How to Help Someone use a Computer

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laikexpert
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

#16 Post by laikexpert »

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

#17 Post by ghostdawg »

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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ivanovnegro
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

#18 Post by ivanovnegro »

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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golinux
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

#19 Post by golinux »

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!

davidscamron
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

#20 Post by davidscamron »

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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jobsworth6912
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

#21 Post by jobsworth6912 »

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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phenest
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

#22 Post by phenest »

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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Anteaus
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

#23 Post by Anteaus »

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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nadir
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

#24 Post by nadir »

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.

Debian4ever
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

#25 Post by Debian4ever »

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

#26 Post by raspbian »

I agree too.

millpond
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

#27 Post by millpond »

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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Starborn
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

#28 Post by Starborn »

<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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phenest
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

#29 Post by phenest »

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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Kwentin
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

#30 Post by Kwentin »

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

Luna Moon
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

#31 Post by Luna Moon »

The original post is actually full of a lot of valuable advice!
phenest wrote: 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.
I like your approach and I agree with you. A person, who does simply not know, but wants to learn and understand is far from stupidity. Helping them to understand and not only give them solutions, which only work in that exact situation is the key in my opinion.

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Starborn
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

#32 Post by Starborn »

A small anecdote :)

I have an office job (I'm also the "LPU" and the guy that my colleagues come running to, when Windows is being stubborn again). We used to buy our own office stuff, and many many years ago one used to get a small thing as a thank-you gift. One day such a gift was a small, oval-shaped, battery-powered radio. Our boss gave it to a colleague (an older woman that since retired years ago) and told her it was a new, wireless mouse.

She didn't understand why her mouse cursor did not work. :lol:

-oo-

He meant it as a joke, and not as a way to mock her. But to be honest, I don't like such practical jokes: one does not make fun of people's not-knowing something.

I myself too have learned SO much about computers and operating systems. Back in the MS-DOS days, the . (dot) was the main directory (or whatsammacallit?) of DOS. Well, one day I apparently managed to delete everything by simply deleting that "dot" (in DOS?). It is years ago, but I still remember that the guy at the computer shop said I could come work with him right away. :)

We were all n00Bs once.
We're all star children!

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phenest
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

#33 Post by phenest »

Despite how I hate mocking people that are a bit lacking in computer skills, here are 2 anecdotes of my own, and done to the same Supervisor at work:

1.
The supervisor left his office to do something, so one of my colleagues changed the display settings so the orientation was upside down. When the supervisor returned, he was confused but tried to solve it. His solution was to turn the monitor upside down.

2.
Again, the supervisor had left his office, but this time, he had not turned the computer on yet. As he has to login, we switched 2 of the keys over on the keyboard and tried to keep a straight face. We decided to switch the N & M keys as they are next to each other on a QWERTY keyboard and would not be easy to spot what is wrong. Incidentally, his name is Simon. He never managed to login. We had switched the keys back by the next day and he never worked it out.

I guess that's how you get to be a supervisor.
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Onsemeliot
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

#34 Post by Onsemeliot »

Most questions on this forum are to advanced for me to help anyone with. (I sometimes browse through the questions and try to find something I could be helpful with.) But in my immediate surrounding I am still usually the guy people come to if they are having problems with their computers. And since I value freedom I try to help them by using free software when ever possible.

I agree that the fist post here is very valuable. I just think it doesn't stress one important thought enough: Most people don't want to administrate their own computers at all. They just want to use a device that works. Therefore, learning about computers isn't something they see as an option. I often encounter people who don't even want to know what the problem is or how they could solve it on their own. And I do get it: It is an emergency if they attempt to find a solution to a problem when they actually wanted to do something else entirely. It is unfortunate that paying for professional computer support doesn't really make much sense for private people because it quickly gets more expensive than just buying a new device when something goes wrong.

LE_746F6D617A7A69
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Re: How to Help Someone use a Computer

#35 Post by LE_746F6D617A7A69 »

Onsemeliot wrote:Most people don't want to administrate their own computers at all.
That's true - unfortunately.
Computers are probably the most widely used tools today, and IMO it's a catastrophic situation that majority of people don't have even a basic idea of how it works. Of course I'm not expecting that everyone would now how to build a CPU, but I think that everyone should be able to manage the HW, applications, configurations, etc. Form My observations it seems that each generation knows less and less in this area, what leads Me to a conclusion that in 100 years we will be very close to a situation like in Egypt 4000 years BC. I mean that only narrow group of people will know that solar eclipse is a normal, periodic phenomenon and not a magic ;)

I can't remember it exactly, but there was a saying:
"Linux is for people who want to know how the computer works, Mac is good for those who don't want to know why their computer works, and Windows is for people who don't want to know why their computer does not work" :mrgreen:
Bill Gates: "(...) In my case, I went to the garbage cans at the Computer Science Center and I fished out listings of their operating system."
The_full_story and Nothing_have_changed

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