Stupid user tricks 7: True tales of extreme brain fail

Private bits on the public cloud, execs botching backups, the proverbial plug gone unplugged -- will users ever learn?

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Stupid user trick No. 2: A whale of a fail

These days, everyone seems to be in love with social media. But while a tool like Twitter can help your company connect with clients, it can also make your company a global punchline in less time than it takes to say "A plus K."

We've seen plenty of social media disasters play out in real time, like the recent instance where an employee at British company HMV posted colorful commentary about corporate layoffs from the company's official Twitter account. For Brian, a manager at a Michigan-based IT support firm, those cases hit close to home.

In the early days of Twitter, Brian had set up an account for his company and entrusted it to an intern. Tweeting seemed like a mundane task, after all, and this eager college senior was more than up to the task of sending out a few cheery updates and responding to basic customer queries during the day.

"To be honest, I didn't think twice about it," Brian says. "Of course, this was back before Burger King and Coke and everyone else in the world was using Twitter as a CRM platform."

Brian's plan seemed to be perfect: The intern appreciated the real-world responsibility, and the Twitter presence was one fewer item crowding the staff's overflowing responsibility list.

"It was a perfect setup," Brian says, "right up until it wasn't."

The transformational moment came when Brian's intern reached the end of his semester and, thus, his internship with the company. The intern's workstation was cleared and reset -- but the company's Twitter password, as it turns out, was not.

"Evidently, the kid had been logged into our account from his personal laptop, too," Brian says. "That was my oversight."

The oversight became apparent when Brian -- who had taken over tweeting after the intern's departure -- noticed some profanity-laden updates showing up in his company's stream. He wasn't the one typing them, and it didn't take long to figure out who was.

"When I called him up, he swore up and down that his roommate had gotten onto his laptop and been the one who did it," Brian says. "Regardless, it was my company's name being dragged through the mud."

Luckily, the damage didn't draw too much attention and Brian was able to delete the tweets and reset the password before anything worse went down. But even if he managed to erase the evidence, the lesson is something he won't soon forget.

"We still have interns help with social media at times, but now, they never know the password and only have access from a secure system in the building," he says.

The moral: Social media may seem silly, but it's effectively a public voice for your company -- and outsiders have no idea who's doing the typing. Keep careful track of access to your accounts and be sure to reset passwords before an active user departs.

Stupid user trick No. 3: The executive plug

Company presentations seem to be magnets for tech-oriented failures. Often, though, it's not equipment malfunction but user error that's the root of the problem.

Adam Root (yes, that's his actual name) knows all too well about the joys of user error. Root -- now CTO of social marketing software company HipLogiq -- was working as a developer at a major insurance company when he got a memorable call from a panicked exec: "The projector isn't working and I need a techie, stat!"

The exec, Root realized, was in the midst of delivering a presentation to the senior-most members of the company. Root rushed to the conference room and, within seconds, realized what was wrong.

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