Just put yourself in the user's place -- literally


Big manufacturer moves its office personnel to a newly renovated space, complete with an open-office floor plan and too much white noise from the air-conditioning system, reports an IT pilot fish on the scene.

"I received a call from a customer-service rep who said her PC was making an unbearable, high-pitched noise," fish says. "I immediately went to her desk to investigate.

"Arriving at her cube, I did not hear anything coming from the computer. I proceeded to power down everything and bring it up one piece at a time while I placed my ear close to it and listened for any telltale sounds of a failing fan or CRT -- but I found nothing."

Fish tells the user the noise might be a transient issue that cleared itself up when the power was cycled. But he adds that she should call him right away if it happens again, because he doesn't want to ignore any early indicators of impending doom.

Five minutes after fish returns to his desk, his phone rings. The noise is back. He returns to the CS rep's cube and repeats his diagnostics -- and still hears nothing.

The cycle repeats itself again and again: Fish leaves, CS rep settles back to work, the noise starts again, fish returns, he can't find it.

On the fifth trip to the rep's desk, she has to go to a meeting, so she leaves fish to hunt for the noise. He works his way around the machine listening again, to no avail. Then he sits down in the rep's rolling chair for the first time, trying to think of what could be making the noise the rep described.

And that's when he hears a sound -- very high pitched and very annoying.

"As I turned my head to listen closely, it went away," says fish. "I turned my head back and there it was again.

"I finally found the source: On a window sill in the cube, she had what must have been the cheapest battery-operated alarm clock ever made. When sitting in the chair and facing the computer, that alarm clock was at ear height and emitting a very quiet but very irritating tone.

"I removed the batteries from the alarm clock and placed it on the chair with a note: 'Problem solved.'"

Forget about putting yourself in Sharky's place -- just put your story in my inbox. Send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll score a sharp Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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