Things I’ve learned after one year of public space help desk

People don’t care about browsers at all.

Jesus, tech people. No one gives a damn about what app to use to get shit done. No one cares. We have Win7 machines with IE and Chrome. People choose IE all the time. Not because they don’t know what Chrome is, but because they don’t give a damn and Internet Explorer sounds like the right program to go online with when Google Chrome doesn’t really have a ring to it. That’s it. You can tell them to use the other one, they might do so but most likely, they don’t care. Sometimes old forms work best in IE, sometimes it’s slightly better in Chrome. No one cares. People care about how fast things are and that’s on the website itself. And yes, these days, without a few extensions blocking all that stuff –which we don’t have-, websites are amazingly terrible (see below).

Google makes so much money off of computer-illiterate people.

Not that I didn’t know, but seeing it happening is heartbreaking. People over-trust Google, the "don’t be evil" brand that ceased to exist over a decade ago. They think they are here to help. Everybody will be clicking on that first link. Especially after a long day. Especially when it’s about finding some info to get a new place to live in because of sudden and brutal gentrification. Especially when you have two kids around your desk, especially when your time is limited (we have one-hour sessions). Anxiety pushes people to give up being cautious and Google designs its search pages to maximize clicks on ads. It’s hard to witness. Google was supposed to lift up people. It’s only using them. Microsoft might "force" you to buy a Windows PC but it gives you a ton of agency: you can create, you can produce anything. Google just traps people and acts as if it didn’t know that, as if it wasn’t milking the fuck out of people’s desperation. It’s gross. I have no idea how to un-fuck ourselves on that one. Use other services, people.

Websites have become absolutely obnoxious times 9000

Sites that push you to use their apps, constantly. The always-happening pop-up to subscribe to the newsletter. The scripts running, tracking your location, habits. The share buttons, the fake websites just there for people to drop their phone number in the first form that is asking for it. I don’t blame people for not really liking going online to retrieve information. It’s just an annoying, never ending dodging game, regardless of your computer proficiency.

Most people don’t know how to navigate to their files.

Illiteracy again. The problem is, knowing where you put your files on a computer is kind of like knowing where you put your pants in the morning: it’s crucial. I help people a lot with that. It’s so built-in in my mind it’s ridiculous. Very humbling. Very sad too.

Women are so much more willing to learn.

It’s funny. It’s not that dudes don’t want to get help but pretty much only women tell me "don’t tell me, I’m trying to remember how to do that" or "show me what you just did". Men feel very grateful to get help or feel guilty that they can’t do something on their own. They never ask to become independent. They just get what they need and will ask over and over, they won’t be shy about that. "Thanks man!" You’re welcome…

All digital UI/UX are sad.

What we do more and more on computers (laptops desktops, tablets, phones) is cancelling, discarding, clicking "no thanks", "remind me later", "clear all" "don’t do this you fucking idiot computer". It’s awful, and it’s pushing people to NOT learn how to use computers. Thanks tech companies for being ruthless. You guys could set up some decent standards but no, you need to do the opposite of your competition, to get an edge (look at the insanity of keyboard layouts on laptops). And what happens is that you don’t get an edge at all (I’ve had people yelling after some iOS update and gestures fucking up their lives). People hate their devices, don’t care about your brand, get worse at dealing with computers and it’s a vicious circle that keeps pushing in a downward spiral because the solution from tech companies is: buy some new stuff, it will fix the problem. Don’t bother understanding what’s going on. Just trust us and click/tap. Also buy.

If cars or home appliances were being designed today, buttons would be on the side, at the bottom and some company would try to convince us that having the wheel on the ceiling really is a great feature.

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