Tuesday, November 30, 2010

News of the morning

What do you reckon this bloke's future prospects are like?

About time this little rort was ended.

All I ever get on my flights is some family friendly movie.  :(

I don't know whether to be a bit outraged or to accept it as modern life.

Why is this not a surprise?  You might also have a look at the link in the article, after the 2nd paragraph.  That's hardly a surprise either.

I am *so* trying this.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Got to love these night shifts.
Due to system faults, I have so far today:
  • Read the news online
  • Pretty much finished the internet
  • Read almost all of a Stephen King e-book (and a few more downloading via torrent too)
  • Cut 10m of 4mm ID CVT into approximately 1,250 pieces for making bow finger slings
  • Drunk coffee
  • Cleaned out my desk
And all at penalty rates, too!
80 minutes to go… I think I’ll do something productive and useful like update all the mail addresses in my iPhone…

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Freaking BRILLIANT new booze manufacturing tool!

Just bought one of these little beauties:  http://www.oztops.com.au/

Basically, you buy fruit juice without preservatives, add in half a capful of the yeast, screw on one of the caps (they have a little pressure relief diaphragm) and bugger off for a week.  After this, switch back to the normal bottle cap and refrigerate, then drink away.

Going to have a go at putting down some hard cider this afternoon.

My homebrew bloke (who is a fairly free spirit) reckons grape and apple work really well, orange goes a bit bitter, pear is OK, apricot and peach not too bad, grapefruit not recommended.  He also says it's entirely possible to ferment canned soup but the outcome, while *very* different, is not something he plans to repeat anytime soon.

Not bad for $25 posted...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The descent of customer service into the final black hole of hell

I’ve been taking a bit of a running survey at work regarding some of the names of the "customer service" we inflict upon our customers.  Most of you would know that our front of house customer contact function has now been all but completely outsourced to the Philipines (with the exception of a few niche groups), although I notice they're not quite game to do it for business services just yet.  I consider that alone to be rather a telling comment regarding the quality of the results obtained.

A bit of a hint for management: if your customers are having having this sort of fantasy, something is really, badly wrong.

Here's a sample of some of the best I have found so far:

Aldrin Magaling
Nomer Albo
Pratik Patel
Genesis Tumbis
Mayur Mohan
Rodellio Saberon
Jenish Abraham
Girish Puthramaddi
Airene Resurreccion
Exaltacion Ligaya T Lagrimas   (what the fuck??)
Deepak Ramteke
Angelie Marvy Gonzales
Ernesto Gungon III
Herman Bahilango
Ma Asuncion Aristosa
Lady-Ann Lorzano
Rona May Boltron
Jessamin Anico
Ag Gallucci
Ana Flor Esquibel

Now, granted that names don't mean everything, but how well do you think someone who comes from a society where a name like Exaltacion or Ag  is even capable of being pronounced, let alone being regarded as normal, is able to communicate with a native English speaking customer base?  You think poor?  I think bloody tragic.


I didn't design it.

I didn't build it.

I didn't sell it to you.

I wasn’t the person who bought it, you did.

And I wasn’t the person who broke it, was I?

So why are you mad at me, when I’m the person trying to fix it for you.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Idea of the morning

Here's the best idea of the morning.

Instead of all the crap and hassle over airport security scans and pat downs at the moment, forget the x-ray scanners and guards with rubber gloves.

Just require each person and their carry on luggage to go through a booth which seals for a few seconds... and detonates anything explosive found in there.

I reckon that regardless of the outcome it's a win-win situation, you'd just need to arrange a hose and drainage.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

it's going to be a long night

So…. I’m having a go at doing cable registration portal faults.
Do I have any idea how to do this?  Nope.  Has anyone bothered to show me this?  What do you think.  But I’ve got a knowledge database entry, access to the tools and an attitude where I really don’t care less, so what else could I possibly need?
Ticket one.  Sent back to overseas call centre fuckwits.  No MAC address provided for the new modem, gave me some useless reference number that means nothing instead.
Ticket two.  Sent back to overseas call centre fuckwits.  MAC address provided is 13 characters long.
Ticket three.  Sent back to overseas call centre fuckwits.  MAC address provided is 11 characters long.
Looks like the bad attitude is more than sufficient in the way of a toolset so far.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fun calling the ATO

*spend several minutes navigating the usual inscrutable IVR*


*take a punt on an option because (again, as usual) none seem to fit, in the full knowledge you’ll end up in the wrong place – so why stress over what you pick…. *


*surprise!  wrong place!*   **transfer**


ATO bitch:  Hi, this is Naomi, why are you disturbing me today?


Me:  Hi Naomi, I’m calling about a letter I got last week that says I’ve been moved to a PAYG tax scheme.  I’m concerned that this has happened due to a one-off significant interest payment that won’t be happening again.


AB:  Yes, so?


Me:  So I’m not too enthused about the idea of paying $8,400 of PAYG tax upfront which I won’t end up owing at the end of the year.


AB:  You would get a refund at the end of the year.


Me:  That’s not the point really, is it?  I don’t see why I should be paying $2,100 a quarter to the ATO which I won’t subsequently owe because of a one-off event.


AB:  I’ll take some details and see if you qualify for exemption from the scheme.


Me:  Thank you.  (thinking: what’s this *qualify* shit???)



Finally got grudging acceptance that I wouldn’t have to pay tax upfront for incoming I won’t be earning, and then have to fight to get it back.  With, of course, no compensation for the lack of use of the money that I didn’t owe in the first place in the meantime.

No shortage of idiots todyay

(1) Apply for access to system.  Available permission levels are Admin, Read/Write, Discovery.  (WTF is “discovery”?)
(2) Team Leader approves application.  (Team leader hasn’t got a fucking clue what it is, but approves it anyway.)
(3) Application manager sends a spittle-flecked screaming e-mail wanting to know why  **I**  have been so presumptious to ask for **WRITE** access to **HIS** precious application.  (With the usual connotation that I am some sort of underserving worm mixed with a rampaging vandal bent on destruction.)
(4) I don’t need write access says I – but there’s no option to apply for read only.  If you can provision read only, that will be fine.
(5) Freaky McFreak application manager comes back nice as pie (having apparently jumped to one of his more stable personalities in the meantime) and says that there’s no read-only access available on the system, so he’s approved full write access anyway!
WTF are these people on???

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010

Barbecue sauce recipe

Made some home made barbecue sauce last week, pretty nice recipe I thought.  Works well for basting while cooking or dipping.
Chop a small onion (or half a big one) fairly finely and start frying gently in some olive oil or butter.
When the onion is just about soft, add a couple of teaspoons of chopped garlic.  I’m lazy and use precrushed, feel free to chop your own if you are an enthusiast.
Cook until the garlic has calmed down a bit, but don’t start the onion or garlic colouring.
Add 1 cup of bourbon.  I used home brew.
Cook gently until the alcohol smell has gone.
Add 2 cups tomato sauce, and half a cup of tomato paste.
Add ½ cup of brown sugar.
Add ½ cup of maple syrup.
Add ½ cup of vinegar (white or malt, whatever you have kicking about.)  You may need some more depending on how acid the tomato is, but taste first.
Add as much Tabasco as you feel like, there’s a lot of tomato to season so don’t be afraid to give it some.
Season with salt and pepper, again don’t be afraid to go in fairly hard.
[EDIT]  A couple of teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce is also nice for some tang.
Cook gently for about ½ hour with the lid on the saucepan, then toss the lid and cook further until it’s a little reduced – I like it moderately thick.
If you have some liquid smoke about half a cap goes well in there too, but no more than that or all you will taste is smoke.
Going to have a go at replicating the TGI Friday’s dipping sauce next, it’s more of a thin glaze based on bourbon, a little tomato, vinegar, onion, garlic and pineapple.

Co-irker quote of the morning

“Yeah… normally you should just be able to use it as normal.”

Friday, November 12, 2010

Undercover boss? Self-delusional boss.

David, David, David.

"I do ring our numbers. People will often say: 'Have you ever rung 132200?' And yes I do. I am a mystery shopper, a mystery customer," he says in an exclusive interview with The Australian.
The experience is not always a pleasant one. Thodey admits to be "greatly disappointed" at being personally on the receiving end of poor customer service. But he is only one of thousands who put up with it everyday. And it is a problem he is determined to fix.

Determined to fix, or determined to kludge up?  Or determined to persevere with long enough in the hope that people will begin to accept it?

One example he gives is poor customer service from the call centres. "Why is that? Is it because the people don't care? Is it because the systems aren't good enough. Or are we setting the metrics the wrong way in terms of how they are incentivised and motivated? It could be one or all three. So you need to spend time to make sure that if you are going to put solutions in place that you are really getting to the right issue," he says.

And this is where the problem truly lies - in the belief that it's a fixable issue under the current system of offshoring.  I don't care who if you're doing the job in Calcutta, Mumbai, Dehli or Manila.  It won't matter how good the systems are you give them.  How well you motivate them won't make the slightest difference, and certainly paying more isn't going to result in any improvement.

The fundamental, base, can't-get-away-from-it problem is that offshoring customer contact centres doesn't work.  From a language, cultural, communication and integration point of view, the idea is fundamentally flawed.

Hope you're reading this, David - fundamentally flawed.  Those words means that no matter how much you patch, kludge, adjust and make allowances for the system, its never going to work properly.  The only thing you can acheive is to gradully lower the expectations of the customer base to the point where they become resigned to it.

If you think that getting the customers to stop complaining is the same as actually solving the source of the complaint, then I congratulate you on a magnificent piece of self-delusion.

While the mantra of the company and Thodey is definitely upbeat these days, unfortunately for me it doesn't ring true at all.  I sat through a roadshow presentation from my 3-up manager some weeks ago where Thodey's message was all but brainwashed into us.  We're going to fix this. It can be done.  We're going to find a way.  We will improve.  Heaven forbid, the bloke might have actually believed it.  He might just be a good presented.  He may well be a good bullshit artist, or he might have been drinking the kool-aid himself.  Either way, the message was flowing - unfortunately I think the staff have had enough in the face of all evidence to the contrary.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

No shit Sherlock, d'ya reckon??

Following on from my little catharsis this morning...  http://www.jsonline.com/business/107011443.html

Some random musings

Just got into work and apart from my surprise that the office 2007 drop last night appears not to have trashed my PC, I was answering some angry e-mails when a thought struck me.
The e-mails were about some back of house staff being unable to get access to a certain system yesterday due to it being overloaded.  I knew it was an issue, I had been experiencing the same problem.  I also know what caused the problem; two years ago the business had a bright idea to give all the front of house staff access to the tool via a nice friendly Fisher-Price GUI.  They now use it all day every day, quite often without any knowledge of what it really does, what it can achieve, and whether it’s really necessary to use it.  As I type this at 8:27am I can see 180 users logged into it, up from 102 just 30 minutes ago.
The problem is that the tool in question only has a maximum capacity of 20 simultaneous users, which was more than adequate when it was built (in 1999!).  It was designed to service a limited number of technical back of house staff who needed it a couple of times a day, who knew what it could do and only used it when necessary, and were finished with it in minutes.  With potentially hundred of FoH users logged in (and I’ve seen 700+ before), the upshot is the legitimate users of the tool are effectively suffering a DDOS attack.  My reply to the e-mails was that I told the business this would happen, but that as usual short term expediency had triumphed over reality, and that I couldn’t see the situation changing until lack of access to the tool started either costing money (more money than it would take to upgrade the tool to increased capacity) or demonstrable negative customer impact.
Of course, the chances of the business removing access to that tool from the FoH staff is now zero, as it’s part of their process, and the staff will howl that they can’t do their jobs without it.  The business will cringe in horror at the idea of increased escalations to the ticket queue, someone in operations will demonstrate their advanced business management abilities by counting on the fingers of both hands at once, and that will be the end of it.  The BoH staff will be told to deal with it, the problem will continue as before, and the only possibility that categorically stands at zero chance of happening is someone putting their hand in their wallet to fund an actual fix for the problem.
Where I was going with this is that that sort of habituation to access to anything is basically a form of drug.  Once you’re hooked on it, you’re not going back.  The business structures its processes, expectations and staffing around access to a tool that they don’t provide, don’t support and won’t fund, and when it all falls over there’s no regression strategy available.
What struck me as I was deleting the work fuck out of the e-mail editing my reply for tone was how easy it is to arrive at this position of habituation in other circumstances, such as offshoring your customer contact call centres.
If you decide you’re going to try it for the first time, you’re pretty much doomed.  You can rationalise it all you like.  We’re just trying it as an experiment.  It’s just a possible initiative we’re evaluating.  It was in the program of work, it won’t go any longer than that.  We have a business responsibility to explore the potential.  Senior management has a drive on for possible savings.
Then all of a sudden the benefits start to become tangible and substantial.  Wow, look at the cost savings.  We don’t have to worry about hiring or training the staff.  No requirement for middle management, HR, payroll administration – more savings!  No concerns over fluctuating call volumes or manning, we’ve got a “flexible workforce”, and we just hold the outsourcer contractually responsible for any shortfall.  And after all, the service is exactly the same, right?
Now the first signs of problems begin to appear.  Negative customer comment in the media, the internet.  Competitors start making subtle jokes about it in their advertising, leveraging off the fact they’re still offering domestic support.  Staff begin to notice a deterioration in the quality of FoH troubleshooting, which makes their job take longer.  They listen to complaints from the customers about the poor quality of their FoH experience.  Workloads balloon, although the staff are temporarily happy about this as there’s overtime on offer.
Feedback begins to make its way to management, who automatically kick into a defensive rationalisation mode – after all, they’re either the ones that made the decision to outsource, or they’re repeating the company line defined by those who did, so they’re hardly going to be critical of the decision.  It’s not really a problem, more an acclimatisation and familiarisation thing.  The scope of the issue is being exaggerated – if you think otherwise, show us the data, which we know you can’t gather.  Look at the savings.  Everyone else in the industry is doing it – it’s the new world’s best practice!  We’ll provide feedback to the outsourcers, and additional coaching.  Here’s a  feedback mechanism we built, you can enter instances of deficiencies into it, although strangely they’ll never seem to account to anything.
It doesn’t take much longer until the decline becomes irreversible.  Staff and customers alike begin to accept (detest, but accept) the new reality that FoH is now a useless phone answering service where it’s pot luck whether you can even make yourself understood to the person you score.  Hang-up-and-try-again becomes a standard approach.  Incompetance becomes normal.  Queues blow out, service declines, costs and delays increase. 
Management (in an increasingly terse tone) now shift to pointing out that that the decision is irreversible.  The contract is a 5-year term, there are no staff left to onshore the role anyway (they’ve all been sacked), and that it’s time to deal with it.  Staff understand in their hearts the reality of this, but at the same time can’t stem the resentment at watching the decline and destruction of their workstream.  Management respond to declining morale and productivity by increasing the floggings until average handling times go down and the false smiles increase.
Customer complaints to the TIO increase.  The media and competitors have a field day pointing this out.  The TIO rubs its hands together at the thought of getting a whole new office fitout from the revenue.  Management panics, this must stop!  Brilliant idea – let’s set up a priority complaint line where you can purportedly complain directly to the CEO!  (Of course, in reality a complaints team – the closest the CEO would get to it would be a one line bullet point on a weekly high level briefing, and maybe a nice graph showing the decline in TIO complaints every quarter.)  The complaints team want every one of their complaints given the highest priority – it’s a CEO complaint! – with the result that legitimate work (ie the customers who went through the front door into the system as normal) get pushed back even further than the flood of incompetent FoH troubleshooting has already resulted in.  Fresh truckloads of Squeaky Wheel Grease are delivered every morning and applied liberally in a frantic attempt to plaster over the increasingly gaping cracks in the business while BoH staff spend most of their time explaining to people why they have no time to get anything done, as opposed to actually achieving anything.
Management proclaim the solution a success, because their quarterly graph shows TIO complaints have dropped!  The stony silence that descends when someone inquires if the total number of complaints has dropped, or have we just hidden them as CEO complaints, is a clear commentary to the rest of the staff that clarity and honesty are low on the agenda behind self congratulation and delusion. Here’s your mushroom hat, and here comes your shovelful.  Flat out denial that a problem even exists is now in full swing, as it’s the only rationalisation that can be borne in the face of all the evidence to the contrary.  Not only would it hurt far too much to admit to the disaster, but there would have to be a culture-of-blame scapegoat, and so the addict has now deluded themselves completely that there was ever an existence other than this one.
And it’s at this stage where the company is pretty much fucked.  The only way out of the hole is a five year, hugely expensive exercise involving the costs of ramping up domestic support again while continuing the pay the outsourcer to provide interim services.  All the depth of knowledge and experience has been lost, you’re starting with a newbie workforce who knows nothing.  The customer base has long since become embittered by the appalling service and will take years if ever to return from the competitors to which they have fled, and they’ve also become accustomed to the lower pricing that outsourcing permitted and won’t pay anything extra for better service – even if they are the first to complain that they want it.
After all, they’re now used to the drugs too.
Here we are at 9am, the tool now has 296 users logged into it, and is completely unusable.  As Renton said in Trainspotting, I don't feel the sickness yet, but it's in the post. That's for sure. I'm in the junkie limbo at the moment. Too ill to sleep. Too tired to stay awake, but the sickness is on its way. Sweat, chills, nausea. Pain and craving. A need like nothing else I've ever known will soon take hold of me. It's on its way.  I’m cooking up.
Or, as Renton also said – choose life.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rule 1: never send women to buy hardware

Two new bedroom lamps come home the other day.  I look at them and remark they take miniature Edison screw bulbs.


SWMBO rings from Bunnings this afternoon, what sort does she need again?  Miniature Edison screw, I say.


15 minutes later, I’m pointing out she has bought regular ES – about twice the size of the fitting.  Stomp back out door to chew on Bunnings return counter clerk.


Another 15 minutes later,  I point out that we have another set of ES bulbs, and the “miniature” on the packet refers to the length of the 5W element – not the fitting.  Well they don’t have them then, because she looked on *every single packet* and they were all the same.  Both get in car and go down the road.


I gently point out the three linear feet of MES bulbs, which she had to walk past – twice – to get to the ES ones.  And on the way out of the aisle, I point out the display stand of them on the corner.


So how was she supposed to know the other ones were the wrong size?  The plastic boxes they come in are sealed closed!  Yes, dear.  The clear plastic boxes which you tip over so you can see the fitting through the transparent bottom.


Never send women to buy hardware.  It doesn’t work.

More roadkill on the information superhighway

A bunch of PCs here got a drop of Office 2007 last night.  This has been scheduled at least 6 months in advance and all users notified - twice yesterday alone.
There's been a socialisation and testing process going on all this time to ensure compatibility with other applications.  Every business unit was asked to nominate their application list, they were all tested in a lab, and there's a list of known issues and workarounds.  In short, it's been a fairly well managed process.
So I've been sitting here for the last hour and a half listening to some boofhead from Sentinar freak out over the phone to IT because one of their primary applications has died horribly during the upgrade.  All life on earth will apparently cease if this is not fixed in the next 5 minutes.  Good luck with that.  They haven't listed it as a system they use, it hasn't been tested, and its apparently incompatible, so there's no way back short of nuke-from-orbit.
If the whining wasn't so annoying it would be fairly good entertainment, but at the moment I am contemplating killing a few organic processes.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

OK, so there's a bit of a theme.

Coolest excuse for missing jury duty EVER

Man gets out of jury duty for being close friends in high school with Jeffrey Dahmer
AN Ohio man was excused from jury service after mentioning he was a childhood friend of cannibalistic serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.
John Backderf was among prospective jurors being screened last week by a judge in Cleveland.
When asked if he'd known anyone convicted of a crime, Mr Backderf responded: "I had a close friend in high school who killed 17 people."
The Plain Dealer reports today the answer caused the judge to freeze and lawyers to drop their pens. Mr Backderf explained he knew Dahmer, who was raised in northeast Ohio.
Mr Backderf is a graphic novelist about to publish My Friend Dahmer. He was dismissed from the jury list.
Dahmer confessed to killing and dismembering men and boys in Milwaukee. An inmate killed him in a Wisconsin prison in 1994.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

New TV

My archery club owner got a new TV delivered this afternoon.

This seemed to be an appropriate sort of response?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

New Iron Maiden track, Satellite 15

Anyone listened to the new Iron Maiden album?  The title track, Satellite 15 - The Final Frontier has one of the coolest video clips I have seen for a long time.  Clicky button below for download, 79MB.