Type of computer end-users:
Information Technology IT worker types
Oracle Tips by Burleson Consulting
Due to the overwhelming response from my article, “What
Type of DBA Are You?”, I have decided to explore a favorite
topic of IT professionals, our end-user community.
Many DBAs detest their end-user community. We create our
databases as architectural wonders, only to have the end users
mess them up with blown-out undo logs, fragmented tablespaces
and stupid recovery requests. But try as we might to avoid it,
interactions with our end users are inevitable, and proper
preparation is the key to survival.
To properly understand the motives and mind-set of the end user,
I have found it useful to classify the end user into personality
types. By quickly identifying the type of end user, you can
anticipate the type of complaint, understand their motives and
desires, and devise a strategy to get them out of your office as
quickly as possible. A good DBA always tries to quickly placate
end users, while at the same time, shifting the blame to the
developers, where it belongs. This approach may sound
Machiavellian, but it has worked very well for me.
In over 20 years of working with end users, I have noticed that
end users have very specific personality characteristics and
they tend to fall into one of the following types:
While I am deliberately exaggerating these characteristics for
the sake of illustration, I think that you will see some
similarities to your end users in these descriptions. Hopefully,
these characterizations will remind you of some of your favorite
end users and you will learn some tips for getting rid of them
quickly and efficiently.
The IT Wannabe
The IT Wannabe is the most dangerous of the end users and should
be treated with extreme caution. Because they are proficient in
MS-Access, the IT Wannabe knows that databases are really easy
and cannot understand why the company needs a DBA
staff. Extremely self-absorbed and naive, the IT Wannabe will
remind you of your know-it-all teenager.
The IT Wannabe loves to bypass their systems with ODBC and
SQL*Plus and may have a history of causing system-wide slowdowns
by issuing ad-hoc SQL with recursive Cartesian joins. They love
shortcuts and back-doors and may spend days trying to circumvent
your database access controls. Frustrated and distrusting, the
IT Wannabe has tried for years to get a job in the IT
department, and deeply resents that their correspondence school
degree in Computer Technology was not sufficient to get them a
$90k/year job as a C++ Software Engineer.
IT Wannabe’s have a history of making ridiculous system change
requests. Some of my favorites are:
“Please replace Oracle with a set of spreadsheets”
“Please move my department’s data on a separate computer for
“The salesman says RAID-5 is really good, so please use RAID-5 for
Because the IT Wannabe harbors a deep resentment for the IT
department, they love to create problems and roadblocks at every
opportunity, and they become visibly elated whenever a computer
Hallmarks of the IT Wannabe include:
A love of science fiction – The IT Wannabe
loves fantasy, and may use analogies from Star Trek episode
#37 to illustrate a point about their computer problem.
Usually fluent in Klingon, they can be easily recognized by
the presence of sci-fi posters and Isaac Asimov paperbacks in
A proud graduate - The IT Wannabe is
sometimes a graduate of one of those scary IT correspondence
schools. (You know, the ones that advertise on late night TV,
offering degrees in Dog Grooming and Computer Programming).
The IT Wannabe loves to display their “Certificates of
Completion”, and the IT wannabe will spend $50 to frame a
certificate for attending a four-hour seminar on “Fundamentals
of Word processing.”
Believes everything they read – Deep down,
the IT Wannabe knows that they really don’t understand what’s
going-on inside a computer and they cover-up their ignorance
by believing that anything displayed on their monitor is the
Gospel Truth. This gullibility makes the IT Wannabe a sucker
for urban legends and pranks. For example, it is great fun to
e-mail them with a link to the
Bonsai Kittens Web
site, and watch them recoil in horror and spend the week
writing letters to Congressmen in an effort to stop this cruel
once maintained a student system for a University that
registered 20,000 students per semester and had student records
dating back to the mid 1800’s. An IT Wannabe submitted a giant
ad-hoc query, dimming the lights in the machine room, causing
the disks spindles to shake, and causing system-wide slowdowns.
The query was idiotic, something like computing the average age
of all students, grouped by hair color. After killing the job, I
approached the end user, who, instead of being apologetic,
complained that their query was only five lines of SQL, and
there must be something wrong with the computer because he sat
there for 15 minutes awaiting the result.
Realizing that there is no way to explain to this genius the
amount of disk access required for his query, I developed an
elegant solution. I wrote a user-exit that would interrupt all
ad-hoc queries every 5 minutes. This exit would generate a
random number, format it as a dollar value, and display this
YOU HAVE JUST CONSUMED $223.14 IN COMPUTING
RESOURCES. DO YOU WISH TO CONTINUE (Y/N)? _
The IT Wannabe was quite impressed that my program was able to
compute machine resources down to the penny, and it worked-our
great for everyone. The end users developed an appreciation for
the computing resources required to service their dumb queries,
and I did not have to spend the day killing rogue queries.
The Rottweiler is the most aggressive and annoying of the end
users. Stubborn and prone to exaggeration, the Rottweiler is
fierce and vocal, and relishes tearing into the unsuspecting IT
professional. The Rottweiler will remind you of a television
evangelist at the apex of their sermon.
The Rottweiler is especially difficult because they continue to
“vent”, even after you have fixed their problem. I once had a
Rottweiler demand to know when this problem would happen again
(like I’m some kind of clairvoyant, you know).
The Rottweiler is usually male, and is the type of end user who
loves the thrill of battle, carefully planning their assault for
the best advantage. For example, when the Rottweiler gets a
database internal error (ORA-0600), they will repeat the
keystrokes, over and over, (as if it result might be different
next time) and never report the problem until the whole system
crashes. Almost universally, the Rottweiler has a low opinion of
their DBA and cannot understand why an upgrade to the SAP system
cannot be completed during their lunch hour.
Hallmarks of the Rottweiler include:
Exaggerates everything – The Rottweiler
immediately assumes the worst, and is quick to turn every
minor inconvenience into a major disaster. To the Rottweiler,
everything is an emergency.
Multi-tasking – The Rottweiler loves to
multi-task and enjoys surfing the Web while working. They are
extremely productive, yet still manage to spend much of their
day buying Nazi memorabilia on eBay or posting obscenities on
Internet message boards.
Confrontational – The Rottweiler is at their
best when engaged in an argument, and no amount of fact is
going to diminish their zeal. They will threaten and
intimidate the IT staff whenever possible, and will commonly
name all of the Vice Presidents who will hear that it took you
more than 4 minutes to solve their problem.
Rottweiler is sometimes a member of the NRA, and enjoys hunting,
fishing and any sport that involves killing something. Secretly,
I suspect that some Rottweiler’s are deeply insecure about their
gender roles and overcompensate by being super-macho males or
here to see how I suspect a male Rottweiler might dress
while working at home.
The Baby is one of the most common types of end users, and is
easily identified by their Apple, Macintosh or iPod PC. Prone to
temper tantrums, the Baby is characterized by a deep-seated fear
of computers and contempt for the “meanies” in computer support.
The Baby may remind you of a two-year-old child. They will whine
and cry, throw a tantrum, and even hold their breath when
frustrated by their computer.
Deeply insecure, the Baby does not have the courage to actually
talk with the DBA, and would rather whine to management or
enlist the aid of a Rottweiler. The Baby is most dangerous when
they manage to enrage a nearby Rottweiler and the Baby loves to
whip the Rottweiler into a frenzy and then watch them scream at
the help desk operator.
Secretly, I suspect that the Baby is well-aware of their
intellectual shortcomings and uses these outbursts as a tool to
get what they want.
Hallmarks of the Baby include:
Self-centered – The Baby will become
emotional over every computer problem. The Baby is very
sensitive, and takes it as a personal affront when they cannot
get their computer to do what they want. The Baby will assume
that every computer slowdown is directed at them exclusively,
usually a deliberate attempt by the DBA to tarnish their job
performance rating. You can always tell a Baby because they
complain “Why are you doing this to ME?”
Blames others – A Baby is never responsible
for their own actions and believes that all computer problems
stem from crummy software. For example, Babies will load huge
volumes of incorrect data into the database and then wait two
weeks to validate the data. When the Baby discovers their
error, they phone the DBA and demand that the transaction be
rolled-back without affecting any other data for the past two
weeks. Obviously, a Baby should never be told about redo logs.
Lacks comprehension – A Baby is cannot bear
to hear any technical explanations. Babies hate acronyms, and
see the DBA as deliberately showing-off by using
incomprehensible computer words like “connectivity” and “URL.”
Babies will ask lame questions like what “SQL”, “DBMS” and
“Oracle” stands-for, as if this knowledge will give them deep
insights into the fundamental nature of computers.
Because Babies outbursts are often entertaining, some DBAs
relish in watching the Baby throw a tantrum. For example, if you
use X-Windows, it is great fun to get the IP address of a Baby
and display fake error messages on their screen. Here are a few
of my favorites:
YOU HAVE JUST ACTIVATED THE
KUDZU VIRUS. YOU ARE NOW SENDING AN INFECTED E-MAIL TITLED
“ME NUDE” TO EVERYONE IN THE COMPANY DIRECTORY. HAVE A NICE
PER YOUR REQUEST, DELETING ENTIRE PERSONNEL MASTER FILE YOUR
USER-ID HAS BEEN LOGGED FOR AUDITING PURPOSES.
The Oracle Luddite
Luddites are characterized by a profound fear and distrust of
Scared to death of change, the Luddite reacts
violently to the automation of any business process.
Copyright © 2003 by
Talking with a Luddite may remind you of the time you tried to
teach your grandma how to use e-mail and she thought the mouse
was a foot pedal, like the one on her sewing machine.
Closed-minded and rigid, the Luddite will fight every system
enhancement, especially those that make their lives easier. I
suspect that this is because the Luddite has a deep-seated fear
(sometimes justified) that their job function will be replaced
with a $49.95 software package. Consequently, the Luddite will
often sabotage their new system projects in order to demonstrate
that their manual process is superior to the computerized
Hallmarks of the Luddite include:
Distain for electronics – Palm pilots are
unknown to the Luddite, and they rarely own a cell phone, VCR,
or any device that might require programming. They may display
an abacus in their office and are usually proficient with a
slide rule. I knew a Luddite who took a course in Gregg
shorthand and never grew tired of showing everyone how he
could transcribe faster by hand than with her computer.
No concept of feasibility – The Luddite
believes that computers are way more sophisticated than they
really are, and believes that HAL 2000 computer in the movie
2001 - A Space Odyssey was real.
This distorted belief system fuels their fears that software
will someday rule the earth.
Back-to-basics mentality – The Luddite longs
for the days when life was simple. They tend to have hobbies
like making all their own furniture with authentic 18th
century tools or making candles from ear wax. If they own a
car at all, the Luddite will have a super-safe land-barge like
a 1965 Cadillac. The Luddites are a pain-in the-butt when
traveling, and often insist on a 3-day train ride instead of a
6-hour airplane flight. Avid gardeners, they will often bring
carloads Zucchini to the office every fall.
Control Freaks – The Luddite is the type of
end user who will become greatly upset to learn that their
data will reside in the same database as data from the other
departments. Not caring to understand security, the Luddite
will often insist that their database is not contaminated with
data from other departments.
years ago I once received a late-night call from a Luddite who
complained that they could not get their PC to read their 5 inch
floppy disk. After questioning, the Luddite said “I followed the
instruction to the letter! The directions said to remove the
floppy from the sleeve and then insert the floppy. I wasn’t
easy; I had to use a pair of scissors to get the silly thing
Hopefully this lighthearted look at end users will remind you of
some of your own experiences with end users. For added fun, feel
free to print this article and post it in your end users’ break
Also, special thanks to the talented illustrator (and really
Mike Reed for granting me permission to use his
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