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Eyrie Productions, Unlimited

Subject: "Elder Days Story Time: The Customer Database"     Previous Topic | Next Topic
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Jul-30-14, 07:18 PM (EDT)
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"Elder Days Story Time: The Customer Database"
   I worked the night shift in an ISP network operations center once, many years ago. The shift rotation was set up so that I worked 10-hour days, four on, three off, from noon to 11 PM1. Being in during the afternoons meant that my days were broken up into two phases. From noon to five, I was a hostmaster, which meant I'd sit in my office processing domain name registrations for business customers and managing the company's DNS servers. The shift overlap was also when the management would schedule Important Meetings, so as to get the maximum number of NOC people in on them at once.

At five, when the day shift went home, I would go into the operations room (which was like a miniature version of the Mission Control-style room bigger ISPs have) and do my five hours "on the hot seat", as the network operations engineer2 on duty. This was a lot like being on monitor duty in the Justice League, except with a far smaller chance that the Black Canary would swing by the ops room with dim sum to share. In lieu of that, I would while away the hours doing more of my hostmastery work in between infrequent phone calls from business customers (not a lot of that happening after 5 PM), while keeping an eye on a couple of computers that were set up to report problems with the network as they arose, and boy howdy, sometimes they did. Remind me to tell you about the disgruntled Cablevision employee sometime.

Anyway, another side effect of being in the office during the afternoon was that, even though I worked the night shift, I was there for about half of the rest of the company's regular business day, so I had a feel for what was going on in the joint. For several months, we had consultants in to work on the database system the sales department used to keep track of all the accounts and stuff we had. Every now and then, they would have to take the server down for various reasons, and when that happened, the overhead speakers throughout the office would go,

BEEEEEEP Please exit the customer database.

Customarily what would happen at this point was that the people using the customer database would not exit it. Understand, the overhead message was completely unmissable; between the attention tone and the volume of the PA system itself, it was incredibly obtrusive. Plus, the people using the customer database were getting dialog pop-ups on their screens saying the same thing. They just had no sense of urgency about finishing what they were doing and getting out.

So about five minutes later, the overhead would go,

BEEEEEEP Please exit the customer database.

with just a hint of asperity.

Most of the sales people would take the hint at that point and get out... but the manager of sales was one of those guys who think rules and procedures don't apply to him, because he's the manager, goddammit, so if he was using the customer database at the time, he'd just carry right on with it, figuring if the DB monkeys wanted to mess around with the system, they could just wait until he was finished with his much more important business and was damn well good and ready to let them.

And so, after another five to ten minutes, would come a third PA announcement:

BEEEEEEP Look. Get out of the customer database... FRANK.

Usually that would do the trick, but occasionally Frank would dig in his heels and refuse to budge... at which point the DBAs would play their final card:

BEEEEEEP server01 is going down for a reboot. I hope everyone's out of the customer database.

And then there would be a muffled "Fuck!" from the corner where Frank's office was.

1 I know that's 11 hours, but we didn't get paid to eat lunch.
2 As you can guess from the subsequent description of the job, I was in no way an engineer. As the son of a licensed professional engineer, I've always found it mildly offensive that the high-tech industry calls virtually everybody who works in any technical capacity at all an "engineer". At Xylogics, for instance, my job title was "Applications Engineer"... I was level 1 tech support. My job consisted of reading the bits of the manual pertaining to what the customers were trying to do and telling them to do what it said, then escalating the ticket to someone who knew something if that didn't work (which it usually did, because the customer hadn't bothered looking in the manual). The only "engineering" going on there was very occasionally social, in the form of finding new and creative ways of not telling the customers a reasonably bright dog could've done what they'd just had so much trouble with.
Benjamin D. Hutchins, Co-Founder, Editor-in-Chief, & Forum Mod
Eyrie Productions, Unlimited http://www.eyrie-productions.com/
zgryphon at that email service Google has
Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam.

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Elder Days Story Time: The Customer Database [View All] Gryphonadmin Jul-30-14 TOP
   RE: Elder Days Story Time: The Customer Database Proginoskes Jul-31-14 1
      RE: Elder Days Story Time: The Customer Database Pasha Jul-31-14 2
          RE: Elder Days Story Time: The Customer Database Proginoskes Aug-01-14 3
              RE: Elder Days Story Time: The Customer Database Pasha Aug-01-14 4
   RE: Elder Days Story Time: The Customer Database drakensis Aug-02-14 5
      RE: Elder Days Story Time: The Customer Database Gryphonadmin Aug-02-14 6

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