Micromanaged Zombies

I come into the office early this morning, in the hopes of getting a head start on the backlog I’ve got:

  1. Finish refactor of My First PHP Project to take advantage of what I’ve learned since I wrote it, be documented, and generally just stop sucking.
  2. Add needed features, like an XML-RPC interface.
  3. Switch to subversion for MFPP.
  4. Put subversion on CentOS3 production server (more “fun” than it sounds).
  5. Switch production to MFPP 2.0.
  6. Make Big Hairy Project interoperate with MFPP over aforementioned XML-RPC interface.

Naturally, before my laptop even finishes booting (i.e. before it gets to the login screen), I get a call from a customer, who wants me to walk his secretary through the client-site installation procedure. Apparently their sysadmin has logged this person into her machine as a Domain Admin, but can’t be bothered to visit our website, where the installation procedure for the software which needs to be installed is enumerated in painstaking detail—including such strange sub-sections as “New Installation,” and “Upgrading from Version 2.x.”

So they call tech support. But since it’s well before 8, nobody else is here to field the call. So I have to walk a secretary through the installation procedure.

And by walk her through it, I mean, quite literally, walk her through it. “Open a web browser” “go to xxxxx.com” “click on software” “click on this”, download this, listen to her read all five “Welcome to the Blah Blah Blah InstallShield Wizard” screens. Completely. Tell her to click Next fifty times. Explain what the little “underline” button in the top-left corner of the screen does.

What I mean is: come on! Someone took the time to write out installation instructions for each little page. I personally took the time to write out three pages of instructions covering multiple installation scenarios, detailing what you need to download, and why. I even have tables with friggin’ pictures of the hardware we support along one axis, and software packages along the other, just in case users can’t be bothered to know the make and model of the piece of junk they lug around all day.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask that people read the fucking things. But they get into this zombie robot mode, where they just spam my ears with welcome screen verbiage (yeah, it bugged me that much). Except they are human beings! What kind of fucked up bullshit is this, where people willingly go all *dummy mode on*, and consent to becoming zombies requiring they be told when to click the “next” button, or the “install” button—when there’s nothing else you can do on the whole screen except “cancel”!

What I mean is: Jesus Christ on a stick! Hasn’t anybody ever tried to figure shit out for themselves? You know, read, comprehend, act, instead of relay information, receive orders, execute orders. You’re supposed to use the machine, not become one.


And yeah, I know that the job was the sysadmin’s, and I could’ve spent thirty seconds giving him the download URIs and hung up, rather than the first hour and a half of my day pretending the person on the other end of the line is actually human despite nagging suspicions I’m an unwitting participant in a Turing test. In fact, I’m pretty sure the level of hand-holding needed is why the secretary’s login doesn’t have permission to install software, even if this protection was neatly negated by the admin intentionally logging her into his account and disappearing.

Ordinarily, I don’t bitch. Except there is nothing in any of those screens that a rational, thinking human being couldn’t have figured out by simply reading them. I mean, really, when “Installer X” tells you “Files are in use, close Program Y and click Retry”, I shouldn’t have to explain that you need to close Program Y and click Retry.

Unless you just want a voice to tell you what to do—in which case we can make you completely humanoid by installing a screen-reader.

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