Monday, November 23, 2009

it doesn't work

That is easily the most annoying phrase in the English language.

Let's suppose that, instead of punking out and getting a lousy Master's degree in Engineering, you actually made something of yourself and went to medical school and became a doctor. Let's imagine what one of your consultations might look like, if you were then relegated to hell:

You: Ahhh, Mr. (looks at chart) Spadowski, what seems to be the problem?

Patient: Doctor, it doesn't work.

You: Right. What exactly doesn't work?

Patient: (becoming agitated) My arm doesn't work!

You: Ummm, what about your arm doesn't work?

Patient: (convinced the doctor is incompetent) It doesn't work!

I want you to take that conversation, repeat it ninety-three times, and put it in email, chat, phone, in-person, tickets, etc. That is what I do for a living. People look at me like I'm stupid and tell me it doesn't work.

There's nothing really wrong with reporting problems, of course, because most of them are valid issues, and need to be resolved1. But if you're about to report a problem, and all you can say is "it doesn't work", I'm going to stick my mouse up your nose.

Telling me it doesn't work is like pointing duck-billed Platypus and asking why. I don't even know where to start. There are a billion different things that could have happened to make you come running to me, teary-eyed, telling me it doesn't work. The server could have crashed. Canada could have invaded2. The earth could have exploded. You could have clicked on the wrong button. You could be trying to use IE to access the software (that better not be it, because the mouse is going somewhere else, given the number of times we've said to use Firefox). You could have logged in to the wrong service. You could have inadvertently inserted the (cartoonish and highly modified, thankfully) image of a peeing man into a script3. You could be looking at the wrong page entirely. Or we could have designed it that way intentionally.

So next time you're about to stand up, come over here, and tell me it doesn't work, please, I beg of you, I plead of you, take a minute to decide what exactly isn't working, and then convey that sentiment to me. I will then be free to ticket the developers and go back to writing.

1. And, make no mistake about it, looking at me like I'm stupid is almost always justifiable.
2. On multiple occasions, I have taken the liberty of blaming Canada. Canada has almost no connection whatsoever to my work.
3. This is not fictional.

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