encryption?)

        * Unicode support (who needs to communicate with "furriners?)

        * creating HTML emails with a visual editor (you need to insert HTML codes by hand)...

      3. psychonaut

        Re: how difficult is it?

        nooo.. no thanks hans. it'd be like writing code every time i wanted to move a window - point(er) less.

        although, i do like the idea of a hans-free email system, but i'd like it much more in this thread

  39. Lilolefrostback

    There is no such thing as "idiot-proof". We idiots are far too ingenious.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What I would have done/have done <evil smile> is start the computer, get the user to log on, run Outlook, maximise all the windows and open all the directory trees, *and* *then* say: ok, we've got Outlook running, now what's missing?

  41. Pompous Git Silver badge
    Trollface

    Shouting

    Anybody else notice that when a commentard is SHOUTING, they're generally clueless about whatever it is they are SHOUTING?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  42. Paul Chambers

    Let everyone off the hook...it's for the best.

    In over twenty years working for an SME, doing everything from network, infrastructure, through support, to actual functional work sometimes (end of year accounts support and the suchlike), I must have had thousands of such events. I have sympathy with the prof, because Issuing training material, or even having new applications or operating system upgrades deployed with training, is nowhere near as common as it should be, or even always possible.

    It's galling when director X calls with a problem trying to make appication Y do something useful (that it can't), when they were the one who insisted that we *had to have* it in the first place. I would sit down with my users, solve any problem, and then just tell them that computers work when I touch them, it's not their fault (while gently suggesting a working methodology that avoids the problem in future). On a systems level, just make sure all the data is stored securely and daily backups are made that users can't get their hands on (including email). Most of all make sure that nobody in your organisation thinks that saving things on a single desktop computer is anything like acceptable, or supported by IT.

    A computer expert can often cause problems, but many unskilled users make light work of truly screwing things up. Don't let them near anything important. Have central data, with historical backups. be able to revert desktop environments to fresh installations, that are known and tested.

    My heart goes out who to those whose job it is to navigate users through the ribbons, rather than wrestle the bits at infrastructure level.

  43. Pompous Git Silver badge

    I see what you did there, Jake :-)

  44. mrjohn

    “I paused for effect,” Newt wrote, “and then replied. No. I don't think you're an idiot.” And then he walked away.

    That's not nice, we all slip up. People skills are vital in any tech job, and never forget, to the end user 90% of the interface is irrelevant functionality obscuring the tasks they need.

  45. crediblywitless

    "Files/folders/email has disappeared and it's your fault!" - except it isn't - is a weekly occurrence, on average.

  46. Paul Woodhouse

    where was BOFH then?... after being promised it in the opening bumf of this article I got excited...

    1. psychonaut

      hopefully the BOFH is currently stalking Hans with a bag of lime and a carpet at the ready. now STFU!! jeepers, this is what happens when you give old people technology

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    “one of those managers who should never have been one: no training and no leadership skills.”

    That has effectively described 99% of the managers where I work. Bravo.

  48. Lord_Beavis
    Linux

    The academi (is that even a word) were right

    They should have stayed on Linux.

    I welcome the down votes you Windows pukes.

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