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How to deal with technophobes (IT and otherwise)

Not sure whether this is the right section or even forum but I’ll give it a try anyway.

Deep breath.

HOW do you deal with people who are incapable of operating any sort of IT device? And am I getting paranoid or is it possible that the said devices kind of “feel” if such a technophobe tries to operate it and fail just out of pure spite?

If they as much as touch or approach a computer or smartphone, it will come up with errors and problems no supporter has even seen, let alone suffering spouses or even teen kids who have to support people like that at home.

I have come across people who fail miserably to operate their smartphones, tabletts and computers, who can not grasp how basic electronics work, who can not operate a current day TV set and who will flatly reject any (necessary) upgrade to their outdated software because they won’t be able to operate it?

Some of them even have done courses their desparate workplace IT managers made them go to, got through those with a certificate heaven knows how but when it comes to open their email on outlook they shout for help.

If their work documents come on an Ipad in order to do away with paper, they will not be able to find anything but hang on to outdated manuals for dear life.

When asked to do a zoom meeting they will eventually call someone they know from their landline phone because they could not get in no matter how hard they tried?

They can not remember a single password, they will loose connection to the company network every time they have to update a PW and end up crying in the IT department who then have to reset them?

They have 20 facebook, Skype, Twitter accounts because they can not remember any credentials for their previous ones so they create a new account every time they accidently get logged out?

They have panic attacs as it is no longer possible to pay a bill at the post counter but you need ebanking now?

There are loads of blogs of IT Supporters who will tell the most ghastly tales of people who try to switch their PC on by stepping on the mouse (worked with their sewing machine) or will call every morning to be let back in after mistyping their PW?

And I am not talking of old people, but reasonably young ones in their 30ties to 50ties. They are simply left behind and will eventually reject any kind of electronic device. How will they continue to manage?

Not an easy question I know. What is your experience?

Last Edited by Mooney_Driver at 13 Sep 08:35
LSZH, Switzerland

Mooney_Driver wrote:

What is your experience?

None… I have never experienced people like that. It must be awful both for themselves and people around them.

And am I getting paranoid or is it possible that the said devices kind of “feel” if such a technophobe tries to operate it and fail just out of pure spite?

There could be some truth to that. Poorly designed software (of which there is plenty) might behave in very strange ways if not used as the designer intended.

ESKC (Uppsala/Sundbro), Sweden

Mooney_Driver wrote:

And am I getting paranoid or is it possible that the said devices kind of “feel” if such a technophobe tries to operate it and fail just out of pure spite?

I am thinking exactly that since I was a very young boy, because I encounter this the other way round. I often got asked for help regarding some electronics stuff or computer, and astonishingly often the mere presence of myself near that stuff made the error disappear. I remember that happen too often to count. That I got called to look after a PC which refused to start or which hung up without recover, even from friends and family who really know IT. And, honestly, I often don’t even know what I do or did, but in an instance everything works fine. Not always. If something’s just broken like an AC adapter, it won’t heal, of course. But ask my wife, she’s real good at IT, too, but every now and then something doesn’t work and I maybe just look at it and it’s back to work. We’re making jokes out of it, and she really hates (adores) me for that

But back to the question, I think this is only an issue and making trouble in a working environment. In private it’s seldom really something to bother, maybe it’s an origin for good stories, but something tolerable. Okay, may be annoying, if, say, you’re really into IT and your spouse the absolute opposite and breaks anything he/she touches. But despite that…?

Last Edited by UdoR at 13 Sep 09:57
Germany

UdoR wrote:

But back to the question, I think this is only an issue and making trouble in a working environment. In private it’s seldom really something to bother, maybe it’s an origin for good stories, but something tolerable.

It may well overlap… e.g. if they have to use the stuff in homeoffice and the spouse is the one having to sort them out 24/7.

The karma thing was more tongue in the cheek but the rest….

e.g. someone sais their browser on their phone is blocked and you find 180 tabs open. (I did not know they could have so much)
Or if you check the open apps on their phone you scroll through 20 or 30, as they never close any.
Same in Windows.
Reading a document the shout “I’ve lost it” and they of course never know where they saved it (if at all) but rather no idea where they had it from in the first place.

Sometimes I get the feeling a lot of this is attitude biased against this. But then there must be those who struggle and need help. Just how to give it without becoming a basket case yourself?

LSZH, Switzerland

Mooney_Driver wrote:

And am I getting paranoid or is it possible that the said devices kind of “feel” if such a technophobe tries to operate it and fail just out of pure spite?

There is a truth behind this – which has nothing to so with feelings obviously: It’s more “unconscious problem solving approaches” or more accurately the lack thereof.

If a tech savvy person operates a technical device and something does not work as planned, they apply certain problem solving steps without even thinking about them too much and without noticing that they actually follow a quite structured problem identification and solving approach. Things like restarting the application, rebooting the operating system, cycling the power, etc.

What we as a tech savvy community have to keep in mind: Operating a technical device is by no means intuitive! It is a trained skill and in many cases does feel intuitive because we have learned it so long ago but has nothing to do how humans typically interact with their environment. Swiping doesn’t work to flip the pages of a book (well- not great ;-)) and it doesn’t make any difference how long you push your light switch at home (neither does it make a difference if you push it with your left or right hand). A double tap on a recipe in a cookbook does also not turn on any of your kitchen appliances to start preparing the meal!

Germany

I think you are talking about 2 different things.

People s brains work in different ways. Some peopple “get” languages, some “get” maths, some “get” 3D orientation etc. Others just dont, and no matter how hard they try, its a kind of logic block and so its a struggle. And there are people out there with this block wrt software operation.

Seperate to those above there are I think some that seem to actually have a negative effect apon electronics and/or software – ie that such things “break” when they use them or are around them.

Regards, SD..

Malibuflyer wrote:

If a tech savvy person operates a technical device and something does not work as planned, they apply certain problem solving steps without even thinking about them too much and without noticing that they actually follow a quite structured problem identification and solving approach.

I think this is a very good point yes.

Malibuflyer wrote:

Operating a technical device is by no means intuitive! It is a trained skill and in many cases does feel intuitive because we have learned it so long ago but has nothing to do how humans typically interact with their environment.

The question is rather, as you said above, whether it is the actual skill or the way how to solve problems. If a person is not capable of applying problem solving steps in general, that person will be even harder pressed to apply them in a technical environment. If any problem they encounter puts them in front of a brick wall and there is no “what now” step but immediate panic or resignation, that won’t help when operating a technical device.

But it is not only problems, also the general understanding which appears to simply not to be there, despite training and repeating what they have to do day after day. They develop tunnel hearing (into one ear, out of theother) and nothing sticks. Maybe that is why certain developers dumb down their systems so much as I suppose those with average enough skills not to be a problem to them are a small minority.

LSZH, Switzerland

This is a very real issue, and exists at many levels.

The obvious one is “older people” who mostly have never climbed up the “internet/electronics paradigm”. A lot of them get their “children” to do their online banking, but if your “kids” are not around (and increasingly they aren’t) then what do you do? I work in IT all day and still struggle with the unbelievably stupid way in which many banks and such have set up their user interface.

The design of many systems is poor – a consequence of the “new paradigm every month” in the corporate IT world. 10 years ago it was Ruby on Rails, 5 years ago it was Laravel, now it is Node.js… And god knows how many in between. Python is a big fashion right now. About the only thing which has stayed constant is PHP This makes the job so unpleasant that most 40+ people (who would otherwise have continued to enjoy writing software into their “old age” if it was in their own business and developing their own products – like I do ) get out of that career ASAP and move into “project management”, or get out totally. This leaves a lot of inexperienced people doing the stuff, and we see the result every day, from trying to do an international payment in online banking, to signing up on a website selling CV19 tests. Had one yesterday, with a UK Govt website, where I entered a date of 31st November 2021 and it kept saying the year was invalid

With automation replacing people all over the place, the world is just getting harder all the time, and those of us who won’t have others to rely on will struggle more and more. At the same time it gets easier for those on the “inside”; for example organising a long flying trip is so much easier now, with email etc… No more sending faxes with a Nokia 6210 on the end of a cable.

One has to choose one’s battles.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

I had to chuckle because this just described my dad, God bless him.

He refused to update the IT System at his company that managed warehouse stocks. We’re talking 256Kb Mainframe, COBOL here. This was at the beginning of the 2000s. In the end they were forced to update because the contractor who did hardware support died of old age. True story.

Drove me nuts more than once!

Germany

I do the same

Once something works I leave it. At work we run Sage accounts, dated c. 2000, and it does everything we need or are ever likely to need. The entire backup is about 5MB. Our online shop is Magento v1.8. To be PCI/DSS compliant (mostly a farcical IT work creation scam) you need v2, and 74.5% of humans are offering “Magento consultancy” nowadays, with quotes of up to £40k to upgrade to v2. They tell you that v2 will make it more phone-friendly, which may be relevant if selling to the general public, and a waste of time in B2B where almost every serious customer is on a PC. What they don’t tell you is that v2 gets hacked just as often as v1.x (it’s open source, so what did you expect? it’s like having an open house with free drinks and expecting nobody to drop in) and PCI/DSS is avoided by using a 3rd party payment processor (e.g. Paypal). Now I have a Romanian guy maintaining the shop and he’s great. He moved the shop from an in-house server (a good idea once; a bad idea nowadays) to a virtual server, for £500 plus some extra bits, so we now have a “one button” disaster recovery route, which very few people who host their own stuff will have (they may think they have but I bet they never tested it, which prob99 means it won’t actually work when needed).

Business life today is a constant maintenance of IT systems and one needs to organise things so this runs smoothly. And a big challenge is documentation; most IT people document absolutely nothing, which is one reason why everybody hates having to take on stuff worked on by somebody else.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom
64 Posts
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