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Technology woes

Technology woes

I have a love/hate relationship
with modern technology. I’m not totally against it: it’s modern technology that allows me
to talk to you now. But I do wonder how we got from technology being
something that’s useful to have, to technology being something
that we can’t function without. To be sure, there are people who manage
to screw things up without too much technology. Just this morning our local newspaper
carried the story of a man who, with no help from GPS or Google Maps, managed to get his car stuck on a narrow footpath. He couldn’t go forwards, he couldn’t go backwards
and he couldn’t even open the doors. And because he didn’t have a phone with him,
he couldn’t call for help. And so he had to wait an hour and a half
for a random passer-by. But that story is outweighed by
the stories of all the people who switch on their GPS
and then switch off their brains. They only wake up again when they find themselves
in the middle of a traffic roundabout, a swamp or the Himalayas. Of course, in those cases it’s not
the fault of the technology: it’s the fault of people
who don’t know how to use the technology. The problem occurs when we’re forced
to use technology against our will. And who are the biggest offenders here? The Tax Office. You see, in Germany, you now have to
submit your tax return electronically, which is an inconvenience for
older independent tradespeople who never needed a computer before,
and are coming up for retirement now. We’re talking about
sixty-something-year-old carpenters who don’t know the difference
between electronic mail and a material that was popular in the 1950s
for making cooking equipment. And until very recently,
they didn’t have to know the difference. Of course, submitting this stuff electronically
would probably make a lot of sense if it helped to cut down on the paperwork. The problem is that it doesn’t, because you still have to submit all the paperwork
exactly as you did before. So much for saving the rainforests. And the software you have to install
on your coumputer to make this happen never works properly. It always fails
with a helpful error message like: “Transfer failed.” Which is basically your computer saying:
“I dunno, mate; it’s beyond me.” I sometimes wonder
what would have happened in “Star Wars” if, when Darth Vader
gave the order to destroy Alderaan, all the computer screens on the Death Star
went blank except for a message that said: “An unexpected error has occurred.” So you have to phone up, but
the person you’re calling is not a technician; it’s a tax official who knows
even less about computers than you do. So you have to actually
walk them through the trouble-shooting process. “Okay. Now you have to tell me
to switch it off and on again.” What happens next is probably hilarious,
but I wouldn’t know, because it’s my wife
who does the rewboss finances. And when I hear her laugh the way she does
when she’s dealing with the Tax Office, I usually find it safer to back way… …very slowly. Remember you can always send me
a postcard at this address. You can also find me elsewhere on the web:
visit to find out how.

40 thoughts on “Technology woes

  1. I don't understand why companies that deal with tech always hire completely tech-inept people for support, there are probably tons of tech-savvy people who'd jump at a chance for that job.
    Plus the companies wouldn't be so hated if they had people that actually help customers.

  2. Well it works here in Iceland – almost everybody now just files their taxes electronically and it works very well, the tax form is pre-made so for most people you only have to look it over and press accept and no paper is involved.

  3. Als ich mit meinen Großeltern in den Urlaub gefahren bin, mussten wir auch das Navi benutzen, weil wir uns in Italien halt nicht auskennen.. 😀
    Und an einer Stelle sagte das Navi ,,Den Kreisverkehr an der fünften Ausfahrt verlassen."
    Dabei gab es nur 3 Ausfahrten.
    Wir haben uns ein bisschen verfahren 😀

  4. Uh. Elsta-time. Basically my parents locking themself in a room with a computer and 10 folders of paperwork shouting at each other and/or said computer and paperwork for about 5 hours.

  5. Continue having fun with ELSTER. I have a Windows XP virtual machine on my computer ONLY for Elster purposes; I wonder what the new version will bring about.

  6. Hier muss ich den bundesdeutschen Gesetzgeber die Regierung und deren tapfere Streiter in den Behörden ganz klar in Schutz nehmen, immerhin ist dieses Interweb mit seinen Computers, Email und dem allen für uns Neuland.

  7. The best part is the name of the tax software: Elster. Short for "ELektronische STeuerERklärung" or something. Also a bird notorious for stealing things from you.

  8. you have to send electronic mail to tax office? I would never install elster and send it via post box mail. its hard enough that new passports include fingerprint which is very unsafe and I think against many laws but send so private data via elster a system which was used by goverment is like walk blind in a minefield

  9. Two further insights from a technologists' perspective:
    * The "secure E-mail" system our german government uses is, in fact, not secure, and you are not allowed to use existing methods to secure it. Normal E-Mail is as secure as a postcard, while this system is more like handing a postcard with sensitive information through a chain of people where each one tells the next "but don't look at it, ok?". Speculation is that our intelligence services had a hand in that decision, but you can't know that for sure. It might also be the fact that most of our politicians don't use computers themselves. Oh, and E-mails might of course be routed through any country in the world. But they would never spy on us, right?
    * IT people are constantly doing things they don't understand well enough. There are very few experts on any one thing, but nobody can see our incompetences but us, we are few, and our jobs need to be done, so we have a high motivation to do things we shouldn't be doing in time we don't really have. It's amazing how much actually does work. And if even google with all their highly paid, carefully selcted experts can't create a good youtube player (ever tried using it on a dodgy connection?), how can a typical small german software company accomplish anything substantial? There are fewer experts on the market and the companies have less prestige to pick the best ones. Not to mention that virtually all people who have inside knowledge of things like Windows, iOS or Android stay in the USA if they ever switch companies. Of course that's not an excuse, but we tend to ignore these things because who likes looking at problems. It's really really hard to stay positive about the future of IT in germany as you learn more about it. Our gouvernment's IT is just the bottom tip of the iceberg.

  10. This must be a joke. It wouldn't be new that useless und unsafe software is made for official use in Germany but for the finance authority?! I just can't believe you.

  11. We're lucky, electronic filing works very well and it's isn't our only choice. Sorry you guys are having trouble. Don't understand why you have to deal with paper when you file electronically. We don't have to here. Since it seems to work well, the government must have gotten someone else to run it. Governments as you know can't do anything right.

  12. As a perso who has Information from the other site i have to contradict in some points.
    First for Elster (the free standart software to make your tax refund ) has a special service hotline were real tecnicians sit can help you. In my Region no official would try to solve the problems because as you said they have mostly no idea and secondly it is not their job and so the would lose their time for trying.
    Secondly yeah most busissness have to send their annual acounts on paper. But other people who makes a electronic tax refund especially for retiree and employee because mostly the transmited data is enough to make a full automaticly processing possible. That is much faster then the normal paper tax refund (worst Case: 1 number on 3 pages and 20 sites of handwritten explanations that u can't read).

  13. * Meinst Du am Anfang vielleicht "Emaille"? Ich hab vorher nie Email dazu gelesen (scheint auch richtig zu sein, sieht aber "merkwürdig" aus)

  14. In Serbia all public services have computers . And they use them as gloryfied typewriters. And everything they do , they must print and store. Every documenet they need must be sent by mail which takes weeks (I mooved to ther place and needed to prolongate driver licence . My old document which were scaned and digitalised must be sent by mail , and I had no licence for a month). And if they are too lazy to work, they just say that system failed.

  15. "Sorry. Your Brain is not kompatiebel with my software, please update." …if only the brain upload were not so ***** slow.

  16. Actually, you don't have to submit your tax return both electronically and in paper anymore. That is a thing of the past. What you still do have to hand in are your records (of course). And the "magpie" software works very nicely for me.

  17. Rewboss, your channel is brilliant! Massively enteraining.
    Small addendum for this video's subtitles, or subtleties 🙂

    In German, there's a clear distinction between Schreiner=Joiner and Carpenter=Zimmermann.

  18. Grand Moff Tarkin – Fire

    Imperial officer -Sorry sir, but we have technical difficulties. You know it's new technology and we have never used it before. Plus the computer doesn't respond.

    Darth Varder – Your failings arn't my consern

    Imperial officer – being force chocked.

  19. that's what happens when you have government going high tech. just like our they spent Googles of dollars, only to have it not work, on time, if ever. they should stick to high tech weaponry… least it's purpose IS to mess people's day up!

  20. I actually like Elster. The electronic form looks exactly the same the paper forms used to look, so even when you use it the first time it is familiar and you know what to do (provided you're used to doing your own taxes). It hints you to fields you omitted, computes a preview of how much additional payment or fefund to expect, and (for me at least) has not failed yet. The fact that you need to send in the printout anyway is logical: Your signature is legally required. But they do work on the data submitted electronically, so it saves them work.

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