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Almost all of our tools are custom (read: quirky), and about 60-70% of our staff is non-technical, so they *always* have questions.
What I'm wondering is do other people have this issue? Any solutions or ideas? I've tried talking to my boss about it, but she's non-technical so I don't think she understands. I think the root of the problem is that we don't train well enough or we don't hire the right ratio of marketing::technical people. But I don't have control over that so I need some ideas I can execute on my own...
Thanks in advance for any ideas!
If you find you’re answering the “same” questions over and over again, have them transcribed onto paper (FAQ)
or get a row tape recorders with a row of push buttons for all the questions, then press the correct button for each answer :)
I am kind of on the oppisite side. I work for a technical company and I have to attend weekly Marketing meetings. When we have the meetings, there is a roundtable of discussion. Basically eveyone in the Marketing and sales department updates everyone with the lastest things they are doing. Everyone asks questions about these things we all do. Except for 2 people.
1) The PPC guy will tell people what he is doing and nobody ever responds.
2) I will explain what I have been doing and nobody ever responds.
This is a technical company. It is a shame that they do not share any intrest in PPC or SEO efforts because I personalyy feel they would have a better understanding of how it has,is and will impact business.
I always hear how the phones have been ringing off the hook for the past couple of years and if they would have asked why the phones are ringing I could have told them. because i added our phone number to the better part of 2 thousand pages. Yet alas, I will alwyas get the blank stares because because nobody really has any questions about what i am doing and thats a shame. End mini rant :)
Your situation seems two-fold. Number one, it prevents you from getting your job done. Because of that, you could end up in hot water for not completing your tasks, responsibilities, etc. because you're always helping someone else out.
The other issue is that people already seem dependent on coming to you for things. While that's a great show of respect, it's also a trend that will likely continue despite trying to cut things back.
My ultimate recommendation would be to ask them to email you and let them know that you will respond to them faster and more completely that way. It works well around here.
My two most valuable cents:
1. When the situation is too hard (explaining over and over) do something big so they will shut up. Or just share a personal project. This way they say "This guys really knows". Thats the importance of personal projects. ALSO, put up a small meeting to give a small conference. Like a crash course with their approval so you can share some of what you know.
This one is my favorite:
2. Try to answer kindly. As they do not understand try again (even if you look silly trying to find the words. They, when they attack "do you really know?" then answer straight like if you were talking with somebody from this forum (pure tech answer).
They will shut up as they don't understand and feel silly.
From all I have tried, this approaches have worked for me with my partners, coworkers and boss. Good luck. (I think you are too kind trying to share)
Link 1: The infamous USB Missile Launcher (There are actually 2 of them)
Link 2: An article on how to make an automated gun turret like you see on Quake. Very technical. Involves all sorts of techniques for adjusting for ballistics and hitting center body. Video that shows it in action. It has actually been co-opted for military use, and may no longer be as available as it was.
If someone is standing at your desk, and a missile launcher keeps adjusting itself to follow their head, they may want to wrap up the conversation fairly quickly, especially if you look a little twitchy, and your finger keeps hovering near a big red button on your desk.
You could take a page from the Art Of Demotivation...
Set up a process that involves co-workers to fill out a form that needs to be submitted both digitally AND in hardcopy. Make sure the form is needlessly, but not obviously, complicated. That is, ask for serial number of devices (even if you don't need them) and time of use, home page address (it COULD be important!) and so on.
Eventually, it'll just be easier for the person asking the question to just work it out themselves rather than ask you!
I've always been a fan of keeping "Soldier of Fortune" and "Guns and Ammo" magazines prominently spread about my office and developing a noticeable eye twitch when people start to ask questions.
In all seriousness, I think I've found the answer [wordnet.princeton.edu].
It kind of also depends on who is doing the asking. If you tell your boss to bugger off then it's going to have many more repercussions than if you tell somebody who's lower than you on the food chain. Not to mention, of course, the fact that if your boss sees you as a 'good' source of information then they will probably send anyone who asks THEM a question to YOU.
I have a favourite saying that I always tell my kids...
"IT people are the smartest people in the world; not because we know everything, but because we know to find ANYTHING."
Teacher your questioners how to use the internet effectively and that might decrease the number of questions thrown your way.
I started as a programmer/web developer and have been a manager for the past seven or so years.
Here are my thoughts:
- Since Jackson Hole described himself partly as a "jack of all trades", I think his boss expects that answering questions should be part of his job. He should make her aware of how much time that is taking away from the web development portion, and let her choose a way to prioritize his work. It sounds like he told her... so as long as the company has reasonable about the expectations of how much he can deliver with so many questions... and as long as he is okay with work where answering questions is part of the job... I think he should continue answering all the questions. Don't look at the questions as taking away from his real job, but rather part of his job. Sure, suggest efficiencies like a searchable database, an FAQ, etc. But be realistic that there will still some despite the implementation of these efficiencies.
- I respectfully disagree with many of the suggestions here in that they may solve one problem but create a bigger one. I see these things as problematic: becoming inaccessible with headphones, signs that say "Email Me!", giving partial answers, hoarding information, saying "I don't know" when you know. Those will in fact reduce questions, but remember the answers to these questions are necessary for the company to operate properly. Plus it will create animosity towards Jackson Hole. You can't expect people to have the thought process "Jackson Hole is just trying to do more web development, that's why he's inaccessible." They will instead think "This guy could help me for the benefit of the company and he doesn't because he's a jerk." That will stunt his growth within the company because he will be seen as uncooperative. The best way to affect people's behavior is to wait for a 1 on 1 situation and say something polite and direct like: "The answer to this questions is 123. Would it be possible for you to send questions like these in email in the future? I know it's important for me to be available to answer these, but it's hard to complete the web development part of my job with a lot of interruptions. With email I could just carve out a part of the day and keep my concentration on other parts." If someone still interrupts the second time, answer again and remind them that you prefer emails for these. If it happens a third time, then you are justified in telling them: "Sorry, I'm in the middle of something... can you email me?"
The web portal guy gets almost no questions.
Did you know that we have an Accessibility and Usability Forum [webmasterworld.com]?
Can you believe that? Our very own!
Except...it's covered in dust and cobwebs. Crickets chirp nightly. It's maybe the quietest forum on the site (with the possible exception of the XML Forum [webmasterworld.com]).
I think Web designers hate usability and accessibility because they equate it with dictatorial pundits like this guy [useit.com]. It just takes all the FUN out of things.
However, we just got a very clear message about exactly WHY it may be in our own interest to design usable and accessible sites.
If those fail, you can always turn to Strong Bad. I know URLs are frowned upon, but mods, this one needs to stay, it is PERFECT for this thread!