Awkward Adventures In Software #socs

I saw the prompt “awkward,” and for some reason thought of the programming language awk, an awkward language, to be sure.

Last time I had to write about awkwardness, I chose to talk about my physical clumsiness due to the stroke, but it sounds like you want me to talk about social awkwardness… Gee, thanks…

I’ve had a lot of awkward moments in life, usually involving telling jokes that land like a bowling ball in front of me. One time, I told this joke to a bunch of smokers:

How do you know a tricycle belongs to a kid from Alabama? It has an ashtray.

I didn’t get the laugh I expected.

When I taught classes, I’d try to spice things up with the occasional joke. Okay, with a joke every ten minutes. I had one class that sat there and stared at me when I did that, like the proverbial oil painting. Someone wrote “You’re not funny” on the evaluation. I remember calling my manager and saying, “uh, they hated me.” She laughed it off.

Nothing is more awkward than trying to give a class on a piece of software and having the software not work. That’s happened to me a number of times. Usually it’s not your fault, either the software you were trying to demonstrate is broken and doesn’t work, or the environment is incompatible with the software, or the software was installed by someone that had no idea how to install it. Other times, you realize you skipped a step, and have to backtrack. Whatever the case, you end up standing there like a total moron.

Before my days as a software trainer, I was a software installer. My job was to install the software, then test the offline (batch) functionality, and finally test the online functionality. It was a system test to ensure that all the functionality was in place and working. Usually, the test would come off without a hitch, but there were times when you’d have to test your dump-reading skills to figure out exactly what had gone wrong. Problem was, people who didn’t realize that (usually the presales people, who were given a very stable and well-tested version of the software so things like that didn’t happen) started calling it “the demo.” Which it is, except not the kind of demo the presales people would do. On more than one occasion, I had to delay the system test so the users (including, usually, the person who signed the contract and the person who had championed us as the solution to all their problems) could be assembled in a large conference room and be shown the system by the expert (i.e. the installer) from the software vendor. Which is fine, provided (a) nothing goes wrong with the install, (b) the installation test runs cleanly, and (c) the assembled multitude is satisfied with the scripted demo and doesn’t have a bunch of questions about the software, which the poor bastard who just spent the week installing said software probably can’t answer, because he’s just the person who installs it. How often do you suspect those three conditions are satisfied?

Yeah, you get the idea.

Talk about your awkward moments…


Stream of Consciousness Saturday is sponsored each week by Linda Hill. Joey from Joeyfully Stated provided the prompt for today. Thanks, Joey!


Author: John Holton

I'm a writer and blogger who writes and blogs about things that interest me.

4 thoughts on “Awkward Adventures In Software #socs”

  1. When I was conducting training classes, I quickly adopted the “No live demos” mantra – they never seemed to go well and I always got taken off course by “what does that button do?” when the class was “Calendar functions in Outlook” and the button was the Icon to launch Photoshop. – nice job with the prompt, John


  2. Sadly, John, I think you and I share the same kinda humor, in that we are mostly funny as an accident, and when we’re intentionally funny, it’s often as the straight man or the victims of comedy.
    HOWEVER, I often think you’re funny, so there’s that.
    That tricycle joke would go over real well here as a Kentucky joke, but I’d prolly tell it in a room fulla Kentuckians!
    I do understand the holy trinity of your installation awkwardness — great take on the prompt! 🙂


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