This NYTimes story really struck a chord with me. It suggests that the geeks of the world are getting sick of providing so much free tech support, and that we are expecting people who enjoy the fruits of computers and the net to also take on the respoinsbility of learning about how things work enough that they behave correctly. Some disagree. I don’t think they get the point.
Yes, yes, you’re all upset that you can’t understand these incomprehensible computers, and it’s not your fault that they are difficult and new, and techies can’t treat you like second-class citizens. In much the same way that we can’t all be lawyers, or doctors, but that doesn’t mean that doctors or lawyers treat the rest of us with disdain because we don’t know how to perform open-heart surgery or get a million dollar settlement.
No, you’re wrong. It’s not that at all.
We expect people who operate cars to know enough about how to do it that they do it correctly. We actually make them take tests! Penalize them for doing things that are hazardous. We don’t expect people to be lawyers, but we expect them to obey laws. We don’t expect them to be doctors, but we expect them to know the basics of healthy living, and when to get their shots, and the like.
We don’t expect everyone to be a computer expert. But we expect that, if they decide they are goint to use a computer, that they take a little bit of time to learn how computers work — read a manual, take a class, buy a book, whatever — and take the necessary steps so that they can safely and conscientiously operate their computers.
I don’t do tech support any more. I get ill every time I hear someone say, “I don’t understand computers!” If you don’t understand them, don’t use them. We’re not forcing you to. And if you want to use them, learn the basics of understanding them. You don’t have to understand how the circuits pass electrical signals. You don’t have to know what a compiler is. But come ON. If you go into the kitchen with no experience, no training, and no recipe book, what you get out of the oven for dinner will more likely then not taste terrible. Is your excuse that you don’t understand how this strange cooking thing works?
With an excuse like that, no one will want to come over to your house for dinner. Same in this case — no one wants you on the internet.