VMware; when you can’t even pay to get support; my personal tech support nightmare

It is rare that spend my valuable time with a complaint.  However, in my recent quest to get support for VMware fusion was met with a hard stop.   I have never been so amazed at the ramifications of a bad policy.

Here is what happened.  I use VMware fusion on my macbook pro to run a virtual windows vista environment.  I use that environment for software demos.  It needs to work.  I switched to a mac for ease of use (that is another blog).   Windows has a tendency to bloat…so my virtual environment ran out of space; I needed to increase the size of the virtual disk.   For one reason or another,  the standard disk-expanding procedure did not work.  Time *is* money, so I decided to call support to get it resolved.

Here is where the nightmare started.

When I called, I was prompted to press the # button for support for fusion.  I eventually got a message stating that there was online support only.  “Ok, I can understand that”, I said to myself.   I would just call back and let them know, I’m willing to pay for support to resolve this issue and get back to giving software demos.

I called back.

This time I pressed the series of buttons to get to a live person.

The nightmare intensified.

I was told that there is no phone support, even if I payed.  Never in my 25+ years in the industry has this happened to me.  I was shocked.   For those who know me…yes, I was speechless for a few moments.  I’ve had tough tech support cases at Broadlook, first when I started the company and I was sales, support, development and garbage man.  Now my tech support team handles everything under the sun.  We have never told a client “NO”.  Yes, sometimes, when there is an issue outside the realm of our software, we charge, we have to.  Sometimes we resolve firewall or Microsoft windows issues. It is not always our software, this is what paid support is for.   I was simply in disbelief.

My issue is still unresolved.  Where does this leave me?  This blog is “what keeps me up at night”.  This time it really will.  I will be re-installing Windows, adding all the software that my demo machine needs, transferring files from one session to another.

Here is my support ticket in case VMware cares: 1136362675

Here is the email of the manager who said “no”:  callum at vmware dot com

Notes to VMware.

-Microsoft, for all it’s faults, will help you if you pay for it.
-Support can be a revenue stream.  (said with a tone of Duhhh)
-If you treat your customers this way, competitors are going to eat your lunch, and I will enjoy watching it happen.  I don’t like being told no.
Parallels has an alternative to VMware fusion for the mac.  I called Parallels and asked if they had pay-for-support and they said absolutely.  In fact, the guy I talked to at Parallels was extremely helpful and also shocked when I shared the VMware fusion story.

At this point, I don’t want to work with VMware

Fast forward 3 months

I holded off posting this blog for about 3 months.  I switched to Parallels for mac which allows me to run a virtualized windows environment.  I wanted to wait until I had a problem and needed help with Parallels.  When I called Parallels support, I did have an issue that qualified for paid support.  The rep was probably surprised when I was enthusiastic and excited to pay for support.  In the end, I was not even charged, even though I was willing to pay.  My issue only took a minute to resolve and the tech support rep wished me well.

VMware: That is service.

The philosophy of “Yes we can”

My blog is about “what keeps me up at night”.  For people that never read my blog,  they get the impression that these things are things that worry me.  It couldn’t be more opposite.  It is the passion and excitment about a new idea, new opportunity and new potential that keeps me up at night.

Last night, I tossed and turned with that excitement.  Hearing the new president elect Barack Obama speaking on the theme of “Yes we can” last night resonated with me.  I was moved.   “Yes we can” is at the core of American innovation.  The same curiosity that pushed our manifest destination to expand from ocean to ocean is core American.   I’m looking forward to seeing our country move forward with an intense curiousity which was void in the last administration.  Intense curiosity makes you ask “why not” when you start to realize what the possibilities are.   If enough bright people as “why not”,  soon people are believing in “yes we can”  vs. just saying it.   I’ve always believed we can.

I’m thinking that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. believed in yes we can.  Nearly half a century later,  the majority of Americans truly accepted a man by the “content of his character”, not just to be a friend or acquaintance, but to be their leader.  Wow.

Yes we can. One of my passions is seeking alternative energy sources.  This is the time for yes we can as it relates removing our dependence on foreign energy sources.  Anyone who doubts the possibilities should review the work that our good scientists, American scientists, are doing at the National Ignition Facility (http://lasers.llnl.gov where they are working on nuclear fusion.  How about unlimited energy that is clean, can produce more energy than it requires to make it and we can export it to the rest of the world for a good capitalistic profit.  Why not?  Yes we can!

“No, I don’t know”

Linguistics, human equations & fun.

The air was crisp and cool, sun was shining. I was on my morning commute. The radio station playing in my car was set the night before on my commute home.  Last night it was rock & R&B. Morning was the realm of, well, morning radio.  I have no specific memories of what the host was talking about, only that every sentence he ended with by saying “you know”.   At this point in time, I did not notice the proliferation of “you know”.  I did, however change the station for the same reason many people tune out these shows; Forced laughter, call in contests, traffic reports,  nothing I needed, so I changed the channel to National Public Radio (NPR).

NPR you say, this guy must be a liberal.  No.  My role is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of a software company.  I’m an entrepreneur and a capitalist.  Closer to a libertarian than anything else. That is important to state;  NPR gets a bad wrap sometimes.  Anyone heard of Bill Gates? aka Founder of Microsoft, backer of NPR via the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.  Enough on that.

So  turn the channel to NPR, usually I’ll give it a minute.  Good topic, I listen, boring topic… I put in a CD.  It was a good topic, so I start listening.  Can’t remember what is was about.  The guest was brilliant. However, every time he finished a sentence he said, “you know” at the end.  This time I noticed it.  I felt trapped in my car, wanting to hear what this guest was saying, but feeling every statement he completed with “you know” was completely diminished.   I was compelled to call in.

A very nice woman welcomed me and asked what I would like to talk about.  I felt guilty and petty, but I was compelled by a strange rage.

“I’m feel really strange about calling in about this”, I said

“I am a long time listener”  (everyone says that).  “and I feel I’ve got to say something.  This guest you have on is saying “you know” at the end of every sentence.   It sounds horrible.  Can someone slip him a note or something.”

Uncomfortable silence.

The woman must have been listening to the live program.  At first I could tell she thought I was a crackpot.  ( I felt I came off as sincere).  She could tell I felt uneasy.   “Hold on a minute” she said.

A few seconds later, she came back and said “you’re right, I’ll see if we can do something”

I continued to listen to the program.  The “you knows” continued until the half hour break.  Every one felt like a stab at me.  When the break was over, a transformation had happened.  The guest WAS very intelligent and probably nervous being on the radio.  Most likely I had nothing to do with it, he might have just calmed down.   The “you knows”  had stopped.

Pleased with myself.  Yes, internally, I took full credit for the commentators transformation.

Into the office I go.  Broadlook Technologies, my baby.

Late in the morning the “you know” monster reared it’s head again.  Normally, I would not even have noticed.  One of my star sales reps was having a 4-5 minute conversation with a prospective client.   In the few minutes I listened in (we have an open floor sales environment),  I heard 5-6 “you knows”.   He was saying everything right, handling objections with skill, leading the prospect into a solution sell,  actively listening and responding.   However, he was killing his passion and confidence, as perceived by any listener, with interjecting “you know” into his conversation.

That is when I realized what “you know” is.   Lack of confidence.  Seeking approval.  Sometimes just a filler. In his case, I believe it was just a filler.  This guys rules the crowd at conference.  No lack of confidence and not the type to seek approval.  Somehow, it grew on him.  My guy, my friend, my star.

Has  “you know”  become the “um” of the 21st century?

I am guilty too.  This is not a “you say it and I don’t” kind of thing.  I am a “you know” offender.  Now, it is few and far between and I usually catch myself, but it happens.   And damn it, it is everyone’s fault.  We are our brothers keeper when it comes to the evolution of language.   Do you remember saying “google it” 5 years ago?

Remember the old movie, “Network”?  I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore?”

I am mad about this.  It really bothers me.  Why?   I am not an extremely polished linguist.  I’ve got an average vocabulary for someone in my position.   I’m not concerned that “ain’t” is now in the dictionary.  I may be a snob when it comes to my mac powerbook, but changing the English language, no, I’m not a puritan.  So why does it bother me?

Know thyself.

One simple reason.  I live with passion.  Passion about my beliefs,  passion about what I create and sell.  When someone ends or begins their statements with “you know”, it is reducing everything they said before.  Try the test of injecting “you know” into a famous speech.

“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.  You know.”

“I have not yet begun to fight. You know.”

If you are in sales,  try injecting “you know” into your sales presentation.

“Our recruiting software is used by over 3500 client in 22 countries, you know”     ouch!

So where does this leave me.  Frustrated?  Hell no.  Let me give everyone that wants to sell to me a tip.  I love being sold to.  I love buying stuff.  I love being brought through the sales process by a person of excellence that is giving me a solution based on my needs.

I am putting the world on notice:  If you talk to me and say “you know?”, I will assume that you are asking me a question.  If you ask me a question, I am not going to stand idly by.  I am going to answer:

“No, I don’t know”

Will I be mean? No.  Will I do it until they get the hint? Yes.  Will they be insulted?  I do not know.  My basic tenet is that there is a spark of intelligence in all people.  There is no need for this in our language.  Let’s bring “um” back.   It was kinder and it did not pose a question.

This plague can be eradicated.  Doing nothing spreads it.

Join me in just saying, “No, I don’t know”.

I need your help,  for if I’m the only one saying it then people may be thinking I am saying:

“I, Do nat o”

On being creative when blogging

For the past month I’ve been immersing myself in comparing and contrasting different search engines. If you work in the search space like I do, and you have a pulse, it is hard to stop yourself from being exposed to articles about this sort of thing…but I’ve been trying.  Why?  I’ll detail that in another post, but basically, I’m working on a search engine concept.  …So I’ve purposely avoided these articles, as I have a theory.

It’s about the creative process. Most people who have worked with me at Broadlook over the last few years understand my theory and bias, whether they agree with it or not, they know how I feel and they give me the space to follow my method as it works for me.

The basic concept is that you should avoid reviewing others work in a field before you think up your original concept for a project. I actually got the idea from a short story I read in high school by Orson Scott Card called Unaccompanied Sonata. Story in short: A young boy, a musical genius, is removed from society so his musical creations are original. At the end of the story he sneaks away from his encampment and hears the music of Mozart. Upon his return, he is cast out as his music was forever influenced by Mozart and no longer original.

Before I sit down with our team to create a new recruiting software product, I put myself through a black out period. Whatever I am working on, I avoid the concept from outside sources at all costs. This allows my creative side to be creative. The copy factor reduces. It’s like when you find yourself in a totally dark room and your eyes start seeing things. Your brain is trying to stay busy & stimulated. The same thing will happen if you deprive yourself of input stimuli on the topic you are interested in…you will start to think.

Once you have your ideas worked out, then and only then review outside content.  Not reviewing external “art” after you’ve gone through your initial creative process is foolhardy.

The “me to” creations coming from most dot com’s are a sign that they start by copying first, not creating.

I was on the Recruiting Animal Show today and one of the comments was about creating original content vs. reposting information.  For those people who want to start blogging original content, avoid reading blogs at all costs.  Shally Steckerl talked about the “Signal to noise ratio” on the show today. It’s all about eliminating the noise. Eliminate the noise and the creativity will come.

Sears.com offline -When technology doesn’t work and the role of a webmaster

Sears.com offline -When technology doesn’t work and the role of a webmaster

I was going to avoid the Black Friday lines and go online to do some shopping at sears.com.  When my browser reported a “404″ error (page not found), I assumed my home Internet connection was down.  How could Sears.com be offline on one of the busiest shopping days of the year?  Quickly checking Google.com, Yahoo.com, Broadlook.com…all online, I ruled out me having a bad Internet connection.  So I tried Sears.com again and got this page:

Sears.com offline

For those IT recruiters out there: someone could use a new webmaster.

Now I am forgiving, I tried every 15 minutes and I got into the site 2 hours later.  I was catching up on emails so I had time.  I am curious how many sales they lost?  I was looking for replacement parts for my grill, so I was locked to sears.  Those people who might have been comparison shopping, I can’t see them waiting around.

This made me think about a webmasters role.  What should it be?  Should the person that let this happen be fire?  Did they get hacked? I’ve seen cases and experienced it personally when a webmaster is a hindrance to getting things done.  A webmasters role should be to execute the vision and orders of executive management.  In the case of Sears.com, I would think a good shopping experience would be paramount. Oh, and no down time. Period.  “Look kid, we go down and your fired.  This is Chicago kid-o,  lose me a million and it’s cement shoes for you.”

Downtime for a retail organization is equated to loss of business and perhaps death of business. 

The role of a webmaster at a company like sears is not all that different from a small company like Broadlook.  However the “webmaster” at sears is most likely an entire team of people.  I’ve noticed some trends.  The single and small operators maintain tight controls over their websites.  The messaging is usually concise and it reflects the founding philosophy of the company.   As a company grows to the size where a second level of management is introduced, I’ve noticed those companies move away in their core messaging.  This is to be expected, that first level of management is removing some workload from the founding executives.  There are many areas that would be better served for middle management.  Messaging is not one of them.  Later, as a company grows to have an experience executive in charge of messaging, the web messaging moves reflects the original vision or even improves on it.

Until now, I had no idea where this sears post was going.  I do now. It is sort of a self autopsy on working with my own webmaster, past and present. For me, each of my blogs is a personal journey of discovery. If they were not, then I am writing for everyone else and not myself.  I am not that giving.   This blog is for me and my discovery process, first and foremost.   If others read and get something out of it, great.  If they don’t, that’s ok because I’m learning here. 

Regarding my working with a webmaster, in the past, I failed.  My autopsy tells me that it is management’s role to convey with clarity what is expected of the webmaster and the website.  I did not do this.  That was my mistake. The same mistake that I see happening at many growing companies.  Time to change.