Gregory House the grumpy doctor of TV fame specialises in solving the problems that no other doctor can.
Famously he says "All patients lie!".
Of course what he really means is that you shouldn't believe everything the patient says about their illness and symptoms as they do not have the skills to accurately describe them.
Patients also have a tendency to neglect to inform you of facts which seem irrelevant to them but are crucial to a successful diagnosis.
The same is true for supporting users!
Don't believe what you can't see with your own eyes!
This week I've been at the receiving end of two of perhaps the biggest "lies" in web site support I have ever faced.
Case 1 - The Web server is installed
Pre-amble: I was asked to attend a clients office to oversee the installation of a joomla site for a corporate intranet. Because the server was behind a government firewall we were not able to do anything remotely or check that the server had been installed correctly. After numerous emails and conversations we were assured that apache, mysql and php were all installed and working. So it should have been a very quick install.
On arrival: Sorry the IT administrator who installed everything is on holiday today but the server is in the room over there. I've connected a monitor and keyboard for you, sorry there is no desk but the tea trolley should be ok.
Looking at the server: No htdocs directory, I wonder where apache has been installed? Oh look there is an intranet directory it must be there. Open the directory and guess what apache, mysql and php are all there as installation files. So that is what they meant by installing the software then.
Installing the software: Well I guess we had better do it for them then, we're not paid to do it, but it will be a wasted journey otherwise and who is to say it would be any better if we came back next week. Oh thanks for doing that, but you don't mind doing it sat on the floor do you as we need to take the tea trolley back. Doh!
Case 2 - What version of php are you using?
User: I have this error message with your component
Me: That's a known problem caused by you running "php version 4" which we say we don't support and you would have found this by searching the site or looking at the "known issues" or "system requirements". Please upgrade your server to php 5.
User: Ok I will upgrade.
User: I have upgraded my server to php 5.0 and I still have the same problem.
Me: php 5.0, are you sure?
User: Yes I have upgraded it to 5.0
Me: please go to the "system info" in your joomla install and tell me what it says for "PHP Version" not "Database Version"
User: Yes it says PHP Version 4.2 and database version 5.0
Me: Please upgrade your server to the latest release of PHP 5
User: Didn't I already do that?
Me: Opens bottle of whiskey takes a stiff drink and cries into keyboard.