[By Nic Lindh on Friday, 06 February 2004]
Fun article in the Gray Lady (free registration required) about how geeks are becoming increasingly frustrated with, ahem, naive users spreading viruses and trojans by their refusal to use the most basic forms of common sense in their computing, and then calling on their geek friends to help save them from the ensuing chaos.
This article really pushes a button for me. It used to be one thing when a person’s cluelessness would only hurt themselves, but now that we have teh intarweb, these peoples’ mistakes are everyone’s problem.
The fact that most people have absolutely no idea what they’re doing with their computers is one thing. There are people who will be happy to take their money in exchange for fixing whatever broke on their rigs.
But the fact that we’re all sharing a common through the Internet and being a cluebird means that you’re pissing in the commons, indicates that something has to be done. I wish I knew what, but it’s clear that something does have to be done. Education has failed miserably. Technological solutions like anti-virus software are making some dents, but still depend on people actually updating them. And some people simply will not, ever, learn.
From having spent my time in the trenches, both a system administrator (i.e., “digital janitor”) and tech support specialist (i.e., “punching bag for idiots”), the only thing I can say with any certainty is that there are people out there who should not be allowed to operate computers. Not under any circumstances.
The most common thing you hear, and it’s well echoed in the article, is that “computers are too hard to use.” And this is true. There is a definite learning curve to using a computer, not to mention fixing it. That’s the point here: people who are merrily clicking on attachments and responding to spams are failing at basic computer operation, not at fixing their computers. Certainly most people shouldn’t have to learn how to reinstall their OS or clean out their registry. Again, there are people who will be happy to take your money to perform that service for you if you don’t wish to learn how to do it yourself. But you can’t hire somebody to stand over your shoulder and say “Nononono! Don’t click on that.”
Computers are harder to use than they should be. But let’s face it, driving a car is also quite difficult at first, but people nevertheless learn to do it well enough to get a driver’s license. (Not that there aren’t people out there on the roads who should have that license taken from them.) The point of the analogy here is that you can learn, and at this point have to learn at least enough to use common sense.