back to article BOFH: State of a job, eh? Roll the Endless Requests for Further Information protocol

BOFH logo telephone with devil's horns "I just want to check the state of a job," the Boss says, burbling away on the PFY's hands-free. "A support call?" the PFY says. "It'll be in the system." "I know it's in the system," the Boss snaps back. "It's got a job number. What I WANT to know is the state of the job." "It's in …

  1. Wellyboot Silver badge

    WooHoo BOFH is back

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ happy friday

    1. wyatt
      Thumb Up

      Re: WooHoo BOFH is back

      AHahaha, I'd never do any of those things, would I?!

      1. Mike Lewis

        Re: WooHoo BOFH is back

        > AHahaha, I'd never do any of those things, would I?!

        What do you mean? I've been taking notes.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: WooHoo BOFH is back

          Notes are for amatuer and leaves a paper trail. Either memorize the notes and eat the evidence or just commit to memory. Your memory, not the computer's.

    2. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: WooHoo BOFH is back

      My thoughts exactly!

      Now on to actually reading it....

    3. Waseem Alkurdi

      Re: WooHoo BOFH is back

      Heard of withdrawal symptoms?

      They also affect people who read the BOFH Archive, then are deprived of more episodes!

    4. Dave Aronson

      Re: WooHoo BOFH is back

      ...hey la, day la, the BOFH is back!

    5. Nick Kew

      Re: WooHoo BOFH is back

      BOFH is back, Dabbs is missing. Coincidence?

      1. herman Silver badge

        Re: WooHoo BOFH is back

        "Dabs is missing..." Did you check the store room supply of carpets and quick lime? It may have gone down by one...

  2. A K Stiles


    Woah there Simon! don't give away all of the helldesk secrets!

    Beer, 'cos it's Friday, and 5 o'clock somewhere.

    1. Jedit Silver badge

      "Woah there Simon! don't give away all of the helldesk secrets!"

      I could believe that helpdesks do all of these things, but the BOFH telling his boss about it? Immersion destroyed, sorry.

      1. joeW

        Re: "Woah there Simon! don't give away all of the helldesk secrets!"

        Being let in on certain tricks of the trade is a sure sign that this boss is rapidly approaching his natural expiration date.

      2. sisk

        Re: "Woah there Simon! don't give away all of the helldesk secrets!"

        I could believe that helpdesks do all of these things, but the BOFH telling his boss about it? Immersion destroyed, sorry.

        I would agree with you but for one thing: it's long been established that Simon cannot be terminated for any reason due to an ironclad contract. If I remember correctly Stephen does not have such an ironclad contract, but does have plenty of blackmail material to insure his continued employment. And, of course, his cache of blackmail material pales in comparison to Simon's, so Simon is doubly protected.

        Really now, do you think either of them would still have jobs at this point otherwise?

    2. blcollier

      Re: Sssshhhhhhh!

      > Beer, 'cos it's Friday, and 5 o'clock somewhere.

      You wait until 5pm...?

      1. InfiniteApathy

        Re: Sssshhhhhhh!

        You wait until Friday?

        1. sisk

          Re: Sssshhhhhhh!

          Beer? It's December. Get into the Christmas spirit man!

          Ho ho ho and a bottle of rum.

          1. fishbone

            Re: Sssshhhhhhh!

            Zacapa 23 Please

        2. Dave Ross

          Re: Sssshhhhhhh!

          You wait?

  3. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Ah HA!

    Clearly the template for all those totally useless online 'help' services.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Ah HA!

      I'd say that HP have excelled themselves and implemented variants of this system in multiple places just to ensure that what should be a relatively simple process of them replacing (yet another) DOA laptop (with the same faults as the previous ones) winds up involving multiple departments that cannot communicate with each other and many days of delays.

  4. chivo243 Silver badge

    Stuck in a Loop

    Way to go PFY! I wish I could get away with the endless loop of procrastination.

    And why is the BOFH suspiciously absent? And no accidents? Is this some sort of cliffhanger?

    1. Aladdin Sane

      Re: Stuck in a Loop


      1. Michael Habel

        Re: Stuck in a Loop

        Yeah this was the first Story in about as near now as Six Months now. IIRC: The last One was written in early June.

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          Re: Stuck in a Loop

          yeah, but the BOFH was present in this one , and every other .

          1. Waseem Alkurdi

            Re: Stuck in a Loop

            Except the first three episodes of the third millenium and the Nigerian 418 one.

  5. Whatsinitforme


    Although it is a realistic description of many of the chatbots that are around (keep asking questions, and suddenly provide no solution whatsoever), I am slightly underwhelmed by this semi-annual BOFH post, I would've hoped for at least 3 casualties, a cattle prod, a slippery staircase, an open window, the HALON going off, and some pieces of carpet being dragged.....

    That being said, finally BOFH/Simon is back, and we really needed a new story, so I'll drink to that!

    1. Waseem Alkurdi

      Re: tgiBOFHf

      , I am slightly underwhelmed by this semi-annual BOFH post, I would've hoped for at least 3 casualties, a cattle prod, a slippery staircase, an open window, the HALON going off, and some pieces of carpet being dragged.

      Actually no.

      It's good to change the routine. It all follows the same pattern.

      I've been trying to reach Simon Travaglia through several means (Facebook, Twitter, emails) ... but to no avail. I have got some ideas myself for future BOFH stories.

      A remake of BOFH: Servers under Siege for modern times is also in order!

      1. Saruman the White Silver badge

        Re: tgiBOFHf

        I've been trying to reach Simon Travaglia through several means (Facebook, Twitter, emails) ... but to no avail. I have got some ideas myself for future BOFH stories.

        Your messages are in The SYSTEM.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Looks like the basic Veritas support for Netbackup

    The only difference is the ERFI is actually a cycling process. After so many requests, they'd restart at RFI 1, then 2, 3 etc ...

    I have a very interesting huge thread of emails describing said process.

    1. MAH

      Re: Looks like the basic Veritas support for Netbackup

      I would argue that's NetApp support...

  7. Aladdin Sane

    Does BOFH work for Crapita now?

    1. Laura Kerr

      I think he trains their staff.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Or IBM global services.

      Admittedly IBM haven't worked out how to automate the process.

      Plus there's the service manager calling within a few hours of the SLA breach to confirm nothing will happen and check if it is okay to close the ticket.

    3. }{amis}{

      Does BOFH work for Crapita now?

      Nah the BOFH occasionally achieves something as a side benefit whereas Capata only turns gold into $%!t

    4. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

      define "work"

    5. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      I believe the BOFH and PFY have put in tenders for all the lovely work for customs, agriculture, satellites, etc. that needs to be ready by March 29th*

      * Year deliberately left off RfQ and tenders…

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Does BOFH work for Crapita - No

      The CEB *internal* helpdesk is actually rather good!

      and the manager calling BOFH is far too competent.


      (a) because ... I work there (no I do not work on the helpdesk)

      (b) so I do not get too much abuse.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Depressingly accurate

    My employer's outsourced helpdesk provider *cough DXC *cough* implements exactly this scheme. What Simon forgot to mention is that every time a ticket is closed and another one opened (with no tangible benefit to the customer) the problem resolution statistics improve and more $$$ can be extracted.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Depressingly accurate

      I just had a three-week wait for a ticket where the computer was continually trying to uninstall or update some Outlook add-on which required not just closing Outlook but also rebooting, rinsing and repeating. Solved by manual intervention in two minutes but not my machine and I don't have the power to do that.

      1. bpfh Silver badge

        Re: Depressingly accurate

        Obviously you have not had any recent database normalisation errors recently. Or your management are on the ground floor or have windows that don’t open, even with assistance from the maintenance guy at 9pm along for the promised bottle of whiskey...

  9. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    This shows

    there are still things I must learn.....

    1. Whatsinitforme

      Re: This shows

      I've been in IT for 20+ years, and have been reading the BOFH stories since I first learned of his existence. Also, I dove back into the archives ( ) to make sure that I learnt as much as possible.

      However, even with this vast experience and re-reading the archives, also for me, there are things I must learn. Right now, I'm trying to automate my messaging system based on :).

      1. Waseem Alkurdi

        Re: This shows

        Don't forget this:

        An archive of the archive of the best of alt.sysadmin.recovery on Usenet, where most of the BOFH stories were originally posted ^_^

        1. Whatsinitforme

          Re: This shows

          That link will surely keep me busy for the remainder of the afternoon :)

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

        3. Woza

          Re: This shows

          I ran across those PFY stories years ago and haven't been able to find them since - thanks for the link!

  10. K

    Perfect timing ... I'm just reworking our Workflow..

    Now this looks like it will fit the bill...

  11. Waseem Alkurdi

    Another way this could've worked out

    BOFH et PFY would lock up the Boss in the basement, with only a cig lighter, rope, gum, rotten dill pickles, and a computer screen.

    The screen is actually a dumb terminal connected to the lock.

    It runs an Eliza program that asks questions like, "How long did this happen? (Being locked up that is)", " How did this come about?", "What's on the lunch menu?", et cetera.

    When the terminal's stress detector detects a Boss banging either screen or door or low aldosterone, it would offer a solution of paying the BOFH fund.

  12. Oliver Mayes

    I once wrote a chat bot to replace a colleague who left. It was a basic Eliza package with some custom vocabulary. It was just a bit of a laugh and we had some interesting conversation with it.

    Checking the chat logs a few weeks later, I discovered that someone had actually messaged it, (not realising that the guy had left the company) asking for help with something. The bot managed to hold up its end of the conversation, ending in it recommending that they put in a support ticket.

    It later went a bit crazy, it disconnected from the chat system and began using up more and more system resources but refusing to communicate. Sadly, I had to kill it out of fear of an uprising.

    1. Waseem Alkurdi
  13. Dr. G. Freeman

    That reminds me, have to call the IT helpdesk for the monthly update on the fault with our main computer.

    Only been five years since it was reported, and three years since the room the computer was in burnt down, melting said computer- but they said once they'd gone through all the diagnostics they'd pop round (from the building next door) and have a look.

  14. Ripper38

    Talking of " in the system"...

    What was it? Wandsworth? Wormword Scrubs? ... Pentonville? I mean all those defenestrations.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

      Re: Talking of " in the system"...

      Defenestrations? Just teething problems with, er, ... windows installs, you mean, or of course it could be a data normalisation warning

  15. steelpillow Silver badge

    Sometimes it's the Boss

    Company I was with had a helldesk system just like that. Problem was, sales were falling because the printer in the sales dept had been borked for so long.

    I was asked to take the desk over, fit it into my spare moments, so I did the job properly. A couple of months later sales are back up again. But management decides I am "spending too much of your valuable time" on it, a euphemism for my once-weekly round-robin status emails, which were embarrassing said managers for not getting things done.

    So it gets passed back to a secretary who could teach the PFY a thing or two. Couple more months and it is back to square one.

  16. Juillen 1


    I've so missed BOfH! Good to see it back, and with a scorcher no less!

  17. Mystic Megabyte

    Speaking of confusion.....

    Here's how to confuse the Taxman.

    I'm sure that I read about this in a book by Sir Patrick Moore but I might be wrong:

    First letter to the taxman, My Ref: ABC123

    Next letter, My Ref: ABC124

    Next letter, My Ref: ABC126

    In which you state that all the info that they required was in the previous letter, My Ref: ABC125. (which obviously does not exist)

    I've done this and it feels good!

    It's nearly pub o'clock and as there are no police here we drive there and back, ooops!

    1. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: Speaking of confusion.....

      Problem with that is that the taxman doesn't care about anything you say. If they don't have the information they required they assume you didn't provide it and chug along accordingly. You feel the pain, not them.

    2. Number6

      Re: Speaking of confusion.....

      Ah, the equivalent of releasing four piglets in a Walmart store with the numbers 1, 2, 3 and 5 painted on them, then watching as the security team frantically try to locate #4.

      1. Frumious Bandersnatch

        Re: Speaking of confusion.....

        You're not fooling me, number 6!

        1. Alister

          Re: Speaking of confusion.....

          You're not fooling me, number 6!

          Reminds me of the bloke running a boating lake, he had a megaphone to call in the people who had had their alloted time...

          "Number six, you're time is up"

          "Number six, please come in now, you're time is up"

          "Number six, come back in!"


          "Number nine, are you in trouble?"


  18. Dave Aronson

    more, more, more!

    > The more calls you resolve, the more calls you get.

    I've heard that in the military there's a saying: "Take more than your share of objectives, and you'll be given more than your share of objectives to take."

    1. fredds

      Re: more, more, more!

      It is called performance punishment. If you perform too well, you get more things to do.

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge

        Re: more, more, more!

        aka the Ponder Stibbons principle

  19. Dabooka

    Again the BOFH teaches me something

    As a user I'm learning all the tricks of IT at work.

    1. Nunyabiznes

      Re: Again the BOFH teaches me something

      Simon's plan is working. You think you know more than you do, inevitably you will start trying to use the flawed knowledge to climb the corporate ladder. That's when you will become the sacrificial goat to the real plan Simon had running. Plans within plans within plans...

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Missing item

    BOFH and PFY are missing one item in their process: Every response to the user needs to start a timer that will automatically close the call "due to lack of user response".

    I think it was McAfee tech support used to do that. You'd open a call with them, get the usual questions to weed out the bonehead mistakes, then eventually get a recommendation to do something like "uninstall the software, reboot the server, power down the system, power up to do a full memory test, power down and arrange the internal cables in a good feng shui pattern, power up and reinstall the software and all patches (with a few reboots), etc. Since this was a production server, we can't just do that on a whim, so we'd schedule downtime for a weekend. If the weekend was too far away, the ticket would be auto-closed on us.

    1. Phil Endecott

      Re: Missing item

      Yes, I’ve had “support” incidents where they send an email on Friday and if I’ve not replied to it by Monday they just close the case as “resolved”. Bastards.

      The other end of the spectrum is a few open source projects where I get Bugzilla emails for things I filed 17 years ago.

      1. FeRDNYC

        Re: Missing item

        Sorry! That's usually me. I'm of the opinion that necromancy is always better than starting a new issue over from scratch and having to cover the same ground over again (assuming the previous history is still relevant), but wow is there some disagreement on that point.

  21. ma1010

    True to life

    My wife works for the State of California (I won't say which department, for obvious reasons), and their IT people follow Simon's "problem resolution" process exactly. They specialize in closing tickets without actually doing anything at all toward fixing the problem. So they start another ticket, lather, rinse, repeat.

    From other commentards, it seems that Blighty has similar issues, so apparently the BOFH and the PFY are training helldesk people on both sides of the Pond.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: True to life

      Oh, that much is an obvious result of an incentive system that grades people by how quickly they close their tickets.

      Moral: performance incentives are harmful to performance. As far as I know, there are no exceptions to this rule.

  22. TeeCee Gold badge

    Missed a trick.

    Tickets come with a Target Resolution Time. To avoid a breach and the associated hassle from management, merely get the user to admit that whatever they're winging about is causing a problem and then convert the ticket to a problem. Problems have no TRT and can be safely allowed to moulder in peace.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Missed a trick.

      You called?

  23. Cyril

    Welcome back Simon. I thought for sure something had happen to you and you were occupying a rolled up carpet somewhere in a landfill.

  24. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Giant Steps are Minor Moves into the Major Leagues of the Totally Unpredictable ....

    Raw Core Ore Source

    Does anyone doubt El Reg have Remote Controllers in Command of CHAOS ...... Clouds Hosting Advanced Operating Systems?

    And future thoughts are shared herein for AI Media Processing with Presentations into Future Virtual AIdVentures ........ Realities, Master Piloted.

    Something to Follow with Simple Leading Directions Shared Openly in IntelAIgent Secret Spaces for ........ well, Heavenly Assistants ..... in a Greater IntelAIgent Games APP .....

    Do you have any other better Beta AI Future Generator Supplying Your Every Need for Future Feed into Present Seeds ..... where the Future is Realised by You for Virtual AIMachines.

    That which Humanity evolves into whenever there be Heavenly Assistance and SMARTR IntelAIgent Services Servering Almighty Productions for Celestial Show in Extra Terrestrial Operations.

    And Both the Fate and Destiny of All who Grow and Evolve into a Greater Being.

    :-) And where Valhalla and Nirvana Rock and Roll Real Nice Together is it Heavy Metal Fuel :-)

    ?????????? What on Earth does that mean????? Anything worthy of a note or flag??? :-)>

  25. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Boss down a highway at night that runs along Loch Ness.

      The Scots are not responsible for Brexit. In the event that the people you mention receive appropriate treatment, the correct disposal point for the remains would be the fons et origo of the whole thing - the Fellows Pond at Eton College.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  26. Herby


    I like it!

    Just not on the receiving end.

  27. Frumious Bandersnatch

    "Look," the Boss sighs, "I just want to know where this job is at."

    "Excuse me, my good man! Around here, we do not end a sentence with a preposition!"

    "Oh, all right then. ''Where is this job at, fuckface?''"

  28. Anne Hunny Mouse

    Our helpdesks specialities

    Our help desk has 3 specialities:

    1) Answering calls but not logging or telling users to contact us direct. The user then contacts us direct, which they shouldn’t do and then get told to log it with the help desk. At this point we found out they had contacted the help desk.

    2) Totally ignoring users emails ( probably deleting them). Normally find out when the user forwards the original request.

    3) Logging things which shouldn’t be logged (some seriously stupid non IT stuff).

    They have excelled in getting such talented staff.

    Despite being 3 levels of hierarchy above them I log more calls than some of their staff...

  29. StuntMisanthrope

    It’s a trap.

    There’s a been a conversation, an excuse, a smear of a problem as a diversionary tactic. No problem at all. What’s the case number? #speeddialyup

  30. Nick Kew

    This BOFH is a rank amateur!

    Why does he let tickets in to the system in the first place?

    He could take lessons from Virgin Media in preventing that. Alongside never answering the phone (just torture them with menus that go nowhere, adverts, and piped screaming) or the online 'chat' facility (a much more benign "try again later"), you just don't provide any system that could accept a ticket into it.

  31. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    What about TalkTalks technique?

    After a good half dozen calls, give an answer (barely) that is completely unrelated to the original question and close the ticket.

    Follow that up in 2-3 months time with a call to ask if you are happy with the solution to the completely unrelated problem.

  32. FeRDNYC

    The System is real

    The worst part of this New-Fangled World of Tomorrow we live in is that computers really can be imposed between users and the support staff ostensibly there to help them.

    My cable company even introduced an automated "Stupid Luser Tricks" system on their phone-support line a few years back. Now if you call in to report that you can't access the Internet, instead of getting a tech at all, you get connected to a phonebot that (a) talks you through the steps of resetting your cable modem (in the laborious detail typical of interfaces designed for the lowest common denominator), and (b) actually checks that you're following along with every tedious step. So when it says "unplug your modem", your modem had damn well better power down, because if the system's able to reach it after you said it was unplugged, you're in for a whole world of "Hmmm, something doesn't seem right. Let's start over..." pain.

    As much as this frustrates me personally (as a technically-minded customer), in theory it could be a good thing. A lot of support's time really is taken up solving "problems" that only require them saying, "Have you tried turning it off and on again?" Eliminating that tedium could mean that they're more available to focus on handling real issues. Or, it would, if the introduction of automated level 1 support didn't always coincide with a reduction in human support staff. So the few who remain are just as overworked, except now all of their time is spend handling only two types of issues: Real problems that can't be solved with a simple power cycle / reset, and new problems created by the automated idiot-support system.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Actually, the System is not real whenever IT Supplies are Surreal

      Real problems that can't be solved with a simple power cycle / reset, and new problems created by the automated idiot-support system. ...... FeRDNYC

      That sums up succinctly the present persistent geopolitical situation and Earthly humanised dilemma, FeRDNYC

  33. BOFHfollower

    Christmas is saved and comes ealry

    Hurrah Christmas is saved and comes early as the BOFH finally returns

  34. Myvekk

    I am reminded of the phone menu from Zork: Grand Inquisitor, for summoning Charon to take you over the river Styx...

  35. Kaniel_Outis

    I was wondering when the BOFH would be back.

  36. Luiz Abdala
    Thumb Down

    You know a company is evil when...

    ... there is no option to "talk to an human being" in the automated phone support.

    ...And the options are pretty much like "press 1 repeatedly if you have OCD" and in the second level of that, it says "press 1 if you are satisfied with the support given" and then it hangs up.

    I've met more than one company that does that.

  37. Whatsinitforme

    Is Simon himself trapped in the system?

    I was kind of hoping for a Christmas party story, or a 'look what happened during the Christmas holiday' story, but nothing.

    Is his new story stuck in TheRegisters approval system??

  38. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

    My IT dept doesn't even do this...

    They just wait a week then send a request to close. Deny it, and a week later there's another request. You have to call the BOFH's boss and yell at them to get any action. I watched a new cow-orker go through this to get some systems access . Well, a former cow-orker, who just stopped coming in to work for some reason the day after the complaint call. I don't know why he stopped coming in, I don't like asking questions...

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