... Dramatis Personae: Software Developers Wednesday, January 13, 2010 ... Illustration by Crystal Frasier ... Cave raptors are sated; it's time to blog! ... As we all know, the business environment changed radically when the Internet achieved sentience back in '03. Suddenly, the clean, predictable world of code became a tangled, heaving jungle of logic chains and creeping ads. Companies suddenly found themselves in want of both a competent programmer and an experienced survival expert....
Dramatis Personae: Software Developers
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Illustration by Crystal Frasier
Cave raptors are sated; it's time to blog!
As we all know, the business environment changed radically when the Internet achieved sentience back in '03. Suddenly, the clean, predictable world of code became a tangled, heaving jungle of logic chains and creeping ads. Companies suddenly found themselves in want of both a competent programmer and an experienced survival expert. Luckily, Paizo has both.
This week I caught up with Ross Byers, Paizo's assistant software developer. Though he rarely disconnects his neural link to the server, he agreed to share what he could about the inner workings of Paizo's cyber-bwanas.
"It's a blast! I love working here." Ross had just finished carving out a virtual farmstead for the PaizoCon '10 protocol, and allowed me to interview him while he relaxed with a few protein pills. Originally hailing from the primordial swamps of central Florida, Ross is no stranger to life-or-death struggles against an oppressive environment. Now instead of wrestling 'gators, he turns his life experience toward Paizo's digital settlement. Like any small settlement in a strange world, the Paizo website and forums can be challenging to oversee, but Ross considers them among the better places to code a family. "Sometimes people get a little crazy, but generally [they] keep it on an even temper. They're nice to one another."
Software development is no easy job: from plague-bearing mosquitoes to deadly jungle predators, Ross risks his health and safety keeping Paizo.com prosperous. Though his duty is life threatening, he still finds time for fun. The smurf filter, beloved by the messageboard regulars, started as an April Fool's Day gag, but is now maintained and lovingly updated by Ross. "I also get to see the blogs 12 hours before they go up."
Ross first approached Paizo during the 2008 RPG Supersar competition, where he landed as one of the top 32 finalists. Having been a regular face in the frontier saloon that is the Unofficial Paizo chat room, Ross and his rugged style impressed the Paizo founders, and he eventually found himself shanghaied to the remote digital outpost he tends today.
Paizo's web presence, even in these turbulent times, is a factor in its success. Or, as Ross phrases it: "We require the [online] store for people to give us money. If we didn't have the store, people couldn't give us money. That's very bad for a commercial enterprise," although even he readily admits that Paizo's success hinges entirely on "high quality products to sell." Still, the Paizo website combines quality products from dozens of companies, including treasures that even the Amazon.com Imperium doesn't stock. With Ross's loving care and everything carefully organized by Jeff Alvarez and Vic Wertz (more on them later), this holdout frontier town has blossomed into a thriving community under some of the worst conditions.
Ross serves as the right hand of the unphotographable Gary Teter.
... Dramatis Personae: Customer Service Tuesday, December 8, 2009 ... Illustration by Crystal Frasier ... Cave raptors are sated; it's time to blog! ... In our never-ending quest for complete fan transparency (or fansparency), we here in the Paizo dungeon like to know that our readers understand our diabolical machinations and vile lieutenants so that they may truly tremble in terror before our slavering horde. And while it's easy to quake in terror before those bold names printed on the...
Dramatis Personae: Customer Service
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Illustration by Crystal Frasier
Cave raptors are sated; it's time to blog!
In our never-ending quest for complete fan transparency (or "fansparency"), we here in the Paizo dungeon like to know that our readers understand our diabolical machinations and vile lieutenants so that they may truly tremble in terror before our slavering horde. And while it's easy to quake in terror before those bold names printed on the front of our books, there are just as many wicked creatures slaving away behind the scenes, without whom our ink and pulp empire would come crumbling down.
Enter customer service: the key to Paizo's unstoppable march to the sea. Cosmo and Sara Marie tag-team problems with orders, website issues, and general customer complaints, applying their terrifying cheerfulness and resiliency to wearing down even the most dissatisfied of clientele. Longtime fans will recall that Cosmo first joined Paizo's ranks after claiming the fey crown by slaying Lord Oberon in ritual combat. Sara Marie came to Paizo through PaizoCon '09, where her mastery of the hat entranced our leadership and secured her future position in the company (as you well know, hats have been an important aspect of goblin culture since the Outerwear Wars of 3505).
To gain some insight into their jet-setting lifestyle of glamour and danger, I followed the daring duo for several hours. After they parachuted from an exploding mail plane (saving customer orders from crashing in the Andes), they stopped for a moment to grant some insight into their role in Paizo's success.
"One hundred percent of Paizo's success is all me," says Cosmo (exp 2, rog 4), who has been with the company since its magazine days. "And the secret to my success is emulating Sebastian in every encounter." He refused to expand on the subject of "Sebastian," but went on to confirm that he was, in fact, not an octopus.
"The less people have to deal with us, the better." Sara Marie (ari 4, brd 2) dodged all my octopus-related probing to continue on customer service's role in Paizo's success. "You've never heard of me? That's good! It means you've never needed to contact us." Obviously, customer service, much like assassins and trapdoor spiders, do their best work when no one needs them.
"We are part of the community," Cosmo added while repacking his parachute and radioing for pickup. "We're here to interface with the fans. Customers and customer service are what Paizo is all about." He pointed out that the website, the messageboards, the blogs—all are there to give customers better insight into Paizo, and Paizo better insight into the customers. PFS Open Calls and RPG Superstar were created to help turn the Paizo fanbase into the next generation of Paizo writers, and customer service is there to make sure Paizo customers become the next Paizo fanbase.
"There are constantly new challenges," concludes Cosmo.
"Dealing with Cosmo is a challenge." With Sara Marie's final comment, the interview evolved into more of a blood feud, with each stealing the other's earpiece and hurling literary invectives.
Without the customer service team, Paizo would have little insight into the minds of our victims, nor would we be able to best tailor our psychological assaults where we know it will hurt most. Sans Cosmo and Sara Marie, we would be forced to rely once again on the phone-answering monkey, whose courtesy is notoriously lacking, whose typing speed in unacceptable, and whose coffee is substandard at best. They are the glue that binds Paizo to it's customers and ensures that any dissent is stamped out, lest it foment uprisings and attract adventurers.
So, join me in celebrating Paizo's customer service department! Plant a customer service specialist in your back yard today!