Tag Archives: Customer Service

An (upgraded) open letter to Microsoft

Microsoft wait times

Dear Microsoft,

You may recall my last open letter to you – more likely, you don’t. I never received any form of response. Unless, of course, the hasty cancellation of Windows 9/Blue was due entirely to my heartfelt plea to return control of the computer to the User, rather than making it simply a tool for you to impose your will upon? Thought not.

I came to grips with Windows 8.1 in the end, you know, making it do as much as 7 used to. Most of my peripherals adapted or died off, and I found a way to view all the files I had stored. And when Windows 10 was announced, I was actually quite enthusiastic about the chances of interacting with Cortana, with having a PC platform that might, perhaps, make the experience of owning a Windows phone more enjoyable, or convenient. Sure, I worried a little that some of my programs (not apps, please) might not run well, but I figured I could adapt enough to counter your intransigence.

There was a long wait, here in my part of British Columbia. I watched friends around the world downloading and installing, and heard various shrieks of horror or hums of approval. I still wasn’t discouraged, and when I finally got the nod (well, strictly speaking, I never ACTUALLY received notification that I could start the download – I did one of my daily checks and found it was ready…) I hit the install button with hardly a qualm.

The installation took a while, but that was no surprise. I wangled my way through the menus, selecting and unselecting, reminding you again and again that you collecting my data was a choice I should be making, not one you make for me. Targeted advertising is not a benefit for me, you understand, it’s a benefit for the advertiser. I know I haven’t caught all the permissions. I know there are a bunch hidden away that allow you to do all kinds of data harvesting, and I know this because if there weren’t you would have put them all in one convenient place, instead of scattering them through settings and setup and a bunch of other places. Microsoft, you have become a politician, lying by omission and presenting a false face. That’s pretty bad, in case you hadn’t noticed.

Anyway, Windows 10 works. I still have all my old emails, still have my old calendar, can still find my photos, my documents. All the programs I use on a daily basis seem to work just fine. Except for one tiny, tiny thing.

When I go to save a file, the computer tells me I don;t have permission. because every day, when I turn on the computer, ALL THE FOLDERS have their permissions reset to “Read only”. Every single one. I know this because every single day I have to reset the permissions on any folder I want to use. I am the only registered user on the computer. I am, as far as I can tell, The Administrator. But every day Windows locks me out of my own folders. Why?

Well, Microsoft, that’s a good question. It’s a question I’d like to ask you. Today I went back through your “Contact me” page for the hundredth time. Look, I get it. You’re just rolling out the biggest software upgrade in History. You’re trying to help everyone get on board with Windows 10 and you’d really like to weed out the ones who just want to change their lock screen back to their photo of Miggsy the Hamster, or the ones who can’t find their passwords anymore and so on. I understand why I keep getting booted back to the same FAQ screen, but I really, really want an answer to this because it is making my working day HARDER. I have upgraded the software and it is making my work more difficult. This is not how it should go.

I have used Windows for a long time, and I am barely more than competent. I CAN change these permissions to use the folders. I know where to go to do that. I don’t know where to go to stop your upgraded OS from changing them back again. I don’t know why it’s doing it, I don’t know why it started, whether it will stop, or who can help me if you won’t. Unfortunately, I don’t ave 336 minutes to sit here and wait for your poor chat line operator to tell me he doesn’t know why that’s happening either.

I’m not giving up. I’ll keep looking for a solution, and looking for a way to contact you that will actually result in contact. If you could be ready with an answer for me, that would be cool.

Oh, and it would be nice if I’d known ahead of time that Cortana would NOT be available to Canada until some-undisclosed-time-in-the-future. It would definitely have affected my decision to go ahead with the install this early. I realised we’re not as technologically advanced as the Spanish or French here in BC, and our accents can make us tricky to understand. I just wonder if the folks in the Microsoft building downtown in Vancouver have Cortana as part of their Windows 10?

Anyway, thanks for your time. I’m sure you’ll read this when you’re sifting through my drafts folder for information to sell to advertisers.

D

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When is a job not a job?

I found this note in my pigeonhole at work yesterday.

I found this note in my pigeonhole at work yesterday.

I mentioned in my last post that I enjoy talking to library patrons about the choices they have made in reading material or movies. A few weeks ago, a lady was borrowing a documentary I had seen a trailer for : Tim’s Vermeer.

There were a number of reasons I was interested in this documentary. Firstly, the very first screenplay I wrote was about a Vermeer painting – “The Lacemaker“. It was a complex plot involving Salvador Dali, the Louvre, art fraud and a rhinoceros. The script is still available for development.

Secondly, the documentary is made by Penn and Teller, whom I admire for their magical skills and their zeal in uncovering fraudsters of the allegedly psychic variety.

Finally, it’s just an interesting concept. The subject – Tim Jenison – decided that Vermeer couldn’t possibly have managed to paint the variations of colour and texture the picture (he uses “The Music Lesson“) shows. There must, says Tim, have been some kind of device to allow Vermeer to see those variations as a camera sees them, not as an eye.

While keen to see the documentary, I hadn’t been able to get hold of a copy, and mentioned this to the lady, asking if she would let me know what she thought of it. She said she would, and took my name, remarking that it’s rare to be served by the same person twice at the library, since shifts change so often.

I was incredibly touched to return from my short break to find the handwritten review of the documentary shown above. That’s a great example of the OTHER kind of “Customer Service”.

The review reads:

Hi,

Verdict of Tim’s Vermeer:

The direction was clunky, more narration would have been good, and it would have been nice to hear more from the art world and less from Penn Jillette.

However, the subject matter was fascinating. The theory posited was intriguing, as was the way he proved it. I would have loved to hear more about the art world’s reaction to his experiment.

I wouldn’t suggest this as a good example of a documentary, but I do suggest it on the basis of the subject matter.”

All the things I plan to do.

I talk to people, when they check out their books. Part of it is Customer Service, that good old “engage with the patrons” philosophy that makes their trip to the library more than just one more chore on the list. But a lot of it is human interaction that I need, and the genuine desire to share my pleasure and excitement about some of the books I see crossing the desk every day.

If you don't get this, I'm sorry. Go watch "Labyrinth" and then "Game of Thrones". But don't get attached to any of the characters. You have been warned.

If you don’t get this, I’m sorry. Go watch “Labyrinth” and then “Game of Thrones”. But don’t get attached to any of the characters. You have been warned.

Right now, of course, there’s a lot of people checking out the various books from “A song of Fire and Ice”, more commonly known as “Game of Thrones“. If someone is picking up the first, I warn them they’re in for a long haul, and that they shouldn’t get too attached to any of the characters. If they’re picking up something later in the series, like book five or six, we exchange some words about the long wait for the next book, and the chances that the tv series will outpace the novels.

I had a plan on the wall, but it also covered the sofa....

I had a plan on the wall, but it also covered the sofa….

Something I say a lot, when talking about GoT, is that I hope George R.R. Martin has a big plan on his wall. I want it to start with the history he hints at – the Targaryan conquest of the Seven Kingdoms by dragon, all the way through the death of the Mad King and Robert’s seizing of the Iron Throne to a decent conclusion. (Don’t worry if this is all meaningless gibberish to you, I have a point coming up…)

The point is the plan, the shape of the whole story. The books are wonderfully compelling, and Westeros is a great place to visit from the safety of your couch or your favourite reading nook, but I really, really want to know that George has an end in mind, that he’s not just moving his pieces round a Risk board and wondering who’s going to come out on top.

For years, I’ve been what’s known in the trade as  a “pantser”. I wrote by the seat of my pants, starting with a vague premise, or some lines of dialogue and simply following the trail, only able to see a little way ahead as I wrote. It was fun, and sometimes the result was particularly good. Even as recently as “Love in a Time of Zombies”, a chance line in the early pages turned into a crucial plot point at the climax of the play, something a review called a “classic example of Chekhov’s Gun“.

The flyer for the show - you can still get tickets!

The flyer for the show

But the satisfaction of pantsing has been tempered by the number of projects that stalled because I didn’t know where to go next. They reached a quiet point, where the characters stop and turn to you and say “Yeah? What now?” Raymond Chandler once said that when things got boring in his books, he would have a guy walk through the door with a gun. It’s nice philosophy, very much in the Panster tradition, but when they were filming “The Big Sleep”, the director suddenly realised he didn’t know who had killed one of the characters, the Chauffeur. Chandler was called and quizzed, but admitted he had no idea either. It just wasn’t that important to the plot he was building. Pantsing can leave plot holes.

The Big Sleep (1946) Poster

So my last two plays and the two e-books that came before them have been planned. I’ve written a short precis, which expanded into a pitch document, which became an outline, which got broken into scenes on a huge sheet of paper on the wall. Now, instead of aiming for word count targets, I’m writing a scene a day, knocking off sections of the project and knowing exactly how many I have to go before the end. I haven’t noticed any dip in creativity, but there has been a drop in the number of abandoned drafts.

Holidays... Don't you just hate 'em? The sunshine, the calm, the beauty... Ick.

Holidays… Don’t you just hate ’em? The sunshine, the calm, the beauty… Ick.

This last week, staying out in Osoyoos with my parents on their third trip to Canada, I discussed a new play with Mrs Dim. From no real idea, to a neat concept in the course of ten minutes by the pool. When August begins, I’ll start my new planning document, and what is only a sentence now will begin to grow.

So what’s YOUR preferred method? Is planning the writing putting a straightjacket on the creative muscles, or is pantsing an amateur mistake?