"Ask Maxwell" -- Microsoft's New Support Database
August 24, 2000 2:26 PM   Subscribe

"Ask Maxwell" -- Microsoft's New Support Database Am I the only one who finds something a tad sinister about this thing? He looks a bit odd, and considering it's supposed to be automated support, this profile of him is damned creepy. By the way -- the profile states that he/it is an English major. Uh, Bill? -- wouldn't it have been a smoother move to say that the "guy" was a Comp Sci major? Geez...
posted by metrocake (10 comments total)
Well, he's not so smart after all.
posted by quonsar at 3:39 PM on August 24, 2000

ummm, that thing works really well, I tried a few test questions and the next time I need help with windows I'll use it. and he looks fine, better than jeeves.
posted by starduck at 3:43 PM on August 24, 2000

Hey, Max: are you gay?
posted by baylink at 3:51 PM on August 24, 2000

He does remind me of Jack from 'Will & Grace.'
posted by Mick at 4:31 PM on August 24, 2000

MBRL noticed, a few weeks ago, and I agree that it's culturally irritating more than technically. MS seems to fail when it tries to create "hip" icons for it's services; remember the all-Hollywood-style MSN, the version (2.0) created all in the new-fangled FutureSplash (aka Flash, now), distributed only via 100+ distro CD? Ah, the rivers grow wide and deep in marketing. But they only flow in a circle.
posted by billpena at 4:32 PM on August 24, 2000


oh wait, Bob was never hip. moving right along.
posted by Sapphireblue at 4:54 PM on August 24, 2000

Maxwell is an English major who likes what cool software can do for people.

Look, folks... Natural language support databases are aimed at people who don't like computers. That's why they have to be natural language, remember? A geek goes and looks it it up in the manual.

I think saying Maxwell's an English major both a) makes him Not a Computer Guy (and therefore provisionally a human being -- see SNL's "Computer Support Guy from Hell" sketch), and, b) actually a smart move from a technical standpoint because most hard core techies can't write. (Please note "most", not "all" {cough})

When I was working the support forum for Toshiba notebooks on CompuServe, none of my co-workers nor I had a comp degree, nor did the next supervisor up. Not that we weren't geeks... we just weren't hatched as geeks. Or something. :) But I think we were all better writers than most geeks, and being able to string sentences together in a way that doesn't spook tha natives matters. Remember that the number one thing that leads to support calls is sheer, numbing terror on the part of newbies that they've caused the computer to melt into slag.

That's not hyperbole. I can usually spot a newbie in person by how physically ginger they are with equipment.

Or, as dear ol' Richard O'Brien wrote in the Rocky Horror Show, "I didn't make him for you!"

posted by aurelian at 7:28 PM on August 24, 2000

What creeps me out is that this is probably what a majority of people want (or think they want).

Also, it represents another example of the popular trend toward humanizing and personifying technology. Computers, robots, etc. are tools not people. I don't want my tools to be outwardly or even vaguely human because I use, break, throw away, buy, and sell them. Making tools more 'human' just makes them less useable.

Did we learn nothing from "Bicentennial Man"? :)
posted by plaino at 4:00 AM on August 25, 2000

Aurelian, you do have a point; making him an English Major might make him a bit less intimidating. But then let's dissect the rest of the character, then -- squeaky-clean white guy, "student of life," wears glasses in some shots but not in others, 26, doesn't care about his hair but does care about bike and car, yadda yadda yadda -- what demographic are they trying to reach with this, then?! 'Cause at 32, if I knew *nothing* about computers, I still think I'd be turned off by this guy. I can't see people in their 20's digging this either, but that's just me...
posted by metrocake at 7:48 AM on August 25, 2000

I'm a bit confused by the Microsoft copywriting department's use of verb tenses: is Max-baby *still* an English major? Isn't 26 slightly past the median age for currently enrolled undergrads (apologies to all my friends who are on the 8-year plan to graduate)? Or did he love it so much that he'll always identify as one?
posted by ann?! at 9:22 AM on August 25, 2000

« Older Is it still "file sharing" if you don't share?   |   Aha! Telemarketers ARE the Devil Incarnate. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments