Electric Prayer

The Liturgy of the Hours, the Mass, and other things.

Technical support questions

Posted by universalis on 16 April 2012

We got a question earlier today:

“I have been a Universalis user for several years, but this week – every day the Mass reading is the same – Isaiah for the first reading, Psalm 89 for the response, a second reading from revelation and Luke 4:16-21 for the Gospel,. The readings are correct on your website, but the download – nope. I’ve gone back and forth, closed and re-opened – always the same thing. I used to download a month at a time, but this year downloaded the whole year – but I have lots of memory.”

This is the kind of technical support question it is impossible to answer. It may help you to get help quickly (if you ever need it) if I list the reasons:

  1. The question doesn’t say what days are involved. When did “this week” start? Exactly what readings are being shown? If you told us, then we would be able to look up what day those readings actually belonged to. Please, if you are reporting a problem, remember that we cannot see your screen. We don’t even know what kind of screen you are looking at, unless you tell us.
  2. The question doesn’t say what Universalis it is talking about. Because of the reference to “the download” as opposed to “the web site”, it ought to be about one of the Universalis downloads from our web site: either Mac or Windows, the user doesn’t say. But then the question talks about downloading “a month at a time”, or “the whole year”, and that can’t possibly apply to the downloads from our web site, all of which are valid for all time. So we can’t imagine what “Universalis” can mean in this context. Please remember that we do not know what you are doing and we cannot know what you are doing, unless you tell us. We can’t try to guess every single possibility and combination of possibilities, and give you a separate answer for each.
  3. There is just a chance that “download” doesn’t mean the obvious “download from the Universalis web site”, but is shorthand for “I have used the Universalis program on my [Windows or Mac] computer to create an e-book and I have  then downloaded it from my computer to my e-book reader”. This isn’t at all what the question actually says, but this hypothesis would make the references to ‘months’ and ‘years’ make more sense ,since e-books, unlike Universalis downloads, can be done a month or a year at a time. But there is no mileage in confusing the user by giving a detailed answer to a wholly imaginary question. We can’t investigate a problem unless you tell us what it is.

The tragedy is that if the writer had simply put himself in our shoes for a moment, and understood that we can’t see what he’s doing, what equipment he’s doing it on, and what happens when he has done it, he could easily have given us the information we needed. It isn’t rocket science. And then we could have answered at once. We could have asked for a screenshot, or we could have asked for the e-book file that was created, and we could have solved the problem from there.

I say “the tragedy”, because it is. We asked the user to explain what he meant by “Universalis” and “download” and all the rest, and we checked our emails four times an hour throughout the day in the hope of a response. Eventually it came. The user was offended at our lack of telepathy. He complained at getting what he called a “wise ass” answer, and refused to give any further information at all.

So please, if you do have a problem with anything to do with Universalis (and they are very rare), just imagine that you are describing the problem to somebody who doesn’t know you, doesn’t know what equipment you have, doesn’t know what you have done with it, and doesn’t know what you are seeing or how it differs from what you want to see.

Because you are.

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7 Responses to “Technical support questions”

  1. Our reply took some time to write, because it had to cover all the above without becoming an essay. Here it is:

    Thank you for your email.

    Unfortunately I don’t know what you mean by “Universalis” and I don’t know what you mean by “every day” – or indeed by “download”.

    Initially I thought that by “Universalis” you meant one of the Universalis downloads, either for Windows or for the Mac. In that case I was ready to ask you what “every day” meant (which days??) and to ask you for screenshots of a couple of sample days. For future reference, nstructions for screenshots are at http://www.universalis.com/screenshots.htm.

    But then you are talking about downloading a month at a time or downloading the whole year – and it is impossible to download months or years from our site.

    So perhaps when you say “Universalis” you actually mean an e-book created by Universalis – either an ePub or a Kindle one (you don’t say which). Perhaps you are talking about using either the Windows or the Mac version of the downloaded Universalis program to create that e-book – so that “downloading” is not the downloading of the program from our web site but the downloading of the created e-book onto your e-book reader (whatever it is).

    But really this is all guesswork. If you could give me some more information then I would be able to see what you are seeing and then have some chance of explaining it and correcting any errors.

    • And here is the response to all that effort:

      I am sorry to have bothered you. I had a problem – I asked for help – and I got a wise ass answer. I will try to access the material again, and if I am not successful I will go to one of the other sites that provides Mass readings and the breviary.

      And I will be sure to share with others the helpful reply I received. I am sure it will influence their decision to use or not use your site.

      Fr. John R. Sheehan, SJ
      Chairman
      Xavier Society for the Blind
      Web Site: http://www.xaviersocietyfortheblind.org
      154 E. 23rd St
      NYC 10010

      • With all due respect – I’m not the one who needs help. You guys managed to screw up delivery so that the Mass readings for the last half of April all come out the same set of readings. When I went back and just got April instead of the whole year, same thing happened. So now the trust factor has gone, the company to which I paid money for a service seems to think the problem is with me and I am exploring other options.

        Fr. John R. Sheehan, SJ
        Chairman
        Xavier Society for the Blind
        Web Site: http://www.xaviersocietyfortheblind.org
        154 E. 23rd St
        NYC 10010

      • But you see – I still don’t know what you are talking about.

        1. The Universalis program for Windows?
        1a. An e-book created by the Universalis program for Windows?
        2. The Universalis program for the Mac?
        2a. An e-book created by the Universalis program for the Mac?
        3. The Universalis application from the Mac App Store?
        3a. An e-book created by the Universalis application from the Mac App Store?
        4. The Universalis application for iPhone/iPad/iPod?

        It is hard, being expected to solve a problem without knowing what the problem is. I feel as if I’m being asked to tell you how to mend a wheel without knowing whether the wheel is from a car, a bicycle, or a baggage trolley.

        Good luck in your search.

  2. Cathy Fasano said

    Back in the day when I would train new tech support people, I would explain it thusly:

    So it’s 5:30am, and the phone rings, and a clerk tells you “my delta sheet is ****** ” where the ***’s invariably represent the gerund form of some obscenity or another. This can mean anything at all ranging from the program producing delta sheets has crashed and filled the screen with hexadecimal codes, to the computer plug got kicked out of the wall, to the building is on fire, the smoke alarms are going off, and the building sprinklers have reduced the paperwork to pulp…

    Or, shorter version, “welcome to my world.” (Although I certainly hope Universalis tech support does not include an advanced education in the more *ahem* “colorful” reaches of the English language like I got from commodities options traders!)

  3. I’m sorry to hear about your tech support problem. I’ve been working as a network administrator/general computer support for many years, and I’ve encountered my share of vague or uninformative tech support requests. Your answer was straight-forward and didn’t in any way sound “wise ass” to me, but then, I understand the difficulties you labor under.

    I would hope that Fr. Sheehan would have second thoughts about his reaction to your offer of help. For future reference, rather than replying with questions to try to tease out more specific information, perhaps it would be more productive for everyone to simply request things like: What type of computer are you using? What is your operating system? What version of Universalis are you using? Even these questions can be misunderstood by a complete amateur, but at least you may get a more productive answer by asking them and others like them.

    I wish you well in future. I have used Universalis myself for several years, and I’ve always felt that it was a very well-done program. Thank you for your efforts in its creation and maintenance.

  4. Nancy Dunham said

    As a longtime afficionada of Universalis over the past decade-plus [website, Windows/ipod/ipad], I’d like to attest to it’s reliability/flexibility/accuracy…as well as it’s ease of use across platforms, for someone with a neuro-muscular disability who finds riffling back and forth in printed texts cumbersome and distracting. I, too, hope that Fr. Sheehan will reconsider what seems a mystifying response.

    Peace be with you, and Godspeed the work!

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