Technophobia!

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by IJ Reilly, Jan 14, 2007.

  1. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

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    #1
    I had an encounter recently (details withheld) which reminded me of a problem I have run into a number of times before. The problem is people who know little about technology making technology choices for others. Not only do they know little about technology, they are probably at least a little technology phobic.

    The profile of this technophobe (in my experience) is an older management type who didn't encounter much technology during the earlier part of their careers, and as they moved up the ladder, succeeded in remaining fairly isolated from technology issues and a more than superficial understanding of same. Their current skills probably begin and end with typing an e-mail or a basic document in Word. Yet now they are in charge of departments, agencies, etc., and are responsible for making decisions on the types of technology others can use. These decisions seem to be driven as much by fear as by knowledge, if not more so. I believe this is more than a generic "pointy-haired boss" issue. Some of the problem seems to be specific to technology.

    As a self-employed person, I don't have to deal with this issue very often myself but I still do slam into it occasionally, and it surprises me every time. I imagine people working every day in the corporate world have much bigger problems dealing with technophobic people, who block progress when they can't wrap their minds around the idea that a problem can be solved in a better way.

    So please, tell me your stories... share your theories... suggest your solutions!
     
  2. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

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    #2
    Thank you for describing my last 3 team leaders and the previous two directors (departmental heads) as well as the current head of IT who refuses to hook the Macs up to the corporate Windows network because he 'doesn't want to learn another operating system'

    Therefore, every major tech-purchasing decision made by me has to be supported by documentation explaining the whys and wherefores, because they say they want to see it. So when I deliver, their eyes glaze over, they don't read what they've been given and usually agree to everything, anyway.

    I'm not going to bore you with the exact details of how it was decreed by my team leader — who knows nothing about IT — that we should have a Windows box running our plasma presentations against my wishes. This machine constantly crashed, locked up and couldn't even be easily set to start up and shut down on a schedule... within 8 weeks, after some humble pie on her part, it was replaced by a Mac which runs perfectly from day to day with very little intervention.

    Or the conference suite manager who bluntly told clients that they couldn't hook their PowerBooks up to the internal (VGA) projection system because it wasn't mac-compatible. I had them hooked up and with their Keynote presentations running in seconds.

    Please... let specialists be specialists, don't micro-manage, don't think you're capable of establishing the production, hardware and software needs of a busy design studio, don't effing assume that because you can use your laptop at home to write your reports, that you know how everything works.

    :mad:
     
  3. Doctor Q Administrator

    Doctor Q

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    #3
    I've seen it plenty of times, and it will always be true. The people in charge are usually older, because they've worked their way up and have the most experience. That experience is great, but it's based on technology they used in the past. The "new kid" with no memory of anything prior to the Internet, Apple, Google, YouTube, etc. will have a different point of view. A good manager will take advantage of that, and adapt, rather than relying on outdated points of view. It's not easy, and we'll each face this challenge.

    We joke about someday having our kids scold us for trying to use Internet-enabled cell phones and Bluetooth TVs and other "old-fashioned" technology rather than telepathic communications, nanobots, or whatever else comes in the future.
     
  4. pseudobrit macrumors 68040

    pseudobrit

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    #4
    My boss is in his 60s and is very savvy with gadgets and computers. I'm very grateful.
     
  5. Doctor Q Administrator

    Doctor Q

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    #5
    I know both sides of it. I sometimes suggest a technology that gets blank stares from the older staff and nods from the younger staff. Meanwhile, the "newest kid" will sometimes come up with ideas for new approaches that the rest of a development team might not have thought of as quickly.

    We're in a field where new knowledge is disproportionately critical. The trick is to keep up and be willing to learn no matter how much experience you have. A good grounding in previous technology can actually make a positive difference, if you use it as a basic for learning what's new.
     
  6. stevep macrumors 6502a

    stevep

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    #6
    Either we all know the same people, or there is a worryingly large number of idiots out there. When I was born there weren't even any calculators, and yet I like to think I'm reasonably up to date with computer technology. To get to this stage it has taken effort, time and cost me money (I work in education, that's why it has cost me, rather than my employers).
    My daily working life is hindered by people who know little and can't make sensible decisions about technology. The Windows network I use is littered with evidence of mismanagement that make my work difficult, and the so-called IT Service dept don't know what the word 'service' means (they think it means 'empire').
    We live in a world where it seems to be socially acceptable if you can't program a video recorder but unacceptable if you can't recognise a quotation from Byron or Keats. That doesn't seem to stop them producing PowerPoint presentations of the lowest possible quality..........
    IJ - you have my sympathy, and you're not alone. The people who know the most are the ones who know they don't know everything.
     
  7. IJ Reilly thread starter macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

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    #7
    Interesting commentary -- thanks. As I suspected, many of you have more direct experience with this phenomenon than myself.

    I'm really curious about the "fear factor" in this equation. I think many people are afraid of new technologies on some fundamental, primal level. It seems to go beyond a lack of knowledge in many cases.

    My own theory has it that so much of the technology with which we are surrounded is so utterly dysfunctional that it creates an "I'd better not touch it or it will break" behavior pattern, especially among the unknowledgeable. Even something that works poorly is seen as better than the prospect of changing to something new, even if it could solve problems. I've often enough seen people adopt a defensive crouch over suggested changes where technology is concerned to wonder about the source of all this fear.

    Naturally, I blame Microsoft, but that's just me. ;)
     
  8. Queso macrumors G4

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    #8
    They tend to be quite open to my suggestions on tech, but then by the time I'm in a company it's because they've already identified that something needs to change. I still get a lot of funny stares when the PowerBook first comes out, but once I say "it's OK, this Mac runs UNIX" they calm down.

    Of course that means they don't realise that all Macs run UNIX :)
     
  9. Doctor Q Administrator

    Doctor Q

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    #9
    Sometimes the problem isn't fear, it's time. In my computer work, I want to use the best tool for the job, but if I can finish a job faster with the old tool I'm used to, why take the time to learn the new, proper, more powerful way to do it? The answer is that it pays off in the long term, so its worth the effort for a tool you are likely to use in the future.

    So, sometimes, a boss wants things done the old way because it's predictable and good enough for the schedule at hand, avoiding the R&D required to move ahead.
     
  10. SkyBell macrumors 604

    SkyBell

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    #10
    I only have one "technophobe" in my family, and it's my great-grandfather, and he's 91!

    My grandfather who is 78, knows a lot. He's a PC user, but he knows a lot about Macs too.

    Technophobes are usually people who are too old to learn a new technology, or just don't want to.
     
  11. IJ Reilly thread starter macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

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    #11
    Sometimes it is fear, though. I can tell when fear is involved when the rationale for not changing is vague and seems difficult to articulate. It quickly become evident that they've dug a technology trench for themselves and start feeling very nervous when somebody asks them to look over the edge.
     
  12. Doctor Q Administrator

    Doctor Q

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    #12
    I'd reply to you, but my teletype is overheating. :p
     
  13. Sesshi macrumors G3

    Sesshi

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    #13
    I think it's more a human factor, both in terms of applications and also in terms of support. And the emphasis is not on the user.

    I place it more on uppity geeks. I'm speaking in broad terms, but it's a stereotype that seems common in both corporate and SME circles.

    They can't teach you properly because they can only talk in their lingo. They have no real people skills / empathic qualities to speak of which means they can never explain the technology properly, but they control IT. Having got this 'power' and perpetuating lack of knowledge of systems among users by their own actions, they become contemptuous of users.

    The problem with specialists in many fields is that they end up being unable to see outside their own skill confines, without realising that they would probably do a far worse job than the user in the user's own field.

    Senior members have little knowledge of systems to start with, so they are more open to a sort of exploitation by the uppity geeks. By blaming the user for breaking anything, they can instil techno-fear. It doesn't help that frequently, systems are designed by people who are the same way as uppity geeks.


    There is a counter-argument that users should be prepared to learn the operation of a basic tool of their job. But in corporate environments, the very people who are supposed to teach them can be uppity geeks resulting in a catch-22 situation. The same occasionally goes for home (often the offspring) and SME environments.
     
  14. ejb190 macrumors 65816

    ejb190

    #14
    A mish-mash of thoughts:

    When I started my first job in 2000, they had just asked a secretary to start using a computer or retire. She retired.

    The same boss from above fought me tooth and nail when I wanted to bring the office into the 21st Century. When I developed a couple of databases that saved the secretaries a ton of time in retyping and error checking, I was told to quit wasting my time, but when it worked (and very well, I might add), he tried to take credit for it...

    Nothing ticks me off more then trying to use a new system created by someone who will never actually use the system and makes no effort to find out how the actual users work either.
     
  15. pseudobrit macrumors 68040

    pseudobrit

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    #15
    Spoken like a true student of Raskin.

    http://www.acmqueue.com/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=98
     
  16. SpookTheHamster macrumors 65816

    SpookTheHamster

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    #16
    When I started at uni, we got given a piece of paper with our network login details. It had a large warning saying "Macintosh computers are not supported on this network" and something about how if we ran into problems, it was our own fault. It also had a huge list of what to do on a Windows PC to get it working. I plugged my iMac in, opened Safari and was on the internet instantly.

    They've changed their tune a little recently, though. They admit that they know nothing about Macs, but in an attempt to help us, they've started a Mac mail group so if you have a problem you can send an email to all the Mac users.
     
  17. Queso macrumors G4

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    #17
    That's the better way forward. You'll get far more sense out of other users than from Teh Admins, who really just want you to go away so they can get back to playing with tech stuff :)

    The Windows users will be requesting one before you know it.
     
  18. SpookTheHamster macrumors 65816

    SpookTheHamster

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    #18
    The news bulletin they put up went along the lines of "As we gaze upon Microsofts great Vista, it is easy to forget that there are still others out there using Macintosh computers..... We are starting a mailing list so they can help each other"
     
  19. Queso macrumors G4

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    #19
    Yeah, because Macs are so yesterday's news. :rolleyes:

    MS Fanboys.
     
  20. IJ Reilly thread starter macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

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    #20
    My quill broke. Time to pluck another bird.
     
  21. IJ Reilly thread starter macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

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    #21
    Oh my, someone is actually paying attention to what I write. :eek:

    I was also impressed by an idea Alan Cooper included his book, "The Inmates are Running the Asylum," which is mainly about the upside-down process of software development. He calls bad software, by which I think he means most commercial products, "Dancing Bearware." It takes so long to teach the bear to dance, and we are so amazed that it can dance at all, that we don't question how poorly it actually performs, and consequently don't demand better. The market (lead by Microsoft of course), has been inundated with Dancing Bearware.
     
  22. mactastic macrumors 68040

    mactastic

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    #22
    I'm not allowed to click the button that installs windows updates on my box at work. :p

    On the other end of the spectrum, I was talking to a woman the other day whose "tech person" had told her what she needed for her office computer upgrade. She's got a brand-new quad-processor Mac Pro so that she can run stuff like Quick Books and Excel and other office productivity software. I told her it will run that stuff no problem. :D But it's way more machine than she needs, I got the feeling she bought it because she didn't know any better and her "tech person" wanted a Mac Pro to play with. At least she's willing to listen, but I think she spent at least $1,000 too much on a workstation.

    I also have to deal with a civil engineering firm that uses some Mac-specific program that requires a great deal of conversion from my AutoCad files. It is frustrating because they seem to not know how to do the conversion themselves, and want us to do it. I spent easily 3 hours over a few weeks converting and re-converting according to their instructions, and only after much effort on my part was the conversion successful. The other people in the office, unfamiliar with Macs, assumed that this was a Mac problem, not a people problem. I, of course, dutifully informed them that any self-respecting firm would have done the conversion themselves, and suggested we not use this firm again until they buy a copy of AutoCad and do the conversions themselves. Of course, the Macs still took the blame.

    Anyway, just a few observations from a Mac guy who works in a Windows world...
     
  23. Doctor Q Administrator

    Doctor Q

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    #23
    I think this Zits cartoon speaks to this subject quite well.
     

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  24. valdore macrumors 65816

    valdore

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    #24
    At my job, we worked with Tandem computers that were at least 20 years old, until a few weeks ago when they replaced them with stripped down Dells. All we do is glorified data entry anyway, so antiquated computers weren't a huge hindrance.
     
  25. MACDRIVE macrumors 68000

    MACDRIVE

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    #25
    I'm one of them. I've never owned a cell phone in my life; and if you were to hand one to me, I wouldn't have a clue as to how to use it. :eek:
     

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