Guruzilla's /var/log/knowledge-junkie
["the chatter of a missionary sysadmin"]

truth from academentia

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Now, I'm not a programmer, but I do work in academentia, here at $WEMAKEPRIESTS, and some of you, like this guy's cow-orkers, may think this Shark Tank story is made-up, but I believe every single word:

The assignment looks simple enough, says this Web developer pilot fish at a medium-size Midwestern university: Take the annual survey given to incoming freshmen, convert it to a Web page and give academic advisers easy access to the results.

"The survey gave the advising department valuable information on each student's academic history, what they were interested in studying, and their extracurricular activities," fish says. So the technology is simple, but the value to the advisers is high.

Fish designs the Web form so the student data will be inserted into a database. Then on the administrative end, he writes code to convert that data into an Adobe Acrobat report.

"And I made sure the administrative end was brain-dead simple," fish says. "I gave the users in the advising office one Web page that had one text box and one submit button. Instructions were printed in a large, bold font at the top of the page: 'To view a student's survey, enter the student number in the box and click the submit button.'

"After clicking the button, the report was generated and displayed in a separate window, so they could save or print it or just read it on their screens. The box would only accept digits and only nine of them, the exact length of a student number. Again, brain-dead simple and foolproof.

"Or so I thought."

But the day after the application rolls out, fish gets a call from the head of the advising department.

"She loved the whole process," says fish, "but wanted me to come talk to all of the academic advisers. They had questions about it."

Fish figures the questions must be about the Web form that the students fill out, so he sets up a training session in a lab, just for the advisers.

"Instead, I spent an hour with 30 advisers showing them how to enter a number into that one text box and push that one button," fish groans.

"When I returned to my office and related to my co-workers how I had just lost an hour of my life, they didn't believe me.

"That was when I received an e-mail from the head of advising -- praising me up and down for being so helpful in training her staff on the use of the administrative interface."

If you think you're cynical enough -- you're not cynical enough.

My online education colleague (she does support and "pedagogy", but not sysadminery, but does deal with lusers) recently had her first really eye-opening encounter with one of our prime luser profs, who called both my counterpart and me to manipulate us into doing a trivial task for her. It took her longer to make the three weasely phone calls than it would've to type 16 characters and click 5 times...

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