Thoughts on how to perceive/interact w/ electronic devices/transactions

Time for another of my periodic quasi-Luddite rants. :rolleyes:

I regularly find aspects of electronic devices/transactions difficult. When I experience such reactions, I sense it has the effect of compounding my dislike for so many aspects of electronic communication, which results in my feeling more frustrated, and on and on. My desire is to interact with these devices the MINIMUM amount needed to satisfy my pretty limited needs/desires. I get frustrated when those interactions do not seem reliable or simple.

Short story that set this off. My wife and I are trying to reconcile all of our insurance, etc. accounts, so she can use her home computer to access info that I have historically reached from my home and/or office computers. It has generally been a cumbersome, tho doable, process. But my primary insurance was a PITA. I had a very helpful person on the phone, and my wife sitting right next to me with her laptop. At 3 stages in the process, I did the exact same thing 3 to 5 times. The first several times, I received responses indicating I was unsuccessful for reasons the phone person did not understand. Then when I did the exact same thing one more time, it worked.

I acknowledge, this is a relatively minor thing - tho it did take 1/2 hour of my time I would have preferred to spend doing just about anything else. But I have such a strong preference for dealing with things I consider reliable, and which work in ways I understand. Too many times, when I experience a problem and ask for help from IT, they say something like, “Sometimes that happens.” Or the ever popular, “Turn it off and back on again.”

I’m not interested in studying up on how computers, telecommunications, and electronics work. I’d rather spend my time making music, or doing other things. And I have no interest in regularly messing around with my phone or computer, to figure out how things could be done differently, or whether upgrades have changed things. But I wonder how much my attitude/perception will cause me to get increasingly out of touch with how even simple things are done in our changing society.

Do any of you feel similarly? Is there any mindset or approaches you use to avoid getting frustrated? Do any tech fans/experts have any suggestions?

Datapoints - 56 yrs old, lawyer. So I’m not horribly stupid and incapable of learning. But I feel like I have a significant mental block re: much of technology. My lack of interest/dislike causes me to become increasingly ineffective in using it, which increases/reinforces my frustration, …

Yes. You’ve already heard it from a tech expert though…

That’s really all there is to it. Same with frustrations when driving in a car, shopping at a store, talking to other people…sometimes stuff happens. Even in the digital world. Remember, even though code runs machines, code is written by humans and implemented by humans. And with humans, shit happens.

I guess what I’m realizing - and not particularly liking - is that we seem to have passed some major tipping points on the journey towards paperlessness. What has been predicted for the past 30 yrs or so, is finally coming to pass in unavoidable ways.

In the past, it generally seemed as tho “work-arounds” existed, Those workarounds are becoming more cumbersome - if they even exist. I’m not anti-tech, but I AM pro customer service.

So many technical applications - from the marvelous phone-tree - impress me as having considerably more to do with someone saving on personnel and expenses, than providing me any benefit.

I think I experience added distress because, in trying to make my use of technology convenient, I have to try to assess and balance security concerns.

I was just wondering if anyone else felt similarly and, if they did, if they could provide experiences, approaches, mindsets that helped them become more comfortable with changing technology.

Maybe I’m more Luddite than you are.

I have a land line, with no features like caller ID or voicemail. When it rings and I’m home, I answer it if I feel like talking to anyone, or not. If I’m not home, people get tired of the repetitious ring and try again later, or not.

I have no cell phone – any calls I want to make can wait until I get home. I take a list to the grocery store so I don’t need to phone anybody and ask what to buy.

You got a hamster wheel running that internet? :smiley:

I guess what I’m finding difficult is figuring the equilibrium where I’m comfortable - seems to be getting harder and harder.

Don’t know if this helps, but keep in mind a transaction on a website typically isn’t just happening on a single computer system, or a single application. It is usually several systems working together, passing requests back and forth, and if any of these systems are slowed down by traffic, or just bad code, or other applications sucking up system resources, then the request can timeout and on your end it just looks like a failure. If you could trace the request though, you might see that it successfully worked on 12 out of 13 of the systems your request had to bounce off in order to succeed.

My first rule to understanding MY computer & the infrastructure it works on.

“Computers do not do what a human wants, they do what they are told to do.”

I hate punctuation, I am totally backassward to what a computer likes.

I take a list with me, too. But the list is on my cell phone. :smiley:

Just try and remember the vast amount of power you have available to “make music or doing other things” and to look up anything you’d ever want at the tip of your fingers. Having to reboot every now and then seems mighty insignificant.

I don’t have a particular issue with technology, but I am pretty short-fused when it comes to things that are supposed to work for my convenience and then they don’t work, especially when, as in your example, there isn’t even a clear learning outcome from what it was that was causing the problem.

One of my mantras is that after the initial investment in time (and frustration), the payout really is that things can happen quickly and conveniently (most of the time). So maybe try to remember when other things were a pain in the neck to set up, but now result in being able to do things very conveniently, like move money between accounts while you are out of town on vacation. The next time you use one of these features, go through the exercise of recalling what that would have involved 20 years ago. You might have had to drive to a bank!

Oh, yes I feel this way too. One hundred times yes. I don’t hate technology at all, but I don’t understand it and frequently have problems with it. That feeling of being left behind, of not being on board with the way society is doing things, that bothers me too.

I have been making more of an effort to suck it up and just do what I need to. I hate change, and I’m always thinking negatively the downsides and the problems Those are not really admirable qualities in a person so I am making an effort to be open-minded and positive, especially with technology. It has a lot of benefits if you can get past the hiccups.

One hurdle for me is that computers do things their own way, and it doesn’t always make sense from the outside. They ways that they break, or stuff up, seem strange and ridiculous. Non computer things break or stuff up as well, but they are more familiar, so it doesn’t bother me as much. Getting mad at computers for being computers is kinda pointless. Maybe the the answer is to use computers as much as possible until I get used to their quirks.

Computers do what you tell them, when they don’t, you did not tell them what you thought you did.

I’ve grown up with modern technology and it frustrates me at times too, but I’m so used to it that I know that I’m going to have to reboot computers or update software or whatever.

The thing is, while part of me likes pretending it’s 1938 and wearing a pocketwatch or whatever, I also like the fact it’s the 21st century and I have a phone with access to literally the entire sum of human knowledge on it as well, along with maps, a camera, and the ability to talk to pretty much anyone on the planet.

I work in IT support. I have the following questions/suggestions:

To what extent are your problems genuinely within scope of support for the people you are approaching when you ask for help? It will always be a frustrating experience (for all parties) if you’re asking someone to help you with something that they have no control over, or no responsibility to assist with.
(Example: I get people asking my team why someone else’s website isn’t working right now - in most cases, their browser screen has already told them the answer (the site is down), but they’ll ask my team if they can fix it. No, we really can’t fix a website that belongs to someone else and is experiencing technical difficulties of its own. No, I’m really not going to contact the owners of some random website to see if I can offer assistance. I appreciate that you really need help with this, but I can’t supply it)
(Another example: I get home on Friday after another 60 hour week supporting people with their technology and a friend or relative wants me to spend a couple of hours on the phone talking them through a problem they have with their email account or help them set up their new laptop, or wants advice on which kind of phone they should buy. I’m not on top form for this, and you’re asking a favour. Don’t expect too much)

Are the things you want help with actually supportable?, and are you making decisions that lead to the right outcomes?
(Example: one of my customers has a laser printer that’s older than some of the members of my support team. It keeps going wrong and every time this happens, he gets angry about the disruption. We usually manage to get it working again and we always tell him it’s way past time he got a new printer - he always responds “But I like this one, and anyway, it’s working again now” - Until the next angry call…)

Also, learn to help the people who need to help you. When you contact someone for IT support, they will not automatically know the context of your problem - it’s really important to provide as much information as you can.
You need to explain:
[li]Exactly what you’re trying to do [/li][li]how you’re trying doing it[/li][li]what happened (including exact detail on any error messages you saw - detail matters a lot here)[/li][li]how this differed from what usually happens, or what you expected to happen[/li][li]if it has happened before (and how it was fixed last time)[/li][li]whether it has ever worked in this exact context (i.e. if this is the first time you’ve ever tried using this cloud-based system from your laptop outside of the office)[/li][li]what you have already tried doing to fix it[/li][/ul]
and it also helps to provide detail on related things that are still working (i.e. if your computer won’t power up, and also, your desk lamp has no power, you probably don’t have a computer problem at all. If your calculator app isn’t responding to mouse clicks and neither is anything else, your calculator app is probably fine - your mouse probably isn’t. - Those are silly examples, but it is very often the case that the problem is not rooted in the exact place you are seeing the symptoms).

It’s a reasonable enough complaint; technology is there to be used, and ease of use and reliability are technological virtues.

I’m certainly not a Luddite, but plenty of gadgetry and software has a terrible user interface, made less with ease of use in mind than cheapness or looking cool. And is much less reliable than it should be.

Thanks for the thoughtful post, Mangetout. I wonder about your thoughts on a couple of things.

I tend NOT to change any settings on either my work of home computer. At home, I’m afraid I’ll mess something up, invite hackers or delete something. At work, we’re always told what we an NOT to do with/plug into the computer. Moreover, whenever I tried to customize settings, add macros, etc, I’d lose them on a subsequent “upgrade.” So now I do everything the barebones simplest way possible. I do EXACTLY what I’m told to - and nothing more. I have papers taped up and stickies telling me the 3 different ways I’m supposed to sign out, for example.

So, there are a couple of issues. First, I expect my employer (and the tech staff) to ensure that this tool is reliably functioning the way it is supposed to. The same way I expect my pens and phone to do the same thing each time I try to use them. When something goes wrong, I wish to have someone diagnose it and either fix it or tell me how to fix it. For me, the situation generally is “My computer is showing me ABC. I want to do XYZ. I’m not able to do it as I normally do. What do I need to do?”

The second thing is that I lack certain vocabulary. For example, yesterday the person was saying something about my cache and cookies. Sure, I’ve heard those terms before and have some vague idea what they mean, but I do not do anything to change/empty/delete them on my work machine. Like I said, I don’t want to screw anything up. And the vocabulary does not stick with me. I get confused when someone asks me for a user ID, as opposed to a log on ID, vs a password, or several other terms I do not distinguish. When I sign on, I enter one 6 digit number that was assigned to me, and then an 8 digit number that I made up. That’s the only way I think of them - the 2 numbers I have to enter to get into the computer. The other day, someone asked me for - I forget the term. Maybe laptop ID number. Something I NEVER need to use. After a moment, I asked “is the number located on a sticker on my laptop?” That vocabulary gap causes me difficulty. And, like I said, the subtleties and distinctions of much of the vocabulary do not stick with me.

Sometimes I wonder if there are differing expectations on the different sides of IT. Should users be able to describe things the way IT providers think of things? Or should IT providers put forth the effort to elicit information from folk who do not think like IT people? Yes, I’m sure there are countless idiots who don’t realize their machine is unplugged. I don’t recall ever having been one of those people.

Another horrible problem is with shared resources. As I understand it, folk are constantly saving things that corrupt our system. And some workstations are shared. So when I go into a certain room, I might be stymied because the person who was in there before closed things down wrong. Not IT peoples’ fault - but does cause me frustration.

Another thing, I have a full-time job. The demands/expectations of that job have not really gotten tremendously lighter over the past couple of decades. I’m not dying to take on ANOTHER job - computer maintenance - in addition to my full-time job. The benefits stuff I was doing yesterday was similar. We used to have a very useful HR department, where people could explain things and give you forms to fill out, or they would enter information on the computer. Now - with so much - in order to save on staff (and presumably add convenience) - the effort is imposed on the consumer/user. Like I said upthread - I’m rarely in so much of a hurry that I can’t wait for someone to handle something for me, and I gladly pay for service instead of saving pennies by turning myself into a data entry clerk and tech troubleshooter.

This is certainly not my experience. Perhaps I am the only person this has ever happened to, but not infrequently I will not get an expected/desired response when doing the exact same procedure - even as simple as pushing a hyperlink. My assumption is that there is some very small degree of error, as others have suggested above, concerning complex electrical systems.

I endorse this Pitting! It’s my word against yours, but a few decades ago I could do things with computers that flabbergasted top-notch Silicon Valley nerds. Nowadays I often ask my pre-teen son for help. :smack:

Here’s a rant I prepared a few months ago but (like most my rants :eek: ) I didn’t post it. I’ll post it now.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Some talk about the “technological singularity”, when progress achieves sudden growth. I’d like to discuss a different singularity which we may be approaching – the point when Window’s masturbatory behavior consumes all available memory and CPU power, and computer users are no longer able to get any benefit from their Windows computers.

The computer scientist Fred Brooks famously declared that adding additional programmers to a software project may delay the delivery of the software! Microsoft now has a legion of programmers larger than many country’s standing army. Profits continue to roll in – as with Coke, the quality of the products is irrelevant, only the brand name matters to mesmerized consumers – and the legion of programmers continues to grow. I hypothesize that they are approaching a singularity where all their efforts are forms of masturbation. They may continue to release new versions of Windows, but each new version will be more worthless than the previous version.

My laptop with 1 GB memory and Windows 7 failed, so I bought a new laptop. I got 4 GB despite that 1 GB was plenty for me, and I intended to do nothing new or different. The store wouldn’t sell me Windows 7 so I got Windows 10. Some things I could do on the old 1GB machine now cause thrashing on the 4GB machine!

I’m starting to wonder if I should have just hunted down an old third-hand Windows 7 laptop at a junk store. Not to save money – I’d have paid antique price for the treasure – but so I’d have a comprehensible working machine.

My laptop put itself to sleep after two minutes of “inactivity.” I put “inactivity” in quotes since it goes off even when I have a background process doing simulations. In the ineffable wisdom of Microsoft, computers are for punching the mouse button and watching videos; background computations are evidently beyond their ken.

The Microsoft Control Panel has four (or eight) places to set the time delay before sleeping. I set all four (eight?) to two HOURS. Nope, the sleep still comes after two MINUTES. I can understand why the anal-retentive programmer wanted to have eight distinct places to set the sleep delay – he had to earn his keep somehow. Unfortunately some other anal-retentive programmer felt the need to override all eight settings.

I would have been as happy to have zero settings as to have eight. Call me old-fashioned but when I want the laptop to Sleep I … [wait for it] … click Sleep(*)! But eight visible settings, or even sixteen, would be OK if they actually set the thing they claim to be setting!

(* - Bizarrely the clicked Sleep behaves differently – less friendly – than the timed-out Sleep. “Hibernate” is gone; I suppose that was too long a word for their Windoze 10 target customers.))

Google is your friend. Type “Why does my Windows 10 laptop go to sleep after two minutes?” and you’ll get 1.8 million hits. Most of the hits, unfortunately, will be to YouTubes showing how to change the obvious settings, or others with the same unanswered question as me. But finally I found a post that did solve my problem. I wonder if Windows apologists will find a way to endorse the solution that worked!

Yes, there are hidden settings which somehow override the visible settings. But if the interface is intended to be intuitive and user-friendly, I think we might agree that 238C9FA8-0AAD-41ED-83F4-97BE242C8F20 was not the best choice for a descriptive folder name. Note that there are many other folders with useless names there; not to mention that you need to somehow navigate at least six levels down … just to get the opportunity, when you guess 238C9FA8-0AAD-41ED-83F4-97BE242C8F20 correctly, to then somehow guess 7bc4a2f9-d8fc-4469-b07b-33eb785aaca0.

This is IMO a key insight.

You have conflated two issues here. One is the medium and one is the message. They occur together, but it’s not appropriate or helpful to blame the medium for the message nor the message for the medium.

What I mean is this: IT tech, both good and ill, is a medium. Reduced customer support and more help-yourself-or-do-without business practices is a message. It’s appropriate to applaud the upsides and bitch about the downsides of each. It’s inappropriate to cross the beams.

It is NOT an IT or computer issue that your company outsourced HR to a website. They could just as easily have outsourced it to some clueless group of $2/day clerks in India. You’d still be dealing with people but it’d also suck as bad as does the website.

Framing the problem correctly will help you minimize carrying anger from the medium onto the message or vice versa.
IMO, and as many folks have said, the IT medium has brought us great things like SDMB and wiki and spellcheck in addition to not-great things like mysterious crashes in Word and random failures on websites.

The message OTOH, that business is cheap and is constantly seeking ways to reduce their support for you, whether you’re an employee or a customer, is end-to-end bad. Unless they’re sharing the fruits of that cheapness with you via higher wages or lower prices. I’m not sure Amazon is a net force for good or evil. But their goods are cheap; I do receive some benefit. But by and large, the message is mostly “screw you!”. Which is not a Good Thing. No wonder you’re angry. As are most of us at least about this.

You can see now the medium and the message are mostly orthogonal. Blaming the computer for a badly-designed self-serve HR benefits website is mostly shooting the messenger. Which is a proverbial warning for a reason; for thousands of years it’s been recognized as an unhelpful human trait.

Maybe you could try writing down some of the vocabulary?

As a general rule, communication is easier when both parties are speaking the same language, and using the same terminology. Sure, it would be great if IT could put forth the effort to understand what you’re talking about, but it may be unrealistic to expect them to understand dozens of different personal terms for the same thing.

Just a thought, which may not apply to you, but is it possible you’re actually not doing things exactly the same way? that you’re misspelling or mistyping something, or not clicking what you thought you were clicking? Could there be a “vicious circle” sort of thing going on where your fear and annoyance make you want to avoid what you’re doing rather than engaging fully with it, which can cause mistakes and lack of understanding which can cause further fear and annoyance?

I agree with almost all you say, septimus. I’ve long attributed that to the apparent fact that programmers and other tech folk seem to think very differently than low end user like myself.

My favorite story was whenever we changed to a certain MS Oe, d I could no longer figure out how to do the 5 or so simplest things I did all the time. Open and save files, print, etc. Someone pointed out the little logo in the lower left corner. Hell, I thought it was decoration. Sorry for my ignorance, but what is wrong with a button that say “START”? :smack:

Going way back, I remember WP used to automatically keep bk! backup files. That was a wonderful system for someone like me. Ever since, it has been an ongoing effort of setting the backup, only to have it disappear with an upgrade, or save it someplace obscure.

Final example - my job has a document generating template. The old one - 2 generations ago - is perfect. Essentially an outline within which I can create what I want. Well, they decided some of the worst employees weren’t doing things right, so they kept adding things to new versions of the template, such that it is (IMO) horribly cumbersome - for me as well as folk down the line. It tries to anticipate and handle EVERY possibility that might arise in any obscure case, while bogging down the few things that must be done in the vast majority of routine cases. Instead of the 5 pages that are needed in 95% of cases, the minimum document prepared is 13 pages! When being trained on it, I asked if there was a “lite” version, which would be quicker and easier to use, and would not do tons of things not needed in routine cases. The developers looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. Why would I want such a thing, when their program was so wonderful?

I think programmers, designers, and tech people often do not appreciate users’ ability to tune out noise. And it can be too hard to distinguish between insignificant and critical functions. I have long advocated that all products come bare bones, doing the limited things the greatest number of people want. There should be clearly identified possibilities for more sophisticated users to unlock new ways to customize and do more complex things.

And, like you, I don’t need a dozen different ways to express my individuality by setting my sleep cycle. Just tell me one fail-safe way to do the most basic things I need to do, and I’ll do my best to learn it. In my crazy perception, if I find things in different places that APPEAR to do the same thing, the fact that they are in different places makes me wonder if - in fact - they are somehow different, and whether I should use one or the other.

Of course, I admit these things don’t come readily to me. A CD got stuck in my car stereo, so I’ve started using my kid’s old ipod mini. Just this a.m. I texted her to ask how to turn the darn thing off. She told me to hold down the pause button. Never would have occurred to me. And Apple stuff is supposed to be so intuitive…

LSL - great points. But as a user, I’m not sure how useful it is to distinguish between the medium and the message. Where does that get me? From my perspective, that distinction just allows whomever I’m dealing with to pass responsibility off on someone else. I don’t care which is screwing up - I just want the action done somewhat efficiently and reliably. And I’m not sure I ought to HAVE to suss out which is causing the problem. The onus should not fall on the “customer.” The tech creators should design/build their product knowing how it is going to be used, and the company using the product, should staff and spend accordingly to satisfy their customers.

When I go to a store, and some clerk tells me some stupid company policy, I don’t get mad at the clerk. I know they did not make the policy. But they ARE the only representative of the company who is in front of me. And I will express my concerns/displeasure to them, and - if needed - ask to speak with a manager.

For the past couple of decades, my approach has been to avoid paperless transactions in many situations, simply because I tend to perceive them as cumbersome in one way or another. But that is becoming harder and harder to do. So I’m trying to figure out how to adjust my approach/mindset so as NOT to regularly get upset at what will be more and more common activities of simply living.