Toward a Grand Unified Theory of n00bs
Computer veterans often joke about "newbie" users who have trouble understanding basic computing concepts, but it's not funny when you're attempting to help a friend understand something online or if you're dealing with customer support questions. ShoveBox developer Dan Grover writes about the divide between how computers work and the expectations of those who use them, with suggestions for how to improve the experience.
I used to run Peachpit Press's Web site way way back when (mid-90s), and discovered somewhere in the late 90s a message board devoted to some topic that we'd forgotten about. But Alta Vista had not. Apparently, the thread was the top match for "cancel AOL." So people in the hundreds or thousands came there to ask why they couldn't cancel, assuming the message board was AOL. Nearly the same problem, back when the Internet was young.
I'm sure we all have our examples of n00bs. My favorite might be the call from a very angry dial-up user who was about to throw his computer out a window because it kept calling him an 'invalid'.
"Everytime I try to get on your stupid service it says 'invalid login.'"
The drink holder broke off...
Not everyone needs to be a technical expert. I find it insanely idiotic, however, for anyone to rely upon a technology that they don't understand. If you rely on something every day, you should have a basic idea of how it works.
Tell that to my mother in law.
Who I love. But still. She's used a Mac for 20 years and still has no real idea how to use it, even though she's produced thousands of documents, uses email every day, uses the Web.
She's a competent, expert professional, and yet she uses the computer like she's never seen it before.
Yep, my step-mother was the same way. She was part of the initial wave of Desktop Publishers and she and my father produced a lot of very good publications for a variety of Bay Area companies (Mostly on a FatMac and a MacSE!).
And yet, beyond the most simple concepts, the things directly involved with her use of PageMaker, or her playing of Tetris, her computer knowledge pool was very shallow.
Even within PageMaker she was the kind of person that once she found a method that worked, however onerous and difficult it was, she never looked for a better solution. That was the OneTrueWay from then on.
Frustrating for me, and completely incomprehensible as well.