Welcome to the third-anniversary issue of my help desk column. I'd like to mark the event by sharing some reader feedback to a few of my favorite weekly columns and by pointing you to some useful tech-support resources available exclusively on TechRepublic.
Browsing the archives
In November 1999, this column made its first appearance in TechRepublic's Support Republic under the name "View from Ground Zero." If you're new to TechRepublic, you can follow this link to read the back issues from November 1999 through October 2001. The column's name was later changed to "Help Desk Advisor." Follow this link to browse all the Help Desk Advisor columns from October 2001 to present.
TechRepublic members aren't shy
One of my favorite things about writing for TechRepublic is getting feedback from fellow IT pros from all over the world. The great thing about the TechRepublic community is that members are willing to share their expertise as well as their opinions. Here are some highlights from some of the best columns.
In 1999, I asked TechRepublic members to help define the "IT prime directive," and I published the results of the feedback I received in "We, the IT people, do solemnly swear...." It may sound corny, but it's one of my favorite columns from the first year.
In that particular column, TechRepublic member Joe S. shared this comment: "What's the IT prime directive? I've been working in the IT field for five years. I don't know it all and haven't seen it all. I learn something from my end users almost every day. We aren't just service people. Our positions require a duality of educator/student. Any prime directive should include the terms: Listen, learn, and educate."
Here are some of my other columns that generated a strong reader response:
- Typing should be taught to everyone: I ranted when I found out my nephew was being taught "keyboarding" instead of how to touch-type. Many of you disagreed, and no other column generated as much flaming e-mail and angry posts than "Teach our kids to touch-type!" did.
- Tips for better support: If you occasionally suffer from "problem-solver's block" or "documentation procrastination," here are some columns that may help you: "Practice the right kind of problem solving" and "How to succeed in tech support: The big list" and "Four tips for designing documentation."
- Copying with a micromanager and a software pirate: In 2002, two columns that have generated the most feedback from TechRepublic readers so far are "Tips for coping with a micromanager" and "Who is liable for software piracy?"
Free tech support resources
If you haven't browsed TechRepublic's Downloads section lately, you owe yourself a visit. It's a unique tech library that is growing all the time, with free sample text, templates, tools, white papers, and compilations of articles that have been published on TechRepublic. In addition to downloads I've created for the Help Desk Advisor column, I've also had a hand in creating a number of other resources useful for support pros:
- "200 ways to revive a hard drive"—You might see the name of a TechRepublic member you know in this one. In response to a call for help in troubleshooting a dead computer, over 300 TechRepublic members submitted possible solutions. I arranged the best 200 or so into chapters like "Drop it" and "Freeze it," and this turned out to be one of TechRepublic's most popular downloads.
- "The ultimate preventive maintenance checklist"—TechRepublic readers get all the credit for this popular download that I compiled. This list is based on their suggestions.
- "Shortcut-key cheats, version 2"—This download was already extremely popular when I updated it for version 2. It's short and sweet and a great holiday gift for your end users.
- "Indispensable tips for Word users"—The title just about says it all. If you support Word users, you need this download.
Whether you're part of a large IT department or you're the one-person tech support band in your company, your time is valuable. If you need to create a form, you don't necessarily have to create it from scratch. TechRepublic's download section probably has something you can use as is or as a prototype for a custom document. Here are a few I helped create to whet your download whistle:
- "Ready-to-use inventory form"—If you don't have a current inventory of your company's computer assets, this form can help you jump-start the process.
- "Ready-to-use telephone support log"—If you're not currently tracking all tech support calls from internal and external customers, this support diary form can help you start documenting your workload.
- "Welcome letter"—If you want to make a nice impression on your new hires—and I know you do—customize this welcome letter and use it to build goodwill from day one.
- "Ready-to-use certificate of training completion"—Use this Word document to create certificates for people who complete your technical training sessions.
- "Technical support awareness posters"—Customize these posters for your shop to remind users about being nice to company computers.
- "IT support employment kit"—In this download, I culled some of Support Republic's most popular IT employment articles and compiled them into one easy-to-use document. Use this kit to help you find work or enhance your performance in your current support position.
- "Technical trainer's toolkit"—This kit aims to help you transform your help desk staff into an elite end-user training team. It contains reprints of some of TechRepublic’s most popular training articles written by yours truly and by fellow contributing authors Schoun Regan and Bruce Maples.
Fundamentals of SQL
After writing a crash course in Structured Query Language (SQL) in July 2001, I heard from many subscribers to the Help Desk TechMail who wanted more. Based on that feedback, I wrote a series of columns designed to help people who have access to a SQL command line but aren't quite sure what to do with it. Here is the complete list of those popular SQL tutorials:
- "A crash course in SQL"
- "Another crash course in SQL"
- "Fine-tune WHERE clauses in SQL"
- "Data-mining tips for the SQL command line"
- "SQL JOINs make it easy to find and fix missing data"
- "Inserting and updating records in SQL"
The Help Desk Advisor's mission
In this column, the TechRepublic editors and I aim to provide information you can use to succeed as a provider of high-quality technical support. We hope you'll continue to post comments and send us e-mail to let us know how we're doing.
If you like the kinds of tips I present in the Help Desk Advisor columns, you might be interested in browsing The Whiteboard Jungle archive. There you'll find tips and tricks written for technical trainers. Finally, for help desk pros, check out the Tales from the Desktop archive. This collection includes some of my older Excel tips, plus columns written by TechRepublic's Bill Detwiler and by my fellow contributors Jeff Dray and Ed Engelking.
Put in your two cents
To comment on the Help Desk Advisor column or Help Desk TechMail, please post a comment or write to Jeff.