Further to the revelation that there are students out there capable of voicing an opinion, we now have to deal with the resulting fallout. At this point I need to quote Joss, the nice man from CERD, who likened my approach to IT support to this:

Whilst I’m tempted to staple this notice to the front of the helpdesk and watch confused students ask “will you really set us on fire?”, it’s actually better to deal with stupid questions by documenting your response, on the basis that the universe never ceases to provide a constant stream of the terminally confused, people who don’t bother to read the dialog box which pops up with important information and clear instructions, and people who believe that the helpdesk are there to actually operate the computer on their behalf.

Based on actual feedback from real people, we can now target which bits of the support documentation get a thorough massaging from my HTML wizardry tomorrow. First up will be the updating stuff, specifically dealing with fringe cases of updating anti-virus packages we’ve not fully unblocked, and dealing with a situation which is terrifyingly un-fringe where computers have been so badly infected that Windows Update, and all anti-malware updating, has in fact been damaged beyond repair.

Next, renewing anti-virus subscriptions. Some undoubtedly clever marketing wizard many years ago thought “hey, wouldn’t it be awesome if our software just stopped working every year unless you pay us again?”. Sadly this is now standard practice amongst a lot of commercial anti-virus packages, and it’s a key feature of ‘trial’ packages which come installed with a lot of new computers. The problem is that we don’t unblock the renewal pages at the moment, meaning that people need hand-holding through the process of removing the ‘dead’ software and installing our recommended free alternatives or we need to provide a way for people to spend money.

There’s a collection of people who are convinced they can’t access Blackboard, or their timetable, or the library catalogue, or indeed any other University system. This is just wrong, so we’re making it clearer that all University provided services will keep working even if they’re not ‘logged in’.

Some users have managed to perform strange feats of choosing software which we really weren’t expecting to see, and as such haven’t added to the ‘approved software’ list. Whilst not wrong, some more esoteric combinations of software aren’t recognised as valid even though the user has indeed installed anti-virus and anti-malware. Instructions to give the helpdesk a ring and get the software added to the lists should plug that gap.

A few people are convinced that they know better, and that they don’t need updates (which make their computer run slower and take up loads of space) or anti-virus¬†(because they know how to keep themselves safe). I have a few choice words for users like this, running along the lines of “you’re wrong” but with a bit more… colour. Either way, it’s tough. Logging in to the network includes implicit (and – when you register – explicit) agreement to the AUP, which makes running an updated operating system and anti-virus/anti-malware compulsory. If you don’t like it, you’re welcome to use corporate desktop machines or do without the internet.

Updates will be pushed tomorrow, and we’ll see how it affects the feedback we receive. Personally I’m in favour of the support method of donning bright green t-shirts saying “ICT” on the back and wandering around the courts until someone asks for help fixing their internet. Either that or we get punched in the face, but I’m hoping the former.