среда, 21 января 2015 г.

We Want to Call You and Discuss How We Call Customers and Waste Their Time

Crappy support services... Everyone has dealt with them.

They're always annoying and especially when you're a corporate client - one who has to contact them to resolve his company's problems. This post is about services for corporate clients which require customers to fill an online form and include an email and a phone number.

You see, they REQUIRE to enter BOTH.

Well, email is one thing. A message arrives in ur mailbox and you can open it whenever you want. Most such services also use email to send you notifications as you support ticket follows the meaningless support pipeline and also to confirm that your request was proper filed in the first place.

Phone is another thing. It rings - and you have to FUKKEN answer. Otherwise it keeps ringing.

If it's you personal phone it will ring at some random moment - in the middle of the night or when you were proper using a toilet or whenever else. So leaving a personal phone number when filing a support request is clearly a stupid idea. You will rather leave an office number.

And it will ring in your office and annoy the hell out of everyone around. That's because not everyone's work includes using a phone more than once a year. Email and IM work just fine and there're millions of people who never use a phone at work except for private calls which they do somewhere where they don't annoy anyone. And these people have maybe one phone per ten people. And if it rings they first try to figure out what is ringing because they have already forgotten how it sounds - so rarely it rings.

And once it rings your coworker Bill picks it up and hears Curvy Jane from reception saying "Hey, Bob, Joe from Crappy Support Company is calling, will you talk to him?"

First you waste a minute figuring out that Joe from JSC is actually calling you, Bob. Mmmkay, you take the phone and go to some place where you won't disturb others and meanwhile Joe runs through the stupid polite script and asks what the problem is and you repeat all the details you've already listed when proper filing the request.

Joe now wants a screenshot or a log or some very long identifier or anything else which will help him isolate the problem. A very reasonable request, but... you need your computer to get what Joe wants and it is on your workplace and did you forget that you left your workplace because you talking there would disturb others?

Sure you do remember. And sure Joe has no idea because Joe calls lots of people every day to avoid being fired and your job is to do something really useful and the latter does not require using phone. And so you tell Joe that you sure will send all of that absolutely necessary crap just a bit later, mmkay?

What would a reasonable support engineer do in the first place? He would email you and say "mmkay, you say X doesn't work and I want a screenshot of X". You would make a screenshot and send it back. No stupid phone involved and it is much, much faster.

Joe is not like that. He calls you and says he needs a screenshot and he knows you will not dictate the screenshot over the phone. And btw once you send the screenshot he will call again and Curvy Jane will connect the two of you. And then Joe will say that yes, he's got the screenshot and now he wants another one with some other piece of non-working X.

Yes, Joe thinks it makes sense. He's busy and employed. You're wasting time but who cares?

And did I forget to say that the phone is FUKKEN QUIET and so you barely hear Joe (and noone cares because you use it once a year)? Did I forget that long distance calls go through a chain of codecs, filters, packet networks and whatever technological crap is there which makes the voice sound INCREDIBLY FUKKEN CRAPPY?

Did I also forget that you're not Bob, your real name is Guido and English is not your native language and altough you can read and write English quite well your accent is terrible? Did I forget that Joe is not really a Joe but his real name is Aditya and English is not his native language either and his accent is terrible and differs from your terrible accent?

You think it is impossible. It not only possible but it very likely now when everything is outsourced and every service is used by everyone.

Now you, Bob-Guido with your horrible accent have to talk to Joe-Aditya with his horrible accent over a quiet phone which makes every voice sound crappy. And Joe-Aditya still thinks it is EFFICIENT. And his boss thinks the same.

Yes, it VERY EFFICIENT AT WASTING TIME and keeping everyone employed.

This is why unless you're completely brain dead you will never leave a phone number when filing a support request. You will leave an email address and try to avoid leaving a phone number. Most of the times the submission form will not allow you to leave "phone" field blank, so you will enter some crap there - a short string of ones for example.

This won't help Joe at all. He will say "Oh, please provide a phone number so I can call you".

Yes, he does this every time. Every Joe will ask for a phone number. You will have to answer him that you don't want to talk on the phone. Most of the time it helps but this stupid completely useless email transaction happens just about every time.

An even more idiotic scenario is the following. You needed help with red routers and filed a request asking a specific question about red routers. Joe responds and provides a lot of details on blue keyboards.

This doesn't help you at all, so you say you were not asking about blue keyboards and your problem was with red routers. Joe will want to call you. And if you give him your number he will repeat all that useless crap about blue keyboards and you won't understand anything because of accents and the damn phone.

Think of it. You were using dark letters over the light background and proper explained you problem with red routers in writing and Joe had time to read all of it and still he didn't even understand that you're not interested in his blue keyboards explanation. Yet he truly believes that once he calls you your communication improves greatly because now you have two horrible accents, a crappy phone network and no time to think.


If someone wants to talk he will provide his number when proper filing the request. If he doesn't provide his number it means he doesn't want to talk.

Doesn't want to talk, isn't that clear?

Now a question for an interview. You're a support engineer and you are assigned a support request which only has email address provided and the phone number is 000111.

What do you do?

If you ever think that you need to ask the customer to provide a phone number you are not hired. Joe already does this - why would you be needed? Go find the nearest McDonald's and get yourself employed there. Joe will join you soon.




No phone number on the request - no calls, period. Use email. Your customer can type and so can you.

вторник, 13 января 2015 г.

Welcome Azure API Management Which Is Completely Unrelated to Azure Management API

Woohooo!!! Meet new Microsoft Azure service - API Management which is something cool for exposing your service as API.

Cool? Sure!!!

The best thing is... There is Service Management API which was introduced years ago and is ...


... to API Management service. Yet since both of them are named using a completely random combination of buzzwords which have no meaning in real life a lot of people think these two services are the same.

For example:

- Jane, check this out, there's no SLA for Azure Management API, so if it fails to work on Sunday we're SCREWED!
- Come on, John, don't be a dick, here I've got an SLA for Azure API Management and it looks good and btw I gonna file a complaint with HR about you sexually harassing me using the word SCREWED.

Several meetings later Jane finds out Jonh was talking about a COMPLETELY FUKKEN UNRELATED thing, but it is too late - John has been terminated by that time. A week later the company were Jane works is SCREWED because there's no SLA for Azure Management API.

Dear Microsoft...

Thanks a lot for complicating life a tiny bit more!

среда, 7 января 2015 г.

Milk With Crossed Barcodes Is Not Stupid, It's Marketing Genius

This good old case of milk cartons with crossed out barcodes (one, two and google for "milk with crossed barcode" for more)... A dairy company located near Moscow, Russian Federation crosses barcodes on its products with two diagonal red lines to counter "number of the beast", hereinafter referred to as "bad number", which it claims is present in every barcode...

People hear it and are immediately pissed off. They accuse Russia of leaving in Dark Ages and company owners being lunatics.

First things first. Is there any "bad number" in the barcode?

Milk cartons carry EAN-13 barcodes - plain boring barcodes used for labeling groceries. Evil Wikipedia (pun intended) to the resque! Every such barcode consists of a number of vertical bars and there're three groups of bars that are slightly longer than the rest of the bars. Those groups are designed to serve as alignment markers to help barcode scanners proper identify where the barcode is and they don't carry any data in them.

It just so happens that those alignment markers have bar width identical to how number 6 can be encoded (but this is not the only choice). The claim is therefore because each barcode contains three such markers those are three sixes and that's the "bad number".

Well, not so fast. Read Evil Wikipedia (pun intended). "Six" can be encoded various ways depending on where it is located in the barcode. There're three ways to encode each of the ten digits and they are called encoding schemes. Different barcodes will use different schemes depending on what the very first digit is.

Since the dairy company in question is located in Russia the first digit will be "four" and so according to Untrustworthy Evil Wikipedia (pun intended) the barcode should use "LGLLGG RRRRRR" encoding scheme which means that some digits are encoded using scheme L, some are encoded scheme G and some are encoded using scheme R.

Now schemes G and R indeed encode "six" with two closely located narrow lines but scheme L doesn't do so - it uses a very wide line combined with a narrow line to encode "six" instead. If a scanner finds those two narrow lines where a scheme L must be used it will produce a read error - those two lines will not be treated as "six" because a "six" represented this way at these positions is impossible.

So just looking at the bar is not enough to say if it is a "six". Position also matters. How about the alignment markers? Which scheme is used to decode them?


Just in case you're not good at reading, I'll repeat - NONE. The alignment markers are not to be decoded and so they don't have anything encoded in them. There're no digits in them and so there're no "sixes" in them and so there's no guaranteed "bad number" in every barcode.

Done with this. Let's proceed to the marketing side.

No matter what analysis you carry out many people are so stupid they will be unable to understand it. They will trust anything if it comes from a source they wish to trust. If that source claims there's a "bad number" in EAN-13 barcodes - they will trust it.

So, suppose you're a dairy company and for whatever reason you want to show that you're uncomfortable with EAN-13 barcodes because of "bad number" in them. What can you do?

Let me think... You don't like X and X is usually printed on milk cartons and you produce milk cartons...

How about not printing the barcodes? No barcode - no "bad number" and everyone is happy.

No, then you're not happy because you cannot sell you milk anywhere - retailers won't accept goods that cannot be scanned fast on the counter.

So what do you do? Ditch the idea?

No, you'll cross the barcode and claim that the "bad number" is now neutralized. Just be careful - you need the lines to not interfere with the scanning process otherwise no retailer will buy the product.

So you carefully design a crossed out barcode and print it. You claim the "bad number" is neutralized and everyone is happy. Pure marketing genius. Should have been nominated for Red Dot Communication Design Award.

Is the "bad number" neutralized by such crossing? It is likely not - the barcode was designed for scanners and scanners scan it in their evil scanner manner (pun intended). If they still can read the barcode it means they still see it reliably and can still read all the evil stuff presented in there.

There's no "bad number" in there. If it was there then crossing the barcode would either have not neutralized it or it would have damaged the barcode and make it useless for retail.

Is the world approaching its end? Yes. Is that because of barcodes? No, it's because so many people are really stupid.

четверг, 1 января 2015 г.

Whoever Advocates CFL Bulbs Should Also Advocate Crack Cocaine

What if I tell you crack cocaine is good, neat and beneficial to your health and environment? My guess is you'll think I'm nuts and rightfully so.

Then why does anyone still buy CFL bulbs? They are as good, neat and beneficial to anything as crack cocaine. The only difference is that crack cocaine is banned and CFL bulbs are actively promoted.

Let's look into details. How hard it is to accidentally break a CFL bulb? Not hard at all - the damn thing is brittle and breaks easier than a bottle of beer.

What happens if you drop a bottle of beer and it breaks? Well, nothing horrible. You swipe the broken glass, optionally wipe the floor with a piece of cloth, go get another bottle and life goes on as if nothing happened. The worst thing that can possibly happen is you get a minor cut that heals within a week.

What happens if you drop a CFL bulb and it breaks? You'd better died before letting it happen. You have to follow a special thorough cleaning procedure described by EPA - just search for "cleaning up a broken CFL".

Yes, it is so beneficial for the environment. It contains fucking mercury which is fucking toxic and can damage your health unless you run a thorough cleaning procedure. And it breaks easier than a bottle of beer. And you cannot buy beer unless you're of certain age and you cannot drink beer in public in many jurisdictions but you can buy CFLs at any age and carry them around everywhere.

The best thing is both of them are sold in the same supermarkets. You get into drinks section, get some beers there, then move a dozen feet and get into household stuff section where CFLs are being offered.

They are both consumer products. CFLs are consumer products - same as beer, meat, dairy, vegetables and toilet paper. Yet meat and dairy are almost absolutely safe but if you dare break a CFL you have to yell everyone out of the room, vent it and then run a thorough cleanup procedure.

Now tell me how crack cocaine is beneficial for the environment - I guess because it kills people and prevents them from using CFLs.