The Secret Tech Handshake

I’m pretty sure I haven’t muttered about this already, if I have I’m sorry.

I was reading alt.sysadmin.recovery and found a good article entitled “Secret Bob Handshake” (thread) advocating a secret handshake that tech people could use to identify each other. This is nothing less than A Good Idea, and should be implemented as soon as possible. I’ve been on both sides of this, both a dispenser and a receiver of knowledge, and from both sides, it sucks.

When I was doing tech support I immediately assumed (and rightly so) that all the people that called were complete and total idiots. The ones that started with “I’ve been using computers for ten years now, I know what I’m talking about” were put to the bottom end of the idiots, almost down to the single celled organisms.

On the few occasions I’ve had to call tech support for some reason (mostly my DSL or Cable going down) all I want to do is see if there is something wrong with their equipment, and I can’t get through to the morons on the other side of the phone that I’m not an idiot and I do know what I’m talking about. I have to endure what feels like hours of “open your control panel” <shuffle papers containing the script they have to use> “click on the ‘network icon” <more shuffling> etc. In the end it always ends up with me either hanging up in frustration or convincing someone to let me talk to tier two where the clueful-to-clueless ratio is much greater, getting my answer in about 30 seconds flat, and hanging up to fume about people treating me like I don’t know shit. I’ve been in this business for like, ten years now!

Oh, and don’t get me started on what happens if you tell the tech support weenie that you don’t have a control panel because you’re using linux…. oh god….

him: “we don’t support linux sir, I can’t help you”

me: “it has nothing to do with the OS, your DHCP server isn’t serving addresses”

him: “do you have a windows computer you can hook up to the system so I can see your network settings please sir”

me: “it’s DHCP, it has nothing to do with the client. windows DHCP is the same as linux! all it’s doing is requesting an address! windows isn’t going to do anything different”

him: “to debug this problem sir, I need to get some settings from your control panel”


But if there was a codeword, or special way of communicating that you’re not a moron, the conversation would be:

him: “we don’t support linux sir, I can’t help you”


him: “so what’s the problem?”

me: “your dhcp server seems to be down.”

him: “thanks, I’ll get someone on that right away.”

See how much better that would be? And how much less it would piss me off?

6 Comments on “The Secret Tech Handshake”

  1. Oh how true that is! The day that becomes a standard would be a godsend for all of us, many a time I’ve had a problem with my ISP, where the conversation goes something along the lines of this:
    me: I’m using Linux, therefore I cannot clear my IE cookies. Besides, it’s your router that’s not functioning, deleting cookies will not make the problem go away.
    them: Could you just delete your IE cookies for me sir, then I can see what the problem is.
    etc. etc.
    Joy 🙂

  2. How true is that? I’ve often found myself in the same boat – I’ve been doing this for well over 15 years now, and I hate being forced to spend 15 minutes with a clueless level 1 support tech just to get to an engineer who can actually help me with my problem.

  3. How true is this?

    Over at The ArcterJournal, Alan pretty much sums up a problem I’ve had for years – how the heck can you let the person on the other end of a tech support call know that you aren’t the average “Joe…

  4. Heh, when I read ‘handshake’ I was envisioning a physical handshake, not a virtual one… then i was going to say that techies should have a ring like Canadian engineers do to distinquish themselves from the crowd…

  5. I’ve discovered that anticipating the technician’s statements, gently responding with “yup” and “yeah, that sounds about right”, and in general offering cues that I’m really actually mostly ahead of them in the game seem to help a lot. As well, answering their questions before they ask them, when done skillfully and politely, is a highly effective solution — and if you can’t guess what questions they’re going to ask you, then perhaps you’re not so brilliant as you think 🙂