It’s the little things.

Almost every day someone in my immediate network will struggle with their technology. Whether this is while using their phones, accessing their emails, or responding to error messages from the system, it is often very basic things that they struggle with.

But it is clearly widespread. If I extrapolate what I see in my own network to the entire population then the overhead must be enormous. I know in the predominantly Windows workplace people spend inordinate amounts of time fighting their technology. One of the reasons I have always preferred Apple stuff is because they make their best efforts to reduce this level of frustration but even they are far from perfect.

This is a hard problem to solve. Technologists make their best efforts to improve interfaces and simplify processes and yet at the same time the possibilities increase and our expectations are raised. Equally people still seem to have a quite passive attitude towards technology and, in my biased view, don’t make enough effort to overcome some of the more basic difficulties.

Most of the time I try to be patient when I am asked to help but it can be frustrating. I remember a quote from an old IT guy at work: “If you want to sort out your corporate computing make UNIX the standard platform and if the buggers can’t work out how to use it they shouldn’t have a computer.” and on a bad day I feel like agreeing.

9 thoughts on “It’s the little things.

  1. Yes indeed! There’s a member of my family who should remain nameless (because I love my mother dearly) but I’m amazed at the number of times, over the decades, that I’ve explained to her, for example, that you can select more than one thing at once by clicking on the first one and shift-clicking on the last one. I’ve even made little tutorial videos about such things for her but she never remembers it. And the whole idea of using ctrl or cmd to toggle the selection of an individual item is quite beyond her.

    So whenever she wants, say, to send a significant number of photos by email, I get a support request, we do a screen-share, I show her how to accomplish that one task, and she can then forget it again until next time.

    The fact that she’s had a computer for at least 30 years and, I think, has only the vaguest idea that there’s a right-click as well as a left-click is worrying. I think she forgets it’s an option since she switched to a trackpad…

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  2. I think one of the problems is that things often don’t go wrong for a long time – by which time you’ve forgotten how to rectify the problem. I am thinking in this case not of my computers, but of my TV. I have a Tv, a digibox and a DVD player, all linked up, and very now and then something doesn’t work. There is a maze of (neatly arranged) cables linking bits that have names like AV1 and HMD2, none of which I readily understand, and the products’ manuals tend to be full of other initials and to be written in Japlish or Korenglish. Yes, I usually manage to solve it, but it’s very frustrating unless you have spent your life in a TV retailer.

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  3. I agree with most of what you say Euan and encouraging people to make more effort to solve their own issues is a vexing problem – it’s the basic approach that must change so they don’t do things by trying to remember the steps, but instead by increasing their understanding so they can better interpret what they’re seeing. I always found it frustrating when helping someone, that the person wanted to write down each step (on paper of course) – doomed to failure – you only need to remember the first step and the basic principle of what you’re trying to do – but some people don’t seem to be wired that way :-).

    I don’t agree so much with the perpetuation of the myth that Apple Macs are somehow more reliable and easier to use – I can find my way around, but I find the user interface illogical and irritating, and I’m not alone – Complex corporate systems are challenging whatever the system.

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  4. Lately, I’ve been finding that people crowdsource their issues, rather than read manuals (if they even keep them). If they don’t have friends/acquaintances who are familiar with the tech, they go to Youtube – and it is really surprising how much info there is there for even the most arcane equipment.

    I have a video camera – current production model – the manual is, shall I say, challenged. I reached into Youtube to help and found a goldmine of useful, practical tips along with the general operating procedures for exactly my kind of shoots. Saved me significant amounts of ‘try it/break it/try it again/success’ time.

    Between crowdsourcing and Youtube (particularly ‘fix problem in 60-seconds’ style), I think there are strong indicators here for what tech companies should be doing to encourage full use of their products (as opposed to printed manuals).

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    1. Funnily enough I am about to record a piece for Learning Now TV in which I will say that encouraging people to use the resources at their finger tips is the way to go. Getting them to do that is still the hard part.

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      1. I’d never thought of Youtube as a go-to source for device-specific info. I can’t put my finger on why, but once I realized it was a trove … I hit it very frequently now. Even though I keep accounts at Lynda.com and CreativeLive, I keep finding equivalent info on YT. The variable quality, however, does eat up a certain amount of time when probing more difficult tech and techniques …

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