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Stupid user tricks 7: True tales of extreme brain fail

JR Raphael | April 16, 2013
Ah, users -- if it weren't for them, technology would work so well.

Luckily, the damage didn't draw too much attention and Brian was able to delete the tweets and reset the password before anything worse went down. But even if he managed to erase the evidence, the lesson is something he won't soon forget.

"We still have interns help with social media at times, but now, they never know the password and only have access from a secure system in the building," he says.

The moral: Social media may seem silly, but it's effectively a public voice for your company -- and outsiders have no idea who's doing the typing. Keep careful track of access to your accounts and be sure to reset passwords before an active user departs.

Stupid user trick No. 3: The executive plug

Company presentations seem to be magnets for tech-oriented failures. Often, though, it's not equipment malfunction but user error that's the root of the problem.

Adam Root (yes, that's his actual name) knows all too well about the joys of user error. Root -- now CTO of social marketing software company HipLogiq -- was working as a developer at a major insurance company when he got a memorable call from a panicked exec: "The projector isn't working and I need a techie, stat!"

The exec, Root realized, was in the midst of delivering a presentation to the senior-most members of the company. Root rushed to the conference room and, within seconds, realized what was wrong.

"The VGA cable was connected to his laptop but not to the VGA wall input, which in turn connects it to the projector," Root recalls.

Yup -- the age-old stupid user trick of forgetting to plug the damn thing in.

Rather than rub in the silliness of the mistake, Root took the high road and helped cover up the executive's slip-up. Before connecting the missing cable, he switched the display to a different input and pretended to fiddle around for a few minutes -- making it look as if there were some legitimate problem and letting the executive save face.

Root's discretion did not go unnoticed. "While watching me, he realized his mistake and came up later to thank me for not making him look like an idiot in front of his superiors," Root says. "He even gave me a spot bonus."

The moral: As Root puts it, "With knowledge comes power. Don't use your intelligence to make others look stupid; instead, make them look like heroes and you will be rewarded for it -- if not monetarily, at least with karma."

Stupid user trick No. 4: Back that thang up

File this next fail tale under "reasons why executives should never attempt tech support."


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