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How to Deal When Your Favorite Application Goes Down

How to Deal When Your Favorite Application Goes Down

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    I use a lot of free online services every day, along with a few applications I downloaded from the web. There are a few that I really can’t get any work done without: all my email goes to Gmail, I use Scribefire to write each of my blog posts and I’m constantly using Twitter to do research. I particularly like web-based applications because I can switch computers without a problem.

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    Despite the benefits of using all these great applications, though, sometimes something goes wrong. Last week, for instance, ScribeFire 3.2 came out. I updated and got back to writing blog posts. When I went to publish, though, nothing happened. Something had broken with the update. The folks at ScribeFire got things fixed up in a hurry, releasing version 3.2.1, but it’s a good reminder to have a plan of action in place if you rely on an application that you have only minimal control over.

    Putting Together That Plan

    Sometimes you’ll try to access a service that normally works just fine — but there will be some sort of hiccup in the process. A hiccup doesn’t always mean that something has gone wrong with the service you’re using, though: there can be a problem at your end just as easily as there can be a passing problem. Assuming the issue doesn’t resolve itself immediately, it’s worth checking to see whether other people are having the same issue.

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    My initial plan has two parts. First, I visit DownForEveryoneOrJustMe.com. Just type in the site that you’re having problems with on the front page and you’ll get an immediate response on whether the site is up or down. It’s an extremely simple approach, useful as an initial check. My second stop is usually Twitter. Many Twitter users have gotten into the habit of posting about their problems with applications almost immediately. Visiting Search.Twitter.com and looking for a specific application name can give you a good idea of who’s having problems.

    In many cases, Twitter offers a much better over all view — especially if there is a problem with an application with a working website. For ScribeFire, for instance, DownForEveryoneOrJustMe.com didn’t really help me. ScribeFire.com was certainly still up with no problems, but when I checked Twitter, I could see quickly that other bloggers were seeing the same issue.

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    Getting A Solution

    Knowing what isn’t working doesn’t always help you that much. You may be okay with a site or service being down for a little while if you have a backup of your data on your own computer, but not too many of us are actually as good about backing up data as we ought to be. In most cases, though, not being able to access services that we’ve come to rely on can be a bit of a problem.

    I make a point of trying to find out if the service provider has made any sort of announcement before doing anything else. Depending on what kind of service we’re talking about, such an announcement could be on a blog, on Twitter, sent out in an email or even placed on someone’s personal website. More than few times, I’ve seen announcements that amount to, “Yes, we know the service is down. Please stop emailing us and let us focus on fixing it.” If I see something like that, I figure that I need to just try to switch to working without that particular service or application for the time being.

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    Other sites will share things that users can do, like installing a new plugin or using a different URL. Occasionally, you even run into websites that don’t even mention that there’s a problem with the service. When that’s the situation, I typically look for an email address that will let me connect to the help department or someone else that can update me on the situation.

    I’ve talked to some people who don’t feel that it’s appropriate to email a person or company that offers a free service, asking why that service isn’t working. The reasoning is that when we use free web applications and other tools, we run the risk of them not working. I strongly disagree. When I couldn’t find information about how to get ScribeFire back up and running, I fired off an email. I got a great response: within a day, I had a response including a link to the new upgrade. It has always been my experience that even if a service is free, you can get plenty of help from the service provider.

    Waiting Out Downtime

    When you rely on a service and you’re not interested in making the switch to another option — whether the question is expense, hassle or something else — sometimes the only real option is to wait out the downtime. Even if your most important documents or data is inaccessible because some website is down, there may not be anything you can do. Even contacting the site doesn’t always help — and a rude or angry email might do more harm than good.

    Downtime comes with putting a good portion of your work in the cloud. The only way to avoid it is to work only on programs installed on your own computer (and even then, it isn’t guaranteed). It’s worth having a side project that you can work on if a web application, online service or even the power that runs your computer goes down.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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