Flutterby™! : Light Bulbs

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Light Bulbs

2004-04-26 20:57:46.469957+00 by meuon 5 comments

Sometimes working with 'normal' people, especially GUI-FrontPage/centric web developors and true 'end-user' applications becomes especially frustrating. It was bad enough when, on the conference call with 60 salespeople who are supposed to use this site, several of them could not spell demo (dee ee em oh) to login.. but then, in addressing, yet again, the same issue with the web interface developer as always, it took 90 minutes to explain and teach him how to manually type in a single <A HREF=... in the right place on his front page generated web page to enable all of the wonderful 'magic' of the back end database. Normally, I would have just done it myself, but when I get done, I do not want to talk to these people every time they massage the sites graphics and verbage and it was important to get the web-dude to be able to do this without me. I know how 'special ed' teachers feel now.. It takes lots of time and repetition, examples, explaination of why case is important, and no it's not the same if you put a space in the filename... and.. and... But finally, the light bulb goes off, he says: "Oh! This is what you were trying to get me to do last week!" and the page he uploads to the site not only looks the way he wants, but it actually works as well. He is ecstatic, I am relieved, I glowed.. I beamed.. I felt as if I really accomplished something today. It's easier working with the wonderful people I normally work with, but there are seldom 'Light Bulb' moments. I think we all need more of them.

[ related topics: Children and growing up Interactive Drama Coyote Grits Space & Astronomy Law Work, productivity and environment Graphics Conferences Clowns Databases ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2004-04-26 21:26:07.687305+00 by: petronius

I've been a professional apps and certification level instructor for a number of years now, and I still get the frustrations when some student says "What OK button?" when it's right in the center of the screen and 4 inches across. But not everyone has screen awareness, or the right kind of memory. I once helped write an interface instruction manual for a chain of tire stores, and the content expert kept telling me to repeat all of the "..click in the first window, type the customer's name, and then hit ENTER" even 150 pages into the book. However, when I actually went to training sessiona with the mechanics, I saw the wisdom of his advice. These people needed a lot of reminding, until they had used the interface for several weeks.

A large part of it is that there are lots of people who have told themselves for so long that they are "computer illiterate" that they now believe it. They need confidence, like Dumbo with the feather. Hell, years ago when I did audiovisual support for a medical school I had graduate nurses telling me they could never figure out a 35mm slide projector. I usually pointed out that they were licsensed to assist at surgery, which is REALLY the hard stuff. Then I taught them how to use it.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-04-27 01:24:43.250044+00 by: Shawn

This is why I love doing this kind of work. There's nothing like the thrill of feeling my own light bulb go off - unless it's doing the 'I am a GOD' dance.

Petronius; that computer illiteracy self-reinforcement issue was a major part of the 2-day long training session I gave my parents (I still have occasional daydreams about making it the prototype for a adult ed. class) before they bought their first computer. And it's something they are slowly coming to finally realize.

On a related note, it's also been interesting to observe the different kinds of tasks and concepts they have trouble with.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-04-27 10:21:07.205667+00 by: polly

teachers love that "light bulb" effect in our students. we don't get it very often, but when we do, ah hah! :)

#Comment Re: made: 2004-04-27 14:09:07.390368+00 by: petronius

My light bulb effect is quite physical. I will be teaching a class and explaining something when I will suddenly invent the perfect analogy, or exactly the way to explain the concept so the student gets it. And I feel my face flush and the back of my neck get warm for a second. Its great.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-04-27 22:26:14.844205+00 by: flushy

sometimes I even get a tear in my eye. Like, "ah.. the world is a brighter place today."

I work for a travel wholesaler, the girls in the office have been travel agents (some used to have their own companies) for almost 20 years. If any of you have seen the Sabre system you'd understand, but this interface is a cryptic, god forsaken beast of intangiblness to semi-instant airline reservation information. It takes all these wierd commands, and cryptic options. Typically, you run about 5 searches for someone while they are on the phone. And they can do this in under 60 seconds! It's amazing to watch them work!

But put a web page in front of them and a mouse, and they are like deer caught in headlights. They are more SCARED than anything.

It has been more of an exercise in tameing their fear of computers rather than teaching them. I've found that once they have gotten over their fear, that they will learn more things on their own.