Not happiness is…

Following my last post


Things that do not make me happy:

Spending the first of your two weeks leave that you finally managed to get at the same time as your kids in bed sick.

Your clan mates PS3 packing in.

Upgrading to Ubuntu Netbook Remix Jaunty only to find it won’t do wireless any more and that you’re going to need to install it in a VM on another box to write its documentation.

Paying insurance premiums religously only to find that after a genuine accident they don’t fancy paying out because there’s some technicality. Then your neighbour comes for coffee and laughingly tells a story about how they just poured juice down the back of the TV and are getting a new one through their insurance.

In-fighting in teams.

Trying to integrate DokuWiki and Drupal.

Spending several weeks on a calculus paper only to screw up the final result because you transposed a sign for some reason.

Writing a very clever piece of Java only to present it and someone say “why didn’t you use the method in such and such a standard object”.

Being unable to convey why using the same String object in a for loop is a bad idea in a cryptographic system (it creates new instances until garbage is collected)
Consistantly being overlooked because you “don’t have XML/XSLT” skills – despite having a track record with them.

Looking forward to the one damn thing you can eat when you have a sore throat, stawberry ice cream, only to find the store changed their opening times without telling anyone

    Lastly, my number one pet hate, so big it deserves its own paragraph.

    If I was a plumber, would my colleagues and neighbours expect me to fit a new bathroom for them free of charge? Should I have chosen the carpenters path then would it be reasonable to expect a free conservatory? No. So why is acceptable to expect on call IT support, application development and fixing computers riddled with viruses without so much as a damn beer?


    14 Replies to “Not happiness is…”

    1. “No. So why is acceptable to expect on call IT support, application development and fixing computers riddled with viruses without so much as a damn beer?”

      +1 +2 and +3 on this one 🙂

    2. Insurances: they look the same everywhere… That’s often the same problem in France – as long as you pay they’re fine with you as a customer. When it’s their turn they’d rather throw you off…

      IT support: Just say no! That’s easy once you’re fine with looking unhelpful. That’s what I do now, with variants consisting of: “I don’t know Windows”, “I’d help if you were running Linux as I suggested multiple times”, and so on. The most I do is last-chance data rescue for important data and immediate family, that is, plug disk with broken system on USB, get the documents, and put them on a DVD.

    3. That’s another thing that pisses me off “my hard drive stopped working – can you get my photos back, they’re really important to me”. Yep – so important than in the last five years they’ve never backed them up.

    4. *hug*

      I don’t fix computers without 1) Them being ubuntu/debian based. 2) Getting paid and 3) Not windows.

      I won’t fix windows machines, for a start, there’s nothing to fix. There is only mitigation.

    5. Your life sucks man! hehe
      Although apparently for you the last one is worst of all, its the most easy one to fix. Just tell them to fuck/fix themselves.

      My advice would be not to charge money either, it will only give you more whining. Unless its a business, don’t do business. If you do business with a business, make sure you have a good contract! 🙂

      Good luck!

    6. I’ve think you’ve hit on a very interesting tension with your comments about the lack of recognized value of technical support skills.

      Let me ask you this,

      Do you volunteer time to help new Ubuntu users with problems either in irc or the forums or launchpad? By gifting that time are you helping to devalue for-pay supports services like Canonical offers users?

      Does widespread at-no-cost community technical support as seen in linux communities like the Ubuntu community increase the expectation on you as an individual in that community to always provide technical support services at no-charge? Has that become a defacto expectation for Ubuntu supporters based on social norms in the community? How high a penalty in terms of community interaction would you pay if you started charging people for help on an instance by instance basis?

      Does the widespread at-no-cost community technical support as seen in linux communities put downward pressure on what your are able to charge for your skillset to the point where generally applicable technical expertise is no longer a marketable skill outside of high-end mission critical support services which require certificated training?


    7. So you don’t sit and help people in the forums or in irc with Ubuntu?

      Most assuredly the bulk of the support requests on a daily basis in the brick and mortar world for any linux advocate will be about Windows. Its hard to avoid, once you’ve been identified as being computer literate, you are a target. I’m not above accidentally deleting people’s personal data once I’m asked to ‘fix’ a windows machine to make sure I’m never asked to touch that machine again. But in my defence I character rolled as chaotic-evil and I have to play to my strengths.

      And you could be right, people may not be willing to pay for linux support either. If not Canonical specifically, would the casual linux consumer be willing to pay anyone for support? This line of questioning just points back to the tension in the frustration you expressed. The devaluing of technical support for modern digital devices is perhaps a perversive societal construct.

      If casual technical support has no recognized value as a marketable skillset why do you feel it should? If you think it should have market value, and clearly you do, what is exactly is causing the perceived value to be forced to zero?
      As a society, people don’t expect people to fix cars for free. We don’t even expect people to fix things like washing machines for free. But general purpose computers we do. Why? Something has to be devaluing the cultural value of the “software mechanic.” Your frustration isn’t going to be lifted until some effort is spent identifying how that became a cultural norm.

      If its not a supply side issue driving the price of services down..then maybe its a demand side issue. Maybe it is a general tendency for consumers to want to classify computers as disposable devices instead of durable goods worthy of maintaining? “It’d be great to get it working..but if it doesn’t we’ll just buy a new one or return it under warranty, no point in paying to fix it” Is that the underlying thought pattern that most consumers use when evaluating the value of technical support services? If that’s the case your frustration will be hard to alleviate as you will have to start convincing people computers aren’t throw away parts of their daily lives.


    8. Yes, concerning backups, I think most of us must get bitten once before taking the problem seriously. You know the two groups of computer users: Those who have lost data, and those who will.

      I work as a sysadmin, have a very good understanding of this problem and damn fine backup procedures (offsite rdiff-backup and rolling full-backup on 5 different media by week), and I still got caught with my personal data once. Only since, I do correct backups at home.

    9. Dougie,

      Yes maybe people don’t really value what they do with their computers. That’s a pretty deep observation. Do you think that is a general truism for the bulk of consumer computer users? If things like facebook are ultimately not that important to them, I have to wonder about the road we are walking down as a technical society. Can we really change the world for the better if all we are doing is helping people be more efficient and engaged activities they don’t find important? There are some deep things lurking along that train of thought…

      Anyways…back to you. When you help people in the forums versus helping people in real life do you expect a different level or different forms of gratitude? Obviously you don’t really expect people in the forums to buy you a beer in compensation, but you choose to help, and I assume you feel good about helping after the fact. But for your real life interactions you seem to be suggesting that you expect some form of physical compensation..aka a beer. Is that a real discrepency or am I reading too narrowly? What’s different about a forum interaction versus your real life interactions that allows you to feel good about helping in the forums without compensation?


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