technology: it isn't magic, its logic

Oh, it may seem like magic at times but it isn't. Software isn't magic. Hardware doesn't make magic happen. Computers and software rely on logic. There is no magical incantation that will: set up your email client; back up your hard drive; update your virus definitions; patch your computer; … ad technauseum. Sure, “glitches”, “hiccups”, and just plain lockups happen but they are the exception (and, counterintuitively, there will always be a logical explanation).

As computer users, we need to think logically. If someone tells me I need to set up an email client, what do I do? Do I know what an email client is? If not, I should go to Google and find out. If so, I should open my email client and think logically. Where do I typically find ways to create or configure things in programs? The File menu? The Tools menu? Both of these are logical choices and should be explored. What if I don't find anything there to help me? I go to the Help menu. Maybe the Help feature is useless–many are. OK, so I try Google (notice a pattern here?). Not getting the results you want? Try modifying your search criteria [note to self: write the guide to searching effectively that you've been putting off]. Don't give up on the first try. Don't give up on the third try–keep trying until you've exhausted all your options.

Logically, I can't complete a task unless I start it. Don't be afraid to try something when working with technology. Now, don't go clicking and pressing keys willy-nilly. That's a good way to get in trouble. Instead, gather as much information as you can so you can make an informed decision or an educated guess.

DIY (Do-It-Yourself). Logically, I'm in a better position to fix something when things go wrong if I did it in the first place. Strive to understand what you're doing instead of being “talked through” it. How many people learn to drive a new route by being a passenger instead of the driver? If I set up my own email account and it stops working, I have the knowledge of where to go to start looking around to see if everything is kosher. I'll also know when things don't look or feel right. At the very least, I'll be familiar enough with the setup to allow someone to easily help me if necessary.

Oh, and as a computer user you need to RTFM (Read The Fine/F'ing Manual) and STFW (Search The F'ing Web). Like the old public service ad: reading is fundamental. You can't get the Cliff's Notes. You can't just skim through documentation and hope for magical understanding. You will actually have to invest time and effort into understanding the software and hardware you use to be able to use it efficiently, effectively, and with as little hassle as possible.

Remember, computers were made to compute. Ease of use was an afterthought. [borrowed from an email list post I saw recently]

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