Instructions? We do’n need no steenkin instructions.

Today I had a very unique experience. I was at a client site working to debug this multi-threaded test application they had written, when the HR director stopped by with a set of instructions for the phone. They had apparently changed all of the voicemail systems, so wanted to make sure everyone knew how to use the new voicemail.

I find it ironic that the one and only time that I’ve ever received written instructions on how to use the phone in my office, it also happened to be the one and only place I’ve never received a phone call. When I’m not there and my clients need to get in touch with me, they call the Moon River Software hotline.

When I am on site, and the developers at the client site need to get in touch with me, they send an email, or pop into my office. I had actually stumbled upon the idea for this blog post nearly two years ago. It’s not that a phone is a particularly complicated piece of equipment. Everyone knows how to use the standard features of a phone. Simply pick up the phone, make sure there’s a dial-tone, and dial the number you want.

I don’t generally exercise most of the advanced features very often though. Perhaps if I were in sales it would be a different story. But for those of you who write code and aren’t managers, how many times have you been at home and felt the need to forward the call to someone you live with by pressing buttons to send the call to another line? Usually it involves handing over the phone, and if you have teenagers, hoping that it eventually finds its way back to the charger.

In an office, you deal with clients, and cordless phones are far less common. Even if they were common, you usually have more than one line coming into the office, or at the very least each person has his or her own extension. I’ve never for the life of me been very good at talking to a client and then forwarding them to someone else, for this one very good reason.

I’ve never been given instructions on how to use my phone at the office for anything other than setting up voicemail. I distinctly remember one time I was given instructions on how to set up voicemail, but not how to access it or delete messages. And when you called, it didn’t walk you through it either. Voicemail security was a big issue, or so I was told.

If you’ve looked at some of the newer cell phones, they’ve gotten pretty bad too. I know Joel isn’t particularly fond of his cell phone and its on/off design. I understand his underlying point, but I don’t think he made it very well. Turning on and off a cell phone is something you probably do enough that after doing it once, you’d need to remember it. Had his initial complaint been about something other than a ‘scary red button’, I could probably take it more seriously. Perhaps differentiating between the icons for office and cell phone numbers would have been a better argument.

But I do agree that there are certainly features of both my cell and office phones which are far less than obvious. *6x generally does something special. If I had a little notecard that I could keep next to my phone, I could tell you exactly what it was, but I never have until now and on a phone I rarely, if ever use no less.

So, I suppose that today’s post is just Mike being whiney about having never been given formal instructions on how to use a phone. Perhaps if it were important, I’d have tried harder to figure it out but it hasn’t been. I suppose I also have to acknowledge the possibility that I’m an idiot, but I can’t imagine I’m the only one who’s ever told a client “I’m going to try and transfer you, but if it doesn’t work, then Dave’s extension is x453. *click* bzzzzzzz….. oops.”

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