Unblocking Blockheads or, Some People Should Not Use Computers or, "The Marching Morons" Comes True

Posted by tuxchick on Dec 31, 2007 2:06 AM EDT
LXer Linux News; By Carla Schroder
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LXer Feature: 31-Dec-2007

A sizable number of humans have devoted their lives to erecting barriers to learning anything new. You can see it when you talk to them- when something as simple as "click this button" produces a glazed expression and drool, you know you've lost them forever. Of course they'll waste hours of your time complaining about how stupid computers are. But even though it's easy money to nod and pretend to listen, and then bill them for every minute wasted on empty complaining (I never had enough nerve to charge a whining penalty, and I wish I had), it's not how I want to spend my time. Life is too short.

I Give Up

Believe it or not, a corner of my heart is abrim with compassion (I didn't say how big is this corner), and I have often expended this compassion on behalf of the famous mythical Ordinary PC User. When my colleagues ranted and raved about Stupid Hopeless End Lusers, I was the lone voice crying out "Be patient! Be kind and helpful!" For years my personal tagline has been "You're never too old to learn something new, and anyone can learn to do anything."

I was the dope who toiled for hours creating nice visual demonstrations to bring computing concepts from the abstract to the concrete. Really, these demos were seriously cool. I showed how HTML messages looked in a plain-text mail client, and how poor developmentally-disabled Outlook typically created HTML that no one else could render even when they wanted to, and I revealed the Secret Checkbox to select plain-text. I gave demonstrations in copy-and-paste (to this day I encounter folks who re-type instead), and how to delete crap from forwarded emails that no one likes getting anyway, because after the hundredth time they're not quite so fresh, but if they insist on sending them then at least make them readable. I revealed the wondrous BCC line in their email clients for those who insist on dumping their entire address books into every email. I even printed all this stuff out on paper to make it more "real".

Backups and security gave me endless hours of amusement. I all but tied strings to their hands like marionettes, and showed them how to drag files to their USB sticks for quick and easy backups, and set them up with automatic backups to a central server. I set them up with anti-malware software all configured and ready to go with automatic updates, and to never ever argue with it, but call me when it says a file or message is dangerous.

Did I ever get a call? Sure, but not from the dim ones who really should have. Once an entire bank branch was infected with a virus because the bank president himself brought in an infected file. His anti-virus at home wouldn't let him open the file, so he brought it to work, where he cleverly dodged all the smart precautions set up by his office manager. Sheer brilliance, that. Which proves that using the word "naked" in malware has mighty and irresistible powers, and just because someone gets a big paycheck and has a fancy office doesn't mean that brains or skills are involved.

Teaching a Pig to Sing

You divinely smart readers, already you see where this is going- what a colossal waste of time. A sizable number of humans have devoted their lives to erecting barriers to learning anything new. You can see it when you talk to them- when something as simple as "click this button" produces a glazed expression and drool, you know you've lost them forever. Of course they'll waste hours of your time complaining about how stupid computers are. But even though it's easy money to nod and pretend to listen, and then bill them for every minute wasted on empty complaining (I never had enough nerve to charge a whining penalty, and I wish I had), it's not how I want to spend my time. Life is too short.

So I have a New Year's resolution. I don't usually make these, but as I think that time is the most precious commodity of all and I don't want to waste it, I think this calls for a resolution. Which is: I will help only those who are willing to learn, and who will really try. Fortunately, there are a lot of folks like this; unfortunately, I think I have shortchanged them by wasting energy on the other kind. I don't expect every PC user to aspire to elite geek status, but I do expect them to listen, to follow my advice, and to put forth some actual effort- get some howto books, take some classes, sit butts down at computer and really investigate their applications.

I don't fault anyone for having problems with their computers, because PCs are complex and annoying, and it's not easy to find competent help. (Geek Squad is good for laughs only.) But unfortunately, inept, willfully-ignorant PC users cause billions of dollars of collateral damage. I wouldn't care if they only shot holes in their own boats, but they're taking the rest of us down with them. So perhaps another resolution is in order: Find a way to keep these folks off the Internet. Let's give them their own pretend Internet, where they'll only infect and annoy each other.

I Don't Get It

Even though I have vowed to not waste time, I still expend precious minutes wondering- what happens to some people? Where do they get the idea that they cannot learn? Or is it a form of manipulation to go all helpless, born of laziness? Maybe a punishment/reward program would work: learn this computing task and you'll get a fresh nekked piccy, or your house cleaned and lawn mowed, or whatever is most motivational to you. If you don't learn you get Tasered. Even though kids these days are growing up with computered-everything, most of them are no more advanced than your average TV-remote user. They're just pushing buttons.

At the ripe old age of 50 I have more to look forward to than ever- if I had no outside interests, computers, tech in general, and FOSS would keep me challenged and busy the rest of my life. Since I have a lot of outside interests I know I'll never get to everything that I want to. So my fine helpless freeloaders, the free ride is over; I have way too many cool and interesting things to do, and fun people to do them with. I may even make it official and buy the ThinkGeek "No, I will not fix your computer" T-shirt.

References

"The Marching Morons" by C.M. Kornbluth, in my darker moments, looks like a prophecy
"Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig." --Robert Heinlein

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Subject Topic Starter Replies Views Last Post
where do the blocks come from? tuxchick 26 1,868 Jan 24, 2008 8:02 AM
False diagnose. claus 24 2,014 Jan 13, 2008 9:53 PM
This Gives Me an Idea..... thenixedreport 0 1,259 Jan 11, 2008 10:48 PM
Mutual respect and game theory montezuma 5 1,489 Jan 8, 2008 11:14 AM
The ripe old age of 50 NoDough 9 1,518 Jan 2, 2008 1:57 PM
Should have charged them! land0 1 1,281 Dec 31, 2007 1:31 PM
Speaking of Blockheads Sander_Marechal 4 1,558 Dec 31, 2007 12:04 PM
The Truth Will Make You Free winston_smith 1 2,469 Dec 31, 2007 11:29 AM
Unblocking Blockheads Henry_Keultjes 2 1,670 Dec 31, 2007 4:40 AM

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