How to Help Someone use a Computer

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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

Postby laikexpert » 2011-05-17 04:32

This is great!
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

Postby ghostdawg » 2011-07-22 01:45

This does have some good tips...I just recently installed Debian Testing on someone's (grandparents & grandkids) old PII system, since I'm used to doing testing. But after thinking about it, I should have installed Squeeze on it because I won't be around often to fix things when testing breaks. I guess it's too late to switch it to Squeeze, huh! I hate to reinstall, but I may have to, since I've gotten it setup perfectly for them.
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

Postby ivanovnegro » 2011-07-22 04:34

ghostdawg wrote:This does have some good tips...I just recently installed Debian Testing on someone's (grandparents & grandkids) old PII system, since I'm used to doing testing. But after thinking about it, I should have installed Squeeze on it because I won't be around often to fix things when testing breaks. I guess it's too late to switch it to Squeeze, huh! I hate to reinstall, but I may have to, since I've gotten it setup perfectly for them.


That was the biggest error you could do. :wink: I would reinstall as soon as possible. I never could imagine my grandparents working on a Testing system.
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

Postby golinux » 2011-07-22 04:38

ivanovnegro wrote:
ghostdawg wrote:I never could imagine my grandparents working on a Testing system.

Heck! I can't imagine ME working on a testing system!!
May the FORK be with you!
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

Postby davidscamron » 2011-11-17 12:50

I think if someone wants to use computer or learn computer. He must have interest in the computer. We have to made her interest in this device through inspiring him about useful things of computers. This is the only way to make a person agree for using anything.
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

Postby jobsworth6912 » 2011-11-21 04:18

I am also entirely self taught. I am fortunate enough to have an aptitude for it.
I am guilty of most of the behavior described this thread
and the reactions from my pupils.
It is so difficult to understand the problem since the pupil usually feels he has done something illegal
and cannot answer simple yes no answers which would pinpoint the problem.
Like what were you doing when the problem started (playing a game off a CD bought in the market).
People see results - they do not want to understand the cause of the results -
and probably experience life itself in the same way.
And then saying something which means that they have understood the problem
(I asked my neighbor and he said...)
Then why come to me with your problem if your neighbor can help you.
Debian and not Ubuntu - Iceweasel is not Firefox - Keep it separate.
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

Postby phenest » 2012-03-26 17:44

Taken from guitarlessons.com
It is important for you as a beginner guitar player to learn the proper names for the parts of the guitar. When you talk to other musicians or people that work at music stores it is important for you to be able to communicate with them about the guitar in a proper manner.

This should apply to computers too. How many people don't know the difference between a hard drive and memory. :roll:
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

Postby Anteaus » 2012-10-18 09:35

One of the main difficulties with giving phone support to to someone you don't know is that of assessing the caller's level of competence, so you can have a rough idea of what commands you can expect them to carry out successfully. You can often pick this up from little clues, for example if they type a supportpage URL into Google instead of the URL bar that is a warning not to given them root commands to play with. Needless to say you have to find this out by subterfuge rather then direct questioning so as to avoid causing embarrassment. The hardest to deal with are those who bandy tech terms around to try and make it sound like they understand a lot more than they do. Mostly you can spot this because they are talking rubbish, but sometimes they sound plausible, and that is where you are likely to drop your guard and assume they can handle advanced commands safely.

Anyway, VNC/RDP is our saviour from the 'please describe what you see on the screen' hell. Doing things that way is just so much less stressful
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

Postby nadir » 2012-10-18 13:36

To me this thread always was and always will be about
trying to understand how someone new to a computer thinks (and someone new to any other complex subject too).
not about technics and tips for the ones who help.
That is it's main spritit.
The ones who answer questions already consider themselves more smart than they are.
They don't need to technics, they (often) need a change of mind, and what is called empathy.
The relation between the one who asks (often doing the one who answers a favor by that, a chance for endless rants) and the one who answer (often doing no favor to the one who asks, but only chatting about this and that, setting threads as solved, how to use google and other pointless reminders, not related to the question at all).

Harold wrote:Phil Agre -- http://polaris.gseis.ucla.edu/pagre/how-to-help.html

Computer people are fine human beings, but they do a lot of harm in the ways they "help" other people with their computer problems. Now that we're trying to get everyone online, I thought it might be helpful to write down everything I've been taught about helping people use computers.

First you have to tell yourself some things:

  • Nobody is born knowing this stuff.
  • You've forgotten what it's like to be a beginner.
  • If it's not obvious to them, it's not obvious.
  • A computer is a means to an end. The person you're helping probably cares mostly about the end. This is reasonable.
  • Their knowledge of the computer is grounded in what they can do and see -- "when I do this, it does that". They need to develop a deeper understanding, but this can only happen slowly -- and not through abstract theory but through the real, concrete situations they encounter in their work.
  • Beginners face a language problem: they can't ask questions because they don't know what the words mean, they can't know what the words mean until they can successfully use the system, and they can't successfully use the system because they can't ask questions.
  • You are the voice of authority. Your words can wound.
  • Computers often present their users with textual messages, but the users often don't read them.
  • By the time they ask you for help, they've probably tried several things. As a result, their computer might be in a strange state. This is natural.
  • They might be afraid that you're going to blame them for the problem.
  • The best way to learn is through apprenticeship -- that is, by doing some real task together with someone who has a different set of skills.
  • Your primary goal is not to solve their problem. Your primary goal is to help them become one notch more capable of solving their problem on their own. So it's okay if they take notes.
  • Most user interfaces are terrible. When people make mistakes it's usually the fault of the interface. You've forgotten how many ways you've learned to adapt to bad interfaces.
  • Knowledge lives in communities, not individuals. A computer user who's part of a community of computer users will have an easier time than one who isn't.

Having convinced yourself of these things, you are more likely to follow some important rules:

  • Don't take the keyboard. Let them do all the typing, even if it's slower that way, and even if you have to point them to every key they need to type. That's the only way they're going to learn from the interaction.
  • Find out what they're really trying to do. Is there another way to go about it?
  • Maybe they can't tell you what they've done or what happened. In this case you can ask them what they are trying to do and say, "Show me how you do that".
  • Attend to the symbolism of the interaction. Try to squat down so your eyes are just below the level of theirs. When they're looking at the computer, look at the computer. When they're looking at you, look back at them.
  • When they do something wrong, don't say "no" or "that's wrong". They'll often respond by doing something else that's wrong. Instead, just tell them what to do and why.
  • Try not to ask yes-or-no questions. Nobody wants to look foolish, so their answer is likely to be a guess. "Did you attach to the file server?" will get you less information than "What did you do after you turned the computer on?".
  • Explain your thinking. Don't make it mysterious. If something is true, show them how they can see it's true. When you don't know, say "I don't know". When you're guessing, say "let's try ... because ...". Resist the temptation to appear all-knowing. Help them learn to think the problem through.
  • Be aware of how abstract your language is. "Get into the editor" is abstract and "press this key" is concrete. Don't say anything unless you intend for them to understand it. Keep adjusting your language downward towards concrete units until they start to get it, then slowly adjust back up towards greater abstraction so long as they're following you. When formulating a take-home lesson ("when it does this and that, you should try such-and-such"), check once again that you're using language of the right degree of abstraction for this user right now.
  • Tell them to really read the messages, such as errors, that the computer generates.
  • Whenever they start to blame themselves, respond by blaming the computer. Then keep on blaming the computer, no matter how many times it takes, in a calm, authoritative tone of voice. If you need to show off, show off your ability to criticize bad design. When they get nailed by a false assumption about the computer's behavior, tell them their assumption was reasonable. Tell *yourself* that it was reasonable.
  • Take a long-term view. Who do users in this community get help from? If you focus on building that person's skills, the skills will diffuse to everyone else.
  • Never do something for someone that they are capable of doing for themselves.
  • Don't say "it's in the manual". (You knew that.)

It's very hard to find people who are able to answer questions plain and clear.
That is what i would call a good teacher (someone willing to learn himself, and all the time, life-long)

In other words: to me it is an advice:
"How to answer questions the right way"
"I am not fine with it, so there is nothing for me to do but stand aside." M.D.
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

Postby Debian4ever » 2014-01-25 07:24

I am a self taught computer geek, I learned a lot about both linux and windows with hands on experience and I have leared that in order to teach others you have to understand how you yourself learned things.
At ones own pace.
If someone I knew was still using XP and was wary of upgrading to say windows 7 or 8 I would ensure their transition into their new environment would be as painless as possible.
Or if one was going to try a linux distro say Ubuntu or openSUSE I would also do the same.
I would show them the pluses and minuses to all of them, after all we all had to learn somehow and easy pacing does work for the most part.
The key bit is patience, if I was going to install Debian wheezy onto a computer of someone who has used windows xp all thier life I would show them all the ups, the downs, the pitfalls and the mountains.
Same if they wanted to use windows 7 or even a mac, in either case a helping hand goes a long way.
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

Postby raspbian » 2014-11-06 18:45

I agree too.
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

Postby millpond » 2015-07-12 23:01

Excellent post, which I will type out, as I will be needing to help the wife with her upcoming Office class.

Especially regarding *online* helping of others, there is another aspect that needs to be considered: Culture.

In many parts of the world even asking a question can be considered a humiliating experience. Asking questions makes them look stupid.
As Westerners most of us recognize how wrong that idea is, but we need to be especially cautious to not be condescending in our replies, or attempts at instruction.

As an English forum, most of us here are from 5 eyes countries, but many certainly are not, and may not understand how some of our common expressions, when translated, might sound offensive. This is not unique to English, as I learned years ago from editing periodical articles by a Russian physicist.

Another aspect to consider when instructiing is motivation (and aptitude): Whether the student needs (or wants) a fish rather than the fishing pole. Depending on circumstances, either can be equally apropriate,
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

Postby Starborn » 2015-12-30 19:47

<Another little bump>

Very good first message. At work I am the "local system administrator", and patience and understanding (that other people know less about computers than I do) are very handy things to have.
We're all star children!
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

Postby phenest » 2016-05-25 14:20

An incident that happened to me recently at work.

An office bod asked me how to change the page layout to landscape in MS Word. Now he didn't use the words "page layout" or "landscape", so I had to first interpret what he was trying to do. Then I had to work out how to do it myself. I haven't used Windows in over 10 years, and used MS Word even less. It took me 5 seconds to work it out and show him. This was something that was staring him in the face, and I saw it immediately. Page Layout -> Orientation -> Landscape. Done. This is also a guy that I have considered to be more clued up than your average computer user.


My conclusion: It doesn't matter how "clued up" you think someone is about computers. You might be teaching them forever.

There is a saying: Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man how to fish, and he eats for life.
I seem to be giving a fish to the same people every day. If only there was a method of teaching computers, so they would go away and learn the rest by themselves.

How often do you hear the phrase: "Google is your friend". Yeah, sure, if you know what Google is, or what to type or how to decipher all those hits. Otherwise that phrase is useless.

I think my method for teaching involves making sure I'm approachable and won't mock them because of their trivial question. And then give them a straight answer. I've always believed that not knowing does not equal stupidity.
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

Postby Kwentin » 2016-11-15 14:03

nice vision! I'll print your post at stick at my working desk at the office! :D
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