Thirty Days On The Front Lines: A return to tech support

In September 1996, I left my desk at IQuest Internet in Indianapolis for the last time. A friend from the MUDs I was on had talked me into talking to her brother, a recruiter at Taos Mountain Software, and two weeks later I had an offer, notice given for my apartment and my job, and the terrifying thought of driving 2300 miles with my possessions in a Ryder truck, my very unhappy cat in the front of the truck, and my Pontiac Grand Prix on a trailer it was too heavy for.

But on the flip side, I was getting out of the Midwest and its glorious winters, escaping a salaried position that ended up being a pay cut, and most importantly, leaving behind end-user tech support. For the next 25 years or so, I did tech support, and infrastructure/architecture/caffeine delivery systems, but for internal colleagues who were generally more aligned with my assigned priorities.

Now, I’ve gone back onto the front lines, supporting end users from around the world in several different languages (thanks to Google Translate or Bing Translate), explaining and troubleshooting and answering questions about cryptocurrency in general, Ethereum and Chia in particular, and specifically how to make them work with one of the more advanced mining pools.

As I told the owner when I started, I’ll scale back or even hand over the reigns altogether when I find something more in line with Silicon Valley expense levels, but for now, it’s an extension of what I’d been doing on Telegram since January, and it’s supplementing my coffers in the process.

I meant to write this last month, when it would have been 30 days, but the conversations get overwhelming and blog posts get distracted-from, so here we are closer to 60 days in reality.

What’s it like working for a mining pool?

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Robert’s Rules for Success, or at least reduced chance of failure

I’ve made a few references lately to avoiding Jurassic failures. In some tech circles, including cryptocurrency projects, it seems very popular to make bad decisions and not claim responsibility. And yes, I’ve been writing and talking and thinking a lot about crypto this year. I’m not alone, but I’m the only one on this blog who you’d be able to make that observation about.

The Jurassic reference of course is to Jeff Goldblum’s character Dr Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park.

Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.

The Jurassic Park reference is a bit more universal than the one I used to use, which was to Wangdi something. I had a Nepalese classmate in college named Wangdi, and the main thing I remember of him from those years was his disc soccer/disc golf prowess. Well, that, and the time he had someone spread three soccer discs in a throw which he would normally have caught with ease, but in this case he tripped over a sprinkler head about two steps into his run and faceplanted in the quad.

  1. Don’t always do things just because you can

    Corollary: Don’t always do things just because you saw them on the Internet

2. Don’t try to start out at full speed; watch where you’re going and work your way up

Corollary: Set a reasonable plan and try to follow it. Don’t get distracted by squirrels

3. Plan to spend at least one minute for every $100 spent, learning how your item works

Corollary: If you can’t do that, don’t expect others to do it for you for free

Between these two warnings, you can take something away. First, don’t always do things just because you can (or because you saw them on the Internet). Second, don’t try to start out at full speed; watch where you’re going and work your way up.

And third is my One Percent Rule, not to be confused with Arthur Conan Doyle’s Seven Percent Solution. For every $100 you spend on an endeavour, spend at least one (1) minute learning or trying to understand it on your own before demanding help in free volunteer forums or from overworked support staff. So if you’re spending $3,000 on a GPU, but you’re not willing to spend 30 minutes learning how to use it, maybe don’t spend it. See also the first and second rules above.

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When is a crowdfunding project a scam, vs a normal project run by humans?

There’s a new wave of crowdfunding efforts in the last year or so, changing the dynamic in a sense. There are some reasons to be concerned about pitfalls in your crowdfunding adventure, but other reasons not to be.

Let’s take a look.

Disclosure: While I have backed over 90 crowdfunded projects across platforms (not including projects that did not “finish” and thus took none of my money) in the past 10 years, and I have had professional relationships with two of the companies mentioned here (VAVA and ZMI), nothing in this post has been reviewed or approved or otherwise influenced by them or any other company or entity. For the crowdfunding projects, they took my money like everyone else’s, and delivered the products like everyone else’s.

A not-so-brief history of crowdfunding

It used to be that a designer or developer or artist would come up with an idea they couldn’t get commercially adopted, post a crowd-funded campaign on Indiegogo or Kickstarter, and hope to make enough money to produce it on their own. This led to some amazing projects and companies.

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Looking ahead into 2019 with rsts11

This is becoming somewhat of a tradition… I’ll point you toward a Tom Hollingsworth post and then figure out what I want to look back on a year from now. As long as Tom’s okay with that, I am too.

This year, Tom’s New Year’s post is about content. He seems to think 2019 is the King of Content. I’m not really sure what that means, but seeing as my blogs seem to be alternately seasonal (with most rsts11 content in the winter/spring and rsts11travel in the summer/fall), I’m hoping to get a more balanced content load out there for you this year on both blogs.

You can see the new year’s post for rsts11travel, my travel-themed blog, over on rsts11travel of course.

Looking back on 2018

Looking back on rsts11 for 2018, our top-viewed posts were a bit surprising to me.

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Resource sharing, time sharing, six years on

Six years ago today, I hit “publish” or whatever it was called at the time on a blog post:

rsts11-first-post

With a goal to tie my technology, culture, caffeine, and gadget history, experience, and sometimes expertise together in something that was entertaining and useful to read, I launched rsts11 on January 28, 2011.

digital-microandmem

Over a hundred posts later, it’s still chugging along. Along the way, I’ve butted heads with some vendors about online behavior and firmware availability and the definition of the word “free,” shared my Tech Field Day experiences until I was no longer able to do so, announced my migration to the dark side when I retired from system administration to work in a sales organization at a vendor (which is why I was no longer able to be a TFD delegate), brought you coffee and gadgets, and most recently on New Year’s Eve 2016, spawned a travel-focused blog with a slightly less technical focus than rsts11 itself.

I’ve had a number of great experiences made possible by the blog, including participating in Interop, the Spectra Summit, Asigra’s partner summit, and a few other things here and there. I’ve managed to keep a bit of my independent presence despite working for a megalithic technology company, and it’s helped me keep my tech chops at least lukewarm in between fifty person WebEx calls to discuss whether to have another meeting with a different fifty people… you know how it goes.

So where do we go from here?

What’s ahead for the next hundred posts? I’ve decided that I really need to stop buying gear “to write about on the blog” until I catch up on the room full of stuff I have to catch up on already. Some of the next hundred posts will be on rsts11travel of course, including some hotel reviews (and some better photos, which might mean some return visits to a couple of hotels). And I’m still pondering the video blog or podcast idea, although I’d need to come up with a lot more interesting stuff to talk about off the cuff.

 

Do you have suggestions for upcoming posts? Weird gear ideas for me to investigate? A favorite post from rsts11 that’s helped you in your work or pub games? Share in the comments below.