Dealing with Optus, Part 2

Just to finish the story I started in the last post, here’s what transpired (just in case you’re interested). The good news is that Optus finally found the reason for this blog being blocked on their network and have restored things to normal. You should now be able to access this site, even on the Optus network, but the nonsense I had to wade through to get things resolved was quite ridiculous.

After that last blog post describing the problem with my site being blocked by Optus for reasons unexplained, I posted it out on Twitter and Facebook. It’s amazing how quickly that gets a response. To their credit, I heard back from Optus’s Social Media Team very quickly offering to help resolve the issue. I’m not sure why tech support problems can’t just be resolved by calling Tech Support, and why it takes a very public skewering on social media to get any action these days, but apparently that the way it works now.

After a series of very promising back and forth tweets, I eventually got a call from a member of Optus’s Social Media Team, and her response was basically that this was not an Optus issue and there was nothing they could do about it, and that I needed to refer things back to my web host, GoDaddy.

Despite the fact that they admitted that Optus was blocking my blog on their network – in fact they were blocking an entire IP range, which just happened to include my blog – she insisted it was not something Optus could do anything about. She told me that I had to ask my webhost to deal with it, and get them to fix the “malicious behaviour” on their servers, even though she could not tell me what kind of malicious behaviour was causing the problem. She seemed unwilling to entertain the logic of my argument, that if Optus was the one blocking the site – and she admitted it was – and if Optus was the only ISP that was causing this problem, then asking my web host to fix a problem that was invisible to them was not likely to be very successful. We went around and around in circles, arguing about this for about 25 minutes with me trying to explain that this was a problem that only Optus could fix, and her insisting that this was a problem that Optus could not fix. She stayed on the script, robotically insisting that Optus could not manually remove the block and I needed to call my web host and get them to deal with it.

Eventually, I gave up trying to reason with her, since she had obviously made her mind up that Optus could do nothing to fix the problem, so I went home and called GoDaddy. They guy I spoke to there, Mark, was very helpful and spent over an hour on the phone with me troubleshooting, trying different things, searching the Optus website for a form that would let GoDaddy get in touch with Optus to talk about the problem, but eventually he came to the same conclusion that I was trying to tell the woman from Optus – GoDaddy cannot fix a problem they cannot see, and that they have no control over.

I got a followup tweet the next day from the Social Media Team at Optus, which led to another phone call from them. This time it was someone who actually sounded like they understood networks, and they simply told me to email a copy of the traceroute and a quick explanation of the problem to abuse@optusnet.com.au and they would try to deal with it, no promises.

Less than an hour later I got an email which said, in part…

“I have removed the IP address block that was on our systems. Please try again. Many apologies for the inconvenience this has caused and lack of coherent information on our side.”

I tried again and all was back to normal.

Suggesting that Optus provided a “lack of coherent information” is somewhat of an understatement. All up, I probably spent 5 hours on the phone to both Optus and GoDaddy trying to get this issue resolved. From Optus I was told several stories about why the problem existed, many of them contradictory. I had both a tech support supervisor and the social media team person tell me flat out that there was nothing that Optus could manually fix, or that they had any control over. I was told to speak with my web host and get them to sort it out. I was given this advice repeatedly, and even though I argued fairly strongly that I didn’t think this was very good advice, they were insistent that there was nothing else they could do on their end. Despite supplying them with all the information on my very first support call, including traceroutes and network information, they still insisted that it was out of their control.

And then one guy from Optus fixes it. Just like that.

It’s ridiculous that I had to make phone call after phone call to get this resolved. It’s crazy that an actual tech support line achieves almost nothing, even when you escalate the issue to a supervisor, and that you need to go all social media on them just to get attention. It’s ludicrous that someone from that team will then argue in circles with you, insisting that Optus can’t fix a problem they are so obviously in control of, and that it seemed like there was little will to explore any possibility of fixing it.  And it’s damn annoying that getting it resolved was as simple as sending an email with traceroute details, but it took many days and many phone calls to even be told that this option existing.

Glad to back online, glad to have avoided bring the telecommunications Ombudsman in on it, glad to finally find a competent person who resolved the issue…. but so totally over Optus as an ISP.

Less than Optimal

If you’ve tried to access this blog lately from the Optus network, I’m going to make an educated guess and say that you haven’t been able to.

I have an Optus Cable Internet service at home and about two weeks ago I started to be unable to access my blog. At first I put it down to a temporary network glitch and didn’t worry about it. But the problem presisted and I started be become a bit stumped as to what was happening. Every other website on the Net loaded ok, but my own blog was inaccessible. I could get to it from work, and from my phone over Telstra 4G and pretty much anywhere except from home on my Optus service.

Then last week I got an email from a reader who said that she also couldn’t access the blog and, surprise surprise, she is also on the Optus network. Nor could a friend of hers, who is, you guessed it, also on the Optus network. So I put a note out on Twitter to ask who could access the blog and which ISP they were using. 100% of Optus users could not access it. Everyone else could.

I don’t think you need to be a network engineer to figure out where to problem lies here.

So I called Optus Tech Support and spend several frustrating hours over several frustrating calls, during which I was asked to reset my cable modem (clearly not the problem) and numerous other diagnostics that were also clearly not the problem. The Traceroute told the story, terminating in a black hole of Optus servers.

Optus eventually told me that their system had flagged my blog as having “malicious content”, but were unable to tell me exactly what that meant or identify the algorithms that might be flagging it. Nor could they suggest how to fix it, other than just wait until something might change.

On my second call to Tech Support I escalated it to a supervisor who was rudely insistent that the problem was not with Optus, and denied that Optus was blocking anything, which completely contradicted the information I was given on the previous call. I think that’s a technique used to just get the customer off the line, called Making Shit Up.

The battle continues. It’s no wonder so many people dislike Optus.

155 Lessons in the Creative Process

Some of you might have seen that I’ve been working on a daily blogging project this year called My Daily Create. You can visit it at www.mydailycreate.com (or click the link in the menu bar above). The basic idea is that I’m attempting to create something every day of the year during 2014. It could be music, a video, a drawing, a photo or a poem. It could be something practical and usable, or something retinal and frivolous. It doesn’t matter what it is, I just plan to make something each day. So far it’s going pretty well and I haven’t missed a single day yet.

Earlier this week I presented a keynote at the EduTECH conference in Brisbane on the topic of creativity at the invitation of the organisers. I find creativity an interesting topic to talk about, but it’s usually one of those things that’s easy to talk about in general terms but much harder to talk about specifically. I felt even more challenged by it because several of the other speakers were also talking about creativity, including Sir Ken Robinson, who, as I’m sure most readers of this blog will know, is considered somewhat of a guru on the topic of creativity in education.

I do find that the general message of what most people say when talking about creativity in education boils down to “It’s important, you should do it”, with very little actual guidance on HOW to make it happen and I tend to think we probably need a little more information than that.

So the plan for my keynote was to be a bit more practical and specific about creativity and so I decided to share some of what I’ve learned from doing my daily create each day in the form of lessons I’ve learned about the creative process and how they might be used with students.

For the people who asked for a copy of the presentation, here are the slides (I’ve had to remove the video content as it was just too big a file with them included)

Despite a shaky start due to some dodgy AV, I was pretty happy with the way the keynote went. The talk was basically presented in three parts…

  • Exploring Creativity – showing examples of the sorts of creative projects I’ve been coming up with during the first 155 days of My Daily Create.
  • Learning from Creativity – sharing some of the lessons (or meta ideas) about creativity that I’ve found from forcing myself to make something every day.
  • Applying Creativity – showing a few examples of how some of my daily creates have turned into activities and tasks that I’ve been doing with my kids in the classroom.

The lessons that I offered about creativity were these…

  • Create is a Verb – you have to actually DO stuff in order to be creative, not just think about it or talk about it. Actually DO it. Seriously. It’s amazing how many people wish they were more creative and overlook this simple fact.
  • Wonder. A Lot – Most creativity springs from being curious about things. Wondering “what would happen if…” or “why do we do it like that?” are often the starting points for coming up with new creative ideas.
  • Curiosity + Action = Creativity – When you combine the wonder with the action, things happen. Take action on your ideas, no matter how silly or fleeting they might be. Anyone can have a good idea, but the people who take action on their ideas are the ones we deem creative.
  • Make time to Play – Yes, making stuff takes time. So if making stuff is important to you, then make time for it. Make time, not find time. None of us can find time, we each get only 24 hours in a day so you already have all the time you’re getting. It’s a matter of clearing space in your day to make time for creative acts.
  • Wander off the Path – Something that becomes incredibly obvious when you force yourself to make things every day is that you almost always make something different or unexpected to what you thought you might make. Be led by your curiosity, your mistakes and your hunches. If you go somewhere you didn’t anticipate, just keep going. Don’t try to undo your mistakes, just turn them into the end result,.
  • Your Ideas are not Original – Hardly anybody ever has original ideas. Everything is a remix of things we’ve seen and heard elsewhere, just repackaged and remixed in our own way. So copy ideas shamelessly. But remember that while copying one idea is plagiarism, copying lots of ideas and combining them all together in new ways is where real creativity comes from.
  • So Share – If you use other people’s ideas (and you do!) then don’t be precious about letting other people use yours. Share generously and give away your stuff freely. Don’t be an idea hoarder. You’re just a conduit for ideas, so pass them on to others.
  • Creating = Learning – You learn when you create (and isn’t that the goal in education?) You might learn the things you expected to learn, but more often you will probably learn things you didn’t expect to learn. Be open to ideas, follow them, be inquisitive, be generous, and you really cannot help but learn through being creative.

The “big idea” I wanted to communicate was that creativity is a process, an active thing you do, and should do it regularly. Borrow and share, be open and curious, and you WILL come up with creative ideas. Some people claim they aren’t creative,  but there is no such thing as a non creative person, just a person who has chosen not to see the world creatively.

Finally, I showed some simple examples of how my daily create has spilled over into my teaching and helped me bring these ideas into my classroom.

I finished the talk by getting the audience to help make Daily Create number 155, chanting the phrase “Creativity is  daily deliberate act”.

The response I got afterwards from people was really nice. Quite a few people came up to say they got a lot out of the talk, and Twitter had lots of positive feedback too. It’s really nice when that happens. When you give a keynote it’s always hard to know what you could possibly say that might be of any value to the audience, especially when so many other speakers seem to know so much more about it, and speak so much more eloquently. But all I can really do is speak from my heart and mind, sharing my own personal experiences, so I’m glad it resonated with others and they found it useful.

Here is a link to the slides in Google Drive, (without the videos) but if you’d like a copy of the actual slide deck in Keynote format just drop me a note and let me know.