Friday, October 23, 2009

The seven types of people you meet during a network meltdown at a Newspaper

It's the one thing that keeps IT folk awake at night - the total collapse of the network. Hard drives die, you have a backup. End user does something stupid, you can easily fix while possibly making them feel bad about themselves. Server crashes - who cares? The clone you made last month will have it back up in an hour tops. But when it's the network, all bets are off.

Now I'm no Network admin, but spend enough time around one and you can't help but pick up lots of knowledge. I can ping, traceroute and ssh till I'm blue in the face, but when the network goes down my role becomes the gopher for the real network gurus. Anyway, I mention this because about once every 18 months or so, our internal network will get totally FUBAR'd and we have to sneakernet our way to getting the paper out. Yesterday was just such an occurrence, as something went horribly, horribly wrong at around Noon and all of the sudden every user was without a network connection. The details are unimportant, and we did eventually get going again at about 7PM, but as I've now lived through three or four of these near-disasters during my time at the Packet I find that no matter the circumstances, I always see the same people. The names and faces may change, but when their precious Facebook e-mail is taken away from them the people are the same…

Type 1 - The freaked-out Copy Editor
After first taking a pot-shot at you for not being more communicative about the situation (even when you a) have no idea what the situation is and b) they wouldn't understand it if you told them anyway) the freaked out Copy Editor springs into action, making plans about early deadlines and writing things down that always include a "Stet" where they probably didn't need one.

Type 2 - The laid-back Sports Editor
He knows there's trouble, but he also knows you're doing your best and only needs enough information to know if he can get his pages out. He may even ask if there's anything he can do to help which makes you stop and say "Damn those Sports guys are cool!"...

Type 3 - The completely-oblivious Ad Rep
The network is down so they can't e-mail you to "ask" if they can turn in their late ads, and of course your phone system is all VOIP so they can't call you either. Nothing left to do then but to come up to your office in groups of two or three and give you the same three excuses ("I wasn't in yesterday" or "the client said they couldn't get a hold of me" or "I forgot to write up the ad") that you've heard one million times and stopped buying 999,992 times ago. Then, neither realizing nor caring that because of their late ad once you get done fixing the network problem you will have to re-dummy a section you did yesterday, they have the nerve to tell you to "Have a great day!"….

Type 4 - The snarky Entertainment section Editor
Though I've only known two of them in my time at the Packet, their reactions to network meltdowns were the same - they both come to your desk to say only half-jokingly "What have you done?" see as the "Internet" person in their field of vision, you and you alone are responsible for their sudden lack of access to social media, and if they could get away with bashing your skull in with a baseball bat they would.

Type 5 - The Investigative Reporter
Always ready to uncover the next Watergate, the intrepid Investigative Reporter lurks in the shadows, hoping to overhear a juicy quote from IT like "it will be back up in ten minutes" or "it's completely hosed and I have no idea how we're going to get a paper out" that they can then run with. They don't actually talk to you, because they don't actually talk to any of their co-workers who isn't also a Investigative Reporter, but you know they're there - ready to pounce.

Type 6 - The-sketchy-outside-vendor-guy-who-was-in-your-server-room-before-the-network-imploded-doing-who-knows-what
He's here to work on his company's systems. He's got the key to your server room because that's where his servers are. He obviously knows what he's doing….with his systems. But what if if his systems are interacting somehow with your systems? And what if he makes a seemingly benign change to his systems without realizing that it may impact your systems? Of course when the network has imploded and you go looking for him to ask if there was any chance he might have done something by accident, he gets defensive and tells you, step-by-83-steps what he was doing. I'm not saying you hosed my network dude, I'm just saying it's been running fine for years and YOU are the only out of the ordinary thing going on around here...

Type 7 - The employee who makes a big show of doing nothing because his computer is down
My personal favorite - these are the people who stare at you when you walk into the room, waiting to be told they can get to work. If you don't tell them they can get to work, they will just sit there, talking amongst themselves and eating microwave popcorn. They simply cannot conceive of a universe where they might actually go looking for something else to do that would help out the company until their usual responsibilities return. Take out the trash? Nah. Clean up their messy desk? Nope. Mop their messy floor? Yeah right. They are there to do their job, not to lift one additional finger - and if they had to do more they would EXPECT to be paid for it, despite the fact they knowingly work for an industry that is on death's doorstep.

So there you have it - the seven types of people I always see in some way, shape or form when the network goes down. It's uncanny really. It also makes me kind of want to get out of IT and go sell Apple products for a living. Sigh. Maybe in a few months years.


Bill Wheatley said...

so what was the actual problem in the end? and call me next time :) always good to bounce ideas off someone whos into the network shiz

Liz Farrell said...

Type No. 1, huh? What about Type No. 8? The angry but smug IT guy who glares at you like he's in the Trenchcoat Mafia and marches around the newsroom as if he's living out some pre-blog journal entry from 1992 wherein the cool kids realize he exists for the first time and that they might actually need him for something, which gives him the perfect opportunity to let them know just how stupid and awful he thinks they are. How about that guy? Where's he in all this? (Hint: He's not at my cafeteria table.)