UPDATE: I’m working on some changes to how we do office hours. I’ve had a lot of Friday fun talking to a diverse group of people abut data-related issues, challenges, wins and losses. But now it’s time to reflect on how I can make the best use of this hour or whether the term “office hours” is meaningful.
I suspect it means I need to do some more prep and have a guided set of topics prepared before each office hours. Or it might mean that a webinar format isn’t the best format to use. I’m open for ideas. But until then, I’ve cancelled the meeting (if you signed up via a calendar invite). I’ll post again when I’m ready to start this or something like it up again.
Enjoy your Fridays. I’m always on Twitter if you want to talk data to me.
Late last year I put Office Hours on hold while I worked on some other things. But now I’m able to start them up again. They may not be every week, but my goal is to have them when I can also invite others to provide their input to the discussion. Think of them as a “special guest star”. Not all of them will have special guests, but I’m hoping to have a few join us.
What are Office Hours?
I’m drawing from an academic practice of educators publishing set times when students could stop by to get help from an instructor on a more direct basis than in a classroom. However, my intention isn’t for this to be an Instructor/Student dynamic, but more of a professional information sharing opportunity to talk shop outside the bounds of our regular projects.
There is no presentation or agenda set by me. It’s all set by the attendees, sort of like an unconference call.
I see this as the types of conversations that happen during breaks at user group / DAMA meetings or at the end of a webinar. Not all work, but primarily about topics we share an interest in. I also see this as a type of tertulia, which is a conversation by a group of people with a share interest.
This is open to anyone and everyone who would like to be part of a virtual meeting of data professionals where there is no set agenda.
Please enter your real name or Twitter ID when joining the meeting. It helps us connect better, which is why we are having these meetings.
What Office Hours are Not
The intention isn’t for us to provide 45 minutes of free consulting to solve a detailed data modeling problem for one person. That’s what we do for a living. It also isn’t quite the bar discussion after a user group meeting where all topics are available. However, I might be on a beverage break at the same time and so could you. So think about the same sort of topics, approaches, and conventions you’d normally follow in the break room at work or over breakfast at a your local DAMA meeting.
This isn’t a user group meeting with a presentation or agenda. Perhaps it is an “unmeeting” of sort. You don’t have to join at the starting time, nor do you have stay all the way through. If you want to bring your Barbie, GI Joe, or Wayne Gretzky action figure, please do so.
We are using a version of Go To Meeting that allows for 15 participants at a time. That means that our group will be small at any point in time. I think that matches what my intent is. It also means that we can share screens/applications and that you can use a computer headset or dial in to to talk.
If you’d like a meeting invite for you calendar, e-mail me Karen @ infoadvisors.com (remove those spaces). You can also leave a comment here with a valid e-mail address so that I can send you the meeting invite.
So lets give this a try. I’d love to hear your questions, comments, thoughts on DATA. We talk about issues, challenges, funny stories, and whatever is going on in the news about data.
Office Hours Starting 1 March 2013
Due to my travel schedule, I may miss a few Fridays. Check out my Twitter stream on Fridays to find out.
If you are in an office environment with lots of background noise, please manage your own muting: Don’t Be That Guy. Also, it is good form not to use a speaker phone on a conference call. This applies to all conference calls.
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2. Use your microphone and speakers (VoIP) – a headset is recommended. Or, call in using your telephone.
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You can dial in or use your computer to hear the audio and speak – whatever works for you. The audio pin isn’t required, but it is helpful if you dial in and give the pin so that we can tell who is talking.
What is the worst way you have ever had someone ask you for help?
The ones that stick out to me are the times where we would get a cryptic email, the subject line would say “our batch failed” and the text of the email would say “Please fix.”
I have to say that my experiences are right up there with Tom’s. I happen to do volunteer support of some web applications and databases that are used by IT professionals to collaborate on a long-time multi-vendor, global project. Even though the users are IT professionals, they often assume that there’s some magic that lets me understand what’s going on, what problem they are having, and just get it fixed.
For instance, I’ll get e-mails that look a lot like:
- The website isn’t working and I need to get some work done. Fix it.
Which website? What isn’t working? What are you trying to do?
- I couldn’t get it work, so I’m emailing it.
What is "it"? What is this file you attached? What are you expecting everyone to do with it?
- I tried to get it to work for several weeks, then gave up.
What is "it"? Why did you waste weeks before asking for help?
- [in status meeting] I don’t know how to use that site, so I didn’t use it and didn’t get my committed to work done for the last month.
What? You waited until the monthly status meeting to raise this issue? What did you try? Whom did you ask for help? Did you watch the video we prepared on how to use it? Why do you think this is a good way to work?
We IT pros like to gripe about end users and how they don’t even try to use the technology, but I have to say based on my experience too many of us are doing the same things.
So I like to remind everyone, even IT professionals, that requests for help should include:
- Real nouns and virtually no pronouns. "It" is especially troublesome in help requests.
- A summary of what you need help with, right at the top.
- A description, with details, of what you are trying to do, how you tried to do it, what you are using to do it and error messages/numbers you are seeing. Screenshots get bonus points. Names of servers, URLs, accounts (no passwords, please), databases, tools, browsers, etc. are going to get you help faster.
- A recognition that the recipient, unless they work at a help desk/support org, probably needs to make room in her schedule to help.
- Information about what your priority/deadlines are.
- Screenshots, again, are wonderful.
If you claimed it will be the end of the world unless a solution is provided ASAP, it’s helpful if you respond to questions and requests for information ASAP. It’s also helpful if you copied the world when you send your request that you follow up once a solution has been provided with a copy-the-world response that says that. Thanks get bonus points, too.
Have a day.
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