The Naked Scientists

The Naked Scientists Forum

Author Topic: What is the key to bringing technology to the technologically inept?  (Read 2728 times)

Offline CliffordK

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 6321
  • Thanked: 3 times
  • Site Moderator
    • View Profile
A week or so ago an acquaintance asked me to help setup streaming video to their house.

I hadn't really messed with it before, so it was an interesting project. 

I ended up with a fairly straightforward system.

Internet
   |
  V
Switch --> Computer
   |
  V
DVD Player --> HDMI Cable --> LCD TV.

The menus were a bit  more complicated than I would have liked, but it seemed to work.

Anyway, I got a call today saying that it wasn't working,  and the conversation went something like this.
Quote
Friend: "The DVD Player says "No Disk".
Me: "You don't need a disk.  Where do you see the message?"
Friend: "On the small screen on the DVD Player".
Me: "What do you see on the TV?"
Friend: "The screen is black."
Me: "Is it turned on?"
Friend: "There is a red LED light on it."
Me: "Find the remote, and push the power button".
(a few minutes later)
Friend: "The screen turned on."
Me: "Is the streaming video working?" (using the appropriate brand name, of course)
Friend: "No".
Me: "What do you see on the DVD Player?"
Friend: "Nothing"
Me: "Find the remote for the DVD player and turn it on."
Friend: "Hey, it is working...  That's amazing!"

Anyway, it turned out that it wasn't working because both devices had simply been turned off.

My friends are trying to embrace technology, but just get completely knocked out by some of the simplest things. 

Part of the problem, I think, is the concept of putting all the controls into a little handheld remote.  Then, hiding (or not even putting on) the controls on the device itself (due to the coolness factor of having a TV without controls).  Of course, once the remote is lost, the system is completely non functional.

It might be helped a bit to get more system integration (TV + Internet appliance all in one), but I have no doubt that will bring its own set of problems, and I didn't pick their hardware.

There are, of course, the instruction books.  But, the people that can understand them don't read them.  And, they aren't much help to those who can't understand them.

I know that Dell used to have quick-start poster sheets...  do they help?


 

Offline graham.d

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 2208
    • View Profile
Clifford, I sympathise. I think I am reasonably competent regarding technology but I think everyone has their limits. It is a matter of familiarity and having the time to acquire it. One of the most annoying things is that so-called "help" files often assume a high level of system knowledge to be even remotely intelligible. They are clearly written by people who have a vast knowledge of the system already and have no concept that others may not know things that they consider obvious. A lot of PC stuff comes into this category for me. I just want to use the PC as a tool (for work or leisure) and I do not want to become an expert at the detail setting up of the WiFi link etc.

I think that all hardware and software should have a clear hierarchy of required learning to achieve well defined tasks and that all manuals and help files should be trialled on people with no expertise before being released to the ordinary person-in-the-street.
 

Offline CliffordK

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 6321
  • Thanked: 3 times
  • Site Moderator
    • View Profile
Yes,
Manuals need to be written for the basic user.

But, one can't dumb down the manuals too much either as occasionally one turns to a manual to get some real information.

For example, the old DOS manuals used to have wonderful information such as ASCII tables, and excellent command summaries.  Many people don't know that 90% of the old DOS commands still work in Windows.  And, some of them are even still useful.
 

Offline CliffordK

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 6321
  • Thanked: 3 times
  • Site Moderator
    • View Profile
The other problems with manuals is system integration.  For example the DVD player is meant to work with a TV.  So, the end consumer wants both them to work together.  But, the DVD player doesn't do technical support for the TV, and visa-versa.

The same with hardware/software on computers.
 

Offline Geezer

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 8328
  • "Vive la résistance!"
    • View Profile
I don't know exactly how to address this, but it's an interesting subject.

Mrs G is (or was) technologically challenged, and I was getting a bit tired of fixing everything for her, so I adopted a different approach. She got an Ipad, and I just let her have at it. I think the only thing I had to do was tell her our Wi-Fi password. Apple must be doing something right, because she has not had to ask me to help her with anything.

We got a Roku video streamer recently, and rather than set it up myself, I handed the box to Mrs G and said, "Here, you do it." She did too! Had it up and running in no time. I think I had to show her where the HDMI port was on the TV and how to select it with the remote, but that was it.
 

Offline CliffordK

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 6321
  • Thanked: 3 times
  • Site Moderator
    • View Profile
Hmmm,
I think you are right, some of it may be me...
Perhaps it is best to try to explain things over the phone.
Or, at least hand the mouse to someone and show them how to do the work themselves.

One rule that I go by...  as long as one doesn't force things, well, I was going to say that it is hard to break things, but perhaps I should just say that  they can usually be put back together.

My friends were somewhat dissatisfied with the Roku because apparently it REQUIRED a credit card number to set up, even though the goal was to use it as a gateway for other services.  So they are planning on returning it.

But, I suppose one should be more encouraging to "Just Try It".  And, then if all goes wrong, it isn't the end of the world.  But, some people just seem to refuse to attempt new things.
 

Offline Don_1

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 6890
  • Thanked: 7 times
  • A stupid comment for every occasion.
    • View Profile
    • Knight Light Haulage
I think I've related this story before, about a man who bought a music centre in the 1970's. I was manager of the store at the time. He phoned to complain that it wasn't working. To cut a long story short, it transpired that he had no sound because he hadn't even unpacked the speakers, let alone connected them.
 

Offline Gordian Knot

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 165
    • View Profile
Bringing technological knowledge to the technologically inept is a matter of reconditioning. That is my perspective. Reconditioning from what? What I call the Microsoft Syndrome. With the ascendance of Microsoft's Windows operating platform, most people found themselves in a situation where, as long as everything worked it was great. But when something went wrong, even something as simple as adding a new peripheral, they were up the proverbial river without a paddle.

The result is that your average computer user was forced to rely on a knowledgeable technician to correct the problem. All of this set the stage, probably starting at least a decade or so ago, that the average user had no clue how their equipment worked. That is was too complicated for them to take the time to even try and understand how it worked. It was easier (if more expensive) to hire someone to fix the problem.

This mentality has conditioned people to believe that electronics are too complex and confusing as well. And this mentality has jumped the Windows gap over to their entertainment centers. Especially so, as these centers have become more complex, and integrated with computers, as well as other peripherals like separate sound systems, alternate playing devices like DVD/BluRay players, and for most of us, cable boxes.

Adding to this scenario is the reality that for a lot of us, we are running as fast as we can just to keep from backsliding. Forget moving ahead! This also puts many of us in a position where bringing in a technician is the path of least resistance to getting a problem fixed. We just don't have the time or energy to learn for ourselves.

That is my theory.......

 

Offline graham.d

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 2208
    • View Profile
People's skills and aptitudes vary. I don't think it is unreasonable that technology should be usable by as wide a variety of people as possible. We should not all have to be experts. Nobody would expect that a top military fighter pilot should be able to strip down a jet engine, let alone understand how his navigation systems work, except at a very high level. Most people who drive cars don't know much about the engineering involved and nor should they; the world is better off if people use their skills to their best advantage. Artists and photographers (and many others) use photoshop with great skill; they should not need to know anything about the computer operating system within which it runs.

I think that the best designed systems of any kind have their inner workings invisible to a user and these should rarely need to be meddled with. Very few people, if any, can be experts in everything.
 

The Naked Scientists Forum


 

SMF 2.0.10 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines
SMFAds for Free Forums