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Tech Savvy for Aug 6 2009

Ethics in technology

by Dan Harper

    The shortage of business ethics these days is appalling, but the blame goes to those who allow it to happen.  The average Joe sees the financial system as a magic box; money goes in, more comes out, and a miracle occurs somewhere in the middle.  If the risk of getting caught were greater, institutions would have to deal with clients consistently and fairly.  Limited understanding creates opportunity for fraud.

    In Information Technology (IT), some clients are complacent, allowing others to care for their needs, never checking the work.  Most professionals are ethical and honor this trust with honest work and solid engineering, but some don’t.  Worse, some clients who have been cheated are sure we’re all crooks and try their best to catch us in the act, which annoys the heck out of honest professionals.  How do we resolve this?

    Here are seven guidelines to help non-technical folks deal with quirky IT professionals.

    1. Communicate your expectations.  Tech experts aren’t mind readers.  Tell your IT professional what you want, and why you feel you’re not getting that now. The techie will probably have several solutions on tap once he understands your issue.

    2. Have the tech person speak English.  Professionals use jargon to define complex concepts in the fewest words, and sometimes lose the audience.  If this happens, ask for clarification.  Professionals should be able to explain terms in plain English.  If they refuse, citing time, your lack of computer education or other inability, be concerned.

    3. Listen.  The concepts techs have to explain are usually complex, and you’ll probably need to follow some fairly convoluted logic.  Thinking about the poodle’s manicure and chatting on your cell phone while they explain isn’t going to help you understand why your computer won’t do what you want.

    4. Get an estimate.  Your bill should match what you agreed to pay.  Getting a revised estimate isn’t a sign that you’re getting cheated.  If after looking at the job, the techs find there’s more to it than they thought, they should stop and call you so you can make an informed decision.

    5. Expect service.  The techie told you he’d arrive at 2:00, and now it’s 3:30.  He should’ve called, but sometimes people get delayed where there’s no cell coverage.  However, it’s unacceptable to be put on the back burner for days, weeks, or even months.  You pay for a reason; get your money’s worth.

    6. Get a second opinion.  Techies irrationally fear having to say “I don’t know.”  If you feel the techie is unsure or being evasive, get another opinion.  Tech professionals have varying skills, and it’s possible that what you ask isn’t your tech person’s cup of tea.  A new perspective may help.

    7. Make sure that what’s on the bill is all you’re getting.  New software found on your computer after it’s been in the shop should be on the bill or verbally agreed upon.  While software can be installed for malicious purposes, it’s most likely an update or some other file the tech forgot to remove.  Just ask.