Since WordPress pages do not show on the RSS feed I am posting a reference to a new page through this post. I have placed a PHP Specific article for the “Where do I go from here?” question.
Apologies but I’m still trying to figure out the best way to use posts versus pages in wordpress. You can find this information under the pages section here: https://eli4d.com/teaching/student-question-where-do-i-go-from-here/
Note: This post is not about customer service representatives but rather the actual support processes put in place by companies. In the past I’ve worked in technical support and it is a difficult job where you get beaten up by both customers and management. Unlike retail where a customer will physically show up at the returns desk and see the human behind the desk in tech support customers have no problem ‘screaming’ – through the phone, email and Twitter.
Why is it so hard to have great customer support? I think that one big reason is fragmentation. Customer support representatives seem to have very little power to actually help, and it always seems to be another department that is the right one to help.
In this post I talk about my experience with OfficeMax and Adobe. There’s nothing unique about this experience. It happens across most companies. There are very few companies that have great customer support and there are even fewer that have representatives that can solve your problem on the spot. The only company that comes to mind where both great support and rapid resolution intersect is Hover.
About a month ago I ordered a 2 TB portable hard disk from OfficeMax for my workplace. I went through the work related shopping carts to order this drive. It was supposed to be shipped within a week of the order but nothing showed up. Two weeks later, I contacted my workplace finance person to check on the order (i.e. the PO) and she confirmed that everything was squared away on my employer’s side. She sent me an email with the PO number and it alsoincluded the UPS tracking number.
Going to UPS’s website I discovered that the package was not delivered due to an address issue. It was almost the right address, but almost is not good enough when UPS can’t deliver it. So I called the OfficeMax customer service number listed on their the website with PO in hand.
The representative that answered (lets call her Jane 1 aka J1) and politely asked me for the details of my order. Then after about 2 minutes of silence she said to me “I’m sorry sir but I don’t have access to the part of the system that would show me your order. I need to transfer you to the technology team and they’ll be able to answer your question”. Before I could anything in response, I was on hold with OfficeMax’s grating elevator music.
Forty five minutes later I was still on hold and no one from the ‘technology team’ graced me with a moment of their time. I hung up in disgust and went back to UPS’s website. I noticed an option to update the address if I had an account so I went ahead and created an account and updated the delivery address. Since I wasn’t sure if this would work I called OfficeMax again with the foolish hope that I would get someone that could do something about my order.
Jane 2 (J2) picked up the phone and I related my previous hold and call time. She apologized and told me that “the technology team has been merged with customer service, so I should have access to your PO”. She looked it up and finds it, then she tells me that it might not make sense to to alter the delivery through UPS since I already changed the address. I tell her that I want my address to be changed in their system in order to avoid this kind of mess-up can be avoided (after all I’ll be forced to order from OfficeMax again). She tells me that I have to go to my employer’s finance group to get that changed.
The drive arrives the next day due to my intervention through UPS’s website. But it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth about OfficeMax. Moving forward, I decide to find some other way to get equipment to avoid OfficeMax as much as possible.
Now was the representative ‘bad’ in any way? Not at all. Why couldn’t J1 find my order but J2 could? I can only figure that there’s tremendous compartmentalization in OfficeMax’s customer support.
Of course my experience with OfficeMax was a walk in the park when compared to Adobe. Adobe’s customer support fragmentation is breathtaking in its depth and breadth. About 2 years ago I had to move a license for Framemaker from a coworker that left the company. After about two weeks of phone calls and emails the license was finally moved. It was unbelievable exhausting ordeal.
Yesterday I had a flashback to my previous experience with Adobe. My current employer got me a Creative Cloud (CC) license and I got the CC email on Monday:
You have been assigned a Creative Cloud — Complete membership. This grants you access to the full collection of Creative Cloud desktop products — with team-level benefits.
Some of your benefits include:
The latest release of Adobe Creative Cloud apps
Access additional tools and services.
Collaborate with colleagues, both inside and outside of your organization.
Use cloud-based storage and device syncing capabilities to access and share your work wherever you are, while the software remains installed on your computer.
Welcome to Adobe Creative Cloud.
I clicked on the ‘Accept invitation’ link and ended up on a Adobe’s login page. My work email address was pre-populated but I wasn’t logged in. I used the site’s forget-password mechanism to get in. After logging in – Adobe’s website informed that I ad no subscriptions and suggested that I really should joint Creative Cloud because it’s awesome. The moment I saw this I thought OMG – I have to deal with their customer support – sh*t.
The contact information page indicated that I could only contact them by email or chat. I kept looking for a phone number – but nothing. So I choose chat even though I had 10 minutes to talk to them (kid pickup deadline). I’m not sure why I did this even though I knew that nothing would happen.
The exact thing like OfficeMax happened here – I got a representative (T1) who got information from me and then transferred me to another representative (B1) who asked me for the same exact information as the first representative. Here’s my chat session with their representative(s).
Note: I should have been nicer to the human on the other side of the keyboard. I was tight on time but he/she certainly didn’t deserve my frustration.
T1: Hello! Welcome to Adobe Customer Service.
T1: I have received your query.
T1: Please allow me a moment while I look into your account & verify the details.
Eli4d: I think I have multiple accounts and your system got confused.
Eli4d: Your file was successfully uploaded: Join your team email_showing_cc_membership.pdf.
T1: May I know the name of the product?
Eli4d: Attaching email that I just got.
Eli4d: Please read the email (attached pdf)
T1: May I know the name of the product?
Eli4d: Creative Cloud…have you read the email?
T1: I have checked your email and it is for creative cloud.
T1: For this query, I am not a right person to handle this issue and I need to transfer this chat to creative cloud support team.
T1: May I?
Eli4d: Why does your system say I’m not attached to any plan?
Eli4d: I have 8 more minutes that I can spend on this before I need to leave.
T1: I understand that but , I am not a right person to handle this issue and I need to transfer this chat to creative cloud support team.
T1: May I?
Eli4d: Is there an 800 number to talk to a human?
Eli4d: fine – transfer me
T1: Thank you
T1: Please stay online while I connect you
Eli4d: I just need someone to fix this already – I’ve been waiting for a while for corporate approval on this and now – I can’t get access.
T1: I apologize for the inconvenience.
info: Please wait while we connect you to a representative.
info: You are now chatting with B1.
B1: Hello! Welcome to Adobe Customer Service.
B1: Hi Eli4d.
B1: I understand that you are unable to use the subscription. I will be glad to check and help you with this.
Eli4d: Any status on this?
B1: I check and see that there is no subscription under eli4d@employer_email. May I know if you have an alternate email address under which you have the subscription?
Eli4d: Did the other representative send you the pdf document that I uploaded?
Eli4d: CC was purchased under eli4d@employer_email
Eli4d: Any other accounts that I have are irrelevant.
B1: May I confirm if you are referring to Adobe Creative Suite 5 Design Standard Student and Teacher Edition?
Eli4d: Your file was successfully uploaded: Join your team email_showing_cc_membership.pdf.
Eli4d: No – it’s creative cloud. Resending the pdf I already sent the other rep.
B1: May I know if you are referring to team subscription?
Eli4d: My time is up with this chat session. Kindly forward this to whoever deals with PO for your system. The attachment I sent you clearly shows you what company this is associated with – employer_name.
Eli4d: It’s unfortunate that your chat system is just a constant non stop frustrating thing.
Eli4d: Kindly give me a phone number to speak to a person.
I still haven’t resolved the CC licensing issue. No one followed up with me after the above chat.
With Adobe I feel like I’m always asking for help from the wrong person. It’s like running in circles on a track. You keep putting mileage on your shoes but you’re not going anywhere. Of course with a running track you’re at least getting some exercise, whereas with Adobe it a constant exercise in futility and frustration.
It’s easy to prescribe un-scalable solution. If you’re not a financial institution, then why must your support people have fragmented information about the customer? Why did Adobe’s T1 representative not have my customer information? Why did he have to send me to the “Creative Cloud team” for a subscription issue? Why did B1 not get the information that T1 already had? Is it a training issue? Is it a systemic problem with customer information?
I don’t know what the solution is for this issue. As a customer I can’t do much about monoliths like Adobe or Officemax. Perhaps someone on their side can do something about fragmentation based customer support. Perhaps and then again perhaps not.
As a customer I’m dreading my next attempt in contacting Adobe. My Creative Cloud subscription is nowhere in sight and I have so little time to deal the tortuous process of getting this resolved. I’m trying to figure out if this is worth resolving or is it better to ask my employer to get a refund and then go purchase something like Pixelmator. Sure it’s not Photoshop but is Photoshop worth all the stress and aggravation of Adobe’s customer support?
Updates to this post
- 2015-07-29: Before going back to the dreaded Adobe chat channel on Adobe’s site I reached out to Adobe customer support via Twitter referencing this post. I got immediate response from their representative.
- 2015-07-30: Through the above Twitter conversation I got an actual human from Adobe to call me and resolve the issue (thank you Kashish). I’ve reviewed the ‘Conclusion’ section of this post and I don’t see a reason to change it. I realize that my case was resolved more than anything due to my dogged persistance. Customer support continues to be quite fragmented both for Adobe and many other companies.
Note: I don’t have photoshop on my machine (yet) so I couldn’t verify all of my notes. As usual the typical disclaimers apply to this information.
I had the opportunity to go to a Photoshop basics course. The class was taught by Robert Williams from http://rise-and-shine.com/rise-and-shine-marketing-design/.
Photoshop is one of the few programs which I’ve struggled in getting the ‘mental model’ of the program. This is yet another attempt to focus on the some core principles of usage.
- !bp = best practice
- !pt = pro-tip in terms of photography
- Mac keyboard control keys:
- OPT = the alt/option key
- CMD = command key (aka the clover key)
- CTRL = control key
Book for class (not used during class but given as a reference)
“Photoshop CS 6” – Visual Quickstart Guide
by Elaine Weinmann and Peter Lourekas
I flipped through it and it has lots of visuals (which I suppose is not surprising considering it’s a visual quickstart). I can’t tell whether it would help with the mental model understanding of the software.
- Related tool buttons are purposefully next to each other
- Your best friends that make you play Photoshop like a piano:
- Zoom tool via OPT key and mouse scroll-wheel
- Hand tool via spacebar and mouse movement
Crucial Tools and Techniques
- Zoom in/out shortcuts:
- allows you to zoom in/out wherever mouse pointer is at
- You should use OPT key and scroll wheel of mouse (for touch pad it will be swipe)
- Keyboard shortcut: CMD +/- to zoom in/out
- Hand tool shortcut
- allows you to move around any part of your image
- use space bar and mouse to quickly switch to move around the
- Use the square brackets ( [ or ] ) to increase/decrease brush head on whatever tool that has such a head
- Get in habit of using CMD-s all of the time because there’s no auto-save (unlike In-Design for example)
- File names and SEO:
- Files with dashes are better because search engines will read content in terms file names and remove dashes and use the words for SEO (good name example: Monarch-Butterfly-ADJ.psd)
- Underscores are not good word separators because they are removed and all words are squashed together into one word by search spiders
- work in layers: save original; helps preserve stages – otherwise you’re dealing with permanent changes
- !bp: Always look to the right and check what layer you are on before doing any work
- Each layer is its own thing (not an additive mask though you could choose to do that); think of layers as panes of glass so you could scrape the top piece of glass so you could see the layers underneath it
- Drag background layer to post-it note icon at bottom to create a new layer (???todo: check on photoshop???)
- !bp habit: make sure you’re in the correct layer; layer you want to adjust is highlighted
- !bp: Name your layers. Once you start having lots of layers it gets very confusing very quickly. To rename a layer just slowly click twice with left mouse button on the name of the layer. Lots of layers will get out of hand without naming
- To make all other layers disappear so you can focus on one:
- Get ready to click on the eyeball of layer you want
- Press OPT key and then click on eyeball with mouse
- Another way to figure out a particular layer is to use the move tool to distinguish (so you can name it)
- Records 15 steps
- New timeline begins when you select at a particular point and start working on a layer
- Can only affect stuff inside
- Selection menu has to do with marquee tools
- Quick-selection tool
- OPT key: de-select (so you’re highlighting areas you want to de-select)
- Dynamic menu at the top: can increase/decrease of brush (i.e. circle); shortcut: [ or ]
- When you do a complex selection make sure to save it via:
Selection > Save Selection (to save all that effort); this is stored in the PSD file
- Getting the non-selected space: Select > Inverse (now the background of the butterfly is used); so as a !bp select the smaller/easier thing and then use inverse to get the thing that you want (if applicable)
- Color play with selection:
- Image > Adjustments >
- hue/saturation: allows you to play with colors of the selection
- Levels: histogram (right arrow – what’s considered white; leftmost arrow what’s considered black; mid-arrow: mid-range)
- The Histogram can help with FAST adjustment of photos in terms of light color, medium colors and darks; this helps sharpen things
- Always work on the leftmost arrow first, then the right most, and then adjust the center arrow by eye (typically making the picture more high contrast for print)
- Filter > play with these
- !pt: Recommended blur that pro photographers use: Filter > Blur > Gaussian (0-3)
- less is more with adjustments
- Image > Adjustments >
- Very useful for creating guidelines
- CMD-R to access, or View > Rulers
- To change default ruler type (i.e. inches versus pixels):
Photoshop > Preferences > Rulers
Guidelines / guides:
- left click inside ruler and drag out to create a guide
- Another way: View > New guide: you can specify exact pixels
- Hide guides via menu or CMD-;
- Edit menu >
- Transform > Scale (hold shift from corners to scale rather than distort)
- When you’re in bounding box you need to hit return key to come out of it (otherwise – everything is grayed out)
- For web you can scale without pixelation but not good for print
- Transform > Scale (hold shift from corners to scale rather than distort)
- Image menu >
- Canvas Size: to change size of image
- Move tool: allows you to move layer around (very common use – shortcut is letter v)
- Click on the layer to get selection of colors and eye dropper (!pt: select another color from image rather than some color from swatch in order to make it cohesive); this is in reference to putting a rectangle to put lettering on
- Type tool:
- the ‘T’ icon on toolbar
- notice dynamic menu at the top
- Masking an Image (!pt)
- Great technique to show-through a particular shape
- Make a box that will hold the image; anything outside of it will be invisible
- Place your intended image above image mask
- Use: Layer > Clipping mask
- You can move image separately from object underneath (this allows you to easily re-crop)
- This is nice non-permenanet change for the image you are dealing with
Odds and Ends
- Note that for an image like logo instead of loading the jpeg/png and copy/paste you could do: File > Place but this creates a smart object which is very different than an image; see book for more info
If you see a “maximize compatibility”, then hit OK.
!pt: the more subtle the transition; the bigger the brush head that you want
actions: helps you process photos (aka batch processing in bridge); see book
!bp: separate photos into their own layers so you can have finer control for things like lightning; also makes it easier to manipulate the elements of a composite
Not photoshop related (besides the huge psd files that it creates) but to transfer big files the instructor recommended:
For web images – use the File > Save for web: you can control size of file for jpeg/png via quality option
Suggested resources: instructor heartily recommended courses
Use the / key to lock a layer (though it seems to do a ‘partial’ lock and there is no obvious way to do a readonly type of lock; the instructor indicated that http://www.teachucomp.com/lock-layers-in-photoshop-elements-tutorial/ has a great explanation of layer locks)
Updates to this post
- I showed these notes to the instructor (Robert Williams) a few weeks back and he provided the lock layer post. (http://www.teachucomp.com/lock-layers-in-photoshop-elements-tutorial/)
- I also added Robert’s name/site to the top of this post.
This is some quick security information related to Adobe Flash browser’s security. The usual disclaimers apply. If you’re worried that this page has links that may lead you to some malware sites then please just go to DuckDuckGo (just type in https://duckduckgo.com in your browser) or Google and search on the items that I’m referring to.
You’re camping in the woods with your family and some friends and your prankster friend John gives you a bottle of suntan lotion telling you that it’s the best stuff he’s ever used (he hasn’t pulled a prank in a long time, so you’re lulled into a sense of trust). Unbeknownst to you – John substituted %75 of the sun tan lotion with pure honey.
You slather the stuff and lie back on the camping chair to absorb the sunshine. You fall asleep in a nice midday nap. An hour later, you wake up with a stinging sort of pain all over your arms and legs – the very places where you put that honey infested suntan lotion. Bees are stinging you, and all kinds of bugs are chewing on you and that wonderful smelling lotion. You run screaming into the questionably clean camp showers as you vow to give John some payback.
As you scrub off the lotion you discover….
Adobe Flash and you.
Adobe Flash is that honey from the analogy and the stinging bees/bugs are all those hackers that want to get your data (personal information, log-in access to your online bank account, and anything else that might be of value). Adobe Flash is an old technology that at one point provided the ability to receive rich media when browsers didn’t good native capabilities to do so (whether web games, videos like YouTube or those graphical billboard like ads).
Steve Jobs wrote a very scathing and clear letter about Flash’s problems. His criticisms of Adobe Flash are as relevant today as they were in 2010. Although he focused on its use on mobile devices, the problems he outlined apply to Adobe Flash and its ilk across the board.
Your browser. Any browser that you are using regardless of operating system (whether it is on Mac, Windows or Linux).
Now. You are vulnerable right now.
While Adobe Flash has had a continuous string of security issue, recently it has had several zero day vulnerabilities that have come to light through the hacking of an Italian company called Hacking Team.
You need to learn to practice computer hygiene (just like flossing):
- Update your operating system with the latest patches
- Update your browser to the latest version (this page also seems to good procedures to update but be careful and wary of reading anything you read on this page including the page that you are currently reading 🙂 )
- Enable ‘click to play’ on Flash. This will prevent Flash from running automatically and it will give you the ability to play if you have to though most times you won’t have to.
- Note that the latest version of FireFox does this for you, but to be safe you should still make sure that Adobe is not enabled by default.
- You can tell that Adobe Flash is running by going to Adobe’s site (). If you see a spinning cube that keeps bouncing around at the top of your screen, then Flash is enabled by default.
- Look at the plug-ins in your browsers and remove anything that isn’t necessary. Spring cleaning time on the web is every day. Adobe Flash is the current poster child for browser plug-in security problems but there are plenty of other browser plug-in parasites. To remove browser plug-ins check:
If you want perfect safety, then you need to shut off your wifi and disconnect any Ethernet cables from your computer (if applicable). Do what you can and let’s be careful out there
Warning: Spoiler Alert: If you intend to read the book, please do not read this review.
- Harlequin level: n/a
- Plot/action/story: 5
- Solid conclusion: 5
- SciFi thrill: 5
- Fantasy thrill: n/a
- Part of a series but doesn’t skimp: n/a (I consider this book to be a standalone; later books based on Rama seem to have been an attempt to cash-in on its success)
Overall thoughts about the book
Rendezvous with Rama (RWR) is my first Clarke book and I choose it from the Kindle owner’s library based on the highest rating for his books. I know that he is quite famous for “2001 a Space Odyssey”. I vaguely remember the movie and I’m not sure if the novel interests me since it was written to complement the movie and not before it.
Anyway, back to RWR – where to begin? The build up of the book is really slow, and I initially thought it would be one of those “and a weird alien ship showed up, and it left…the end”. It’s hard to describe the book and maybe that’s the charm of it. The whole book is about aliens that you never meet. The closest description is towards the end of the book, where a holographic library displays the clothing of a typical Raman (and no – it has nothing to do with noodles). You really only see the effects of the Ramans but not the Ramans themselves.
I suppose that another way of looking at this book is that it is like a description of negative space, describing what’s not there by describing what’s there (I know – that this sounds like a crazy way of describing the book…but that’s what it feels like to me). The description of the environment and the ship is extremely rich. I had a hard time in fully comprehend the Cylindrical Sea and how everything was positioned in terms of magnitude and size. There was one part of the book that made me feel some nausea, and I’ve never had that happen to me. Roller coasters equal nausea for me but never a book. That was an unexpected and delicious surprise.
There have been some interesting attempts to model Rama. I wish I was a physics teacher so I could assign a full modeling of Rama as a project to my students. It would be an interesting study in celestial mechanics and a great investigation into the accuracy of Clarke’s physics and description. Besides, I would LOVE to explore a 3D model of Rama with accompanying passages from the book so I could fully appreciate the work. On the other hand, maybe I just need to go back to the book and re-read it more carefully because at the end of the day my imagination will never match someone else’s rendered view of Rama.
The use and description of technology is interesting in that it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. The novel was written in 1972 but the tech talk doesn’t jar you as a reader. I suppose that this is another aspect of its brilliance.
Rama’s use of the sun to refuel reminds me of Stargate Universe and how Destiny refueled. There’s also the Tin Man episode from STTNG where where the bioship uses spin to generate an energy pulse. Rama’s spin and the associated cocoon reminds me of Tin Man.
The book parallels Rama’s arrival – a slow build up of suspense, the wonder of exploration, a bomb that’s ready to destroy everything (those crazy Hermians), and a conclusion that leaves one slightly unsettled. If you’re into any sort of science fiction, RWR might be extremely fulfilling. It’s one of the few books that is a worthwhile read and a re-read.
“In every earlier landing, he had known what to expect; there was always the possibility of accident, but never of surprise. With Rama, surprise was the only certainty.”
“Things were not what they seemed; there was something very odd indeed about a place that was simultaneously brand new and a million years old.”
“He had learned a lesson, though it was not one that he could readily impart to others. At all costs, he must not let Rama overwhelm him. That way lay failure, perhaps even madness.”
“To most people, Mercury was a fairly good approximation of Hell; at least, it would do until something worse came along.”
“He would hate to engage in a dogfight with anything larger than a pigeon.”
“He looked back upon the towers and ramparts of New York and the dark cliff of the continent beyond. They were safe now from inquisitive man.”
“It was a good plan—and it failed completely.”
To act or not act—that was the question. Never before had Norton felt such a close kinship with the Prince of Denmark.”
“Whatever honors and achievements the future brought him, for the rest of his life he would be haunted by a sense of anticlimax and the knowledge of opportunities missed.”