Kenneth Knepper: News servers versus restaurant servers

Kenneth Knepper

I must admit that when a member of our news staff rushed into my office one day last week proclaiming, “The news server is down,” I ranked the importance of his statement right up there with any number of analyst forecasts about the economy.

I smiled, thanked him for the information but didn’t fully grasp that, without a server, we would be unable to produce a newspaper for the next day.

That important component donned on me later in the evening as we awaited a technician’s summary of the data recovery process — much like hearing from a surgeon following a procedure … minus the mask and shoe-booties.

Now, more than a thousand dollars later, I have new perspective on a computer system’s inner-workings — one I previously considered as a magical place known only as cyberspace, where all my stories, notes and photographs disappeared every night and reappeared the following morning when I plugged my computer into a terminal.

During those first tedious minutes while I wondered how we would replicate all the stories, ads and photos for the next day’s edition — and more importantly, whether I would ever get home for dinner — I contemplated the word “server” and variances between a computer model and a server at a restaurant.

1. A news server never seeks a tip. The term “tip” is an acronym meaning, “to insure promptness.” With some restaurant servers in the United States receiving as little as $2.13 per hour in wage, exceptional service should be rewarded with a tip of 20 percent in today’s economy, according to restaurant etiquette. Our news server’s only request was that we keep the server room air-conditioned.

2. A news server doesn’t mind special requests. I’ve personally relied on the news server to access documents and photos from its storage vaults on numerous occasions. And, aside from a random noise, it completed each task without incident. However, one time at a restaurant in another town, I placed an order from the menu and distinctly heard the cook say, “I hate making those @#(*!!%)+~! sandwiches.” By the time it was served to me, I was almost afraid to eat it, although I considered scribing a “tip” for the cook.

3. Servers at restaurants sometimes cost far more than a news server. A Texas man recently sued Hooters restaurant, claiming discrimination because of his gender when they did not hire him as a server in May 2008. A class-action lawsuit in 1997 by a group of Chicago men already cost the restaurant chain $3.8 million.

4. A news server is no smarter than the person utilizing it. Lucky for me, I’m empowered by the data in the news server. That’s because I realize it can only interact with me based on the data I provided. That’s contrary to at least one restaurant server I experienced, who knew more about algebraic equations than the cost of my cheese fries.

5. Unlike some servers at restaurants, news servers do not formulate opinions based on things you choose to eat. On the news server, I’ve been known to save documents filled with typos and grammatical errors. But, if you’re a man and order quiche and a frozen breakfast drink just one time at a restaurant, watch the eyebrows raise.

6. By hitting the “Delete” key, you’re able to eliminate anything unwanted on a news server. By asking politely, this also is true for some servers at restaurants, but on more than one occasion, I’ve had to use the lip around the edge of my plate as a place to “delete” extra dressing or anything containing lima beans.

7. News servers abide by the rule, “slop in, slop out.” Aside from a few days ago, when I retrieved something from the broken news server that was transformed into a language I didn’t know existed. I’ve lived with the idea that the server doesn’t magically correct photos or text. A couple of restaurants I’ve visited through the years made up for shortcomings in entrees by adding extra gravy, however.

8. Servers at restaurants rarely make you miss a meal. This is true, unless that particular server remembers you as the person who didn’t tip very well during your last visit. In that case, prepare to wait long enough for the cook to actually hunt, slay and dress out your main dish.

Therefore, as you can see, I was a wealth of help during our struggle to regain a starting point for the following day’s newspaper edition.

But I’m still awaiting my tip.

Ken Knepper is publisher of The Newton Kansan. He can be contacted at kenneth.knepper@thekansan.com.