Monday, February 05, 2007

Technical Trade Offs

I’m not here just to entertain but also to pump your brain full of worthless information that you might someday mistake for truth or wisdom. Keeping in that vein, I will answer a question from the rather light Kludgespot mailbag. Today’s question comes from, no other that my sole sibling, or Boston Love:
“How come the computer techies in an office can get you up and running but almost always leave something physical undone. i.e. My computer if half open and there are a million cords all undone under my cubicle. What gives?? Why don't they finish what they started?! - Boston Love"

The answer is actually rather simple, but I will need to give you a little geek understanding before I can really get to your answer.

First off is this simple philosophy, “In order for good things to happen to you, there must be a trade off.” Geeks are very well aware that, "You cannot have it all.”

The thinking is plain enough. If you want a ham and sour kraut sandwich you need to lose something. This could be something obvious like money, or the time required to eat it. It can also be more severe, like close friends, random acquaintances or your elite social standings. Nothing is free. Everything has it’s price. Even a good thing like losing weight means you will have to buy new clothes, which can be a costly undertaking. There is also the real chance you might have to give up eating anymore ham and sour kraut sandwiches. You need to be aware of the costs before you dive headlong into any endeavor.

Computing is no different. There is a favorite computer saying of mine which goes like this: “It is always something. Good, Fast, Cheap: Pick any two (you can't have all three).” This is the way the world works. If your computer starts smoking and you think something might be wrong, pause for a moment. You need to stop and ask yourself, How bad do you want it fixed? Should I call the office geek? Is it really worth having a poorly dressed, anti-social person under my desk for the next three days? Because that’s what it could take. Do you want that sort of stigma. Plan ahead, think about visitors, clients, and your own sanity. Geeks aren’t pretty, and you want to be sure you’re ready for the ordeal.

You might say “I have a tech who has no personalities flaws.” I say drop the bum! Anyone who is that polished is not a real geek, and simply a wolf in sheep's clothing. Or a normal well adjusted person with a pocket protector. Just as in anything, you have to make trade-offs. If you want to better understand computers, you have to spend time with them. Time that other people spend learning how to look people in the eye, smile, and string multiple thoughts together into coherent sentence structures. So the geeks give up social graces for computers. When a user calls we then have a dilemma. You see, we like computers and we want them to run well, but we don't want to deal with users more than we have to. As geeks we don’t want people calling all the time with petty problems, but we don’t want people to not need our help. This is the trade off we deal with everyday. Social interaction for knowledge of computing. Because of this, we cannot let others get out of their trade offs. You must pay the piper.

So the answer to your question comes down to this, sometimes fixing a computer is fairly simple and you will not need a geek at your desk for the next three days. Which means you could possibly get something for nothing. To a geek, this is not acceptable. To help keep the universe consistent, and make us feel better, we do our best to lend a hand and make you as miserable as we are. To accomplish this we will try to make a small job look as difficult as possible. This helps to adjust for it's lack of universal cost. If that is not possible then we need to leave things a rye, or create new issues. We do this, to share with the users the pain that they might otherwise get out of. This isn't incompetence, this is just for your own good. Trust me.

Good, Fast, Cheap: Pick any two (you can't have all three). I hope that fully answers your question Boston Love.

Want to have your question answered?
Email Me:kludge@anastrophe.com

14 comments:

J Crew said...

I'll take good and fast

kludge said...

J Crew-
A wise choice, and I feel the same way.

I only wish I made enough to support my computing tastes...

Anonymous said...

I would rather do without technology at times. It just gets so confusing and messy and one always needs help when things start smoking or randomly doing weird things (I have the later problem most frequently.) I am lucky to have someone at my beck and call to fix all my computer geek needs. My husband is wonderful about giving me the help even if it is with a sigh and a "This is so simple, I can't believe you can't figure it out" look. Without him I think I would just throw it all out and live without it. Sarah K.

Ando said...

Isn't our dealing with a geek the real trade off? That should be the one that counts.

kludge said...

Sarah K-

It's nice when you don't have to outsource...

I always give Patricia and bad time too, but secretly would be quite upset if she ever didn't need SOME help.

kludge said...

Ando-

Given the majority of geeks I've rubbed elbows with over the years, I'm inclined to agree with you!

SJ said...

I usually go for good and fast - - - usually I need it fixed quick - but have learned that cheap gets me nowhere! Except more frustrated later -

jenylu said...

Too bad Costco doesn't make geeks. I'm sure the Kirkland brand tech support would be good, fast, AND cheap! :)

Boston Love said...

Ha...good grief! Still looking at cords under my desk. But that's it! No more! I bought velcro ties and I'm doing it myself today.

beamerpal said...

the world would be a better place if everyone would just turn the thing off and then on before calling the geek.

kludge said...

SJ-

As long as you have some suffering, that's all that matters.

kludge said...

Jenylu-

Agreed, luckily there is still suffering at the Costco checkout line...

..talk about waiting!

kludge said...

Boston Love-

I actually found this question very fun to answer. Thanks for the fun post spring board!

Best of luck with your cables!

kludge said...

Beamerpal-

When I used to work in a help desk call center, I'd say 60% percent of all calls were solved by a reboot.

It's amazing how few techs remembered to ask that question.