Skip to content

Computers are not predictable

One of the problems with computers is the sheer number of ways to do things. Take for example how to copy a file from one place to another. You can:
– drag and drop
– copy and paste with keyboard shortcuts
– copy and paste with menu items
– cut and paste
– open the file and use save as to save it in another place

That’s just what comes to mind as I sit on the Metro typing this. And that’s the problem. There are any ways to do everything and that’s a major point of confusion.

I am good with computers so I know these ways. I understand the conventions of computing. I understand them because that’s what I’m interested in and where I’ve spent my time. I enjoy computers and what I can do with them.

But not everybody does.

In fact, I’d wager most people don’t enjoy their interactions with computers. They’re confusing. Why? Because they’re unpredictable. Doing the same thing over and over doesn’t always produce the same result.

I’m talking to a mostly tech savvy audience so this can be hard to relate to. So let’s take something I struggle with.

Navigation.

I can’t find my way out of a paper bag. Drop me in a housing development and I may never be seen again. I have absolutely no sense of direction.

I struggle to find my way to the simplest of places. I struggle to remember if I turned right or left into a strip mall. Which direction did I come from and how do I get home from here?

Driving is my computing. I rely on my phone’s GPS. With that bit of tech, I can fearlessly drive anywhere and find my way home.

Why am I talking about my sense of misdirection? Because that’s how computers feel to many people. What?

When I am in a new city, riding with a friend, we will often take different routes in and out of their neighborhood. We will never use the same route twice. This is not to be mean. They know the best routes and will take the best choice as needed.

Because it’s familiar to them, it’s easy and they don’t think about it. But to my already struggling brain, I’m confused beyond belief and without aid of a GPS, I’d never leave the house for fearing of taking the wrong turn at Albuquerque.

That’s how computers are to many people. Remember all of those ways to get a file from one place to another? That’s how everything feels.

There’s many ways to print, open a file, navigate the Internet, access email and move files. And often times different people will use and try to show them a different way.

It’s the never take the same route twice driving problem. How can I be expected to learn the route when it’s different every single time?

And roads are static. They don’t change. And if they do it’s a slow process of construction.

Computers are nothing but change. They’re a box of variables upon variables. Even reproducing the same steps 10 times could produce two or more results.

It’s easy to dismiss questions as being so easy. But think about something you struggle with.

For me it’s driving and navigating. For you maybe it’s something else. We all have something we struggle with. And asking for help can lead to greater confusion. Is it any wonder people give up and just have you do it?

Published inObservations