This is how Seagate treats its faithful

Keep this in mind when you pickup your next hard drive.

Original Complaint:

Dear Seagate

I would like to first state that I have been a faithful end user of Seagate products since the days of your 30MB MFM models. I have not only used Seagate exclusively, but recommended them to others. It is this fact that makes this latest problem I have encounted that much more frustrating. It is because of this frustration that I am writing to you instead of talking with one of your customer support representatives on the phone.

Back in July of this year, I purchased five ST3500630AS drives for a new machine that I was building. The drives would be operating in a RAID5 configuration for integrity purposes (I would also like to point out this form of operation is one of the ones listed for these drives on your website). However, one of the drives was DOA and replaced. Back in September (14th), a second drive in this set failed and was replaced by me. Today, a third drive in this set (9QG21D69) has failed. I base this on the fact that when I run your SeagateTools program, the program hangs during the long test and the drive begins clicking. Also, my Linux kernel has been reporting errors when attempting to read information.

What is more troublesome is the fact that when it failed, my RAID5 array failed with it. This is because another one of the drives (9QG21T6X) also dropped out of the array simultaneously and I did not have the foresight to prepare any hot spares. While I do not think this drive currently has a physical failure, I am now at a point where I fear one is forthcoming.

Because I NEVER expected a 60%, or even a 20%, failure rate, there were no other backup locations for the data on this array. Therefore, I have lost all the digital contents I have accumulated since the 30MB drive listed above. Documents (work and personal), programs, code, media, pictures/videos of my family, EVERYTHING is now gone.

I do realize that Seagate is not responsible for data loss, and I am not expecting your company to help me recover anything. However, I have to question whether I would be in this current situation had I gone with another vendor. Why I am writing because I want to replace this drive (for obvious reasons). The last time that I replaced a Seagate drive (9/14), I had to pay a ~$20 fee for the "Advanced Replacement" option. Given my history of Seagate purchases and the recent experience I have encountered, I feel the *least* Seagate could do is provide this option to me without charge. I would appreciate someone in a position to do so looking into this matter from start to finish, and responding with a solution that fits this extremely unsatisfactory situation.


First response:

Discussion Thread
Response (Babli TS198) 11/28/2007 03:27
Dear Adrian,

We apologize for the inconvenience caused.

With regards to your request, we are sorry to inform you that we will not be able to process advance replacement without the charge. However, as one time exception we will be able to notify the relevant team to send you the pre paid return label to avoid the shipping cost.

If you want to opt for this option, kindly email us back with your complete shipping address to process the Order number to replace the drive with the serial# 9QG21T6X.

For further queries you could always e-mail us or call us at 1-800-468-3472. We would be happy to assist you.

Seagate Warranty Support.

First thing I note is the "(Babli TS198)." I wonder if this is our recipient and internal transaction number. What do you remember about the stated serial number?

1st Reply:

My physical address is:


As previously stated, the serial number you replied back with (9QG21T6X) is the disc that cannot reproduce a physical failure. It is drive 9QG21D69 that has truly failed. Based on your level of response, I would like to request a "pre paid return label" for *both*. I'm really surprised my loyalty is only worth this much. This truly has been an experience.

UPDATE (2007-12-05): I tried several times to just reply to the e-mail, but their system always rejected it. This occurred even when I replied the way they said (between the stupid "REPLY BETWEEN THESE LINES"). So, I call up and talk to an off-shore phone operator name "Michelle" (I think). It was your typical phone operator complaint call. First, she thought the drive was the DOA one. Then, she informed me that Seagate wouldn't send a prepaid label because the drive isn't DOA. It took a good long while to clarify the difference between 9QG21T6X and 9QG21D69. I would like to point out that while I was irritated, I didn't raise my voice, nor use any words your grandmother would be ashamed of.

There's now a return order placed, with no prepaid card. It's really sad that this is the way faithfulness is rewarded.

UPDATE (2007-12-06): Looks like I did get a prepaid label after all...yay!


Bored Robot Programmer

This is what Robot programmers get to do when they get bored:

This would have been me if I had "stayed the course."


Hope for our future

My 6 yo daughter really made my day today. I've always talked to her about particles of matter, cosmology, etc., but this takes it to a new level.

She has a make-up (due to earache) spelling test tomorrow, and expressed some concern. I decided to write her a "Good luck, I'm proud of you, Love Daddy" note. It came time to put it in her book bag (so she can find it tomorrow when at school), and in I went...

Do I put it on her folder? What about her library book (Space Shuttle)? I finally decided on her copy of "The Illustrated A Brief History of Time/The Universe in a Nutshell" bi-book.

It's things like this that let you know the future is going to be a good place.


History favors John Edwards for Democratic Winner

A friend of mine was discussing this with me the other day. He brought up an interesting fact. If you look at the last 40 years of presidential elections, the winning democrat has had attributes that only belong to one of the front runners. Let's examine further...

First off, let's review why we picked 40 years. First off, it's slightly longer than a generation is considered to last. I've also heard that there are more people born since JFK was killed than before his election. I would like to point out though that since John F. Kennedy was elected, the percentage of eligible voters participating in presidential elections has declined in almost every election. I've also heard that society has a hard time remembering after 20 years.

Anyway, in 1967 Lyndon B. Johnson was president. He was from the South (Texas). He was considered liberal. Because he's president, we'll chalk him up as a winner.

The next election was in '68 and had Hubert Humphery loosing to Nixon. Humphery was from the North (Minnesota), and was considered an anti-communist liberal.

After that, George McGovern lost (big-time) to Nixon. Again, he was from the North (South Dakota) and had a reputation as a dovish liberal.

Now we get to the first election I was alive for ('76) and have Mr. Peanut beating out Ford. Jimmy was from the South (Georgia), and ran as a moderate favorite son. While he did win, we also need to keep in mind that he lost the re-election. Whether this bucks our trend or is because he's a victim of outside events is beyond the scope of this blog. We'll still consider him a winner for our purposes.

The next few elections were not nice to the democratic party, with both Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis losing. Both were Northern liberals.

The democrats struck gold with their next winner, Slick Willie. You'll see our pattern emerging when I point out that he is a Southern (Arkansas) moderate. He also was awarded with the re-election and the honor of presiding over the longest period of peace-time economic expansion in American history. We are also now within a time frame where society can now remember this.

Albert Arnold "Al" Gore, Jr. is the next democrat contender. While I know he "lost," I'm still going to put another Southern (Tennessee) moderate in the winner category.

The next Northern liberal is our good buddy and owner of three purple hearts, John Kerry. We all know how that one turned out.

So there we have it, history showing it's predominately Southern moderates that win for the democrats, while Northern liberals bring them shame. So let's look at the current field...

Barack Obama (Northern liberal)
Hillary Rodham Clinton (another Northern liberal)

and finally John Edwards coming from his home state of North Carolina (which is below the Mason-Dixon line) with a relatively moderate view.

Now, I'm not trying to insinuate that history is dictating Edwards will win. However, remember that those that ignore history are doomed to repeat it. If it's right, let's hope the party we've focused on learns from the past.

BTW, I still have some bamboo available. Anyone want it?


Bamboo -- Come 'n Get it!

I don't hate bamboo, I just hate the fact it covers almost a quarter of my back yard. For those that don't know Bamboo is a very quick growing grass. It also grows to an outrageous height of around 20 feet (although I swear some of my shoots are over 30). When the stuff pops up, you can kick down the shoots to keep it from spreading. I've used this trick to limit this plant's growth to just the back corner of my yard. However, I still have to look at the stuff that grew before I moved in.

Sunday, I finally cracked and decided to cut it down. You get a very surreal feeling when you use a chain saw to mow your yard. Now, I got through a lot of the stuff before my herniated discs started whining about how much work I was doing. Sadly, I now have a pile of this stuff that needs to be gotten rid of. Here's a pic of how this pile looks:

From the back side:

Here's an "up close and personal" shot:

I don't think my back will make it through a "hauling away" session, so here's my plan. If you want it, it's yours. The stuff is located West of the Ashley River in Charleston, SC. All you have to do is let me know you are coming (so I can hide myself, the family, and our dog), and then show up and take it away. If you want to give me some money, that's cool. If you just want to make it disappear, that's fine too. All I want is for this stuff to go away so I don't have to do anything with it.

Why would you want this bamboo you ask? Well, aside from timber, there's lots of uses for bamboo. You can make tiger cages, pretend you're one of the ninjas from House of Flying Daggers, feed your panda, anything you want. Just come and get it. I don't care what you're going to do with it, just take it away so I don't have to.

Here's a pic of the area the bamboo came from. As you can tell, I didn't get all of it. If you want to continue the cutting, feel free.

If it's not gone in two weeks, I will consider this attempt a failure and tend to the task myself. Serious though, spare me the grief. Re-sell value alone should make you happy.


Linux Boot Failure

OK, here's the error I get booting Gusty Tribe 3 on my theater PC:

Here's the one for Feisty:

Any ideas?

Also, two things at work have really pissed me off. First, a helpdesker gave me the classical "You're not LYNX (the "managed" PC of my institution) and your running an unsupported browser (IE7)." The funny bit is, I got it working less than 5 mins after I hung up.

The other concerns my new hire. I wrote out this "pre-interview" email so I wouldn't have to interview all 20 people. HR tells me the email is too "lengthy and intimidating" and will "reduce the number of my applicant pool" and that I should engage with phone interviews with all of them instead. I remind them of the fact that I don't have the time and that I AM trying to reduce my applicant pool. Now, my supervisior wants to talk to me...yay!


Weird time

I fell asleep when I got home and just woke back up recently. This is going to wreck my sleep pattern for a few days ... yay.

It seems like the new PC is working better than it was. I reset the BIOS (after "tweaking it" to the point it wouldn't boot) and turned off all the items I'm not using (ATA controller, serial port, etc.) So far things have been running smoothly. I've even had a chance to connect the Hauppauge to my incoming cable. I can get all the channels I normally do through Comcast. However, this is just "standard cable" (analog) so I'm not impressed with it. Luckily, DirectTV is having a special on their services. Might have to check that out once the new TV gets here (hopefully Friday).

The only thing pissing me off is the sound card. It's still doing the popping thing. Creative says its a problem with nForce's way of supplying data to the PCI bus and recommends DECREASING your FSB speed. However, when I drop it down to 270 MHz, it still pops when playing a Blu-Ray. The problem with 3D stuff is gone though...wheee. For those looking at buying a X-Fi Audio Elite Pro, keep this in mind before you throw down the dough. Provantage requires one to "contact the manufacturer" before issuing an RMA. Considering they have a "product compatibility problems" clause, I have a feeling this thing might end up on ebay.

Also, my Blu-Ray software (PowerDVD) seems to have a problem enabling HDCP on my monitors. NVIDIA control panel says it's already running, so I'm not sure what's up with that. Maybe it's got something to do with the $19.95 "upgrade" they're offering.

It was noted in the comments that I should run Linux on this thing. I would, if it ran. Gusty Tribe 3 can't open a tty and kills job control. This then causes some exception it doesn't seem to recover from. This happens EARLY during boot so aside from displaying a pretty progress bar, ubuntu is going to need some tweaking to work. I'll post a pic when I have one. Considering that I have to still make the nVidia MediaShield RAID controller work on some form of OSS, I feel that's where I should focus.

First though, back to 300. SP<pop/>AR<pop/>TAA<pop/>AAAA<pop/>A!!!!!!


Another Day

New monitor was mailed yesterday. It's still going regular post so Costco.com's helpdesk truly blows (I asked them to expidite). I also asked them to tell me whether they charged my TV yet, and I haven't heard about that either. It still hasn't posted to the card, so maybe I'll be calling AmEx again ... yay!!!!

I reinstalled Vista on the new PC. Now it just hangs to black instead of showing a BSOD. Then again, I have been really slow on installing new devices...


Long day

What can I say. Went with the family to Chuck-E-Cheese pretty much as soon as I woke up. Came back and finished mowing the grass. Looking at ways to make a linux based PACS server work for my employer. The stuff I'm using comes from here. Documentation is what you'd expect from an institution's research project...non-existant. Anyone have an exmple config/pacs_connect.cfg and/or config/pacs_Database.cfg they'd be willing to let me look at?

The defective monitor was returned to Costco. Apparently to exchange and item with this company, you have to return it and order a replacement. There was a one cent difference (their favor) between the money I got back and the amount I had to pay.

Speaking of replacements, I still haven't heard for Antares Digital about the new drive.

Not like that matters much, the new PC its going into needs a RAID driver before I can use it.

Dunno what's worse, that or the fact The new theater PC hangs when I login (unless in safe mode) and is BSODing.



It's here ...

... and put together. Portatech did end up switching out the motherboard. I guess because they threw in a GeForce 7100, they didn't feel the need to tell me what they had done and/or refund any money. Luckily, there were enough slots for everything. I did run short of a power hookup because the GeForce 8800 Ultra requires 4 of them. A quick run to Compuzone fixed my issue though.

Everything is now in it, and it's running. It BSODed on me twice, but has been problem free since being updated. It's sweet too. I just want the speakers and it's "monitor" to arrive :-D



It's been a long day, three meetings (two back-to-back) and the other one last longer than an hour. Tried to change some wiring in the house and it was 4" too short...yay.

Tomorrow will be a better day though. An approaching package tells me so.

Oh yeah, I went ahead and bought that monitor from costco.com. It's going to take them 20 days to get it to me.


Everything's Blue

The Blue-Ray burner arrived today (one day early). It's in another snazzy retail box. Hopefully the PC it's going into will also follow the trend and get in a day sooner.

The server is now downstairs connected to the router. So, it can route packets, and will be building source trees as soon as I can download them.

Still haven't heard any word from Antares about the new HD, guess it's time to send a note.

Mulling over returning/exchanging the first Acer monitor that I opened. The second one has NO dead pixels at all.

I'm also mulling over whether I should get one of these as a monitor for the newer computer.

Something's Installed

Finally got DragonFly on the new server. I had to disable the RAID and configure the BIOS to only recognize one HD in the machine. There is no working Wi-Fi and because the livingroom doesn't have an ethernet hookup, I have no network. But it's up and running :-D

I have my DB classes tomorrow. I never got the video working. Should be a fun class.


Slogging on

I woke up early today and began the process of linking the bsdinstaller into the DragonFly BSD tree. My goal is to have `make iso` supported from /usr/src/. We'll see if it works. I've got a patch of my progress so far, but am still waiting on the old build machine to complete (so I can even begin to think about testing). I'm sleepy now though.


Funky Friday

It seems like its been a long day. Lets see, first I helped the kids play Slip-N-Slide while wife went shopping. When she got back, I called Portatech about the motherboard situation. First the phone was busy, and after trying a few times with the same response, I finally got through. Notified them that I wanted 4GB on 64-bit Vista Ultimate and asked which motherboards of their stock would support this. The lady put me on hold for a minute and was going to transfer me to support. Then she asked for my phone numbers (I gave home and cell) and name, and told me someone would call me back within an hour.

I went outside to meet the FedEx guy. He's having trouble finding the house even though he is right in front of it (one of the numbers fell off our mailbox). He hands me the server barebone computer \o/.

Take it out and look it over. It's got a window on the side, and some other snazzy stuff. However, the power supply is 100W less than advertised :-@. That's probably because it isn't exactly the same case as I asked for :-S. It still powers all five HDs :-D, but one cycles between "beep" and "ka-DUNK!" :'( Honestly after the way the box looked when it got here, I count my blessings that there isn't more dead drives.

Send e-mail to Antares Digital informing them of such and wait for phone to ring. My brother comes over, it's been four hours since calling, and I'm worried the contact window is running out, so I call back. When I finally get through the time is over and I get a machine. Foolishly, I don't leave a message.

Then, the UPS guy shows up with the webcam (as I expected), and the two 24" widescreen monitors. The latter were a delightful surprise. I get my brother's help to move the 21" CRT off my desk and replace it with one. There's a few dead pixels (one, red, 1/4" up the left side; several on top & bottom edges at 1/3 of the screen increments. Even with it only hooked up to my old GeForce MX2, it still looks sweet.

After waiting for mumsy to show up, we leave for my breakfast dinner (family tradition). Home Team BBQ is pretty good, but I didn't eat much for some reason. Might have had something to do with the 2-year old in my lap :-)

When I get back, I see the phone rang because of an Out-Of-Area number. Of course none of the people that were still here answered it and the person on the other end didn't leave a message. I get a little mad at this until I check my mail and see that not only has Antares Digital replied back with an RMA number and the address, but Portatech has mailed something that will arrive on the 19th. My credit card doesn't reflect any activity since the 11th (but that just showed up today), so I'm assuming their research lead them here (PDF).

Youngest daughter lets me put her to sleep instead of momma, so I'm heart wrenched over that (awwwww).

Tried to install DragonFly BSD on some part of the server after eldest daughter and wife went to bed. Unfortunately the installer still thinks pkg_* are in other locations. And of course the source configuring this variable has already been fixed...


Motherboard Oh Noes!!!111OneOneOne

Ok, lots of stuff shipped today. The only items from my birthday order that are still not heading their way to my door are the GigaWorks THX S750 speakers, and the portatech.com computer. Sadly there is a problem with the computer. Here is the note I got about it today:

The motherboard (intel-dg965ryb) from your order, will not work properly with 4 gigs of ram installed with os-vista-ult-x64 as ordered. We have found that the maximum ram this motherboard supports is 3 gig with this operating system. However, it works properly with 4 gigs of ram when using windows xp home edition 32bit.

Well, I'm going to point out that this is the first computer that I've bought since '98. This computer can expect to be used for just as long, and because so, must be able to last that long. This is why I'm going with 64-bit, 4GB of RAM, and the ultimate edition of Microsoft's 64-bit operating system. If I have to switch out the motherboard to do so, so be it. I will not settle with a watered-down edition of an outdated 32-bit Operating System.

It's my birthday


It's been a weird one. Lots of things going on right now that I need to work through. It was my day off, but work still called me up with some problems they were having. I was able to push them off until tomorrow so that's good.

The Sound Card/audio experience arrived today. This was a snazzy large retail box. AOL, QuickTime, etc. seem to be bundled in some fashion to this device. Dunno if that's good or bad.

The bad news is that I got an email from smksuperstore saying my order was put on hold because it failed a test. The weird part is someone from SMK / PCBOOST.COM already sent the same order number on 7/9/2007 (check the blog). I'm hoping it's really the portatech.com order that hasn't been sent yet (and they can resolve the tests of course).

Alice said it best, "Curiouser and curiouser..."


Another day, another package

Today the Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-1800 from PC Alchemy arrived. One day early too :-D

Too bad I still don't have a PC to put these things in...


More Arrivals

Today two more items for the new computing infrastructure showed up at the house. They both arrived while I was cutting grass. The first package to arrive contained the five 500GB SATA2 HD from Antares Digital. I must say that I'm a little worried. Here's what they were packed in:

Yep, that's only one ply of bubble wrap and a layer of crumbled packing paper separating 2TB from the crumpled area on the corner. Joy!

The other thing that arrived was the shipment from Comp-U-Plus. The wireless keyboard & mouse, and my new trackball. The keyboard is smaller than I thought it would be. But that's good, right?

The good news is that the server barebone (from SMK) shipped today. It's being sent FedEx ground and should arrive on the 13th. At least I'll have something to work on this weekend :-) Of course I'll be putting those HD in it, so I won't know until then whether they work :-(

While reading the mail from SMK/PC Boost, mail from Costco arrived. Looks like my dual 24" are shipped as well. They'll get here on the 16th.

Maybe there will be joy in Mudville after all \o/

EDIT: Deidentified picture, added info about second arrival


More Computer Stuff

I finally finished with all my purchases. Here's what I've gotten today:

Based on their outstanding service, I decided to use Amazon again. This time to get a webcam. For some reason (maybe because I used the gift certificate I forgot about last time), the order isn't going to ship until the 12th ... very weird.

I also picked up two 24" Acer monitors from Costco.


My birthday present -- new computers

My birthday is coming up. I've been saving up for a year and a half to get a really good computer infrastructure in this house. Last Monday (7/02/2007), I finally bought everything. I'm getting two computers. One fileserver with 2TB of space, a desktop with the latest-and-greatest components, and the newest networking system I can get. Here are the components:

From Antares Digital:

  1. Five 500GB Seagate SATA2 Hard Drives

  2. eVGA geforce 8800Ultra 768MB 2.1GHz PCIe VGA Card

From SMK Super Store:
  1. The server barebone computer consisting of:
    • AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ (2.0GHz) (Socket AM2)
    • Asus M2N-SLI Deluxe Socket AM2 nForce 570 SLI DDR2-800 eSATA A&2GbE ATX Motherboard
    • Cooling Package w/ Whisper CPU Fan, 2 Stealth Case Fans & Arctic Silver
    • 120mm Stealth Case Fan (Ultra Low Noise)
    • Atlas Precision Brand - 512MB DDR2-667
    • Thermaltake Tsunami Aluminum Case - w/ 680W PS - Silver
    • Standard 450 Watt Power Supply
    • Priority Processing
    • Extended - 3 Year Warranty

From Provantage:

  1. A SoundBlaster X-Fi Elite Pro

  2. GigaWorks THX S750 7-piece Dolby 7.1 Speaker System

From PC Alchemy:

  1. Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-1800 MCE Combo ATSC/QAM/NTSC, PCIe x1

From Portatech:
  1. The new desktop consisting of:
    • Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 ( 2 x 2.66GHz - 1066FSB)
    • Intel DG965RY
    • Cool Package - Stealth (Ultra Quiet Fan, 2 Stealth Case Fans, Artic Alumina Compound)
    • Kingston Technology - 4GB - PC2-6400 (DDR2-800) (Dual Channel Kit)
    • WD Raptor 74GB 10000RPM SATA Hard Drive (Commercial Grade - Ultra High Performance)
    • Windows Vista Ultimate (X64 - 64 Bit Edition)
    • Thermaltake Mozart Home Theater PC Case (Silver/Black)
    • Echo Star 680 Watt Power Supply (Dual-Core Certified)
    • 52X CD-Rom (Reads CD Discs)
    • Standard - Build, Burn-in, Test & Ship Out in Approx 3 to 5 Business Days
    • 3 Year Warranty

From Amazon:
  1. Xtreme N Pci Adapter (through J&R Music and Computer World)
  2. D-Link DIR-655 Extreme N Wireless Router

From OpticStor:
  1. LG Electronics GGW-H10NI

From Comp-U-Plus:

That was Monday, here's what's happened so far (as of this post, 2007-07-06T21:53).

First the good news, today the doorbell rang and the items from Amazon arrived. They certainly get Gold Stars for having their act together. This is a company that "gets" the Internet. Order was "processed" during the night, and handled and shipped the next morning.

For the most part, everything else is in transit. Except the items that are on backorder: the graphics card, the speakers (until 2007-07-30), and the Blue-Ray writer.

Now, the bad news. Google Checkout (which Comp-U-Plus uses) informed me that my AmEx was denied. So I called AmEx's 1-800 # that same night. Got some Indian guy that told me two things had raised flags, the Comp-U-Plus and Portatech. He cleared them. I asked if anything else was going to be "flagged." He started into a script about how this happens for security and he's not allowed to describe why or which items get flagged. He also reminds me this is the reason they called me (when I really called them). So I thank him for his time and hang up. I rework the Google Checkout. The trick here is not to click the link to "retry your card," but to click the button at the bottom that says "use this card." I then go to bed ...

I get some confirmation mails about some of the products, but hear nothing from Portatech and SMK SuperStore. Assuming "no news is good news," I think nothing of it.

What I didn't know is that both of these vendors had sent me mail, but because it used the phrase "problem with your credit card" and "follow this link" MSN's spam filter grabbed it. I didn't bother looking in the junk mail folder (how many of you check yours?), so I give it until today. Both their websites still said the order is processing, so I assume something is up.

After calling AmEx again and getting an Indian woman, I find out both SMK SuperStore and Portatech were denied. I "clear" them and hang up. Call SMK SuperStore first and get a Californian woman. I explain what's going on. and tell her about my birthday. She puts a "rush" on it (although I already paid for Expedited service) and says it should be out by Mon. I then call Portatech and get the same woman (both are apparently a front for www.pcboost.com). We both have a quick laugh and she promises to do the same thing to this one. So, I hang up.

Now, my birthday is going to come and I'm going to have all these parts and nothing to do with them :'(

DAMN THESE FALSE POSITIVES. It's 2007 can't we be accurate by now?!


User Communication (cont.)

In a previous post, I began a discussion about communication. That post focused on errors in communication in the first 2 portions. This post will focus on errors that arise on the tail end of the communication process (parsing through and extracting info from the transcription, and extracting the original entity's meaning).

As before we'll use examples. This is a three-step email that I sent to a doctor that needed help sending a message with a link to a mailing list. Apparently this greatly differs from sending an e-mail to a regular person somhow. Here's what I wrote:

1) Create a new e-mail message to "list@domain.tld" (no quotes). This address will then forward your message to the people on the mailinglist. This forwarding action happens automatically behind the scenes and requires no actions on your part.

2) Type the body of your e-mail as you normally would. The link that needs to be placed in your message is shown below. Feel free to copy-and-paste it into the message.


3) Hit send.

For some reason it still couldn't be done. What is it about the above that's difficult to understand? Based on what I said, could you send a link to the mailing list in question? Please leave any appropriate feedback.

My last example in this thread is a conversation that I had with a recently hired supervisor. I was trying to explain what happened behind the scenes when a submit button was pressed on one of our patient registration forms. After discussing the database save and the other web component that displays what is recently entered, I moved on to the printouts and how I would like to replace these with an email message. This is because the print subsystem keeps losing the ability to communicate with the printer in question. This is also going to be worse when I move the server into our network's DMZ. At this point, I noticed a funny look on her face.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"I don't understand a word you just said," was the response she mouthed, inaudibly.

Now, I know she knows what a database is (After all, her first question to me when she joined our team was "Why don't you just use SPSS for all your databases?"), so I tried to get in her head and figure out what caused this misunderstanding.

"I just don't understand why all that happens before the user submits the page," she finally told me.

"Before?!" I asked.

Apparently, the past tense and the fact that "the information entered" was used wasn't enough to clue her in.

"It doesn't happen before, this happens after." I replied.

"Oh, ok, it makes sense now."

I started this thread with four steps, but one thing this whole experience has taught me is that context matters most in communication. If you can't transcribe your idea in the appropriate context, your message has no hope for success.


User Communication

It's been a while since I posted...

I want to share some interesting communication examples I have experienced over the last few months. First, a quick refresh. The task of communication requires the following steps to occur:

0) An entity must conceive an item they wish to communicate (usually done in their mind).
1) This entity must transcribe this item into a medium that can be understood by others (e.g., print, video, web, etc.).
2) Another entity must parse through the medium and extract the transcription (i.e., read, watch, surf).
3) This entity must then extract from the transcription the original entity's meaning.

Now, some people will say you need another "confirmation" step where the second entity confirms with the first as to the true meaning of the message. You could also go into a long diatribe which covers understanding. However, I just want to focus on these four things.

Our first example was picked up during a bioinformatics symposium. This was a note left in my hotel room from the maid. Here it is below:

Now, what did she transcribe (write)? Is it "all or the Plug in ale being use behind to T.U"? WTF does that mean? This has got to be a problem between steps 0 and 1. However, thanks to the extracting abilities my informatics background has taught me, I can decipher further. Here's what I think she originally conceived:

"All of the plugs behind the TV are being used"

Now, I was able to come to this conclusion because of the context of the note. It was placed on top of the power supply I had left in the room. I had also disconnected a plug for a lamp so I could power up the supply. However, this conclusion is radically different from what was transcribed (in haste I hope) on this piece of paper. What conclusion would others arrive at without that context? What did you think it said? Many just gave up and pointed out the idiocy of this person. My wife made out the words "plug in" and "behind" and joked that she was requesting butt sex. I think though this is a good example of how delicate the communication process is. It's amazing how the same sequence of words can mean different things to different people. Sadly, this person forgot that when you write something for another person to read, you need to write it in a way so the other person can understand.

Example two is a alphanumeric page I got from our receptionist. I can't digitize the screen so here's my transcription of the message she left (minus the identifiers):


Yeah...she wants a printer? Unfortunately for her, I don't have any. Here's what her page really meant:

The two printers where I am won't print when I use a certain program.

The only way I figured this one out was with a face-to-face. Now, I did start off by asking what she wanted a printer for, but she didn't catch the jab. But how in the world can you extract the original meaning from that?

What I'm trying to convey is that communication is very much a two-way street. You can't just jot down anything quickly and expect someone to "get it." You have to know your audience and use terms they can understand (and/or terms that are syntactically valid for the language you are using). Hopefully, this post has made you more aware of this fact and you'll strive to produce better messages.

Next post, we'll look at the other side of the pie. When you have Steps 0 - 1 correct, but something's messed up on steps 2 & 3. I hope you'll join me for that.