Monthly Archives: November 2006

FAQ: Communicating with University Computing

Hello, everyone–

After a year-long hiatus, the Friday FAQs are back! In case you weren’t here when we last sent these out, the basic idea is that we take one technical topic per week and work through it in as non-technical a manner as possible. For more information, including why we call these documents “FAQs”, please see the FAQ archive at “ Some of you, of course, are reading this on paper; since we wanted as many people as possible to see this particular FAQ, we are sending it out by multiple methods.

This week’s topic is communication with UCS; how you talk to us, and how we talk to you. At the end is a link to a survey so you can give us feedback.

I have a question for UCS. What is the best way to make sure I get a response?

That depends on the question.

– If you have a new problem to report, or want an update on an existing problem, please contact the Service Request Desk (AKA the help desk or the SRD) at or extension 88925.

– If it’s about something where you’re already working directly with someone in UCS, you can ask that person about it; however you may get a faster response by contacting the Service Request Desk. This ensures that your request is sent to an alternate person if the primary technician is not available right away. This is especially important with student workers, who are not on duty full-time.

– If it’s a general question about technology, or about UCS policies or practices, feel free to send it to me at; I will do my best to answer questions either individually or in one of these FAQ documents, and if I can’t answer a question, I will refer it to someone who can.

– If it’s about a virus, or email spam, or spyware, or fraud, or any other such nastiness, send it to That also happens to be me, but those questions might not always be my job, so please use the virusinfo address so your question gets to the right person.

– If you’re not sure where to send a question, the Service Request Desk will be happy to help you! When in doubt, just call 88925.

Why should I contact the Service Request Desk instead of directly calling a UCS worker I know?

The Service Request Desk is the best way to make sure your request gets to the right person as quickly as possible. We sometimes rearrange job responsibilities among our staff, so (for instance) the person you talked to about an email list last year may not be the correct person to call now. The people answering the Service Request line can make sure your request gets to the right person. If that person is not available, the SRD can often find someone else to solve the problem.

Going through the SRD also means that your request is documented. We are all human, and sometimes forget to write down things we are told over the phone or in face-to-face conversation, so having documentation helps remove the human-error factor.

Why is it called the “Service Request Desk” anyway?

We used to call it the Help Desk, but we found that created some unrealistic expectations. The Service Request Desk exists to take your service requests and direct them to the person who can help you; we can’t possibly train all our student workers to provide direct help for every situation.

What happens to my request once I give it to the Service Request Desk?

The worker (generally a student) who takes your request will enter it into our Service Request System, and assign it to a technician, who will immediately be emailed a notification message. Wherever they are on campus, the tech can log into the Service Request system and take action. Once the request is handled, the tech records that fact, and may include any notes on the issue to help other techs who may have to deal with similar issues in the future.

The Service Request System also lets us track how well we are doing. These statistics are available publicly at “

OK, so what about your communications with us?

Right now, our main method of communicating with faculty, staff, and students is through the and email lists. We use this both for urgent messages, such as emergency server maintenance or scam warnings, as well as for more routine communications, such as announcements of planned upgrades; basically anything we need to announce to a large part of the WOU community will go out on one or both of these email lists. We recognize that this does not necessarily work for everybody, especially considering the amount of traffic on those lists, but we have not found any obviously better alternatives. We are always open to suggestions, though!

What about all these blog posts I see links to in my email? Am I supposed to be reading all those UCS staff blogs?

Everyone on campus has a blog, if they care to use it; most UCS staff use ours to talk about what we are working on, and sometimes to explain technical issues or policies. An example from Bill’s blog may be found at “ However, you need not feel obligated to follow everybody’s blog. Whenever any critical information is posted in a blog, there will be an announcement with a link to that post, so that everyone will have a chance to see it.

What about other means of communication, like the wiki server and forums server?

Both the wiki and forums servers are open to any member of the WOU community. Currently, they are used by several departments for various purposes; if UCS puts anything there that is critical for the whole campus community to know about, we will notify you via email.

What if I don’t read my mailing lists? Shouldn’t you make more of an effort to get critical information to me another way?

Well, we are sending this one out on paper as well as by email list and blog, so you can see it even if you don’t read the email lists. However, don’t expect all communications from UCS to come this way. If email lists just plain don’t work for you, and you feel UCS should use another channel to communicate with you, now is your chance to tell us so. We’re looking over our communication practices to make them as effective as possible, so if you want a change, please fill out our survey and let us know!

Ideally we will settle on one or two communication methods for critical information, and then we will clearly state what they are. It will then be the responsibility of everyone on campus to pay attention to announcements made via those methods; that will ensure that everybody knows what they need to know and is caught by surprise as seldom as possible. Of course, some surprises are inevitable when dealing with technology; but when we have any advance notice of something important, we will do our best to pass it along when it can still make a difference.

So what about that survey you mentioned?

Now for the survey. This is mainly intended for faculty and staff, since we’ve gotten the most feedback from those groups, but students may respond as well. If you are reading this on paper, it should have come with the survey; if you are reading this online, you can get the survey in Microsoft Word format via this link:

This is a printable Microsoft Word document; if it does not load when you click the link, try right-clicking it and choosing “Save As…” or whatever equivalent your browser or email program offers.

That’s all for this week! Upcoming FAQ topics will include phishing and scams, the use of the Thin Clients, and the new website system. Feel free to suggest additional topics by emailing me at; I also recommend checking the FAQ archives at “ to see if your question has already been answered.

Thanks for your time and attention,


Improving Communication

Recently we’ve been getting some feedback that UCS needs to improve communications with others on campus, particularly the faculty.

As part of this effort, I’ll be starting up the Friday FAQs again, after a hiatus of about a year. They are a good bit of work, but I don’t mind doing it if it helps things run more smoothly.

The FAQs will also be posted here on my blog, so that anyone who wishes may comment publicly. Naturally, private comments can also be addressed to me at

Also, the week after they are sent out, each FAQ will be posted on the UCS website (which desperately needs to be revamped, but that’s a different topic.)

The first FAQ will be about communicating with UCS, and how it can be done most effectively, and also about the various channels UCS uses to communicate with the rest of campus. We’ll include a link to a survey, which will also be distributed on paper, so that you can help shape our communications practices.

The main thing is that we want to help everybody here. We’re a service department; without the rest of campus, and especially without students, there would be no point to our existence.

So if there’s a problem, we want to know about it. If anyone perceives that UCS is being a roadblock, we want to know about it; sometimes what seems to be a roadblock is actually necessary for reasons that are not obvious, but other times it is the result of miscommunication or misunderstanding that can be cleared up with a bit of honest communication and creative problem solving.