Don’t Bash Users, Bash Problems

By | January 13, 2012

Edward Tufte once said “Only two industries refer to their customers as ‘users’: computer design and drug dealing.”

I find the comparison interesting for the fact that “users” need I.T. professionals in a similar way (sans the addiction part). It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about grandma needing help setting up her e-mail, or the CEO needing a network connection. More and more everyone needs an I.T. person in their life.

The thing I find strange with many I.T. people I’ve met (or work with) is the amount of judgment that can go on behind the scenes. I myself have even fallen into the trap of the “that guy’s an idiot” mentality.

And let’s be honest, some people ARE idiots. But, I think the number is far less than we would like to attribute.

If Alma Alwaysforgetsherpassword knew as much about computers as you do you really think you’d have a job?

This is really the crux. Without “dumb” users we’d be out of work. If users could fix their own problems or <shudder> manage their own servers we’d be out on the street.

Really most users are simply trying to just go about their day plugging away at that big pile of work. They don’t have a clue how what “cardinality” is or why their computer has 10 toolbars sitting in their browser and quite honestly they shouldn’t have to. That is our job. It’s what they pay us for.

Our jobs are very much like parenting. Babysitting, hand-holding, teaching, and having to constantly be aware so users don’t hurt themselves.

Maybe this is where the superiority complex comes in to play?

So why this post? What’s the point?
Well, it’s really more for me than any of you out there frankly (sorry). Dealing better with the users is something I need to get back to.
Of late all the rhetoric going around the office has hit me like a virus. I’ve kind of inched into the fringes of the user-basher crowd.

Not a good mindset to have and it’s needless stress. I should really care less whether Umberto Useshiscdlikeacupholder can’t figure out how open a PDF.

I should just help.

So I’ve come up with some guidelines and mental notes I will be using to get myself back on track:

  1. 90% of the time users aren’t idiots. Help, smile, and nod for the other 10%.
  2. If users could do your job then you would be out of one.
  3. Don’t bash users, bash problems.
  4. Protect the users from themselves.
  5. Educate.
  6. Make it simple.
  7. Follow up.

There may be more to add to this list, but I think it’s a good start.

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