Uncover Hidden Opportunity

I originally shared a version of these remarks with my Toastmasters club as the inspirational thought at the start of the meeting. (the inspirational thought is a short speech at the start of our club meeting which does not receive a formal speech evaluation)

Based on a true story:

Earlier this week I reported an issue I was having with a special tool I use for creative formatting on my website projects. I found that some of the content displayed in a configuration that I had not expected. I thought everything should display in neat rows, but I noticed 2 rows had started to flow together in what I assumed was a wrong way. I tried to fix the display issue on my own or at least find the source of causing my distress. I did find what I thought would work as a temporary work-around solution.

I soon realized I needed to ask for outside help. However, asking for help is not easy for me. I like to think that I can figure out how to solve everything.  I needed to connect with a member of the support team.

As a smart support requester, I created several screen captures of the problem I was encountering to have something to provide to the person that would be helping me out. A screen capture is a visual representation of whatever is visible on your computer monitor. Several tools are available to make it possible to get a screen capture that you can send to someone by email.

These are the screen capture tools that I frequently use:

  • PRINTSCREEN key on my keyboard (“PRT SC” is the label on my laptop’s keyboard-your key label might be different).
  • SNIPPING TOOL (available in my windows 7 install)-when I need limited annotations on my screen capture.
  • SKITCH APP-when I need to include many annotations on my screen capture.
  • JING APP-for serious issues when I need to do a video screen cast with audio.

A screen capture provides a visual common ground to start a tech support conversation. Sometimes it is hard to accurately describe what’s happening. Common language and terms can be elusive. The way I would, as an intermediate user, describe a situation to the creator of the software might be different compared to how the creator thinks about it and might be different from the way a novice user might explain it.

I had a conversation (via Google Video Hangout) with the software creator where we reviewed my screen capture images. He explained the rationale for the display options that were built in and I discovered that my distress was not actually a problem with the software. His explanation actually uncovered a hidden opportunity for me to create even more variations in website displays than I had originally been using. I was simply missing a bit of information.

My takeaway lesson from this experience is that a direct conversation (not by email or a text chat) can help transition a perceived problem into a flexible formation.

In related news, I was mentioned in the Official Changelog for version 1.2.1 of Conductor.