Thursday, January 31, 2013

Pedro's Rules of Email Etiquette (2013 edition)

This is an update to an article I wrote a couple of years ago, I thought it was time for a refresher.

Pedro's Rules of Business Email:

1. Must follow the same standards in place for WRITTEN communications.

2. Spell check the damn thing, please. It is embarrassing to all parties when an email has unnecessary typos.

3. Be concise. Be specific. Write in full sentences.

4. Check your tone.

5. Check the stupid carbon copy and blind copy lists! Then do it again!

6. If you are complaining about an error, make sure the error isn't yours. It makes you look stupid and somebody will eventually dig out the email to use it against you.

7. Provide relevant information. If you are sending a screen capture, also send the URL of the page, so others can replicate it.

8. Don't hit the send button if you are upset. I am sure 99.99% of all email clients in use have a draft feature.

9. Don't hey people, it's rude. Don't dude people, it's stupid. 

10. Always use a signature block with your full name, title, company, phone/fax, etc. whenever you contact somebody outside of your organization for the first time. NO EXCUSES! Once you reply back and forth within the same discussion thread, it is OK to skip it. But that very first message MUST have a signature block.

11. Don't curse in external emails, it's childish, stupid, rude and unprofessional. And emails can be subpoenaed for legal proceedings. 

12. Check rule #5 if you are cursing in an email. Then do it again. 

13. Don't be stupid/lazy with attachments. Give them real names, not document.doc or document.pdf. If it is big enough, don't email the document, put it in a web folder and email instructions on how to download. 

14. Don't break the thread. Once a thread starts, breaking the tread makes it much harder to research issues at a later date.

15. Don't cut people off a thread unless you have a very good reason. The third time I add my project manager and my business manager to the stupid thread, I am hinting at you to stop deleting them, so please stop it. Don't purposely go around people through email, it'll bite you in the ass. If you really have to be so self-destructive that you need to go around people, talk to them in person, then it is your word against theirs. 

16. No SMS notation, sorry.

17. Be careful with acronyms with outside recipients, they may not have a clue what you are talking about.

18. Even if you don't need to reply in length, acknowledge receipt. This allows the sender to know who read what.

19. Always make sure your emails have a proper subject line that makes sense. Don't type the whole email into the subject line. Don't use PLEASE HELP as your subject in every stupid email. Yes, people still do it in business emails.

Pedro's Rule of Personal Email:

1. Rules #2, #4, #5, #8, #13, #17 should apply for most cases.

2. Make sure that you are not copying the same person with multiple addresses. Don't be lazy maintaining your address book, as the same people email from new addresses, ask them for their preferred address and stick to it. Almost all address books have a de-dup function to allow you to find duplicates so they can be merged. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Adventures in crappy engineering: The FIOS ONT won't power up if its backup battery is dead, even if AC is fine

Now that's a handful for a title, but that's about what just happened to me: the Verizon FIOS ONT has a built-in battery that it uses as a backup for its phone lines. If there is a power outage, this makes sure that you will be able to use the phone for about 8 hours.

It doesn't help the TV and Internet signals, it is simply used for the phones. And if the battery goes bad, or the ONT "thinks" that the battery is bad, the ONT will refuse to power up even if the AC current source is healthy.

So there I was, being held hostage by a device that relies on a battery, for a service I don't subscribe to, with healthy AC power and no way to keep my Internet connection up for more than two minutes in a row, and every 5 minutes or so it would drop completely dead until I reset the ONT.

And of course, the perfect time of the day for neither of our cell phones to get a decent 3G connection so we could Google it.

After about a long miserable hour I was able to find troubleshooting threads that suggested that the problem was the battery itself, so I tried to Google THAT and see where I could find one. No luck there. If I wanted that exact battery I would need to order it and wait days, or pay a ton of money to have it shipped overnight.  Verizon's own price was much higher than what others were quoting, but their shipping fees were much more reasonable so I was able to order it with some kind of next-day upgrade for about $52 including tax. Other sources would quote me $20-$30 for the battery then turn around and quote $50 or more to overnight it.


As I was making my order, I did one more desperate thing: unplugged the ONT, unplugged the battery and let the unit sit for a few minutes. That was three hours ago and it hasn't blinked once, so I don't know if the fix was in disconnecting both items or if it was Karma screwing with me for ordering the battery.

It could be worse, at least I got it working before PJ went into a full-blast meltdown.

I am not even annoyed at the battery going bad, things like that are to be expected. But it annoys me that the unit can't run without it, even if it is only using systems that can't benefit from it. Verizon could also have sent me an automatic email on the date that warranty coverage expired to either upsell me to whatever service plan they got to cover this, or to warn me about the battery and how to order one if this one died.

Update (2/24/215): It's been two years since I got the second battery for our FIOS ONT. The original battery was OK. Every now and then, especially after a power outage, the ONT will bitch about the battery so we switch it for the spare one. This goes back and forth every few months.