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Entry 456, on 2007-01-15 at 15:48:47 (Rating 3, Computers)

I read an article at Slashdot today about how IT support staff are often insulting to their clients. As a programmer/consultant myself I know this happens - maybe I've even been guilty of it occasionally myself! But why do IT people insult the users (or, to use the derogatory term, "lusers") they support so much?

There is no doubt that a lot of users are fairly clueless and are maybe deserving of a certain amount of derision. For example, I recently helped someone who wanted to email photos from their digital camera. But, as I pointed out (and she agreed), it was hard to see a way the process could be made easier.

These were the required steps: plug the camera into the computer (the cable only fits one way) and switch the camera on. iPhoto automatically launches and asks if the photos should be loaded. Once the photos are loaded, click on the photo required, then click email. A dialog appears asking for what size to make the photo (accepting the defaults by clicking OK is fine). A new mail message appears with the photo in it, and all the user has to do is fill in the address to send it to and click Send.

The person I was helping had to admit that it would be hard to make the process any simpler, yet she didn't feel confident doing it herself. So why do people have so much trouble following what is actually a fairly simple process?

A lot of it might be related to the fact that computing is so new. Many people haven't grown up with computers, and are unfamiliar with them when they need to use them in their work. Another possibility is that users are less comfortable with computers because hardware and (especially) operating systems in the past have been intolerant and unreliable. Even now that they are a lot better those bad experiences haven't been forgotten.

So I am a lot more tolerant of ignorant users now. None of us are experts on everything. I would hate to think that there might be areas where I would be just as ignorant as a computer luser, but it is possible. I now take it as a challenge to remain calm and positive while explaining computer use to people. Making them take notes in their own words is often useful, but for some people I have to accept that they will just never "get it".


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