Data Centre


BOFH: Press 1. Press 2. Press whatever you damn well LIKE

On the helldesk, nobody can hear you scream

By Simon Travaglia


Episode 14

"You're the one who wanted it," I tell the Boss in response to his fuming.

"I didn't bloody want it at all!"

"Yes, you distinctly said you wanted some call screening that would filter out the timewasters who hadn't read the FAQs from the helpdesk queue."

"Yes, but I di-"

"It had to be FIFO, had to be able to distinguish between real people and IVR robots or automated callers by some form of simple random test."

The Boss is flapping. "Yes, but..."

"And it had to prevent people from bypassing it. Your words."

"Yes but I didn't mean this," splutters the Boss.

"You were fairly specific," the PFY says. "No idiots, no robots, no bypass, no preferential treatment. This is exactly what you were after."

"NOT THIS!" he snaps, dialling the helldesk number.

>brrr – brrr<

Welcome to the Desktop and Laptop support desk. To ensure we are talking to a real person we require you to complete a simple IVR test. Press 2,4,6 and 8 to navigate or 5 for other options.


You are in a twisting maze of little support options all alike.


You are in a twisting maze of little support options all alike.

As technical professionals specialising in infrastructure it’s often difficult to gauge client satisfaction due to the lack of feedback – mostly because of the behind-the-scenes nature of our work. The more astute professionals often have to build feedback mechanisms into their solutions to determine their effectiveness in an out-of-band manner.

Like earlier this morning for instance, where we could hear the muffled shouts of “fuck!” from behind the Boss' closed door, shortly followed by a much louder "FUCK!".

Then several more, increasingly louder "FUCK"s, followed by a series of bashing noises. Leading us towards the here and now. A distressed looking 7960 with a partly broken LCD display is on the floor. get 7960 put 7960 on desk hang up 7960...

Back in the here and now...

"FUCK," the Boss shouts once more. "I CAN'T LOG A FUCKING FAULT!"

Picture, if you will, a new Boss. A new Boss who wants to make a name for himself – like they ALL do – by lowering costs. Instead of the most effective solution – jumping off the balcony – he looks for the largest capital cost to reduce... like they ALL do.

At this time of the financial year desktop machines APPEAR to be costing us money because everyone waits till the end of the year to see how much dosh is left in their budget before stampeding to Mission Control to OK new desktops.

Seeing this, the new Boss made the executive decision to reject our suggestion of name-brand PCs (which, while overpriced, are easy to order and track, relatively bulletproof, have a three year on-site warranty AND come with a licence sticker that wasn't printed on an inkjet printer in a garage in Croydon) with cut-price tin that's sourced in an ad-hoc manner from a vendor on eBay with a shorter operating life than the machines he's selling.

Around the two week mark, these machines start failing – as predicted. The helldesk is INUNDATED with calls from people reporting their licence key is invalid, the trial period has expired or their machine has stopped working. So the cut-price solution is to divert the calls elsewhere and hope people will fix their own machines in frustration.

And guess who's been hoist on his own petard?

"Oooh!" I say. "Press 8."


You are in a twisting maze of little support options all seemingly alike.

"SEE?!" The Boss really isn't happy.

"See what? It's a test to see if you're a real human. Press 8 again," the PFY says.

>beep< You are in a twisty maze of support options, all alike. There is a gold bar here.

"PRESS FIVE," I shout.


Press 1 to take something, 2 to drop something, 3 to give something, 4 to...

"Press one," the PFY says.

Round and round went the great big wheel...


Gold bar taken.

"Press 8 again", I suggest.


You are in the support room. A sign in front of you says "Mission Control: Entry Fee, 5 Gold Bars".

"Press 8 again," the PFY says.


Your way is barred by a support troll who wants to be paid.

”Okay,” I say reassuringly. “Press 2 twice and that should get you back to where we started.”

>beep< >beep<

You are in a maze of twisty little support options all alike.

"Okay so it's non-grid which means that 2 Norths followed by 2 Souths doesn't get you back to where you were. I'd just stumble around a while and draw a map of where you are. And pick up gold bars when possible."

We leave the Boss to it.

About 10 minutes later there's a waterfall of "FUCK"s and some more crashes.

west you are outside an IT middle management office. Through the sight glass in the door you can see an angry IT middle management person and a very broken 7960.


open door west You are in an IT middle management office in disarray. There is an angry boss here There is a broken 7960 here

examine pocket

There is a heavily customised cattleprod here. The lamp on the cattleprod is glowing very brightly...


I don't understand that.


You are in an IT middle management office in disarray. There is an unconscious boss here...

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