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December 20th, 2007

Maximum Stress

I'm handling all this stress at work relatively well, especially when compared to people who spatter obscenities, pound tables, and generally loose control when things fall apart.  Two server crashes in two days and an emergency migration to a replacement system that I barely know in about one day -- has left me exhausted ... yet still hopeful.  Some might say that's being gullible or niave but it's my job to fix things.  Something always breaks; I can't get all worked up about it.  "The phone system is down!",  "The restores don't work!",  "Our circuit is unbearably slow!",  Uhuh.  Take a number. 

In some way I don't mind sounding arrogantly mechanic.  All problems have to be processed in a structure like a queue otherwise nothing can get my attention long enough to be correctly fixed, and because only one person (or group) has my attention at any given time, that implies that other people are standing in line and not being serviced.  That doesn't mean we can be satisfied in some kind of malaise or mediocrity, nor does it mean that I'm going to bend over backwards to fix your problem because you're "special".  It's a job that I intend on doing well but it's not my life.  I told the service manager the other day that there are three basic ways to jump in line (or be pushed back in the queue):

1. The Group Dynamic vs. Ego: impact severity - quantity of people affected
2. The Richie Rich Factor: value added - quality of the people affected, "Platinum" customers can manipulate the order by $$$, etc.
3. Early Bird Syndrome: temporal offset - who got in line first, or some things take less time to fix than my time to plan on fixing

The re-occuring abuse of this system is #2.  Everyone thinks their problem is the most serious yet the vast majority aren't paying more into the system nor do they seem aware that I am probably already servicing other people already (-- evidently I'm just twiddling my thumbs until something else breaks --), so from my perspective you usually only get to use #2 if management intervenes.   That's why customers pretend to be mad and demand to speak with the manager when dialing AT&T's customer support center!  From my perspective, the queue should be a structure that we implement in a general way but let some computer compute your place in line ... with no intervention after computation.  The thought: a computer actually computing something.  For example, impact severity values could range from 1 to 3 where 1 means only one or a couple of people are affected, whereas 3 means all people using the service or server are affected.  Similarly, customers who pay for Platinum membership get a value of 3 for #2 whereas rack-rate people get a value of 1.  The temporal stuff might have to be reduced to only the person's time of arrival, where 3 is the first arrival.  For example, if three problems are in my queue, then the first to arrive with a Platinum membership about a problem affecting all phone systems would receive the maximum queue value of 9.  The HAL9000 would announce in a horrifically monotone voice that 'You are a 9', afterwhich it would route your call to my mobile and automagically connect me to your system(s).

Everyone wants to be a 9.  Hehe.  Maybe it's our nature, but from HAL9000's perspetive, only the rich and famous early birds are that important.  *evil grin*