Tech Support

I am neither technophobe nor new to computers yet I sometimes find myself needing help. And after receiving that “help” I want to scream, “Help!”

I’ve been using computers for close to fifteen years, purchasing my first PC in, maybe, 1999 after my word processor died. I’ve tackled a few minor hardware situations, such as cracking open the case and adding a backup drive and fighting my way through many hardware/software compatibility issues, as well as delving fairly deeply under the hood of menus within the operating system to track down that elusive but of software that’s giving me such a headache.

I have long worked with Adobe products—primarily Photoshop, InDesign, and, now, Muse. I have also long worked with Sony’s programs (originally Sonic Foundry’s), ACIDPro and Sound Forge, and have almost as long of a relationship with Native Instruments’ Komplete (versions 3, 5, 6, 7, and 9). Plus audio software from G-Force and iZotope. Nor am I a stranger to office software and databases.

Yet I sometimes need help with the simplest things.

One problem is that the graphical user interface is not well laid out. Things that should be obvious elude me. Maybe this is, as I said, bad design. Maybe I’m too tired to be on a computer or maybe there’s some other reason for collapse of brain. Anyway, I miss clicking the obvious button or fail to see a logical connection with a button and an action. (In one instance, with a two-part download, I clicked on the “run” button rather than the “save” button while downloading a software instrument and sound samples. Some things can work with either button. Some need one or the other. There was nothing in the instructions that would have tipped me off, though, in retrospect, I can see that there was a logical order. As for their technical support solving the issue, they were clueless and wanted me to start digging into my computer’s security and operating settings. I’d gone down that road with them before on a different issue and it created havoc on my computer while solving nothing (a year later they issued an update to the instrument in question and everything worked fine—apparently they didn’t want to acknowledge not being up to date). In the case of the download, I noticed a few unimportant things the tech had written in our exchanges and extrapolated the solution for myself, which was to save the download then install it.)

If you contact technical support for such a problem you will almost certainly fail to get help. They have no way of conceiving that the user could be that stupid. I suspect they’re all waiting for something deep and challenging that will engage their minds for a few hours and will truly change the outcome of the program for thousands of future users.

I don’t ask those kinds of questions.

Recently I’ve been having problems right here on WordPress. The SoundCloud players were not working. I had changed nothing in how I copied and pasted them from SoundCloud into my blog. Yet about two months ago I started getting a white box with “This track is currently not available” in place of the player and access to the uploaded recording.

I have a premium membership at SoundCloud, which entitles me to direct technical support. They have been persistent in helping me solve the problem but have been unable to find anything wrong with the coding. The closest anyone came to hitting it on the head was with this message: “Thanks for writing in and letting us know that it still isn’t working. Can you let me know if you are using a plugin on your WordPress? Can you try disabling it and embedding the widget code directly into the HTML5 format of your page? It may be that the plugin is causing a disruption and is not letting the widget render properly.”…First of all I’m just using the basic, free editor for writing my blogs. I know nothing of the aforementioned plug-in. Nor do I know anything about HTML5. I responded that I didn’t understand how to put these requests into action. I think the answer was there but I didn’t know how to extract it.

Since I’m only using the free version of WordPress I had to put a question to the forum of experts rather than getting direct support. The second person to respond asked me to try repasting the links using the text tab rather than the visual tab. This is not exactly what the SoundCloud tech was asking me to do with the request to code directly into HTML5 but it could have been close enough to trigger the experiment. With technical support you sometimes have to be able to make those intuitive leaps. I failed.

Anyway, that was the solution. Why it would suddenly not work to use the visual editor rather than the text editor is beyond me. Just know that it worked.

The source of frustration, here, is in communication between someone who understands the software and coding, or any other technology, and someone who doesn’t. Remind you a little too much of science or math classes? I’ve encountered this problem in almost all areas of my life, not just the technical. Communication seems to be an extremely rare ability. Evolution has not caught up to our social expectations. We have this idea that writing or speaking clearly will convey the information, whether technical or emotional, but especially the technical information, yet so often the message gets garbled. Too many people who have the information lack the verbal skills or imagination to convey their knowledge. Much less obvious, except perhaps to teachers and psychologists, is that many of us are incapable of understanding what we’re told. I see this every day.

If you run into problems don’t give up. Try rephrasing your questions. Try alternate sources if there are any. Be patient: you might think you’re being perfectly articulate but to the technician you’re speaking a foreign language (this could also be literally true, the internet is such a global project). Also, pay attention to the non-essential portions of the communiqué, which might be where the solution has been off-handedly supplied.

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