Wednesday, February 21, 2007


I love information technology, so it is hard for me to understand sometimes when others don't get it (IT?). I suppose it's like me and cars. So long as my car works, I don't know and I don't care what goes on under the hood. When it doesn't work, I take it to the shop to get fixed. In fact, I take it to the shop periodically for routine maintenance so it doesn't break down on me on the road.

Computers are not like cars, however; they are more akin to a car trip. You get in a car, and you drive to work or to the store. As long as the car is working and you know how to get where you are going, everything works fine. But if you have to go somewhere new, if there is traffic, or if you get lost, that's when a car starts to look and feel like a computer to many people.

Continuing the analogy, what separates people like me from "ordinary folks" is that we have a sense of direction (adventure?) that helps us to get where we want to go. We have been down these roads before, so we know where things are and the best way to get there. People ask us for directions, and we tell them, "Go straight until you see the oak tree, then take the third right. I think it's called Ipconfig. You go a mile or so through some lights, then you take a left. There's a sign that says, "Do not enter." You cannot miss it." But you do.

Tech support personnel have a love-hate relationship with their customers. It is nice when we can rescue people from disaster and receive thanks and appreciation for our work. On the other hand, in many cases, the "problem" is not a hardware or software problem. It is a user problem, and we cannot fix users.

Here's an example of what I am talking about. Recently, we had a customer bring his PC in for a "tune up" because it was running slow. We fire up the machine, and Bang! we are greeted with pop-up windows spawned by Norton AND McAfee which are both wrestling for control of the PC perimeter to establish security. In all likelihood, this user thought that if one security program was good, two would be better, not worse. With all that protection in place, I am sure this customer thought, "What could go wrong?"

It turns out that his machine was loaded with adware/ spyware/ malware. The only way it could have gotten there is if the user turned things off to get through the boot-up process. Or he ignored warnings from his security programs, like the boy who cried wolf, when they issued pop-ups saying, "are you sure you want to do that?"

We fixed the computer problems, but we cannot fix user problems. When his computer slows down again, which it probably will, it is likely that he will blame us for not fixing things. It hurts when you do your best and people don't appreciate it.

Techies like me are more like taxis than auto mechanics. We are taking people where they want to go, not fixing their cars. Except the people want their cars fixed, dammit, and we are taking them for a ride.

Help, I'm trapped in this analogy!

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