God knows, I understand that even in good times people need weekends to stay sane. In my world of today, which is the polar opposite of "good times," sanity is mostly a fond memory, but I still need my weekends. My family and that little two-day break from work are the only things keeping me from jumping.
So I rarely hope anybody else has their tailhook at their desk over a weekend, especially a holiday weekend. Rarely. But this weekend is an exception. This weekend every darned programmer and web guru in the Amazonian Kingdom best be chained to their desks - including the fathers in the group. At least one of 'em deserves to be chained, and with a big new system change-over coming at the end of June where the whole staff is most likely working on bits and pieces of the new system, someone supervising the chain-deserving code monkey didn't do his or her job. Somebody screwed up royally.
Amazon's DTP Platform publishes Kindle pieces from indie authors and includes a dashboard to monitor sales. The numbers don't go backwards unless there was a return or two OR unless a code monkey didn't do his job right. Early Thursday evening (June 17th) over about a two hour span, the DTP numbers of indie authors went backwards without any returns. Sales disappeared.
For many hours, nothing was heard but the weeping and gnashing of teeth of authors roaring their displeasure on the Kindle forum. Oh - and the growling. Don't forget the growling. Amongst the indie authors are many folks, like me, who've found the "hope" hopeless and who've had enough "change" to destroy their world. For us, every dollar counts and we don't appreciate seeing them swallowed by the great Amazon giant.
I sent Amazon an email. As the hours stretched without a reply, I sent another. Judging from the Kindle forums, I wasn't alone. Enough of us may have sent emails to fill up the big, bad, Amazon mailbox. And all of us started to weave grand conspiracy theories. Nobody can do conspiracy like a bunch of writers. Finally, all the commotion got the Great One's attention. Either that or they wanted to get us to stop emailing.
Amazon posted the following on the forums:
Posted By: dtpadmin Created in: System: Global Announcement Posted: Jun 18, 2010 2:59 PM
We are currently experiencing a reporting issue that is affecting the display of sales information on the “my reports” page of our site. While recent sales may not be displayed correctly, we have verified sales are being recorded. Our engineers are working to have this corrected as soon as possible.
We will post a follow up once we have confirmation this reporting issue has been remedied.
Note the date and time. The FUBAR Monster ate sales about 6 pm on Thursday, June 17th. Not a peep was heard from DTP until almost 3 pm on June 18th. And we've been peepless since June 18th - Friday afternoon. Today is Sunday, June 20th and the system has been down since early Thursday night. For nearly three days it's been broken and as I type, it remains broken.
What do I want them to post? First, I'd like an explanation that's better (and more HONEST) than "glitch." If it had been a "glitch," it would have been fixed by Thursday night. A glitch is a little bump in the road that has to be either smoothed over or navigated around. It doesn't take 3 days to fix a glitch. Somebody made a mammoth error - a FUBAR Gigantus. So I'd like Amazon to respect the writers enough to realize that most of us are quite bright. If they'll give an honest explanation of what the Mammoth Error was and how it occurred we'll understand the process. If they'll tell us what they were trying to do or achieve at the time, we might even be able to summon a little understanding and tolerance.
I'd also like Amazon to post details about what they're doing -- exactly and not generally -- to fix the error. We've got enough computer geeks on the forum that they might be able to contribute helpful ideas and suggestions. I've got a geek in my house and if Amazon would post details, Mr. Quack could probably help them navigate around their Everest Error.
Most helpful of all would be pictures or real time video SHOWING that the entire programming staff at Amazon is at their desks, working like the Dickens' and won't be allowed to leave until they get it right. I want to know that when there is a crisis that the staff was not allowed to walk out on Friday afternoon and say they'd be right on top of it - first thing Monday. Why? Because I can't do that and I expect you can't do that either. At my law firm, when there is a deadline or a problem we have to work until the job is done, regardless of whether it's a Saturday or a Sunday.
Finally, I'd like them to post something showing a little bit of a sense of humor. Print a picture of Paul chained to his desk and sitting on a potty chair. Say - this is Code Monkey Paul. He had a small tweak to make to the system that he should have made in the test environment. He should then have debugged it and run data through until it was right and he knew it was right. ONLY THEN should it have been moved to the live environment. But Paul had an important poker game with the boys on Thursday night and he wanted to get out. It was already 6 o'clock so he said, screw it, and moved the code over without testing it properly. Paul is paying for that choice now. Paul will be here, on the job, around the clock until he gets it right.
Don't get me wrong - I LOVE CODE MONKEYS. I'm married to a code monkey. My hubby can make an IBM AS400 stand up and say "Who's Your Daddy?" But these days he's working hard at a part time job in a PC environment that doesn't involve what he's been trained to do. His current part time gig does nothing to remind him of how damned good he is at what he does. He's one of the best RPG Code Monkeys in the jungle, but right now there are too many code monkeys chasing the jobs. So he's surviving. He's taking a certification course that in August will allow him to get out there and get the kind of good job he should have had all along. He's working hard for his family, trying to get skills that in a couple of months will get him a good job and take some of the stress off of me and that will hopefully help us get back on track. Mr. Quack is a survivor and in today's market, that's what you damned well have to be.
What my hubby is going through, and what many other talented computer folks out there are going through is a mental image that never leaves my mind as I think about Amazon's FUBAR. All of the Code Monkeys like Mr. Quack are the reason that I want proof that Amazon's pack of monkeys know how incredibly lucky they are to have their jobs and that they have been there every single second since 6 pm on Thursday working to get it right.
Yeah - throw Paul the Code Monkey a box of bananas every now and then, but keep him right there at his desk doing his job until it's done. Because on this Father's Day there are too many Fathers who are older, experienced professionals who would be right there until they got it right. Unfortunately, in this job market work ethic has become as lost as hiring the experienced professionals who'd have gotten it right the first time.
So yeah, Amazon, you'd best be working around the clock to fix the FUBAR. It best not "magically" adjust on Monday morning. To the Senior Staff at the internet giant, I say, look very carefully at what happened, how it happened and how hard your team is working to fix it. Because if we get a Monday morning miracle, Amazon's HR folks should be posting "help wanted" notices saying they're looking for seasoned, experienced professionals - not young, low cost wanna bes who have pretty pieces of paper.
Happy Father's day to my Code Monkey. I hope he remembers that he's the best monkey in the forest. I'll toss him a banana any time!!