Friday, September 10, 2010

How Mystical Thinking interferes with Troubleshooting IT Issues

I work in the IT field. I won't go into too much detail about what I do because I want to preserve my anonymity as much as I can.

I've noticed that in Jesusland, many people have mystical thinking about computers. I did, too, before I became comfortable with troubleshooting computer problems.

People make comments that their computers have minds of their own. They only work when they want to. Problems only happen when tech support isn't around, but vanish when we finally show up to assess the problem.

E-mail just "disappears". Gremlins eat important files.

Computers just get tired and give out.

The computer just doesn't like that Ethernet cable you're using.

I know that most of these types of comments are just mild personifications that we give to all objects around us. Overall this is harmless and reduces the stress that comes from the frustration of a cantankerous, uncooperative PC.

But when the troubleshooters themselves actually buy into this sort of thinking, problems do not get resolved. They are just chalked up as mysteries as unnecessary work around's are often devised while the real problem fails to be properly addressed and corrected.

I've seen people wonder if a NIC card had it's own mind. Or wonder why a docking station for a laptop works with a store bought Ethernet cable, but not a hand made Ethernet cable.

Rather than admitting the hand made cable is bad, they rationalize that something mystical is happening with the docking station or NIC.

I've also seen people wonder if interference from a cell phone could keep a dial up modem from working.

I'm not talking about customers. I mean technicians that are helping customers.

And that's the problem we run into when we let mysticism guide us through troubleshooting technology. You explore a false premise and ignore the clues that lead you to the facts.

Nothing is wrong with pretending your PC has a personality. I felt sort of nostalgic recently when I had to decommission a few servers that got me through thick and thin. I sorta missed 'em for a few days. It was like saying bye-bye to a neighborhood friend that was moving away for good.

But, I know that I couldn't gently pat the server on the side of the chassis and magically make it work correctly again after it malfunctioned. I can't hold a CD or DVD in one hand while laying my other hand on the server to form some sort of mind meld that mystically uploads the software.

That just doesn't work in IT.

I wish I could lay hands on a server and manage it.


From home.

In bed while asleep.

Now, that would be the shiznits!

Man, if that sort of thing could really happen, I might reconsider the existence of God!

Or maybe the Force.

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