19 April 2011

The failure of the script

I think we all use a script at some point or another in our life.  We use them to help us with interviews, to help us with a certain scenario, for training purposes, or just to make sure that we give everyone the exact same information.  I've given scripts to my staff before to help them in dealing with specific situations and what to say.  Scripts can be really helpful, but equally important is knowing when to go off of the script.

Recently I had two poor experiences where I was dealing with a representatives from different companies and their failure to break away from the script.  I have no idea why they didn't I can only speculate that they didn't know how or they weren't empowered to do so.

Here's the first situation:
I have Cox Communications as my internet provider.  Recently I got the monthly bill and was shocked to find it was higher than it had been the last month.  I called and spoke to a representative who was clearly working off of a script to deal with angry customers like myself.  She informed me that yes it went up and yes they had sent out a notice in the previous month's bill that explained the increase.  And this is where the script began failing.  I told her I didn't get that notice and all she did was repeat the same statement back to me.  Every statement I made after that, including where I said I'm going to start looking to take my business elsewhere, was met with a minute long pause as she tried to find some place in the script that worked.  Only it didn't.  She couldn't find anything that ever dealt with the statements that I was making.  I didn't really expect her to solve my problem or even really offer a solution (although it would have been nice.)  What I really wanted was her to sympathize or try to find someone else that could help me solve the problem or even at the very least notate somewhere that something had failed and I wasn't notified. But none of this was offered.  Even when I said I was hanging up she was still trying to find a place in the script.

The second situation:
I use Amazon....a lot (no that's not really surprising, but still.)  Recently I was looking at all of the purchases I've ever made on Amazon and something strange was happening.  When I started getting to years where I had a number of orders their system kept returning the wrong number of results.  It would tell me I had made 14 orders, but would display a lot more.  Or then it would say it was 26 but when I went to the second page it would say 13 and would only show me 13 even though I knew that there was more.  Clearly something was wrong and it wasn't on my end as I had the same problem on three different operating systems and four different computers.  So I fired off an email to Amazon to let them know what was going on and I will openly admit I probably didn't include enough information in the initial email.  But instead of asking me for me the guy emailed me back with a script...and one that didn't even fit the circumstances.  Such as checking to make sure the date/time was right on my computer (don't know what difference that would make) and that I was using HTTPS to login (which didn't fit because a) I had done so and b) once I'm in it's up to Amazon's server to decide what to use.)  The only suggestion that was useful was to try another browser which I had done. I ended up giving him more information and he did break off the script and said he couldn't duplicate the problem, but he'd forward it on which is all I really wanted.

I also just had another experience where again they stuck to the script and didn't read all of the email with regards to a package being delivered and the lack of...service by the delivery company.  I'm waiting to see how this one plays out.

The script can work, but it has to be the right situation and you have to trust your employees to know when to go off of it to help people.  And if you can't trust your employees then at least let them know to transfer the call to someone else that can help the person.  Having a problem/issue/concern is bad enough, but not being able to express that concern and get an appropriate response is even worse.  And yes sometimes there won't be a good response that will satisfy everyone, but there should be an attempt.

Book Review--The Book of Audacity by Carla Schroder

Another book review for the O'Reilly blogger review program

The Book of Audacity: Record, Edit, Mix, and Master with the Free Audio Editor
by Carla Schroder
no starch press 2011

This book is published by "no starch press" who normally do a pretty good job of keeping things simple and easy to understand for the average user.  The book breaks out into covering what Audacity is and what it's used for.  One nice thing that they mention in the introduction, briefly, is another free program, and tell readers which you use depends on what you want to do. In the first chapter they cover the basics of just how to use the program, ranging from the simple of starting a project to editing recorded tracks to the different formats that it can be saved in.  Then they cover how to build your recording studio and some of the equipment that you might look for.  Carla tries to give a price range for each type and what its used for so that you know whether or not it will fit your budget and need.  The other chapters then cover specific projects that you might want to work on with the program, with the obvious being podcasting to the less obvious of transferring vinyl and other formats to CD.  She gives clear instructions, with some technical jargon, on how to use Audacity to create the projects and other equipment that might be needed, such as for transferring records to CD.  The last few chapters are about customizing audacity with plugins, making it work well with Ubuntu Linux and Windows (and yes they miss out on a specific chapter for the Mac.)

Here's my honest opinion, this book is NOT for a beginner. Other than the first chapter it really doesn't cover the basics of how to use the program or how to do basic audio editing.  It's written more for people that have experience with computers, people interested in setting up their own recording studio, or those that are looking for a new hobby or career.  That isn't too say its a bad book as the projects really do cover a lot of interesting ways to use Audacity and give detailed instructions on how to use Audacity for it, its just overkill for someone just starting to learn about audio editing.  Also I think that the book was put together in a bit of a weird order for a basic book on a program.  Me personally, I would have started with the project on the podcast or making a CD, rather than transferring records to CD since the later requires extra equipment and is a big project.

My biggest disappointment with the book, however, is the lack of the mention of copyright and where it is mentioned it isn't even located with the obvious sections of the book.  For example, they don't mention copyright at all when talking about transferring vinyl records to CD and to me that's a major omission, especially since she mentions starting your own side business of doing this.  While some records are out of copyright, others are not and I think its a fairly dangerous thing to leave out.

Overall the book has some good useful information and some interesting projects to do with Audacity, but it isn't for the beginner and isn't what I thought I was going to get.   

I review for the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program

05 April 2011

Book Review--Gamestorming by Dave Gray, et. al

If you didn't know O'Reilly press, publishers of some of the best computer science books out there..and other areas as well (seriously) has this really cool program where if you agree to review the book they supply you with a free digital version of it. Here are the guidelines to join: http://oreillynet.com/oreilly/bloggers/guidelines.html Now not all of the titles are available, they only have selected ones, but still it's a good deal.

Needless to say I am taking advantage of this when I can so from time to time I'll be posting a review here.  O'Reilly has only given me a free digital copy of the book and nothing else.

And just in case y'all are wondering where O'Reilly stands on the whole ebook landscape: 
You get lifetime access to ebooks you purchase through oreilly.com. Whenever possible we provide them to you in five DRM-free file formats — PDF, ePub, Kindle-compatible .mobi, DAISY, and Android .apk — that you can use on the devices of your choice. Our ebooks are enhanced with color images, even when the print version is black and white. They are fully searchable, and you can cut-and-paste and print them. We also alert you when we've updated your ebooks with corrections and additions.
(from their website)
Pretty cool no?

So let's get started shall we?

by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, and James Macanufo
O'Reilly Press  2010

First off...this is not a computer science book.  Yes O'Reilly is a computer science press, but they also publish some pretty good business/management/other books, Confessions of a Public Speaker for example. And this book also falls into that category.  The authors design games to help educate and encourage innovation in the workplace and they've found that games really help people understand the concepts.  The first section begins with defining what the different types of games are, what the benefits of the types are, and different traits needed within the different types of games.  They then provide over 80 game examples under different categories, such as "games for exploring" and "games for closing." Each game has a short description, a little picture of the game, what's needed, how to play it, and a strategy.  The book ends with a brief chapter on how to put the games into play in the workplace.

To be honest this isn't what I thought the book would be about (my fault for not reading the description a bit better.)  I was picturing something on creating video games, not using simple games at work.  That being said this is still a pretty valuable book.  I'd probably use it in conjunction with a few other books (like some of the authors that gave blurbs for the book, such as Tony Hsieh.)  Mostly because other books will provide a framework for innovation and give some examples of how they used it or just to provide some inspiration to get started at innovating.  Where this book excels is providing some hands on tools for getting innovation started at your place of work. They do a good job of breaking down how work is already like a game, and define that its the point in the middle, where the creativity lies, that gets bogged down sometimes.  They get a bit longed winded in the first couple of chapters in describing the games (they really like to look in the past which at times is a bit confusing), but they provide some really good examples of games and what they can be used for.  My one big complaint is that I wish that last chapter had been a bit longer.

I review for the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program