Also, check out: "War Is Great. Peace Sucks. Long Live NATO!", "What's a Trill Here, a Trill There...?", "More, Cheaper Service Jobs," "Two Faces of Globalism", "The Upsizing of America," "Small Caps Sinking First", "Russia Is Still the Bogey"
“Christmas Story:” Network Centric Computing Strains Brains
“Easy to Use” Software May Only Be Easy for “Techno-Nerds”
PHOENIX, Dec. 22, 1995 - What does a guy do on the last working day before
Christmas? “Get out of the
office and have some fun,” I suppose would have been your advice?
a life!” is probably what my kids would have suggested.
sorry to disappoint you all...
I figured that the phones would be dead, and everybody else would be doing
their “last minute Christmas shopping,” I thought I’d sneak into my
office and do some things for which I “never have time” during the
normal office routine.
“surfing the Net...”
not quite. I’ve learned
long ago that that most of the Internet “surfers” are the types who
probably do it between commercials on the Oprah or Geraldo talk shows.
Or the “Information Superhighway” engineers, like Al Gore or
Bill Clinton... Either way, not exactly a crowd I usually hang out with.
thought I’d use this time to try to get some “hands-on” experience
in actually installing and running applications on the Internet.
“Suppose I had no technical staff,” I reasoned.
“Suppose I’d just read all these raving reports about the
importance of ‘network centric computing” and its ease of use, and
decided it was time for this late blooming Baby Boomer to get on the
bandwagon. What would
chose one IBM and one AT&T application to test this “Brave New
World.” What follows is an account of how I made out.
As you will see, I probably should have “gotten a life,” or
just gone off to a gym or something.
For it would have been better than spending the afternoon surfing
the Net on the back of elephants!
in mind this one little fact, though.
What follows is the experience of a person who put his first
electronic newsletter on-line in 1983!
(No typo there... it was 12+ years ago!).
The outfit was called “NewsNet”
back then. And it was based
in Bryn Mawr, PA (see "ACR
heard of it? I suppose not. Rarely does one hear about true pioneers or visionaries.
Only about those who converted their ideas into cash boxes.
at what price to the customer?” one should wonder.
are two examples. One
is IBM. Another is
AT&T. Both claim to be
the leading edge Internet “surfers.”
Based on my experiences, you should be judge of how good they have
become at it.
The Dec. 18 issue of Computerworld contained a two-inch story entitled, “IBM,
Reuters unveil ticker tape-style Internet news.”
Users were encouraged to download the software from http://www.infomkt.ibm.com.
Both times, after I had already spent some 30 minutes filling out
various IBM administrative electronic forms to register as a new user,
etc. - just to be REJECTED! Twice!
had no clue why, at first, having dutifully followed all the stupid IBM
to know the reason I was rejected? Because
my chosen network ID had only five characters (“ANNEX”), rather than
“six to eight” as IBM demanded!
the real intelligence test was to figure out that what the problem
was. Not once did IBM tell me
why it was rejecting my registration.
“tisk, tisk... stupid customer!” I could just hear the Big Blue
technocrats gloating. “We
told you so and you didn’t follow the rules.
So you shall have do some penance or else fry in hell!”
I managed to avoid that. But
after I became a duly-registered user, I was told by IBM that
“WINSOCK.DLL” was missing.
Really? The “WINSOCK...” was missing? What the heck is “WINSOCK..." anyway? Some sort of a prize I was supposed to have won at a socks manufacturers’ raffle?
that I probably never took part in anything like that (we don’t bother
with socks most of the year down here in the Southwest), I concluded that
I must have again done something wrong with this “easy-to-use”
software. I fretted my next interaction with IBM’s software experts.
the instructions, I sent them an e-mail
I’ve just downloaded your TICKERIN.
EXE file and attempted to install it. Everything went well, according to your installation
procedures. But when I
attempted to run the application, I got an error message:
Unable to locate file: WINSOCK.DLL.
What the heck is that?
that, I went to get some bagels for lunch.
I was pleasantly surprised by the speed of the IBM’s response:
“Thank you for your feedback about the infoMarket service.
Customer Service will respond to you within one business day.
We appreciate your comments and interest in our service.”
was “pure guava.”
IBM “PR fluff”-type message was posted within a couple of minutes
after mine, I found out later on, upon checking the logs.
But more importantly, just over an hour later, I also got a more
meaningful e-mail message from
K.R., an IBM Customer Service representative:
“... One of the prerequisites to running NewsTicker is to access the
Internet with a “Live” connection.
In your case, accessing the Internet through AOL is not a live
Internet connection, and hence you are receiving an error message...
...If you e-mail us with more information on your problem and the phone
number where you can be reached, we will be glad to give you a call
message ended with some more “PR fluff.”
Still, I was impressed with IBM’s speed of response, if not with
the substance of the message, or IBM’s attention to detail.
So I shot back the following e-mail
“Thanks for your e-mail answer.
I did provide my tel. no. + it is in my registered file...”
I gave it to IBM again anyway..
“P.S. By the way, if being ‘live’ is a prerequisite for this piece
of software, I suggest you should tell the people about it BEFOREHAND -
before they go through all the trouble and expense of downloading and
installing the software.”
the hour (impressive, again!) I got a call from a lady (I’ll call her
Lady X, without any implied linkages to Malcolm).
Lady X said that she was responding to my message to K.R.
“I was there when he was replying to you,” she said.
“He’s gone for the day now.”
looked at my watch. It was
about 4 p.m. on the East Coast.
you’re the unlucky one who got stuck having to answer dumb questions
from IBM customers on a pre-Christmas afternoon when everybody else is
goofing off,” I joked.
am afraid so,” Lady X laughed.
went over my problem again.
does one get to have a ‘live’ connection to the Internet?” I asked.
we have this Advantis connection,” she suggested.
“Or you can look in your Yellow Pages for providers of the
Internet Connection Service.”
I repeated. “Isn’t that
the (former) Sears network?”
also IBM,” Lady X reassured me. But
she didn’t sound terribly convinced.
for your suggestion that we should publicize the ‘live’ connection
requirement, it’s right there in the specs,” she continued.
is?” I said, sounding bewildered. “Hold
on... I’ve got the stuff printed right here somewhere... Right!
Here it is!”
says, ‘an active Internet connection’ is needed,” I read from the
instructions. “Is that
it,” Lady X confirmed.
would you like to know what that phrase meant to me?”
I’d paid my bills on time, and that no one cut me off the Internet.”
X was now laughing heartily.
guess not all “Christmas Eve” calls are a bore... Or made by
for my remedy... there was none! Not
until I got linked up to the Internet “live,” or what the old-timers
in the industry might have said - go “native.”
one of the “old timers” who had seen his share of antitrust
litigation, this somehow reeked of anti-competitive practices - locking
out AOL, Compuserve etc. who supposedly were not “live!?”
I wasn’t about to spoil Lady X’s “Christmas Eve” any more than I
already had. So I just let that slide, thanked her and said good-bye.
A mailer which arrived in our office on Nov. 24 promoted the “AT&T
Business Network.” It
offered CNN Business News, Dow Jones Business Information, Dun
& Bradstreet Information Services, among other things.
I said to my staff that, maybe, we ought to try it out.
Dec. 20, our AT&T rep dropped off the three floppy disks of requisite
software, along with the installation instructions.
She also wrote me a note in her own hand:
“Please send me a mail message indicating that you have installed the
software. and tell me what you think.”
you all know by now, this afternoon was my chosen time to “surf the
already failed with IBM, I held out hope that maybe this other industrial
era elephant may have caught up to the Internet age in more ways than just
in its advertising campaigns. I
I followed diligently all AT&T instructions, which probably took about
20 minutes or so, I tried to sign on to the new network.
was rejected (“Just like IBM!” I thought).
This time, my “Signup Number” was supposedly wrong.
had a member of my family verify visually on the screen that the number I
had typed in was the same one which AT&T provided.
with IBM, I then engaged in some “intelligence-testing games.”
“What if I typed the letter ‘L,” in caps, rather than in
small print, as I did originally?” I thought.
What if I dropped the hyphens, and just typed in the number
itself?” I reasoned next.
(again). And not just gently,
- an Internet message flashed across my screen.
family member felt sorry for me. “Why
don’t you try this 800-number?” she suggested.
did. I blew it again. At first...
I ever got to talk to a live AT&T person, I’d punched in evidently a
“wrong” numeric code for a touch-tone set.
I was quizzed if I wanted to sign up for the Minneapolis “something or
other” news service...? Or
for the Washington Post’s “something or other” news wire...?
I just hung up and started all over again.
my name is Brian B...” a friendly voice answered, after I had passed the
test on pressing the right telephone set numbers.
“How can I help you?”
explained my problem.
you disconnected yourself?” he asked, exemplifying the trait of
bureaucrats world over whose first impulse is to assume that the customer
must be wrong.
I replied. “I was forcibly
disconnected by your (AT&T) software.”
was all Brian said in response.
what do we do now?” I adopted the family doctor’s favorite line
(“What seems to be our trouble today?”).
guess we’ll have to issue you another Signup Number.”
okay with me. I am not
particularly fond of this one anyway.
What’s the new number?”
am afraid it’s not that simple.”
not? Why not?
Why can’t you just give me another number to try?”
it takes at least two days to get one.
It all has to do with our administration.
And they are all out
see... Are you a Canadian, by any chance?” I sprung an evidently
surprising question to my AT&T rep.
how did I know?”
you pronounced ‘out,’ as if it were ‘oot’,” I explained.
“What part of Canada are you from?”
to know you, Brian!” I said.
case you want to know it, your case number is Q70....”
it is? Say it again,
I sent the following message to my AT&T rep:
“My EA, told me that you dropped off the package personally.
You asked me to give you some feedback about our experience with it.
So here it is...
It was: 1. FAILURE; 2. FAILURE; 3. FAILURE; 4. FAILURE.
1. The first failure occurred because your software REJECTED the Signon
Number which I was provided after my first attempt to use it.
2. The second failure occurred when I tried to change it to get rid of
the hyphens. It still didn't
work. The system then
FORCIBLY signed me off! I had
nothing to go by to restart it other than call your 800-number (299-9699).
Which is what I did.
3. The third failure occurred when a nice man from Winnipeg, Brian B.
(not sure of the spelling?) tried to help.
But he said that the Signon Number had been probably already
assigned to someone and that he would try to get me a new one. But he said he couldn't do it any sooner than two days (!?),
because of "administrative reasons." He did suggest, though,
that I try to run the setup again.
4. The fourth failure occurred when I followed his advice.
Not only did I waste another 20 minutes installing the software;
not only was I rejected again, but this time your system caused a General
Protection Failure on my computer. Which
meant I had to reboot everything from scratch just to send you this note.
And all this was supposed to have saved me something (I can't remember
what?) if I signed up before Dec. 31, 1995?
You can probably figure out yourself what my message to your
marketing people would be...
you may not be interested to know how much this little exercise in
"saving a penny to spend a dollar" has cost me at MY HOURLY
RATES as a global IT industry consultant.
But since you asked for feedback, you got it.
Just make sure that the next time you bring something to Annex that
you had PERSONALLY tested it, if you hope to rebuild the remaining shreds
of AT&T's credibility with us.”
Happy bargain hunting!
Can you afford not to know such things if you're a global competitor? If you agree, call us as (602) 824-8111.
Editor: Bob Djurdjevic
5110 North 40th Street, Phoenix, Arizona
|Annex Research | Annex Bulletins | Quotes | Workshop |
Feedback | Clips | Activism | Columns |