NOC communications (was Re: Process management)

Sean Donelan SEAN at SDG.DRA.COM
Mon Jul 13 07:39:47 UTC 1998

>You bring up an interesting (if unspoken) point in your prior statement,
>and that is: "Communications between entities is worthwhile if the
>communications facility has a high signal-to-noise rate."   While I am not
>certain, I have strong suspicions that the SS7 NOCs pushed their emergency
>directory numbers to the general number due to useless, misdirected calls.

Most of the SS7 providers involved reported no problems with misuse of
their contact information.  A couple of providers said they were changing
the contact information out of fear the information might be misused.  One
provider stated they had problems, but didn't give any specifics.

As some anecdotal evidence I've found our WHOIS e-mail contact information
tends to get spammed by the small time bulk mailers, usually whose own
contact information is bogus.  While our phone information tends to get
junk calls by large corporations, usually one particular major ISP's
telemarketing operation trying to sell Internet service.

Handling such calls through the general purpose number can work well,
IF and I repeat IF, the staff at the general purpose number is trained
how to handle the calls and direct the information expeditiously.
Unfortunately, it seems the person changing the emergency contact
information forgets to inform the customer service operation they
will now be getting those calls.  Some companies seem to do this
well, some seem to do this poorly. As I found out, you never know
when it will be your newest, greenest tech who happens to get the
call at the exact same time the senior engineer is in the bathroom.
Even though the calls are fairly rare, it is an ongoing training process.

Of course, if the general purpose contact number was working well,
there wouldn't be a need for another contact method. 

> Being a secretary is not something that a NOC can afford to do.

Being a secretary is also something most NOCs don't do well.  It is a
different set of skills.  Dealing with a good receptionist is a pleasure.
On the other hand, a bad receptionist is really bad.  How many folks
remember the recurring receptionist character sketch on Saturday Night Live.
I doubt most NOC engineers would last 30 minutes on the front desk of
a large law firm.

>Therefore, to avoid this problem, one must limit the ubiquity of the
>contact mechanism and increase the value of each message.  Using a medium
>like a phone number is of course the standard method for contact in any
>emergency situation (email is great, but it lacks a rapid
>question-answer-experiment ability) but phones also carry with them the
>ease of use that works against them, as well as for them.  A phone number
>gets handed out on web sites, "emergency call" sheets, etc.  and soon
>people who do not have anything directly relating to operations are calling
>the operations hot line.  Either more staff is required to start answering
>these questions, or (more likely) the "hot line" becomes not-so-hot and it
>will go unanswered or not taken seriously, or simply nobody will care about
>it and it will get forwarded to the Void.

Yes, I'm aware of the 9-1-1 problem.  If you make something that works
well, everyone is afraid it will be overwhelmed with all sorts of calls
not relevant to its primary purpose.  On the other hand, if you make a
something that is so restricted, it will never be abused, but it will also
likely never get used or important pieces of information won't get through.

How do you set things up to create a 'shared fate' among all the participants?
Do you need a strong moderator, editor or dispatcher to make such a
system work?  To avoid the 'whose in charge' problem do we draw lots
each week for the moderator position?  If each of the participants don't
feel some pressure from their management, shareholders, customers to
make a good faith effort; will any and every system fail of active
neglect?  There have been several attempts in the past, and have not
had a sucessfull track record.

I'm going to keep throwing ideas against the wall to see what sticks.
Are any of these ideas even close to being useful?  Or do people think
there is not a problem and I should just shut up.
Sean Donelan, Data Research Associates, Inc, St. Louis, MO
  Affiliation given for identification not representation

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