Worst things to say to a sysadmin [POLL]

Filed Under: Featured

Today is SysAdmin day. A day for doffing our caps to the heroes of bash and PowerShell, chuckling at their playful and surprisingly clever slogan t-shirts and taking time to thank them for the thousands of unseen and unnoticed things they do to make our modern workplace function.

It's a day for saying "hi, we love you guys, we got you some pizza".

Cut the blue wire

If you do go down to the basement (or whatever poorly lit and badly air conditioned room your sysadmins are kept in) be sure to observe the local customs and language, just as you would on any visit to a foreign territory.

The sysadmin's domain is a land where cat's read files and latex plays a bigger role in documentation than you'd think.

It's a place where sitting still and looking into space or at an empty screen might be a sign that hard work is taking place and it would be a really bad time to interrupt (it's called thinking).

Yes, it's as easy to offend the locals and mistakenly order a metaphorical lunch of bull testicles in the lair of the 'admin as it is in any backstreet taverna in a far flung land.

With that in mind, and with a little inspiration from the folks at TrainSignal and their article Top 10 things you shouldn’t say to a sysadmin we thought we'd put together a lighthearted poll to help us all understand each other a little better.

If you think we've missed something important from the poll or you have some wise words about how to rub along with sysadmins please tell us in the comments.

Demotivational poster from cheezburger.

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42 Responses to Worst things to say to a sysadmin [POLL]

  1. "You don't look very busy" and "Can you fix my home computer?" raggin hard...

  2. Ash · 367 days ago

    A small part of me dies each time someone begins a sentence with "ever since you..."

  3. mittfh · 367 days ago

    After hearing any of them, the correct response, of course, is:

    "What was your username?"
    >clickety-click<

    If that doesn't work, it's time to bring out the LART...

  4. PhilJo · 367 days ago

    "I didn't change anything"

  5. loughlini · 367 days ago

    My computer is dead.
    How do you know it's dead?
    It's lying on its back with its feet in the air.

  6. my thing in that thing you set up is doing that thing again that you said you would fix.

  7. "I was in the middle of something when the power went off,.. can you get it back?" was the one that I got more than once,.. and should be here! :P

  8. "Why don't we just get Mac's? They just work"

  9. "Why don't we just use Mac's? They just work"...or... "I have a friend that knows a bit about computers"

  10. John Martinez · 367 days ago

    How 'bout these: "We're outsourcing your job.", "You've been pwn3d.", "You don't mind working this weekend, do you?", "My machine is so slow.", "I think I have a virus...", "We've brought in a consultant...", or "My kid says that you need to ...".

  11. How about the ever present, "My home computer doesn't work like that, how come this one does?"

    After twenty some years of servicing computers, I think I will write a book when I retire. It should fund my retirement well.

  12. Tim · 367 days ago

    "It worked yesterday, and I haven't changed anything."

  13. Clare · 367 days ago

    I don't see the "cup holder" option.. hmmmm!

  14. MikeP_UK · 367 days ago

    "I installed that thing you sent the message about but now it doesn't let me do anything - it's just busy!"

    or

    "The message popped up so I did what it said. Now I can't see any of my work! Can you get it back for me? Shouldn't take you long, I only did it last week."

  15. How about: "Hey! Is that new <insert peripheral device name> for me?"

    • I once had one of those while packing up old hardware to send out for recycling... I proudly unpacked it and said... why, yes!

      The look of stunned joy followed quickly by stunned horror was priceless. That experience kept a smile on my face for all my sysadmin years after when people would ask if it was for them.

  16. Andrew · 367 days ago

    YOU DID WHAT TO MY SYSTEM ? if I understood a word of that my god help me

  17. Alex Sanborn · 367 days ago

    "So when you say the server will be unavailable for maintenance, that means I can keep working on my files (on the server) right?"

  18. GSlavik · 367 days ago

    You forgot: "Quick question..."

  19. Lucky Starr · 367 days ago

    From crappy software vendor after crappy software vendor: "Our software runs slow because of the antivirus program. Turn it off like all our other customers do."

  20. Steve-o · 367 days ago

    Happy SAD everyone! Haha, get it?!

  21. JWL · 367 days ago

    "Is the server down" "Is the network down" and my favorite - "Is the internet down?"

    NO, NO, and NO

  22. John Morgus · 367 days ago

    "My (fill in child's gender) the computer genius....." -- You know the kid did some heinous damage, the parent know it too, but is going to try and make it your fault.

  23. So this is going to fix everything for good, right? When will you be finished?

  24. Mark · 367 days ago

    Is the server down?

  25. Cheryl · 367 days ago

    "I have a quick question" irks me too, because they're never 'quick' answers!
    I also love it when I come in in the morning and find a sticky note on my monitor that reads "I can't login. Help!" no name, no extension, I'm just supposed to guess. or recognize their handwriting??
    One I get a lot here is "I've been working on this presentation ALL day and PowerPoint just crashed." Have they saved it? Of course not.

  26. MartinF · 367 days ago

    I can't find the "any" key on my keyboard.

  27. baz · 367 days ago

    "Can you make a website for me?"

  28. Duane · 367 days ago

    Network printers are not very well understood by lots of my clients, I hate to hear the " I tried to print a document, it didn't work so I tried another 30 times, still no printout !
    ARG !.....

    Next often heard, " my internet is down " ARG.

    Client stops me on the way by, saying her computer is frozen, I advise her to reboot it, with the power button. She turns off the monitor. I say now after supressing a laugh, now turn off the computer, Oh you mean my hard drive ! ARRRGGGGG.

    But I love it. (most of the time)

  29. Nigel · 367 days ago

    "I can't login. It won't accept my password."

    "OK...enter your password right now, with me here, and you saying each character of your password out loud, slowly, one by one, as you type it."

    (User does it...and logs in successfully.)

    "I can't understand it...I know I entered my password correctly before."

    (Choose silence. There is nothing you can say that will make any difference.)

  30. "I've been looking all over the building for you! What are you doing down here in the basement? Gee, this room is really noisy. Wow, that is a really cool monitor and keyboard sticking out of that -- what is that, anyway? Those don't look like regular computers. Anyway, I think the email server is down. Is it?"

  31. ITs · 367 days ago

    my favorite. "You guys messing with the system?"

  32. James · 366 days ago

    I haven't got the "we're out of coffee". Instead it was "The coffee machine isn't working -- fix it!".

  33. stereo_freak · 366 days ago

    "My kid is good with that kind of stuff" or "I know your good with that kind of stuff, so could you..."

    That one probably kills me the most because I have spent over 20 years of my life making this my career. Would you go to your doctor and ask him to look at your strange rash because he's "good with that kind of stuff?"

    When I ran a school network, my favorite was "It was doing something weird so I had one of the kids look at (with my access privileges of course)" - my response was always "Huh, I guess I'll need to take that computer with me and do a full scan on it now that we know its been accessed by an unauthorized user. You should have it back in a couple days."

    I'm also glad to know I'm not the only one that gets these next 2:

    "This doesn't have anything to do with my work computer, but...."
    Or
    ANYTHING having to do with Apple... "Have you seen the new..." "At home, on my Mac I can...." "Can you replace my PC with a Mac because they are so much better (When EVERY piece of software we run requires Windows)"

    • Deramin · 364 days ago

      As both one of those kids, and a current sysadmin, I wish our high school sysadmin had utilized us as a resource instead of despising us. We wanted to help, she was over worked, and we could have been taught.

  34. Single SysAdmin · 366 days ago

    The boss who is an absolutionist
    "It NEVER Works, It's NEVER accurate, It's NEVER on time"

    Completely ignoring the facts that everything is 99.99% working, on time, and giving the correct figures. But the 0.01 time it doesn't then its ALWAYS fails.

    Plus your on 24/7 call with no extra pay, and even holidays and sick days you will get phoned to fix issues :

  35. Peter · 6 days ago

    "There is a error", Yes BUT what is the error message!?!?

  36. Dan Stalker · 3 days ago

    "Not my problem."

  37. Marie brown · 3 days ago

    Can't you just make me an admin ............

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About the author

Mark Stockley is the founder of independent web consultancy Compound Eye and he's interested in literally anything that makes websites better. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkStockley