Working with Jos
as remembered by Kieca M.
on August 26, 1999

Jos started at WebTV in Aug 1997. We hired him from Brain Trust where we hired a lot of people at the time in Customer Service (CS). I was working in CS -- there's Hilary over there. We were managing the email team, people who got to answer emails from our wonderful customers.

Some guy named Matt, who was an emailer, recommended a friend of his and it turned out to be Jos, so Jos comes in one day and immediately starts calling Hil, "Hil-Bopp" for the Hale-Bopp comet that was around at that time.

He immediately starts calling me [Kieca] Kiecalicious. This was the first day he was working here.

And I just found out an emailer who was hired at the same time who just sent us an email saying that Jos used to call him "Scotty Buns." He did say he never called Jos, "Josie Pie" back, even though he would have liked it.

So Jos started doing email and we knew that's no fun. We've all been thru it, and shortly thereafter, probably less than a week after he started, our Previews Group needed someone and Jos turned out to be the person. Part of the reason is that we knew that if you had to do email for more than a week or two, you'd probably just get fed up and quit, and Jos actually knew JavaScript and stuff. So we were like, "Send him to Previews".

About a week after he started here in August 1997 he went to our Previews team working for Matt Dingy so I got to be part of all of Jos's antics on the Previews Team.

I was going thru the email. I found some emails from his first day at WebTV. Granted that they weren't totally Jos'ed out yet because it was his first day and he probably didn't know how far he could go.

Most of them were very sweet. I found one where he assured a girl. She was worried that she would lose her email when she turned off her WebTV. He wrote back, "Any email that comes into your account is stored at our computers here in Palo Alto which we never turn off." [laughter] I thought it was nice of him.

Somebody else wrote in and said they "played that game" -- this is typical user speak -- "I played that game and entered my selection and all the response I got back was that 'You have found the SPAM'. I don't understand why they wouldn't thank me instead." Jos wrote back, "Dear Allan, I will thank you myself. Thank you for finding the spam". [laughter].

A user named golf4food, wrote in, "How do I change my email address?" and Jos wrote back, "Dear Kevin, What? You've gotten sick of golf4food? Seriously, you'll have no trouble changing your email address."

This was all on his first day of working for us, I thought that was pretty amusing.

He started in Previews at the time and he started working on our LC2 product with Kyle and Steve and Daryl and Camilo, Jennifer.

He had a special user named AppleU that he was really really enchanted with. AppleU sent us over 400 emails. There were 400 tickets which means there were probably way over 400 emails. This guy would send us some email every 2 minutes -- like "I saw something funny on a web page; here it is." or "When is WebTV going to be in Guam?" like anything that popped into his head he was writing in.

Jos answered a little over a third of them, he had like about 105 of them he did answer.

In the beginning of the emails he would answer, "Dear Apple U, Thank you for writing in. Here is the answer. Feel free to write back if you have more questions ".

As time went on he was like, "AppleU, No that's not possible. Jos" You could tell that he was a little tired. AppleU actually is part of the inspiration for the Jos-O-Matic for days when Jos wasn't there that people could actually be him.

Also during that time he was out on the web, he got onto the Mr.T sites, the Mr.T ate my balls site, the Mr.T whatever site. He made a site named Mr.T versus the P[Previews]-Team which involved our building catching on fire, Mr.T coming, CMR blowing everything up, Steve Perlman [company founder] came in and had to save the day, and Mr.T saved the day. It is an amazing piece of work. It involved a lot of cut up photography and creative special effects.

Also the Duncan sound catalog is also on the web. He was always trying to keep busy. We had a parrot in the office. We had a lot of parrots in the office. This parrot was especially prolific and would imitate pretty much anything that came down the road. Jos decided he wanted to catalog all these sounds. He went to Radio Shack, bought a cheap microphone, and dangled it over the cube wall so he could tape the parrot as it was saying things. He made a web page devoted to the parrot -- put all the sounds on the web -- named them all, catcall1, catcall2. There is the evil chirp that got the parrot banned from the building after a while.

In between all this he was actually doing work too.

The other thing he brought to the P-team was the orange couch. He decided at one point that the Previews people just needed a couch. They had this big empty room. He and Camilo went out to the Good Will. and they got this lovely orange velvet couch that sat there and everyone would come in and sit on it, even our boss who would come in and say. "Errr. I hate that thing. It's really ugly," but then she would sit on it all day anyway.

But he loved that couch. He actually wore it to Halloween one year.

He worked there from Aug 97 to Jan 98 and moved to service quality engineering (SQE) group under Joel. I actually worked with Jos in this capacity because our team was the team... he was our escalation person. When the group at Customer Care got a lot of problems and didn't know what to do with them, didn't have technical skills or time to know what to do with them, we would go to Jos and he would figure them out for us and work on problems. He would tell us that he didn't have enough information and make us cry.

He used to do something called the Service Quality Engineering Report every Thursday. It was actually very exciting. Maybe I had no life at the time because I actually used to wait for these things to come out because they were so funny. I know I shared an office with Steve Kroll at the time and I think Steve will remember this one in particular. We actually talked about this a lot.

Basically these reports were just a rundown of the week: these are the problems we saw, here is what we are doing to fix them, these were the things that I couldn't figure out. At one point there was a problem with the WebTV box. And here is how Jos described what happened to the box:

A box happily going about its business doesn't realize that it was cursed with a rather bad A-prom chip in its infancy. Now after a life of dings and some other indignities, whenever this box gets in a certain state, let's say it reaches a certain temperature, one of the little ROM pins will lift up. Think of a rom chip as a many legged roach fused to a circuit board, (legs equals pins) and the box will freak out thinking that it no longer has a A-prom. Unfortunately, it's going to say "I'm going to go and get an update," when really they should be saying, "Man, I'm hosed. I'm going to make some calls. Why don't you go out for a beer?" We are trying to get some of these boxes back and see if this is actually the case.
Steve and I used to say that over and over again, every time the box would do something weird, "Man I'm hosed". We were going to print it out and put it on one of the boxes.

In this escalation report he signed it "Jos Claerbout, trying to stay out of trouble." He had a little quote at the bottom of every one.

During this time he wrote reports, he took escalations from my group; he was sort of the renaissance man. He would take care of any sort of problems anyone had, whatever came down the road, he would figure it out.

He would hang out in the WebTV news groups; make friends with the users; find out who was trying to hack into the service; and then get ahead of them.

He spent a lot of time keeping up with the Jerry Springer titles. In fact this escalation report was signed, "Dumped for a one night stand".

Here is another one called, "TWA hates me because of the color of my browser." He actually called TWA to see what the deal was and here's his translation of what happened:

WebTV: I'm calling on behalf of WebTV and we have noticed that your customers cannot access your site on their WebTVs. We'd like to help you fix this to improve your customers' satisfaction.

TWA: Our site is only compatible with Netscape and Internet Explorer.

WebTV: I understand that you have done that. I'm trying to explain that there is no reason for you to block the WebTV browser.

TWA: But we are not blocking any browser.

WebTV: But you just told me you are only allowing only two types of browsers into the site.

TWA: silence

TWA: If your customers want to access our site, they need to down load Netscape or Internet Explorer.

WebTV: Our customers cannot down load Netscape or Internet Explorer.

TWA: We have several customers who have accessed our site using Internet Explorer on their WebTV units.

"This is the point where I employed the convenient mute button on my phone," Jos says. "Today's Springer title was, 'I escort for money'."

He always told us, if you need any help, give Joel Black a call. He gets lonely once in a while and he'd probably love to hear from you. He also knows some stuff.

I also used to commiserate with Jos a lot on the problems he used to see. I remember one time -- our WebTV users get lonely too. Late at night they sometimes go out on the web. There was once a problem and Jos had to contact the manager of, because one of our users was having a problem getting into the site.

Jos was very proud, remember there are 8 x's in that title, not 7, not 6, but 8 x's.

One thing that I thought was funny, we had a problem with a chat site called Chatopolis. WebTV users would go to the site and they wouldn't be able to use the site, and there was something up on the site which said:

"WebTV sucks. If you cannot use Chatopolis, call them at 1-800-GO-WEBTV or email them and tell them that you want to use us."
So of course we were getting flooded with calls and we were like, "Jos, can you help us with this problem so we don't get killed with these calls and make this guy take this off his site?"

He actually did write to the guy at the Chatropolis site. He has a translation of what the email that he sent:

That's just an example of the kinds of things he had to deal when he worked on escalations for us.

He was really good at helping us find out the information. We were very appreciative of it.

[to friends speak up]