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Chris Mostek [opinions]

Not everyone is a geek. So why do we act like they are? [editorial] [ethics] [beginners]

Not everyone is a Michael Schumacher, but a lot of people have cars. Not everyone is a Robert Capa, but many of us have cameras. The analogy can apply to computers. Not everyone is a geek, but many people have computers. The diversity of computing skill reflects the diversity in the the real world.

Seems like I’m stating the obvious, until you look at how people at various computing skill levels respond to others.

We live in a world with a wide range of skill and need with regards to computers. Many people are content with just a browser, email program and some type of word processing. That minimal level fits their needs. I have a family member who was quite content with their old PC spec'd with 64MB RAM, 233MHz Celeron, 8GB HDD running Windows 98. Until they purchased a MP3 player and digital camera, their need for more advanced hardware and software didn't change.

Of course, at the other end of the spectrum are all the highly-skilled, creative people who created the application and operating system I'm using to write this blog. Their requirements for hardware, software, challenges and upgraded systems don't compare with the basic user.

In between lies the typical Bell curve of skill levels and needs. Unfortunately, when you bring this diversity of skills and needs together, the result is often conflict.

We see examples of a user beginning to explore other programs beyond the basic level. The user asks a common question on a web forum and pays the price in the responses received. Sometimes the responses don't even answer the question. Or the new user rips an answer they don't understand, instead of admitting their lack of understanding. Go to any web forum and you won't have to search long for conflicts between different user levels.

...Back to stating what SHOULD be the obvious.

A little respect goes a long way. Ask for help politely. If someone was helpful to you, then acknowledge their help. If you disagree with someone, then respond from a basis of fact not flame. I'll never forget a blog listing programs with certain characteristics. One response was highly negative with the respondent claiming the list excluded one specific application. Actually, the application was on the list. At least read the article before deciding you disagree.

Don't take yourselves so seriously. I read articles clearly written from a humorous angle that get treated as a serious statement, and seriously flamed as a result. Serious issues include starving children, war or cures for malaria and cancer. Whether one person prefers Firefox and you prefer Opera is NOT a serious issue.

Speaking of preferences, different choices don't necessarily mean wrong choices. My personal choices lean towards FOSS programs. The next sentence may be sacrilege on a freoftware website. However, if you've evaluated your needs and choose a proprietary application, that is your choice. Personal preference is still alive and well.

These points are not intended to be a sermon, but a challenge. How do YOU respond when faced with these conflicts? Are you part of the problem or the solution?


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