It's so easy your 24 year old son could master it! September 10, 2015 7:04 AM   Subscribe

Could we stop already with the premise that simply mastered technology can be described as "easy enough for your mom/grandma/female relative"? This was the latest offender; it's probably less offensive than most but straw+camel's back = this post.

With so much misery in the world I feel a little guilty at letting this bother me so much but it does and has done for a long time and hey, tiny steps. There are numerous technologically savvy women of all ages on Metafilter, I can't be alone in this?
posted by humph to Etiquette/Policy at 7:04 AM (241 comments total) 72 users marked this as a favorite

I can support that request. It would be nice not to encounter that (especially since I know so many "moms" are actually, like, UX designers and coders and webmasters and IT analysts...

There was a good Times op-ed recently about reducing women to "moms".
posted by Miko at 7:18 AM on September 10, 2015 [23 favorites]


Hell yes!

YO MOMMA IS SO SAVVY THAT SHE DOES NOT NEED THINGS EXPLAINED LIKE SHE'S FIVE.
(And if you try it anyway she'll kick your ass.)
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:21 AM on September 10, 2015 [45 favorites]


I think this is very reasonable and I agree with it! I think it would be great if we could all work together as a site to make sure we are not perpetuating sexism unconsciously through this kind of seemingly-benign remark! Thank you for this very reasonable and politely-phrased suggestion!

In case anyone is wondering, I used a ton of exclamation points and positive language because I really do think this is a great and low-difficulty suggestion that involves the community working together to improve rather than top-down enforcement i.e. "censorship" and I wanted to stave off any suggestions that angry and militant feminists are forcing a radical agenda on the rest of the site. I think this post was framed in a really positive and community-based way and I wanted to support that and not give any haters who might be prowling about an excuse to jump on all of us. Anyway, in all seriousness, thanks for the excellent suggestion!
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:26 AM on September 10, 2015 [66 favorites]


You've obviously never met my mother, the self described technophobe. Teaching her how to use an audio cassette recorder was a big deal for me. But considering that this seems like this a thing that bothers some people, maybe we could stop because God forbid somebody gets offended on MetaFilter.

My mom was pretty with it in every other area besides modern technology. She'd like to say "I got old, I didn't get stupid".
posted by Rob Rockets at 7:27 AM on September 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yes, well, literally the day she died my 90-year-old great grandmother purchased the latest iPad, and my dad didn't get a cell phone until after his mother did (and is only now contemplating a smart phone because his mother has one). It's a stupid shorthand phrase that mocks both age and women, and we lose nothing for not using it.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:30 AM on September 10, 2015 [115 favorites]


> God forbid somebody gets offended on MetaFilter

I don't care how your god feels about it, I personally hate it if mothers/aunties/grannies/other female family members are used as a stand-in for people who don't know technical stuff. It doesn't offend me, it makes me really fucking tired.
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:32 AM on September 10, 2015 [174 favorites]


YO MOMMA IS SO SAVVY THAT SHE DOES NOT NEED THINGS EXPLAINED LIKE SHE'S FIVE.

I've encountered some pretty savvy five-year olds, now that you mention it.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:34 AM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


You've obviously never met my mother, the self described technophobe. Teaching her how to use an audio cassette recorder was a big deal for me. But considering that this seems like this a thing that bothers some people, maybe we could stop because God forbid somebody gets offended on MetaFilter.

You are right, I've never met your mother! I have met mine who is great with technology and also my father who gets monthly remedial instruction from my brother on how to use his work BlackBerry and yet still manages to set it into simplified Chinese*. There's no reason our generic "bad at technology" person has to be a woman; this has everything to do with default assumptions and nothing to do with your personal mother.

*This literally happened. Twice.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:37 AM on September 10, 2015 [109 favorites]


MetaFilter: nothing to do with your personal mother
posted by neroli at 7:41 AM on September 10, 2015 [79 favorites]


YES! As my boss has told me before, his 80 year old mom taught herself how to program last year. I AM A MOTHER AND I WRITE PRETTY DARN GOOD CODE MYSELF.
posted by jillithd at 7:41 AM on September 10, 2015 [22 favorites]


Yes. Let's not do this.

This was the latest offender

Flagged as offensive/sexism/racism.
posted by grouse at 7:42 AM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is an excellent point, and I say that as the child of a woman who has been a computer programmer since the 1960s but to whom I had to explain a few years ago that using the Internet does not incur long-distance charges.
posted by Etrigan at 7:44 AM on September 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I was unsure what to do about that question. On the one hand, I found the title pretty offensive and lame. On the other hand, I didn't really feel as though the post should be deleted because of it. So, I wanted to flag it but also didn't want to flag it.

I guess what I'm saying is: I'm glad for this MeTa, and maybe I should have flagged that question.
posted by meese at 7:46 AM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


The nice thing about flagging is it does not result in automatic deletion of anything, it just brings stuff to the moderators' attention. Moderators have a number of tools available to deal with stuff like this. For example, they might just chat with the poster about editing the title to something without a built-in assumption that women or mothers are unsophisticated.
posted by grouse at 7:48 AM on September 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


I second meese; I kinda "eeeeh" when I read the question and skipped over it as just one more little microaggression in the sea of sexism. Which is kinda sad.
posted by odinsdream at 7:57 AM on September 10, 2015 [18 favorites]


I like this meta. Never thought I would ever approve of an can "we" please not do this-meta, but there you are.
(also, my mom is 85 and uses a computer pretty nicely)
posted by Namlit at 7:58 AM on September 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I don't think this will fly in Ask, and if implemented, will not see any change in attitudes; it will just piss people off and harden their attitudes. I see just as much of this aimed at dads and grandpas, and I think a lot of people who are using it are trying to get help for their actual mothers/fathers/grandmothers/etc. Given demographic differences between AskMe and the rest of the site, I think this is going to be counterproductive both to the actual mission of Ask and just whatever pseudo-progressive goal people think will be served by this kind of censorship.

Everyone's individual case doesn't trump that there are population effects in people's exposure to and comfort level with technology. Your mom is not that special no matter how great she is, and this kind of shorthand is useful because on a broad level it's true. My mom can program, jury rig, and just plain think rings around her students, but it doesn't actually matter, she still sucks at using her iPhone compared to them (my dad doesn't even try).

On the blue and elsewhere, some pushback would be excellent and I'm all for it. In the context of Ask, I think this is a terrible idea, and is going to alienate people.

I was unsure what to do about that question. On the one hand, I found the title pretty offensive and lame.

Now, see, there are a ton of people who think "lame" used as an insult is easily as ableist as "that mom could use!" is sexist, and find it offensive. Collectively, MeFi just kind of takes a pass on that, or on "idiot', or "crazy", and a lot of other language that's offensive to some people but still widely used, useful, and not a direct slur. I think that's a good thing, and "easy enough for grandma!" is not at all the place to start if for whatever reasons that changes.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 7:58 AM on September 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


This is a good request and I will do my best to abide by it. Thank you for bringing it to light, humph.
posted by gauche at 7:59 AM on September 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


I can only speak for myself, but sure, I will try not to do this.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:00 AM on September 10, 2015 [32 favorites]


I am a grandma and I am the default tech person for my entire extended family. I'm not sure if that says more about me or my family. This has always bugged me when I see it because most of the women I know are also very comfortable with tech. My 85 year old mother has an ipad. She avoids phones due to hearing loss but she's sending me things she comes across on the web every day, not right wing blather but thoughtful progressive political writing (and lots of stuff about the pope, as a left leaning Catholic she can't get enough of him).

So from the grandma and great-grandma side of things, we're all good. I try to let that stuff go when I see it, but it does rankle.
posted by readery at 8:06 AM on September 10, 2015 [29 favorites]


"My mom has a PhD in math"
posted by griphus at 8:09 AM on September 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


I agree with this and fwiw I'm taking this MeTa more in the vein of a member-to-member request for consideration, not as a request for mods to delete things.

(Just to be clear about where things stand modwise on this particular AskMe: mods typically don't write to members requesting to change their post phrasing unless the post is deletable on the basis of the phrasing, and IMO this one wasn't. But a member can write to the original poster and point out "hey this maybe has an implication you weren't considering" and then the OP can write to us and ask to have it edited if they want.)
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:09 AM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I see just as much of this aimed at dads and grandpas, and I think a lot of people who are using it are trying to get help for their actual mothers/fathers/grandmothers/etc.

If you're looking for help for a specific person, describe them! Saying "I need tech help for my dad!" would mean something very different if you were talking about my dad, who used to work for IBM and is pretty handy with technology (even if his overwhelming cheapness means he's perpetually five years behind) or if you were talking about my father-in-law who used to delete all his e-mails because he thought it was the only way to advance to the next e-mail. Not falling back on lazy stereotypes isn't just about not offending people.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:10 AM on September 10, 2015 [29 favorites]


Thank you, humph. I am gray-haired, female, a grandmother, and way more technical that my son and his wife. I encountered significant age, gender and disability discrimination at my last technology job, sued, settled. It's not funny, it hurts my job prospects and my wages and that makes it offensive.

Of people I know who are technology-averse or -phobic, some are older, some are male or female, some are quite intelligent. There isn't a way to predict.
posted by theora55 at 8:11 AM on September 10, 2015 [87 favorites]


Given demographic differences between AskMe and the rest of the site, I think this is going to be counterproductive both to the actual mission of Ask and just whatever pseudo-progressive goal people think will be served by this kind of censorship.

One of the things I tried to point out in my comment above, perhaps badly, is that this post explicitly does NOT call for mod action; it asks if "we" could stop. I appreciate it in part because I can totally see myself unthinkingly saying something like this and this is a great reminder that it makes people unhappy and it doesn't do any particular good so I will be more thoughtful and try to stop doing it.

This comment kind of surprises me, to be honest, because I don't know that I would call "please try to be aware of communicating possible unconscious societal biases about women and technology", which is how I am interpreting this, "pseudo-progressive", and I don't see any calls for censorship, just thoughtfulness, which seems pretty okay to me, and I don't see how asking that people be thoughtful in how they communicate is going to be counterproductive to the mission of Ask.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:13 AM on September 10, 2015 [58 favorites]


Now, see, there are a ton of people who think "lame" used as an insult is easily as ableist as "that mom could use!" is sexist, and find it offensive.

Yeah, I had just realized I had used that term, and I was on my way back to apologize.
posted by meese at 8:13 AM on September 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


my father-in-law who used to delete all his e-mails because he thought it was the only way to advance to the next e-mail.

When this was pointed out to him and we showed him the truly massive folder full of deleted emails he selected one at random, said "oh, that's why I couldn't find Steve's email" and proceeded to try to write a response to something he had deleted eighteen months before. We were unable to explain to him why people would think this was weird.

If instead of "so easy your mom could figure it out" we wanted to start saying "so easy Mrs. Pterodactyl's dad could figure it out", that would actually be pretty okay with me. He is a very smart guy but he is fucking awful at technology.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:18 AM on September 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


Thank you, and yes. The question bothered me greatly but I didn't think it was delete-worthy, so I didn't flag it, but it bugged the crap out of me.
posted by jaguar at 8:23 AM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I totally agree, don't think it's petty at all, and am kind of shocked that people are actually taking issue with the request. Thank you for raising it.
posted by holborne at 8:28 AM on September 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


You've obviously never met my mother, the self described technophobe.

In that case, I propose we make the standard request "so Rob Rockets' mom would understand." SRRMWU, for short. Easy to remember and pronounce.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:32 AM on September 10, 2015 [65 favorites]


God forbid somebody gets offended on MetaFilter.

I used to feel this way and then one day I realized that not offending people takes no extra effort and tends to make this a much happier place. Rather than tell people they shouldn't be offended you can always just roll your eyes if you think people have gone too far with the being offended thing.

For the record, both my mom and dad are completely computer illiterate. My mom a bit less so.
posted by bondcliff at 8:35 AM on September 10, 2015 [18 favorites]


One of the things I tried to point out in my comment above, perhaps badly, is that this post explicitly does NOT call for mod action; it asks if "we" could stop. I appreciate it in part because I can totally see myself unthinkingly saying something like this and this is a great reminder that it makes people unhappy and it doesn't do any particular good so I will be more thoughtful and try to stop doing it.

I see most of this going down in Ask specifically. I just don't think there's enough of meaningful "we" between the Ask users who are using this sort of language and the kind of engaged-users-who-read-MeTa who probably already abstain from this kind of language for any kind of call to action to be coherent in terms of meaningful change unless it actually does include a call for more censorship.

There's not enough significant overlap, and even trying to get people on board with "hey could you not use that kind of language" against specific Askers is a whole other can of logistical worms. Having people hash it out in the Ask itself seems really deraily, and having people MeMail offenders with "hey could you not" seems like it probably wouldn't do much to stem the tide. People would keep coming in from a place that's effectively "outside" of MeFi discourse and asking a question for their [clueless relative] without being aware of the cultural tenor of the site. It happens all the damn time on AskMe, I don't think this is going to be much of an exception. People can't even get a basic grasp on "you need to have a concrete, answerable question".

Then there's educating and pushback against individual offenders, which has it's own issues, but I think there's just no way to really see a meaningful reduction in this kind of language without censorship.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 8:39 AM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Quoted for the sheer humanity of the response:

"I can only speak for myself, but sure, I will try not to do this."
posted by crush-onastick at 8:47 AM on September 10, 2015 [40 favorites]


Is it really about offending someone? I think it's about not perpetuating negative stereotypes. I mean, I get offended when people say they don't like Fury Road, but to each their own. If they say they don't like Fury Road because women aren't as good as men, regardless of whether it offends me or not, it's a shitty thing to say that has no basis in reality and this site is probably better off without it.
posted by maxsparber at 8:49 AM on September 10, 2015 [53 favorites]


People would keep coming in from a place that's effectively "outside" of MeFi discourse and asking a question for their [clueless relative] without being aware of the cultural tenor of the site.

I think you're misunderstanding the request. It's not a request that people stop asking questions for particular clueless relatives. It's a request that people stop using the phrase "easy enough for your mom to understand."
posted by jaguar at 8:58 AM on September 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


My mom (who is a nurse) jailbroke her iphone so she could put third party apps on it. My dad (who is a mechanic) types all his emails with two fingers and when he accidentally turns the camera around on his ipad when he's face-timing me has to get another family member to switch it back. Gender has nothing to do with comfort around technology. I know lots of women/moms are crap at anything computer related and need hand-holding, but so are lots of men/dads. Using women as a short-hand for "lacks confidence with gadgets or the internet" is not just annoying, it's lazy.
posted by supercrayon at 8:58 AM on September 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


I mean, I get offended when people say they don't like Fury Road, but to each their own.

No. Everyone must like Fury Road. That's, just, like not something I'm willing to back down from.

Regarding the "so easy ___ can do it" I'll do my best to avoid it as well.
posted by French Fry at 8:59 AM on September 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


My mother claimed she could not work a stereo system because "all those little arrows are too confusing." She also ran the microcomputer lab at the college where she was a professor. Some people don't fit into boxes that way. (The stereo thing was probably a dyslexia effect, to be fair, but the contrast still used to boggle me.)
posted by Karmakaze at 9:03 AM on September 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


I have felt uneasy about this construction for a long time, now, so thanks--I will just be done with it altogether, now.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 9:12 AM on September 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I completely agree with this request and totally support it.
posted by zarq at 9:13 AM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was going to Meta this, but then saw you already had. Thank you.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:18 AM on September 10, 2015


I will do my best to not do this.
posted by Deoridhe at 9:27 AM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


A good request, and I will also do my best to not use it.
posted by rtha at 9:29 AM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


You've obviously never met my mother, the self described technophobe.

Mine is too, but this kind of is beside the point; which is that there's a difference between saying "so easy that EC's mom could do it" and saying "so easy that anyone's mom could do it". In the first case you are referring to a specific individual that you know specifically is a technophobe; in the latter case, you are generically classifying all mothers as technophobes, and unless you've individually interviewed ever mother on the planet that seems an inaccurate assessment.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:29 AM on September 10, 2015 [23 favorites]


This request is wildly reasonable. I fully support it as well.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:32 AM on September 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


Although, I would not be personally slighted if anyone wanted to use "so easy that MaterCallipygos could do it" as a substitute descriptor, because a) I still talk about the time it once took me ten minutes to explain to my mother how to insert a CD into the computer, b) Mom also agrees she's a technophobe, c) Dad also is one too and agrees so, and d) they ain't even on Facebook, much less Metafilter, so they won't know.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:33 AM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I always have to laugh at people who are like "buhhhhhh my mom sucks at technology so it makes sense to act like all women are technology-stupid because I know this one woman who's not good at it". A couple of weekends ago I was hanging out with my grandma, who's in her late 80's. She mentioned that she's having a hard time remembering things lately, and fearing the worst, I asked her what kind of things she was having a hard time remembering. "Well," she said, "I changed internet providers because CenturyLink is just the worst, and setting it up and getting wifi running was no problem, but my smart TV won't recognize the wifi network so I have to watch Netflix on my Kindle and it's really annoying."
posted by palomar at 9:34 AM on September 10, 2015 [82 favorites]


People would keep coming in from a place that's effectively "outside" of MeFi discourse and asking a question for their [clueless relative] without being aware of the cultural tenor of the site.

I think we can probably all agree on that. What I'm not getting is why that's a reason to throw up our hands and decide it's just going to lead to censorship anyway so we're not going to bother. The only way that a site gains a cultural tenor in the first place is for people to actually implement one. Has to start somewhere, and I'm sure there have been lots of similar requests that seemed fruitless at the beginning that a lot of people take for granted now, like not saying "lame."
posted by holborne at 9:35 AM on September 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


Thanks for pointing this out - it hadn't occurred to me that this was a questionable way to phrase something, but on reflection, it makes me uncomfortable too and I will avoid it in the future.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:37 AM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I answered the question without registering the your mom thing at all, but you're right, this is something we could be better at.

Some possible alternatives:
So easy, [the real person you're asking about | anyone | a tech novice | a beginner | a technophobe | the VP of Sales | a senior executive] can use it!
posted by zamboni at 9:39 AM on September 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


[a presential candidate you don't like]
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:42 AM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


a lot of people who are using it are trying to get help for their actual mothers/fathers/grandmothers/etc.

And if the post (which I agree is not an egregious example of the trend) had been "RSS reader which will not overwhelm my mom" and then asked for approximately the same stuff, it would have been fine. But it didn't.
posted by jeather at 9:52 AM on September 10, 2015


I am a mom and I have to deliver technical support help to my father (reasonably painless) and father-in-law (dreadfully painful) once or twice a month. It might behoove people to remember that many of the people they are asking for -- and getting -- help from are literally mothers themselves.
posted by KathrynT at 10:00 AM on September 10, 2015 [22 favorites]


I saw it as being just as much ageist as sexist. Thanks for bringing this up. It bugged the living crap out of me when I saw it yesterday. As a female who is getting older ( I mean, we're all getting older but you know ) I hear and see this stuff through my special snowflake lenses every single day and it is maddening.
posted by the webmistress at 10:04 AM on September 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


"Explain my new iPhone to me like you're talking to my cat"

That'll do it.
posted by Namlit at 10:09 AM on September 10, 2015 [25 favorites]


When I moved away from home in high school, my mom would still call me with computer questions, usually shit like "why is the dot matrix printer jammed and what do I do to fix it?"

Sometime after I graduated college, she had a late-career change and became the technology person for her school district.

I still very clearly remember how weird it felt the first time I called her for technology help, something I continue to do in her retirement.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:12 AM on September 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


Sexism in tech has been picking my pocket and breaking my leg all of my adult life. Twice, I've been 'demoted' by interviewers when they walked in the door, asking me questions suited to an administrative assistant position rather than the technical position I was called in about and qualified for. Asked about my typing speed, or how I got the information for the projects I was working on, as though my contribution to projects I headed up was taking dictation.

Since I've started getting ageism all mixed up in there, too, though, it's even worse. I'm not just an auxiliary, assistant type of tech worker, but the industry model for a naive, technophobic user.

My son is in his 20s now, and is not bad with technology, but when he gets jammed up or is considering a tech purchase, he comes to me. And his friends? His male friends in their 20s and 30s come to me, too. I don't think most of them even have general purpose computers at all, and I know lots of them only have the vaguest notion of how they work. They have user friendly, single purpose consumer devices that they, much like lizards, know how to use to perform basic, prescribed tasks, but when something goes wrong, they can't troubleshoot them or anything. They just trade them in for a new one.

I just explained to a young guy what an operating system is a couple of weeks ago, and then sent him off into a world that blows smoke up his ass every day about what a smart, dynamic, tech savvy generation his is, and what a fearful, stupid old lady I am.

And the OP. I fucking know that shit. I've created corporate data security policies and their associated training programs for audiences of a range of tech ability for two different companies, I've run usability testing on consumer software and hardware, and I've just recently done computer security and privacy demonstrations for my teenaged nephews and a friend's kid. I took them through their devices and showed them where their data was being mined and where it was going, where their security and privacy weaknesses were, and showed them how to fix and prevent the worst of it, and how to evaluate things like that in the future.

So I'm pretty good at that very specific thing, particularly with naive users, but there's little point in even trying with someone who assumes I'm an idiot right out of the gate, and I'm certainly not inclined to do it for free.

Talking like that is offensive, of course, but FYI, it's also counterproductive to insult people in the process of asking them to do something for you.
posted by ernielundquist at 10:15 AM on September 10, 2015 [125 favorites]


I see most of this going down in Ask specifically. I just don't think there's enough of meaningful "we" between the Ask users who are using this sort of language and the kind of engaged-users-who-read-MeTa who probably already abstain from this kind of language for any kind of call to action to be coherent in terms of meaningful change unless it actually does include a call for more censorship.

I think the observation that this happens more in AskMe than on the other sub-sites is a good one. At the same time, I disagree that there is not enough overlap between the users of AskMe and the users of MeTa. Even if new or existing AskMe users do not currently read MeTa or MeFi, that does not mean that in the future they will not. And if in the future they do, they may stumble across this MeTa thread and hopefully realise the inherent sexism in the framing.

I appreciate this MeTa post and it certainly helps me question my unconscious biases.

Progress happens slowly; it takes actions by many people over time. This post is one of those actions that is trying to move the progress needle forward.
posted by cynical pinnacle at 10:17 AM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is a good request that even a stynxno could follow.
posted by Stynxno at 10:20 AM on September 10, 2015 [19 favorites]


"Explain my new iPhone to me like you're talking to my cat"

That'll do it.


Why do you all keep scritching my head??
posted by JanetLand at 10:27 AM on September 10, 2015 [25 favorites]


I'm probably alone in this, but I can't stand the whole "explain to me like I'm five" construction even when it isn't gendered. It probably came about because it's better than "for dummies" or "like I'm an idiot" but I just hate the idea that people who need extra instruction are stupid or childlike. It pushes the same button for me as "use small words." Anyway, it's just internet shorthand; I just felt like venting.
posted by thetortoise at 10:27 AM on September 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


I almost posted this MeTa, and only walked away because I wasn't up for being a major participant in the ensuing argument. But yeah, mark me down as another vote under "This shit makes me real tired" and "My own personal mother signed me up for my first shell account in 1994."
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:29 AM on September 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


I deal with my annoyance by thinking of this, the way that Hyperbole and a Half solved the problem of the alot.
posted by thetortoise at 10:34 AM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Your mom is not that special no matter how great she is, and this kind of shorthand is useful because on a broad level it's true. My mom can program, jury rig, and just plain think rings around her students, but it doesn't actually matter, she still sucks at using her iPhone compared to them (my dad doesn't even try).

I don't think there's any reason to believe that the statement "Old people, especially old women, suck at technology" should be classified as true on a broad level. It's so entrenched as a stereotype that people just believe it without researching statistics about how technophobia correlates to age and gender. Something isn't true on a broad level just because it's a well-established stereotype.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:35 AM on September 10, 2015 [23 favorites]


"Explain my new iPhone to me like you're talking to my cat a fucking wall."
posted by octobersurprise at 10:48 AM on September 10, 2015


this kind of shorthand is useful because on a broad level it's true.

Even if it is true, how does that make it particularly useful? Let's look at how easily that AskMe could have been recast:
RSS feeds for cybersecurity that wouldn't overwhelm the average person

What are the best sites/blogs/feeds for business-centered, "safe" topics about general corporate cybersecurity?

Not interested in the latest Ashley Madison stuff or other provocative topics, or super-techy stuff either.

Just a stream of sensible articles that won't scare people who are just your average corporate workforce. Trying to support a baseline of awareness about phishing, spoofing, safe passwords... all the things you wish most people were better at.

Does this exist?
That adds one word (if you want to be really precise, it adds 14 characters) and confers the same idea. Hell, it probably makes it better, given that "your average corporate workforce" doesn't really correlate to "your mom".
posted by Etrigan at 10:52 AM on September 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


I like this request too. My mom, who is 81, is pretty good at computer stuff, and she's usually resourceful and determined enough to figure out anything she can't understand. My dad, who died two years ago at age 85, never touched a computer in all his life. He had many other skills, but the closest he got to a computer - or any other modern technology more advanced than an answering machine - was saying to my mom or me, "That machine of yours is beeping."


maybe we could stop because God forbid somebody gets offended on MetaFilter.


It's not so much offensive as incorrect and honestly kind of stupid. Perhaps, instead of thinking about whether you are offending someone and deciding you don't care, you might consider whether what you're saying is making other people laugh at you.

(I'd say this goes for most casual sexism, racism, etc. that women, minorities, and their allies object to. We're not offended, we're just tired of rolling our eyes.)
posted by DestinationUnknown at 10:53 AM on September 10, 2015 [23 favorites]


In 1919, my grandmother, aged 14, drove the counties REO to a fire because no one but the chief and her knew how to drive it. He was sick that night and she drove it why, because her father taught her.

Imagine how silly those guys felt.

Good call.
posted by clavdivs at 10:54 AM on September 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


"Explain my new iPhone to me like you're talking to my cat"

"Who's a little snorgly Namlit. Aww, you're a good Namlit. Look at me rub this phone on your belly AGH DO NOT BITE."

Probably not offensive but also not helpful.
posted by jeather at 10:58 AM on September 10, 2015 [20 favorites]


I am just going to roll with "So easy Immortan Joe could do it!" from now on, unless it is a question relating to running a slave-based post-apocalypse economy, driving some sort of bolted-together hell car, or just being generally horrible, as he raises that bar fairly high in those areas.
posted by Shepherd at 10:59 AM on September 10, 2015 [17 favorites]


My mother knows how to use her tablet and is currently learning how to use a smartphone. Hand any of those to me, and you'll see me swiping like it's my first time (which is close to the truth).

I'm perfectly fine with her level of awareness about phishing, spoofing and safe passwords. She knows enough to stay out of trouble. If only everyone who uses computers had her level of awareness and skill in those areas, we'd be a lot better off.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:01 AM on September 10, 2015


It's always rather telling when someone's complaint in these situations is that they might be asked to use a more neutral analogy, rather than the fact that the one currently being used infantilizes and is condescending to women.
posted by zarq at 11:07 AM on September 10, 2015 [37 favorites]


Following the request in this MeTa is so easy, your garbage son Laramie could do it
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:08 AM on September 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


I am just going to roll with "So easy Immortan Joe could do it!"

Well, Joe oversaw the building of water pumps, garden and saved cultural remnants of the lost society, so he sounds like he was intelligent. A power mad despot/cult leader and asshole, but intelligent as hell.

This has been a pedantic comment! Thank you for listening!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:15 AM on September 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I totally support this with respect to moms/grandparents, but I don't quite get the ire brought on by "explain this to me like I'm five" or similar sentiments. Is the assumption that it's better to explain things to five year-olds using simple ideas/explanations controversial or offensive? If so, why?
posted by craven_morhead at 11:17 AM on September 10, 2015


This post is good and you should feel good about it.
posted by charred husk at 11:17 AM on September 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


I don't think I've ever used this as an abstract stereotype (at least not that I can remember). Considering my late grandmother barely understood computers (though she tried hard and at least wanted to learn, bless her) and my mother is a technologically-hidebound self-professed Luddite (for whom I just spent ALL LABOR DAY WEEKEND setting up a new laptop, and I know this weekend will probably be spent answering all her questions/gripes/complaints**), so if I can go without using this particular crappy stereotype despite it being literal truth in my life, everyone else should be able to do so, too.

Besides, if anything, being unofficial tech support for my family has taught me that my mother's cluelessness is actually much less of a problem, most of the time, than my dad's level of knowing-just-enough-to-seriously-screw-things-up. So it should really be "Explain it to me like I'm a sixty-something guy who *thinks* he knows about computers but hasn't actually been cutting-edge since MS-DOS was big."

**while I was writing this post my mom called me with a bunch of questions and complaints about her new computer. /sigh
posted by mstokes650 at 11:18 AM on September 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


Thanks for pointing this out to me. I'm a little embarrassed to say I didn't think twice about this usage when I first saw the title of the question, but you've opened my eyes.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:31 AM on September 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


I don't quite get the ire brought on by "explain this to me like I'm five" or similar sentiments. Is the assumption that it's better to explain things to five year-olds using simple ideas/explanations controversial or offensive? If so, why?

I think this is just some personal annoyance I have. It's not controversial or offensive. In my head it's proximate to "like I'm retarded," but obviously more neutral. I always hear it as "fine, I'll explain it to you like you're five years old" in the most impatient tone of voice, but of course it's different when it's the person asking for the explanation using it. Sorry, this is just my irrelevant baggage.
posted by thetortoise at 11:42 AM on September 10, 2015


Well, Joe oversaw the building of water pumps, garden and saved cultural remnants of the lost society, so he sounds like he was intelligent. A power mad despot/cult leader and asshole, but intelligent as hell.

Here's an old joke from the military:

A Marine Corps Colonel arrives at his unit's temporary beddown site and sees that there is no flag pole with which to hoist the American flag. He turns to the nearest Lieutenant and commands: "Lt, put up a flag pole." Being a hard charging young Officer, the Lt sets to work trying to find something that would suffice as a flag pole.

Being in the desert, wood, pipe and other like materials are hard to find, and after two hours the only thing the Lt has put up is a good sweat. The unit Sergeant Major - taking pity on the Lt - asks about the Lt's dilemma. Upon learning of the Colonel's desire for a flag pole, the SgtMaj tells the Lt to go get some lunch and come back in an hour.

After an unsatisfying lunch, the Lt returns to find the flag flying high on a new, shiny white flag pole. The Lt runs to find the SgtMaj to thank him and ask him how he did such an incredible feat in less than one hour. The answer: I said "Gunny, put up a flag pole."
posted by maxsparber at 11:46 AM on September 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


I think this is very reasonable and I agree with it! I think it would be great if we could all work together as a site to make sure we are not perpetuating sexism unconsciously through this kind of seemingly-benign remark! Thank you for this very reasonable and politely-phrased suggestion!

“Your Mom” and “My Mom” are two distinctly different individuals, and that phrasing has a lot to do with the problem.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:46 AM on September 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


I support this, but i also hope that it doesn't result in some snarky reversal of this like the title of this meta.

Like, if we're going to eliminate this sort of thing let's just eliminate it entirely and not try and subvert the trope.
posted by emptythought at 12:02 PM on September 10, 2015


i totally support this and don't understand how there could be pushback on it.
posted by nadawi at 12:05 PM on September 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


I support this, but i also hope that it doesn't result in some snarky reversal of this like the title of this meta.

You've obviously never met my 3-year-old male child. He cannot operate heavy machinery AT ALL! Ha, ha!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:06 PM on September 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


"Explain my new iPhone to me like you're talking to my cat"

This has been a very useful metric in all aspects of my life.
posted by Kitteh at 12:08 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Can we get things explained for dogs? Mostly I want people to remind me that I'm a good boy.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:10 PM on September 10, 2015 [43 favorites]


Everyone's individual case doesn't trump that there are population effects in people's exposure to and comfort level with technology. Your mom is not that special no matter how great she is, and this kind of shorthand is useful because on a broad level it's true.

Cite?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:12 PM on September 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Mostly I want people to remind me that I'm a good boy.

Okay! You are very good.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:14 PM on September 10, 2015 [17 favorites]


I think this is a GREAT idea. My mother, now deceased, learned how to use a computer in her 70's and went on to teach senior citizens how to use computers and hook up to the internet. Her career had been biology teacher and high school guidance counselor. She was also a member of the Gray Panthers and would LOVE this thread.

Plus,young people get old and old people used to be innovators. I'll be 65 in a few weeks and I have been online since 1990. My husband, who will be 70 in 10 weeks, co-founded the second public ISP in the United States in the late 80's. So these "grandmothers" who don't understand technology could be the same people who got to know "technology" such as dropping acid 50 or so years ago. Our "Big Band" music was Janis Joplin and the Holding Company.

Yeah. Ageism+ Sexism (what the "young folks" seem to call "intersectionality") = BAD.
posted by DMelanogaster at 12:17 PM on September 10, 2015 [16 favorites]


[...] I don't quite get the ire brought on by "explain this to me like I'm five" or similar sentiments.

Best response to such requests: "Oh my god, where are your parents?!?"

(I think I saw that in XKCD.)
posted by FishBike at 12:19 PM on September 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


"You've obviously never met my mother, the self described technophobe. "

My mom spent a long time proclaiming that she was no good at technology and still relies on my dad for a lot of that, in part because he's really good at tech. But it's not that she's dumb, and it's not that she's unable to understand technical things — she's a photographer able to do complex logarithmic calculations intuitively, has a strong grasp of practical chemistry, and can spit out Photoshop scripts like watermelon seeds. A lot of her self-proclaimed aversion seems to come from a confluence of being raised by sexists and having other interests that she specializes in. Two other big things seem to be that a lot of the technology that she used to avoid but now uses fluently is stuff like Photoshop where the usefulness of it as a tool took a really long time to be worth the time investment, and that she's dyslexic, so anything that involves long pieces of fiddly text is really difficult for her.

So yeah, I have a self-proclaimed technophobe mom and I still support this request and will try to keep it in mind because it's a phrase that I think has some implicit insulting connotations to it and while my mom might not be particularly interested in how command line programming works, she's not an idiot and is quicker to grasp the underlying analogy of many technologies than a lot of guys I know.

"I don't think there's any reason to believe that the statement "Old people, especially old women, suck at technology" should be classified as true on a broad level. It's so entrenched as a stereotype that people just believe it without researching statistics about how technophobia correlates to age and gender. Something isn't true on a broad level just because it's a well-established stereotype."

I think it can be a reasonable inference based on the history of institutional sexism and the adoption patterns of technology for older people. But I'm just pushing back against what I think is your implied notion that the truth of a generalization or stereotype should determine whether or not it's an OK thing to use casually — it's broadly true that many non-native English speakers from Asia have trouble with the r/l phonemes, but even as that may be true, it's still a dick move to use that stereotype to represent non-native English speakers from Asia. Even if the stereotype of older women being less adept at tech may be broadly true, it still can have specific harms that make it dickish to perpetuate as a generalization.
posted by klangklangston at 12:20 PM on September 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


I guess you need to know how to use a computer to understand this post.
posted by JanetLand at 12:22 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why do you all keep scritching my head??

"I didn't say STOP, I just want to know WHY?!"
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:16 PM on September 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


Stereotypes are silly.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:20 PM on September 10, 2015


I forgot to weigh in on the actual issue, so: yes, I think this is totally reasonable. My own parents have trouble with tech (though I think they'd have less if they were willing/able to get the training), but using this shorthand for times when you're not literally talking about your mom is inaccurate and insulting to a lot of older people, and even more ludicrously off-base about women because, hello, computer history.
posted by thetortoise at 1:22 PM on September 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


(also, "so easy thetortoise could do it" is probably truer than your hypothetical relative, because at least twice I had to call IT down at work to help me find the on button)
posted by thetortoise at 1:36 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think I am fine with this but then I remember Amy Schumer's Mom Computer Therapy sketch, which is hilarious. I'm pretty sure these are different things but if they aren't I might have to vote for Trump.
posted by mullacc at 1:43 PM on September 10, 2015


(also, "so easy thetortoise could do it" is probably truer than your hypothetical relative, because at least twice I had to call IT down at work to help me find the on button)

In your defense the latest models of computer seem to like to hide all their buttons in weird places.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:45 PM on September 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Particularly in the context of the linked question, being a 'self-described technophobe' or even a Luddite is a pretty good quality to start out with, as opposed to someone who considers themselves a "digital native" or something. There is a huge Dunning Kruger effect with technology. One of the biggest hurdles you face teaching people about technology is that so many of them mistakenly think they already understand it.

I actually really enjoy working with naive users, and some of the best and most productive times have been when I'm working with someone who is nervous around technology. They're usually not stupid at all! They're a hell of a lot smarter, for the most part, than the promiscuous adopters who think they're technically savvy because they have installed a bunch of apps without even looking at what they're agreeing to when they do.

Technophobes are right. There is a lot to be afraid of. Luddites are not ignorant of technology, but skeptical. They're right too.

If you talk to a lot of these people, you'll find that their fears and their reservations are not actually far off from reality. And the best part? They are capable of listening and learning, because they're not coming into it thinking they know more about it than they do.

So like I said before, go ahead, if you must, and continue to perpetuate harmful, sloppy, and damaging stereotypes, unconcerned with the tangible real world damage they perpetuate.

When you do that, though, you're signaling that you're pretty ignorant about technology your own self.

But also: Do you guyses' moms know you just consider them not so much unique and fully realized adult humans, but as fairly generic standins for their broad demographics? Do you think they consider you to be similarly interchangeable with your peers?

I get that this is just a sloppy stereotype that people toss around without thinking about it, but the only appropriate reaction once it's pointed out is, "Oh, shit! I'd never thought about it before," and then not doing it anymore. I don't get why anyone would keep digging on this.
posted by ernielundquist at 1:49 PM on September 10, 2015 [28 favorites]


"Stereotypes are silly.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:20 PM on September 10"

Dude, my grandmother refered to it as the "Hi-Fi."
posted by clavdivs at 1:56 PM on September 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


I think I am fine with this but then I remember Amy Schumer's Mom Computer Therapy sketch , which is hilarious. I'm pretty sure these are different things but if they aren't I might have to vote for Trump.

Everyone has that relative who does this shit. For me it's my 82 year old grandfather who ran ATC for most of his life, you know, an insanely complex technical operation with lives and billions of dollars on the line if you fuck up slightly. Yeah, he can't computer so well, so what. My other grandfather? Asked me how to add stuff in Excel one day, and 2 years later he's writing his own VBA against an SQL database using ADO.

We all have specific people with which the stories of fabled technophobic relatives resonate, but that does not justify using a shorthand of an entire gender and age as a stand-in. It's just lazy.
posted by odinsdream at 1:59 PM on September 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


There is a huge Dunning Kruger effect with technology. One of the biggest hurdles you face teaching people about technology is that so many of them mistakenly think they already understand it.

The other side of this being those who understand it and think therefore they can teach it.
posted by biffa at 2:18 PM on September 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yeah, the longer I go doing tech support for my family, the less I blame them and the more I blame the technology. After all this time, computers and consumer electronics are still way too difficult to use than they should be and more important, change more often than they need to. Grrr.
posted by gwint at 2:23 PM on September 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


Due to temperament and personality my mom is rage-inducingly difficult to deal with when it comes to computer stuff. As a generous yet petty person, I give everyone permission to now use "Easy enough for Alvy's mom to use."
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 2:25 PM on September 10, 2015


There is a huge Dunning Kruger effect with technology.

I sometimes find a reverse Dunning-Kruger effect. Some people are intimidated by technology and believe they are not capable of understanding it.
posted by grouse at 2:28 PM on September 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


The counties REO? It was obviously Time For Her to Fly.
posted by jonmc at 2:30 PM on September 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I agree with this meta even if my mom is pretty bad at tech. She is intimidated by it, yes, but more importantly she seems to see it as something that comes natural to men because of...I dunno, their genes?
She was once completely baffled that I managed to connect two loud speakers to the stereo. "But where did you learn to do this?!"
And she implies my husband is not doing his job if she finds me screwing in a lightbulb.
And this just makes me so mad. It's like she has some "I am a woman and therefore I cannot understand email" blinkers on. Hmpf.
Thank you for letting me rant.
posted by Omnomnom at 3:01 PM on September 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Everyone has that relative who does this shit.
Amen. My father used to call me downstairs to the living room to change the channel for him, with the remote control sitting right next to him, because "it's all computery". In 1992.

He still calls to have me look stuff up on The Google. Even though he lives with a woman who taught AutoCAD and AutoDesk for 20 years.

So yeah. This is a totally valid request and something I will work on.
posted by teleri025 at 3:01 PM on September 10, 2015


I am so naive sometimes that I read that question and thought the poster really was asking for their mom.

Regardless, I will pledge to try not to do this.
posted by AugustWest at 3:04 PM on September 10, 2015


our mom is not that special no matter how great she is, and this kind of shorthand is useful because on a broad level it's true.

Yeah but when we gt to this level we have to admit that poor people and people who don't speak very good English and people without a college degree, statistically, are worse with technology than people with more money, better English skills and a college degree (in the US). There's really not much of an effect for gender and the biggest effect you see is age-related but at that point you may as well be pointing out people's eyesight and shaky hand issues. There's nothing about momishness that makes you bad at technology. So it's a silly thing to say that perpetuates some stereotypes that are, to me, mildly annoying (not rising to the level of offensive but maybe for some people) and so I'll try to avoid saying things like this because it's not being very clear with my speech and bugs some people. No big deal.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 3:24 PM on September 10, 2015 [34 favorites]


I'm pleasantly surprised that I could lay my hands on this snippet from a software review (by me), roughly coeval with the 80286.

On first encounter with [this software] the neophyte will find it easy enough for a first time user. Second time through, it will seem easy enough for a trained seal. Third time through you will find it easy enough for a dead flatworm and it will start to make you ANGRY.

Cliche comparisons? Whoever would need 'em?
posted by jfuller at 3:30 PM on September 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Great request, thank you for making it, and I'll be sure to moderate myself in the future.

I don't think there's any reason to believe that the statement "Old people, especially old women, suck at technology" should be classified as true on a broad level.

This does not nullify the goodness in avoiding lazy stereotypes, but there is, in fact, lots and lots of evidence that generally speaking, older people use technology less, and use it less well, than younger people.

As I say, this is a generality, and should not be held as universally true, and is not especially useful except when considering things where technology/technology literacy will have a big impact on large groups of older people, but it is a fact, nonetheless.
posted by smoke at 3:51 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


And of course, there's nothing in that research linked that calls out gender at all. That's just sexist bullshit, imho.
posted by smoke at 3:52 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I like this collective pony. Remember when the shorthand for being a technophobe/techno-illiterate was showing someone's VCR blinking 12:00? And every sitcom / cartoon / ad used to show it because it was simple and true and we all knew that guy?

We're doing just fine without that one, last I checked. Times change.

As the Paul Revere thread put it -- it's not about being politically incorrect, it's about being factually incorrect. The joke stops being funny when everyone but you knows it's not actually true. So why keep telling it?
posted by Mchelly at 4:25 PM on September 10, 2015


""My mom has a PhD in math""

Oh, yeah?! Well, your mom started a new subfield of quantum physics! Hah!
posted by I-baLL at 4:47 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I would call this out first as sexist and then as downright unrepresentative of How Things Really Are TM. Because it's the world and the world's fucking significant other who cannot for the life of them even bring themselves to google the simplest of questions when it comes to tech. Heck, I had to introduce The Internet on their iPhone to an 18 year old student a few months back.

Anyway, a while back there was talk about overhauling the flag descriptions. Did I miss any developments on this, because I feel like a changed flagging system might encourage people to use it more iin situations like this.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 4:52 PM on September 10, 2015


Mchelly: Remember when the shorthand for being a technophobe/techno-illiterate was showing someone's VCR blinking 12:00?
...
Times change.
This was funny.

Fewer metaphors and trite figures of speech is what I'm aiming for in my personal commenting style from now on. Also simple phrasing and straightforward sentences; Real Live Ducks and sudden non-sequiturs.
posted by carsonb at 4:58 PM on September 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


About 15 years ago, I was giving my mother lessons on using email. It was pretty clear she was bored silly. But then she noticed a link to Hearts and asked about it. "The card game?"

She played a few hands--it was the most interested I ever saw her in computing--but it didn't stick. She just couldn't grasp how any of it was relevant to her life. Which, of course, was fine.

When she died, we found a drawer stuffed full of greeting cards she'd received over the years, arranged in alphabetical order by sender. (Okay, writing that makes me cry, but anyway.)
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:43 PM on September 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Completely reasonable request.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:52 PM on September 10, 2015


I don't think I do this, but if I did do this, I won't do this.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:59 PM on September 10, 2015


12:00 (blinking)
Carson used to do that...one on
The To...night show.

*shakes fist in raise the roof fashion.
posted by clavdivs at 5:59 PM on September 10, 2015


Thanks for pointing this out to me. I'm a little embarrassed to say I didn't think twice about this usage when I first saw the title of the question, but you've opened my eyes.


Not a huge need to be embarrassed. From the Master himself:
"“Slave is an Ephebian word. In Om we have no word for slave,” said Vorbis. “So I understand,” said the Tyrant. “I imagine that fish have no word for water.”"

We are all swimming in an ageism/sexism-infested waters. It can be hard to see, it's how you react after learning that should matter most.

Eminently reasonable request; noted and pledged!
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:19 PM on September 10, 2015 [20 favorites]


The very fact that this post was made and that people here are being so genuinely open to it, pledging to be more aware of the power of their words, understanding their ability to bless or do harm, and seeking to be more gracious in their choice of descriptors is further evidence that we, as a community, are better than Reddit.

(There. I said it).
posted by 4ster at 6:33 PM on September 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


we have to admit that poor people and people who don't speak very good English and people without a college degree, statistically, are worse with technology than people with more money, better English skills and a college degree (in the US).

I'm not sure "we" have to admit that at all. I'd be interested in seeing the actual data which support such a broad assertion, particularly the statistical definitions of "poor" and "don't speak very good English".
posted by fuse theorem at 6:50 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I had never really thought about this, and now that it's been pointed out, I know I won't use the phrasing anymore. Thanks humph for posting this MeTa and also thank you to everyone who chimed in in the comments. My mom often does ask me and my siblings to explain tech-related things to her, so I think that's why the phrasing is something I've never noticed. But really, I'm selling my mom short - she was on the Internet (ARPANet) before there was an Internet. Not exactly what you'd call a tech Luddite!
posted by capricorn at 6:55 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'd be interested in seeing the actual data which support such a broad assertion

I'm conflating some digital divide research by the Pew Research Center. It comes in two parts.

1. People who have less income, less command of English, less education or are disabled or older are more likely to be offline, or have worse access to the internet (that's one study, here's another. Pew seems to have moved on from really doing digital divide work in the past year which is a shame). Here's some statistics about people who are offline and Hispanic and they do break it down somewhat by primary language. Technology adoption among Hispanic people is way up (or was at that time) but the offline people had a higher rate of Spanish-dominant language speakers.

2. People who have less/worse access to the internet make significantly less functional use or less "useful" use of the internet. There are a lot of researchers who have discussed this or looked at it, it's sort of hand in hand with other sort of social inequality effects of institutionalized poverty, not suggesting that these people are "worse" at internet but that it's a learned skill that is class-heritable, some people call it a "second level" digital divide. A good look at this is the book The Internet and Social Inequalitites. They break a lot of this down in chapter three and four.

Some people argue that approach isn't strong enough and that it's just really reflecting generalized structural inequalities that access to the internet is actually (slowly) helping to erase. And that's the effect that I think people are interested in. Like we've said that access to the internet is the great equalizer and people trot out anecdotes about mobile phones and economic growth among fishermen but the open question is whether, given two people of differing socioeconomic status, access to the internet exacerbates the inequality or smooths it over.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 7:22 PM on September 10, 2015 [34 favorites]


I can do this.

For anyone who cares, my mom is ok at technology. My father, who built and launched satellites into orbit his entire career, satellites which are still up there carrying these magnificent inter-bytes all over the world, who still uses a flip phone, who, until 2 years ago when I called him up on his flip phone to explain that it was rude, typed every email in all-caps, who asked me to email the pictures of my newborn son that I'd posted on my blog so he could email them to friends, after he failed to understand my instructions on sending links, had a friend print out screen shots of my blog and then scanned in the paper photos and then emailed them to said friends --- well, I'm not ageist, but he is the yardstick by which I measure computer illiteracy and though he showed me how to put a new engine in my car as a teenager on more than one occasion, I will never, ever stop making fun of him. It is my birthright.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:53 PM on September 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


People who have not grown up with a technology are likely to be less conversant with it than people who have not known life without it. e.g. I grew up with desktops and the internet, but now everyone's doing the same stuff but on their phones, and that there's a whole swathe of celebrities and successful media people coming from the site I usually use to watch cat videos and bits from late-night TV, and that can get confusing. Especially when the new paradigm doesn't map easily onto the old one.

I used to do tech support in a high school, and some very smart teachers had some very basic problems, because computers can be scary boxes if they're unfamiliar. This is a fine community request, in my opinion, even though there are mothers/grandmothers who aren't tech-literate. It's rarely the wrong call to be against lazy stereotyping.

However, there's an FPP and a few comments that feature something that bugs me that I wish would also die out, which is declaring everyone thinks [x] is great/awful, often implying if you don't agree you are a bad person. I enjoyed Fury Road just fine, but demanding that others think it's the best thing ever ... I have to struggle not to make that make me like the film less. And I'll definitely think less of you and your inability to not act like a zealot.
posted by gadge emeritus at 8:19 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Can we still use "caveman"?
posted by SLC Mom at 9:28 PM on September 10, 2015


(There. I said it).

It's not a terribly controversial proposition around here.
posted by Jpfed at 9:40 PM on September 10, 2015


MeFi: my grandmother refered to it as the "Hi-Fi."

(tip o' the hat to clavdivs )
posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:00 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yo mama got a glass eye with a fish in it
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:48 AM on September 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


I am sorry we needed to cite statistics. But, you know, not hard to find.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 1:00 AM on September 11, 2015


Everyone's individual case doesn't trump that there are population effects in people's exposure to and comfort level with technology. Your mom is not that special no matter how great she is, and this kind of shorthand is useful because on a broad level it's true.

[citation needed]

The bad-at-tech older women in your life aren't special either, so I don't think we can assume that the idea of 'mother' being shorthand for 'tech-illiterate' can be assumed to be true without any actual evidence to that end. Because at the moment, it's no further than your mum against mine, as it were.

...and my mum could kick your mum's arse! Nyah nyah nyah!
posted by Dysk at 1:12 AM on September 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


From now on, all technology is easy for everyone except the people you'd think it would be easy for but provide a surprising contrast to the everyday brilliant people who defy stereotypes.
posted by michaelh at 3:35 AM on September 11, 2015


michaelh, may I ask what are you trying to say here, within the context of the topic at hand?
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:44 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't understand why this is controversial for some people. If the question is, "Please recommend technology easy enough for MY mom, who is technophobic and does not use her iPhone, to understand" then fine. AskMe can do that. If the question is "Please recommend technology easy enough for YOUR mom to understand," then everyone's mom is different. My mom reads Hackers Quarterly. My spouse's mom does not understand how to use her home entertainment system but is super-proficient at using computers for database research. Someone else's mom is completely different.
posted by muddgirl at 5:27 AM on September 11, 2015 [11 favorites]


(And if the question is really, "recommend X that is easy enough for my coworkers, or my boss, or my nephew, or myself" then for god's sake why get cute with it?)
posted by muddgirl at 5:28 AM on September 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's more the 'my mother' being used a shorthand for 'someone with no tech literacy at all' that's the issue. You can ask for help for your tech-illiterate mother without doing that - simply state that your mother is tech-illiterate, rather than having that point be assumed to be made by the fact of her being your mother.
posted by Dysk at 5:31 AM on September 11, 2015 [9 favorites]


one of my cats is just technologically astute enough to know that walking on the laptop keyboard causes me to get cranky. but she's exceptional.

(I'm saying this mainly because the other cat peed on the laundry this morning and I feel the need to point out that the first cat is better than him)

So please direct your simple comprehensible explanations to my second cat.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:36 AM on September 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


My old cat was a keyboard sitting expert. New adoptee will go out of his way to avoid putting even a paw on it, even when it is between where he is and where he wants to go. I wish I knew how someone had got that message to stick.
posted by biffa at 5:43 AM on September 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


Can we still use "caveman"?

Since yesterday's discovery, we prefer the term Homo naledi
posted by Greg Nog at 5:49 AM on September 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


I always used my dad! Brilliant man with his hands, built model railroads, was a luthier, a jeweler, a galzier and lamp worker, if it was a trade, skilled or no, he could do it.

But lord, if it had buttons? He could handle a four function calculator and a phone and that was a it. Computers completely flummoxed him. Oddly enough, he could work a slide rule with the best of them, but by the time computers rolled around, his brain wouldn't wrap around them.

Now, my mom? Been working the keyboard her entire career, and when they switched from type to computer, she didn't miss a beat. Ace photographer, when the world went digital, she moved from the darkroom to the Photoshop, no problem.

So, in our house, it was "You've dadded that up quite badly" when a massive technology fail happens.

Miss my dad. He was a character's character. If you put him into a novel, he'd be unbelievable. At least six bars turned up a barstool when he died. Because Dad.

My old cat was a keyboard sitting expert.

One cat we had back then loved the Apple LaserWriter II. It was big. It was warm. It purred. And it had a big output tray on top to sleep in. It only occasionally betrayed him by stabbing him in the ass with a sheet of paper, whereupon he'd sulk on the bed for a few hours.

But he always came back, because warm, purring box of love -- AKA the most expensive cat box ever made.
posted by eriko at 6:11 AM on September 11, 2015 [14 favorites]


I am sorry we needed to cite statistics. But, you know, not hard to find.

I wasn't really seeking the statistics so much as I was objecting to the use of "we" and the general references to people's low income levels and ability to speak English.

Metafilter's community may be assumed by some to be mostly comprised of people of relatively high income levels and superior ability to communicate in English. However, I think that's a big enough assumption to caution against the casual use of "we" to refer to community members’ knowledge or opinions about this post’s issue.

This is one of those threads where I think it comes to light how privileged some members of the MeFi community perhaps don't realize they are. They also perhaps don’t realize the off-putting condescension with which their display and justification of that privilege might come across.

God forbid somebody gets offended on MetaFilter

And there it is.
posted by fuse theorem at 6:36 AM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


My son used to call me a "tech wiz."

Now he laughs at me because I couldn't figure out how to shut off the One Direction song that was the hi-larious ironic alarm song on his phone at 7am every day, a phone that was left in my bedroom while he was away at camp and which finally ran out of battery in week 2.
posted by chococat at 6:47 AM on September 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


One cat we had back then loved the Apple LaserWriter II. It was big. It was warm. It purred. And it had a big output tray on top to sleep in. It only occasionally betrayed him by stabbing him in the ass with a sheet of paper, whereupon he'd sulk on the bed for a few hours.

But he always came back, because warm, purring box of love -- AKA the most expensive cat box ever made.


I think a lot (but not all) of cat-keyboarding disparity comes down to things like this. My housemate's cat will sit on keyboards on laptops, but not my desktop keyboard. The former are warm and perhaps have a pleasant purr, the latter is simply a plastic tray with weird ridges and stuff.
posted by Dysk at 6:50 AM on September 11, 2015


I wasn't really seeking the statistics so much as I was objecting to the use of "we" and the general references to people's low income levels and ability to speak English.

Metafilter's community may be assumed by some to be mostly comprised of people of relatively high income levels and superior ability to communicate in English. However, I think that's a big enough assumption to caution against the casual use of "we" to refer to community members’ knowledge or opinions about this post’s issue.


I don't mean to speak for jessamyn, but I think the "we" she used was meant to stand in for "we who study digital accessibility and the digital divide in the U.S." not "we MetaFilter members."
posted by jaguar at 7:00 AM on September 11, 2015 [11 favorites]


I had a cat who would, when I brought her to the office, sleep on the desktop keyboard, but never ever places even a toe on the laptop when I am around to see it.
posted by jeather at 7:05 AM on September 11, 2015


What depresses me is that at only 41, I have already hit a point where I can't do something I want to in like, iTunes, and I just throw my hands up and feel crappy. I don't have the mental bandwidth to tinker with computer interfaces anymore and hit frustration and then quitting point after like 2 minutes. I recently deleted all the data I've ever owned (every photo, song, email ever accumulated over about 15+ years) by accident. I am a mom but obv that has nothing to do with it. I do feel that for me aging does have to do with it as I am slower than I used to be and I have way less curiosity for fucking around endlessly with this shit. Another factor is that devices are made by young people for young people - which has an impact on their usability for the rest of us. It often feels like technology is either opaque or dumbed down, and there is little in the middle that is customizisable but intelligibly so.
posted by latkes at 7:27 AM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


"What depresses me is that at only 41, I have already hit a point where I can't do something I want to in like, iTunes, and I just throw my hands up and feel crappy."

Maybe it's not you? Maybe iTunes's UI just sucks?
posted by I-baLL at 7:27 AM on September 11, 2015 [29 favorites]


My old cat was a keyboard sitting expert.

That's why better than a bird, which will want to destroy your keyboard and then scream when you prevent it.

I do feel that for me aging does have to do with it as I am slower than I used to be and I have way less curiosity for fucking around endlessly with this shit.

I hear ya. It's not that I lack the capacity to learn or some basic intelligence, but the latest iTunes version just swapped around its interface, so stuff that was easy to do is hidden away and the years of muscle memory have been rendered moot. Who needs this shit at 44? And I'm one of those people who didn't hate iTunes before, but now? Burn it down.

What's really needed computer wise is way to make your own UI in each program or app you use (obviously there would be a default supplied by the maker). Then there's a submenu called New Features, which new things are automatically added to when the program upgrades, which the user can move where ever it suits then and whenever it suits them. 'Cause there's nothing like being busy in life and then having to figure out a new menu/interface in a time sensitive situation.

Now get off my lawn.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:38 AM on September 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


Maybe it's not you? Maybe iTunes's UI just sucks?

no srsly i had an easier time manually configuring SoundBlaster cards than I do with iTunes
posted by griphus at 7:38 AM on September 11, 2015 [15 favorites]


RSS feeds for cybersecurity that wouldn't overwhelm your mom

That's the original Ask headline. Had it been "RSS feeds for cybersecurity that wouldn't overwhelm my mom" I don't think there'd be much of an issue. The point is a good one, easily resolved.
posted by chavenet at 7:41 AM on September 11, 2015


My mom is the stereotypical technologically challenged older person, but as she is fond of reminding me: it may take some doing to teach her how to use a Roku or what have you, but she taught me how to use a spoon.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:49 AM on September 11, 2015 [39 favorites]


no srsly i had an easier time manually configuring SoundBlaster cards than I do with iTunes
> EDIT C:\AUTOEXEC.bat
> SET BLASTER=A220 I5 D1 T3 P330 H6 E620
Remember the damned jumper settings?
posted by zarq at 8:19 AM on September 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


Remember the damned jumper settings?

The jumpers were the easy part. It was figuring out what DMA and IRQs were *actually* free that was the "fun" part.

I miss ISA like I miss polio.
posted by eriko at 8:23 AM on September 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


one of my cats is just technologically astute enough to know that walking on the laptop keyboard causes me to get cranky

Worth a try?
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:29 AM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have way less curiosity for fucking around endlessly with this shit.

This is absolutely how it is with me (age 51), and this is also why my mother would ask my father to program the VCR for her -- it wasn't that she couldn't learn to do it herself (she did, later on), she just didn't want to deal with it.

My brother sent me a smartphone, and I spent an afternoon messing with it, and was puzzling briefly over where the settings were for some function or other, and I suddenly thought, "wait, why am I wasting my lovely afternoon with this dumb thing? I don't even want to do most of the things it does." So I gave it away. For me it isn't technophobia or technoilliteracy so much as it's technomeh.

Now, my Roku box, you can have it when you pry it out of my cold, dead hand.
posted by JanetLand at 8:32 AM on September 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


Maybe it's not you? Maybe iTunes's UI just sucks?

Christ, don't get me started on the f̷uc̢king̶ ́abo̵m̸i͏n͡at̵i͘o̷n̴ ͢tha̕t̨ is̷ A̶p̧̛p͘l̵ę ̧҉Mu̕͜ş̵̶i̴͝ć ͝o͟ņ́ ̡͠iP͝h͟͞ơ̴n̵e̸͜ ̧̀͠i̕͞t̴͢͞ ͟͜͢c͏à̷n̨͢'͘͞͞t̸ èv̨͘͜e͏n̢͟ r̀ěm̅͌ͮ̓e̴m̅͑ͤ͐͐bͧ͒͏e͆͐̑r̡̅̋̇̌̅̎ ͬiͯ̄t͐̽̉̐s̃̈́̄͛̃̎ p̵̒lͮ͛̃̏͐̚a͊̕cͬ̍̎̆̊ͣ̉e̿̕ ̛͒̈́ͨͣͪi͗͢n̉ͦͭ̊ ̛̓͐̎͋aͤͭ̌̌ ̍͐p̸l̋̒͆́̋͗å҉y̢l̔ͪ̚͘i̶s̢ͨ̚t̨̽ͮ͑̃ͭͦͦ Ą̛̿͊̾ͧ̉ͪͥͬ̓͏̟̮̰͉͕͈̦Aͪ̈̓͐̔̅̐̒̈́̃̓̅̍̑ͬ̿̓̚͏̛̳̲͍̱̟̠̣A̸̱͚͓̻̼̣̰̫̼̱͓̎ͪͮ̒̈ͪ̿͌͛͂̀́̚͝Å̡̜͎̠̰͍̘̝̥̥̗̗͍̞̤͙̲̈́̒̏̿ͮͨͦͯͭ̍̈́͐ͦͯͫ̓͢͝͠A̶̧̢͚̣͚̥̞͓̪͉̱̣̟̳̟̼̠̖̪̔̌̍̕A̸̡̖͓͇̲̩̘͚̺͈̤̭ͫ̎ͬ̐ͪ̿́̊̐ͯ̐Ȧ̌̈͋̿͘҉͏͚̭̺͕͓͕A͙̭̬̠͓̬̣̦̤̯̹͓͎̗ͫͩ̈ͩ̉͐̔̒̆̎͂̈́́̋̇̔̇̀͠ͅG̶̸̢̅͊͑̽̇͆̐ͬ̇̍ͪ̓̐̈̆̄͡҉̘͈̙̣̤̱̲̝̙̫̯͍̝̹͔̜͕̗̞G̨͐͗͆͌ͥ͛ͭ̒́̒̂̓̃̏̊͗̇͜͠͏̤͙̲̭Ḥ̯̩͌ͦͬ̌̆̇̀̌͛͟͞H̵̥̟̲̘̳̞̩͈̩̲̗̻̥͍̻̥͕̥̔̅͛̈́͆̄̓̔̋̐͌ͣͨ̕͜ͅ
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:40 AM on September 11, 2015 [16 favorites]


Just here to say that I hate iTunes with an invigorating passion.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 8:50 AM on September 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


What depresses me is that at only 41, I have already hit a point where I can't do something I want to in like, iTunes, and I just throw my hands up and feel crappy. I don't have the mental bandwidth to tinker with computer interfaces anymore and hit frustration and then quitting point after like 2 minutes.

I'm a dude, 47 next week. Went into a public library today as I had an hour to kill before a bus. The PCs were running Windows XP, which I'd used on my old Dell laptop for several years, but not since getting a MacBook Pro in uh 2009.

I could do hardly anything. Couldn't find stuff. Was baffled by some of the dialog boxes. Managed to freeze several I think applications, somehow. After a (long) while, figured out how to get LinkedIn up in Internet Explorer (default; Chrome was in a folder I'd missed), and that was it and I had to get my bus.

Feeling technologically pathetic and insecure at the moment. Can't work out if it was because:

- I found it difficult to adapt or remember old ways of doing things, because of age.
- Windows XP being really crap (nowadays).
- The hardware being slow and/or ancient.
- My brain is very hardwired now to Mac OS things.
- The personal feeling, reflex and default in recent years that "Life is short" and "Time is valuable" and I have little of those, or patience, to spend on boring or self-centred people and things that take a lot of time to do simple things*.
- Just, well, me, and no other reason.

* - I call this MAAADD, or Middle Aged Adult Attention Deficit Disorder, as that's more polite than "I am greying and I seriously do not have time for either this, or your shit".
posted by Wordshore at 8:52 AM on September 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


It is absolutely, positively, definitely because iTunes gets worse and worse with every update. Most software seems to, but iTunes in particular is the absolute worst offender, attempting as it does to handle exponential bloat with supposedly "improved" supposed "simplification" that makes it so you can't ever find anything.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:20 AM on September 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


"Easy enough for the iTunes UI designer to understand it"
posted by Kwine at 9:35 AM on September 11, 2015 [14 favorites]


I have no objection to this... Not to say that I won't mess up and say something like that ever again, because I'm not great at self policing my verbiage, but I will try to avoid it if possible and welcome reminders when I slip.

My wife, the recent phd and not quite so recent mom, deserves as much. Ditto women and older people everywhere.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:43 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


"we who study digital accessibility and the digital divide in the U.S." not "we MetaFilter members."

Yeah sorry about the ambiguity. I wrote a book on this and was just presuming people knew that, possibly unwarranted presumption. I know from having minded the Contact Form inbox for a decade that we have MeFites at all level of the tech savvy and not-so-tech-savvy continuum. Obviously people who post here are able to get online and type in a box which says something about their level of competency, but not terribly much about the other challenges they may or may not be facing in their lives.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 9:55 AM on September 11, 2015 [10 favorites]


"Easy enough for the iTunes UI designer to understand it"

Pretty sure it's the actual designers, but marketing suits trying to cross promote Apple products and services to the lowest common denominator.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:22 AM on September 11, 2015


I would not equate frustration and unfamiliarity with different user interfaces as technophobia at all. That stuff is supposedly designed for ease of use, and the fact that it's difficult to use is an indication that either it's poorly designed, or it's well designed for some other nefarious purpose.

True story, I swear. I know this is going to sound like a fairy tale.

My mom was a computer programmer back in the 60s, but then she got married and had four asshole kids and fell into that "I do not know how to computer" mindset. So we had a deal where whoever lived closest to her would be the one responsible for setting up her computer and keeping it working. When that fell to me, I built her a Linux box, running Slackware, IIRC, because I'm most comfortable with Linux.

I knew this was risky, and my siblings thought this was a terrible idea, but I figured I could put Windows on it if it didn't work out. So I set it up for her, showed her a few things, and then...didn't hear from her. I figured this probably meant the experiment had failed and she'd just given up and wasn't using her computer at all, and I was planning to give her a call or go over to see what I could do when she called me for tech support. With what I recall was a totally reasonable question about her X11 configuration. She'd run into some issue, gone out and bought a Linux for Dummies book or something, and had it half-figured out already before she called me.

Her frustration with computers wasn't because she was afraid of technology or complexity, or because she was incapable of understanding how computers work. It was because the user interfaces she had been using were clogged up with anti-features and other consumer-hostile design features designed to make the underlying functionality opaque to the user. When she was presented with a computer problem with a simple, predictable, easily discoverable solution that she could resolve from the command line, she was just fine. There is a huge layer of obfuscation added to most consumer interfaces, and it's not a problem with you if you have a hard time navigating them.

Being confused and annoyed with specific user interfaces doesn't mean you're bad with technology, and being familiar with them doesn't mean you're good with technology. Most user interfaces are pretty far removed from what's going on underneath them, and that's the important part.

I'm 50 years old, and I too have lost some of my patience for fucking around with different UIs, but it has never even occurred to me to blame myself for that. That's on the designers for creating something so shittily designed that you have to learn a whole new stupid application-specific navigation system to perform basic and predictable tasks.
posted by ernielundquist at 10:33 AM on September 11, 2015 [38 favorites]


I teach a tech-ish class to college students, including a lot of returning or non traditional students. The idea that tech savvy is generational (and often gendered) is one of those bits of received wisdom that often goes unchallenged by people of all ages, genders, and familiarity with technology.

I try to combat this idea through readings and discussions, but also pointing out that I--a middle-aged lady who could easily be the mom of many of my students, and in a family that tended to procreate young, even their grandmother--am teaching this class and know what I'm talking about. (Student evals are the devil, but no one has ever questioned my expertise.) My perspective is that it's more about experience, which increases comfort level, and developing critical thinking to evaluate what is working for you, what isn't, whether the risks outweigh the rewards for you personally and society at large, etc.

A lot of traditional students come into the class thinking it'll be a cakewalk: "Hey, I'll get college credit for tweeting and using Pinterest, which I already do, ha!" They quickly discover that it's a lot more challenging than they think. I also have traditional students who are terrified of using social media beyond (maybe) Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family, but aren't really aware of what else is out there, or alternate uses of the technologies they're familiar with. It's been drilled into their heads that any mistake they might make online can ruin their reputation forever and prevent them from getting a job. (I also have students with Twitter accounts under their own name that is full of obscenities, reports of hard weekend partying, complaints about how boring classes are, and extremely frank discussions of their sex life. Complete with vampy or middle finger avatars.)

They have also never given any thought to who owns their data and for what purpose, the role of algorithms in shaping their perceptions of the world, how search engines work and what that means for the information they're exposed to, etc.
In other words, they're not as savvy as they think. Just five years ago, I had to teach a student how to attach a file to an email.

Some of my older students are very comfortable with technology. The ones who are afraid often use age as an excuse, but the real reasons are lack of familiarity, lack of confidence, and yes, these pervasive social stereotypes that have convinced them they'll never be able to "catch up" to their younger classmates. Yet one of my most successful students was in her 60s when we met at a workshop, later took my full class, and went on to build a website and a kickass online presence to promote her book and her social activism work around immigration.

tl;dr I agree that this stereotype is both ageist and sexist, which is not only harmful to the groups in question, but also creates a sense of false confidence among "digital natives" who think the mere fact of having grown up around technology somehow qualifies them as experts. So I'm strongly in favor of this Meta.

PS Despite the above, every time I move I call a friend to help me connect my TV, Blu-Ray player, router, and cable motive. Could I figure it out myself? Probably; I have a PhD in a related topic and decent Google-fu. But I get bored and frustrated easily, and mostly am just not interested in learning how it works. I save my bandwidth for stuff I actually care about.
posted by Superplin at 10:38 AM on September 11, 2015 [22 favorites]


This does not nullify the goodness in avoiding lazy stereotypes, but there is, in fact, lots and lots of evidence that generally speaking, older people use technology less, and use it less well, than younger people.

Many, many older people experience a decline in cognitive function, and the denial can be strong. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the technophobes are really trying to avoid taking on something new that might expose this decline to themselves or their family.

(Also, I've been almost exclusively Mac, both personally and professionally, since the SE and I have no earthly idea how iTunes functions anymore.)
posted by Room 641-A at 10:52 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't quite get the ire brought on by "explain this to me like I'm five" or similar sentiments. Is the assumption that it's better to explain things to five year-olds using simple ideas/explanations controversial or offensive? If so, why?

I don't know if it's offensive, necessarily, but I resent the implication that every complex topic can be explained in a way that a 5-year-old can understand, or that a 5-year-old's understanding is all that is required to be known about things. If all you had was a 5-year-old's understanding of the world, you wouldn't know much. There's a reason why we continue to learn things from the age of 6 on.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 11:01 AM on September 11, 2015 [9 favorites]


I guess what I mean is, if you really want to understand the reason why something is the way it is, then spend the time to learn about it and don't be satisfied with a superficial explanation.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 11:04 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I always take that as a "no really, when I said I need the very basics, I mean really really basic" thing... not a request for a superficial explanation, or an expectation that understanding should stop there, but instead a way of telling your interlocutor where to start -- that you really don't know even the basic stuff they might assume. Like, "explain taxes to me like I'm 5" means, don't just assume I already know what "withholding" or "deductions" are, really start from the very beginning. "Assume I need the basics, I won't be offended."
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:22 AM on September 11, 2015 [10 favorites]


It's really just amazing that there's no simple, polite request for some thought in phrasing that someone won't push back on as if it's such an imposition and roll their eyes at people being offended. By all means, discuss and state your alternate viewpoint. Rock on with your rebellious self if you must. But jeez is it just lazy to denigrate the validity of someone's request purely based on how you characterize their internal mental process.

Thanks for this request; I'm already pretty light on statement like this from years doing UI and training and telling people how annoying I found it that we considered it fair to ask people to be computer literate as if anyone had ever needed to be certified as toaster literate or dishwasher literate. When shit is obtuse and hard to understand that's not an indictment of the person being confused by their thousand dollar purchase, it's on us folks who make the stuff. But I hadn't thought about the background radiation level sexism in the fact that 9 times out of 10 it's about grandmothers.
posted by phearlez at 11:30 AM on September 11, 2015 [10 favorites]


Metafilter: Assume I need the basics.
posted by JanetLand at 11:41 AM on September 11, 2015


If its any help, in our family it was my father who nearly got into a fight with an ATM the first time he tried to use it.
posted by biffa at 11:44 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm conflating some digital divide research by the Pew Research Center.

/me pours one out for Andrew Kohut, founding director and dad of a former coworker of mine. I never met the man but used to enjoy hearing him on NPR here and there.
posted by phearlez at 11:48 AM on September 11, 2015


"I don't know if it's offensive, necessarily, but I resent the implication that every complex topic can be explained in a way that a 5-year-old can understand, or that a 5-year-old's understanding is all that is required to be known about things. If all you had was a 5-year-old's understanding of the world, you wouldn't know much. There's a reason why we continue to learn things from the age of 6 on."

When I hear EILI5, I think of a second cousin of mine whose real name I forget but who answers to "Tug." When Tug was a toddler, he fell into an outhouse pit and became, in family parlance, "tetched in the head." He's called Tug because he wasn't weaned until he was about six. He's some 20 years older than me, but I haven't seen him since I was a kid — I don't remember whether he was the same second/third cousin who was killed by taking a mule kick to the head*. He was nice enough, held a job, and wasn't developmentally disabled like my cousin with Downs, but my memory of him is that he'd listen to and agree with whatever someone said and then retain pretty much none of it. When I hear EILI5, I just see him smiling and nodding and smiling and nodding…

*My mom's mom was one of ten siblings, and all of them had multiple kids. I come from the Chicago branch, but whenever there's a reunion in rural Indiana, I always meet new relatives and always get to hear stories like, "He's fine now, but that outboard nearly took Beau's scalp clean off!" which are a just as true and a lot more entertaining than hearing about how Greg does logistics and distribution for a cardboard box factory.
posted by klangklangston at 11:54 AM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I always take that as a "no really, when I said I need the very basics, I mean really really basic" thing

That's a good place to start and a generous assumption, but a lot of people do really have this notion that everything is a lot simpler that it is, and that complicated explanations are mostly pretense.

Some people are genuinely asking for patience and explanations of basic concepts, but some people really don't think there's anything beyond that, and that anything they can't immediately comprehend is bullshit.
posted by ernielundquist at 12:00 PM on September 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


But considering that this seems like this a thing that bothers some people, maybe we could stop because God forbid somebody gets offended on MetaFilter.

I don't sense even one little tiny hint of a whiff of a smidge of white male privilege in this response.
posted by the webmistress at 12:19 PM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


My five-year old does my taxes.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:48 PM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


My dad is the technophobe in our family (although still able to do some tech related stuff). My mom is something a whiz for a layperson.

This is so pervasive in advertising too: "this dishwasher detergent works so well, even your idiot husband, who doesn't know how to load a dishwasher or rinse dishes, will be pulling out sparkling dishes." If anything, in the advertising world it's the men who are the idiots.
posted by Deathalicious at 1:23 PM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, men are supposed to be idiots and basic housekeeping, which I guess excuses them from having to vacuum or whatever.
posted by latkes at 1:54 PM on September 11, 2015


Well I eat Clinton's response to having her email servers "wiped", in which she says something like "with a towel" or something.

Maybe we should start using "this tech is so easy, Clinton can understand it".

Although seriously, she knows what's up. But good job on spreading the ignorant stereotype. Totally helps...see you on Election Day.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:00 PM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


My mom led a rag-tag team of hackers to bring down one of the largest corporations in the world, while possibly starting a budding friendship with a Swedish psychopath who prefers KDE to Gnome.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 2:05 PM on September 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


This is so pervasive in advertising too: "this dishwasher detergent works so well, even your idiot husband, who doesn't know how to load a dishwasher or rinse dishes, will be pulling out sparkling dishes." If anything, in the advertising world it's the men who are the idiots

I think that's less about men being idiots and more about men supposedly not being suited for lowly housework, we women have it stitched into our inferior genetic code apparently.
posted by JenMarie at 2:38 PM on September 11, 2015 [16 favorites]


The idiot aspect of the idiot husband thing is real, but it is insidiously terrible: aimed at women who need to be reassured of their mastery of the domestic sphere because it's the only mastery they are unquestioningly permitted, and relentlessly reinforcing the notion that domestic work is so beneath men that it is wholly alien to them. It is the same thing as "tech so easy your mom can use it", but with a single critical difference: in our culture, tech is high status and domestic work low status - the idiot husband is indulgently stooping to do housework, and the idiot mom is reaching above her abilities and station.
posted by gingerest at 3:11 PM on September 11, 2015 [43 favorites]


I think that's less about men being idiots

It's about fairness. Many sitcoms and other televisions shows portray husbands and fathers as enlightened sages e.g. Homer Simpson, Al Bundy, and Raymond Barone, so this is balanced out by having bumbling men shown during the commercial breaks.
posted by Tanizaki at 3:16 PM on September 11, 2015


I think you have perhaps unintentionally proven the point, Tanizaki, that even on TV men are allowed to be lazy doofuses because women are expected to do the heavy lifting of actually running the household, with nothing more than the occasional annoyed growl for those lovable lunks they couldn't live without.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 3:25 PM on September 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


My mom led a rag-tag team of hackers to bring down one of the largest corporations in the world

is this some reference i don't get? if it's real i'd love to know more. maybe you could make a mefi post on it all (or maybe its already really famous and i'm just dumb).
posted by andrewcooke at 3:27 PM on September 11, 2015


Yeah, sorry andrewcooke, I was making a Mr. Robot reference. The reality is my grandma is spamming Bernie Sanders macros on Facebook while my dad cannot navigate Skype without extensive over-the-phone coaching. Which sorta defeats the point.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 3:31 PM on September 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


One comment deleted. Please don't sideline this onto personal criticisms of people in the thread if that can be avoided?

To the larger point - let's please not derail onto a rehash of "oh but men have it bad in the stereotype department," as if that's a reason to stop talking about the subject of this MeTa.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:32 PM on September 11, 2015 [12 favorites]


I really tried to teach my mom about the internet. For years I tried. My son did it in an hour, on her lap, with enthusiasm and I kept my mouth shut in pure awe.

YO MOMMA IS SO SAVVY THAT SHE DOES NOT NEED THINGS EXPLAINED LIKE SHE'S FIVE.

She just needed it explained to her by somebody who is 5.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 4:15 PM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thank you to all of the people with computer smarts who have mentioned the increasingly terrible and constantly changing counter-intuitive user interfaces as being a major contributor to the problems some of us have. I have successfully used all kinds of computer programs, particularly as a younger adult. But I now have problems on a regular basis. I would add that many of the current touchscreen interfaces are really poor for people like me who have manual dexterity challenges -- the latest FB mobile app is constantly cycling me back to a prior page because of (I think) the direction and area in which I swipe.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 4:34 PM on September 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


I agree this is a bad trope, but I kind of feel good about sitting my son in front of my Mac and teaching him about it while his older sister was learning Windows. What does that make me?
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:42 PM on September 11, 2015


I think that's less about men being idiots and more about men supposedly not being suited for lowly housework, we women have it stitched into our inferior genetic code apparently.

The parenting ones are definitely about fathers being idiots. There have been a bunch of commercials over the years which show men being terrible parents to our own children, played for laughs. That article notes that a diaper company pulled an ad back in 2012 which began: "To prove Huggies can handle just about anything, we put them to the toughest test imaginable: dads, alone with their babies, in one house, for five days."

I agree with you that it is terrible those commercials stereotype women. But it is blindingly obvious that the fathers in them are being offensively presented as incompetent morons.
posted by zarq at 5:07 PM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


To me, I read those commercials and the stereotypes they contain - about both men and women - as two sides of the same patriarchy-coin. The idea that men aren't all the capable of handling children, at least to my eyes, comes from the same place as the idea that women are more capable or more suited, by default, to do so.
posted by sagc at 5:16 PM on September 11, 2015 [14 favorites]


I agree, yet one group is being presented negatively. Incessantly so. The other, positively -- if only in terms of competence vs. incompetence. This leads to a cultural bias, fed by popular media, that fathers are incapable of caring for their own children. It sends a terrible message to fathers: both to single dads and those with partners... and especially to our kids.
posted by zarq at 5:33 PM on September 11, 2015


zarq, I respect this issue is close to home for you, but at the same time, it's kind of off the main track here? Childcare-related stereotypes about fathers are kind of neither here nor there, regarding technology-related stereotypes of older women/moms.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 5:40 PM on September 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


This latest conversation is really frustrating to me. It's like, Oh Archie! Oh Edith! And their kids running around trying to figure out how to put one shoe or one sock in case of a fire. Guys, we already did this in our generation. Go back to the 1970's and figure it out.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:42 PM on September 11, 2015


LM, okay. You're right. I'll drop it immediately.
posted by zarq at 6:00 PM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Did we really go 200 comments in this thread without anyone saying they totally overwhelmed your mom last night?
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 6:02 PM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


In the thread about disrespectful lazy jokes and stereotypes about moms?
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:07 PM on September 11, 2015 [22 favorites]


(I know you don't mean it that way, but time and place, you know?)
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:09 PM on September 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


I saw that post and thought it 100% literally meant that the poster's mom had developed an interest in cyber security. The sexist interpretation didn't even occur to me.
posted by miyabo at 8:11 PM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Your dad goes fishing with a hook and reel in the frozen food section.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:20 PM on September 11, 2015


"Something my mom could understand — she only runs Arch from a CLI, and says if she wanted to click she'd get a Skinner box. Yeah, she's the one in the 'do you even sudo?' shirt."
posted by klangklangston at 8:21 PM on September 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


I totally want one of those shirts
posted by 4ster at 8:45 PM on September 11, 2015


Chiming in super late because I was away from my husband and kids researching HMI usability on a fucking oil rig and on a client site for days, but yes, by all means, describe consumer technology so even I, mother of children, can understand them. Because I am not yet tired enough and I needed some busted-ass sexist stereotypes to wear me down a little further.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:55 PM on September 11, 2015 [30 favorites]


Marie Mon Dieu: I agree this is a bad trope, but I kind of feel good about sitting my son in front of my Mac and teaching him about it while his older sister was learning Windows. What does that make me?

I dunno... a smug Apple user?
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:28 AM on September 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't think this will fly in Ask, and if implemented, will not see any change in attitudes; it will just piss people off and harden their attitudes. I see just as much of this aimed at dads and grandpas, and I think a lot of people who are using it are trying to get help for their actual mothers/fathers/grandmothers/etc. Given demographic differences between AskMe and the rest of the site, I think this is going to be counterproductive both to the actual mission of Ask and just whatever pseudo-progressive goal people think will be served by this kind of censorship.

I'm not quite sure why you're so worked up about a user asking fellow users to think before they perpetuate a sexist, ageist stereotype. I also don't think it's pseudo-progressive for the very people affected by this kind of sexism and ageism to ask others not to unthinkingly perpetuate it. I think it's perfectly valid to point out that assuming women of any age or status are, should be, or will be technologically incompetent is harmful and there's nothing wrong with asking fellow users to refrain from doing it.

Also, can you elaborate regarding which people here at MetaFilter are going to be pissed off? Who is going to harden what attitudes? Could you also explain why, assuming these people even exist here, they should be catered to at the expense of their fellow users? Furthermore, can you cite these Asks which use dads and grandpas in general (rather than someone's specific dad or grandpa) as a stand-in for technological incompetence? Did you not notice that people mentioned asking for help with one's own specific family members is considered kosher? It's when women as a whole are used as a symbol of technological incompetence that it becomes problematic.

Everyone's individual case doesn't trump that there are population effects in people's exposure to and comfort level with technology. Your mom is not that special no matter how great she is, and this kind of shorthand is useful because on a broad level it's true. My mom can program, jury rig, and just plain think rings around her students, but it doesn't actually matter, she still sucks at using her iPhone compared to them (my dad doesn't even try).

This entire paragraph is nonsense. Pardon my language, but what the fuck are you even trying to argue here? Are you arguing that it's okay to stereotype women as being technologically incompetent because of _reasons_? If so, you're ignoring decades, even centuries, of sexist rhetoric that has taught women that technology is beyond our grasp.

You're completely ignoring that in addition to exposure to and comfort level with technology, women are often treated as if they're stupid in regard to technology. If you need examples of this effect, you can read this very thread. In cases where women actually are uncomfortable with technology, it goes far beyond what you call "population effects". It's simply another part of the far-reaching effects of societal bias (patriarchy!) where women are only considered good for certain things. If women absorb the ideas that "math is hard" or "technology is too hard to understand" after having these ideas shouted at them all their lives, it's through no fault of their own and that really needs to be taken into account here.

Encouraging the use of stereotypes in a situation like this is not the way to move forward. Furthering those ideas is extremely damaging to all women and using it as shorthand is not acceptable.

Your argument that "I see just as much of this aimed at dads and grandpas" is a straw man if ever there was one. Are you really claiming that men in general have ever been stereotyped as technologically incompetent? And are you then standing up for the poor men who have supposedly been hurt by this nonexistent stereotype rather than acknowledging that actual women are being hurt?

And by the way, just because your own mother has trouble with her iPhone, it doesn't mean she's stupid or ignorant of technology. It could mean that iPhones have a terrible user interface or maybe it just doesn't work the way she's used to or that she no longer has the patience to learn every new UI that she's presented with. That doesn't mean you or anyone else should use her as a symbol of technological incompetence. It doesn't mean your mother should be treated with disrespect or contempt, or held up as some ridiculous example of how "women just don't understand technology".

If you, for example, wrote an Ask to help your mother understand her iPhone, that's one thing. If you wrote an Ask where you wanted people to explain your own iPhone to YOU as if you were your mother (because we all know how dumb moms are about smartphones, amirite?!?!), that's when it would no longer be okay. That you can't see there's a huge difference between those two potential Asks is troubling. Let me repeat what I said earlier: encouraging the use of stereotypes in a situation like this is not the way to move forward. Furthering those ideas is extremely damaging to all women and using it as shorthand is not acceptable.
posted by i feel possessed at 3:42 AM on September 12, 2015 [21 favorites]


I don't think this will fly in Ask, and if implemented, will not see any change in attitudes; it will just piss people off and harden their attitudes. I see just as much of this aimed at dads and grandpas, and I think a lot of people who are using it are trying to get help for their actual mothers/fathers/grandmothers/etc. Given demographic differences between AskMe and the rest of the site, I think this is going to be counterproductive both to the act

are the demographics that different? it doesn't feel that way to me.

is anything going to be "implemented"? it seems more like (1) a reasonable request to avoid lazy clichés and unhelpful stereotyping, and (2) the subsequent group self-love that i find kind of icky from any political side. at the "worst", i expect all that will happen is a very tactful mod will help someone post a slightly different question.

i think what does alienate people is not any specific rule, or the mods, but the general atmosphere. it's true that the atmosphere is constructed from many small things, including this thread. but i've been trying quite hard recently (in my head) to separate the politics from the people.

you could imagine a site where this post was met with "oh, yeah, that's kinda lazy. it would be good to avoid that i guess. what's for dinner?" rather than, well, something that feels like "yeah, let's use this to define ourselves in contrast with [insert some other cliché here]. ra ra ra us. was that a joke? please explain yourself. etc etc."

[and of course, there's the issue of being able to take that view from a "position of privilege". and then the issue of just how "unprivileged" most people hear actually are...]
posted by andrewcooke at 4:57 AM on September 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


i think what does alienate people is not any specific rule, or the mods, but the general atmosphere. it's true that the atmosphere is constructed from many small things, including this thread.

But the atmosphere of using lazy sexist (or racist, or transphobic, etc) cliches ALSO alienates people, especially when they are used in the same thread as people say they find it tiresome.
posted by jeather at 5:09 AM on September 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


sure. i don't disagree with the politics. i thought i made that absolutely clear.
posted by andrewcooke at 5:11 AM on September 12, 2015


Then I don't know what you're complaining about exactly. It doesn't feel like a self-congratulatory thread (which can be annoying), so what about this request is alienating?
posted by jeather at 5:21 AM on September 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


Is there any reason for this thread to still be open? The mods aren't being asked to do anything and it's up to the individual to decide what they want to do on this. Otherwise, this looks like it's going to a cycle of of picking over words and meanings in an unproductive way.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:06 AM on September 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is there any reason for this thread to still be open?

People are bonding over great stories about women in tech fields, and general grandma\mom technology use, the "what about the men?" derail was snipped in the bud, and the level of grar seems to be at an all time low for this kind of request.
posted by Gygesringtone at 6:22 AM on September 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


I really really hate the early closing of so many MeTa threads, as it skews site input toward people who happen to get in on them early (whether because of free time or obsessiveness).

The thread's only been open for two days; I'm sure there are plenty of mefites who've had a busy couple of days at work, and might mosey over here sometime this weekend (or next week, or the week after, even) to give their input.

I would really hope that the mods don't freak out and close this thread on the entire userbase just because a couple people are acting a bit prickly.
posted by Greg Nog at 6:43 AM on September 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'm not at all inclined to close it, it seems fine to me.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:03 AM on September 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


We've all had the experience of calling tech support and enduring the tyranny of call center diagnostic software that starts from ground zero; no "I think the problem is x and I've already tried a, b and c" allowed! But sometimes I wonder if they have special routines for people who sound old(er) because the questions can be so painfully basic. It's worse in person when someone won't even listen, because it's so invalidating. I don't remember how old I am (55), most of the time, because I feel about 27. But I'm good at software/hardware/internet stuff and nothing pisses me off more than people assuming I'm incompetent or frightened of the equipment because of my grey temples and lack of a y chromosome.

Recently I was buying a gadget from a giant tech warehouse. They didn't have the one I wanted and so I was trying to figure out if another would do the trick. Me: [long complicated soliloquy that included the term "USB" in passing]. 20-something Sales Adviser: "Here is the USB connector right here, Ma'am. " After several more fruitless exchanges I asked if I could speak to someone else. He returns with a female colleague, points to me, and explains "This lady doesn't think the USB will work on her computer. I've tried to tell her it will, but she doesn't believe me." I repeat the explanation, almost verbatim. Second sales adviser asks a pertinent clarifying question and a technical discussion ensues. First guy gawps and then ambles away. As our conversation winds down, I mention that the first SA couldn't hear my actual issue over the noise of his assumptions about me. She rolled her eyes and replied, "There's a lot of that around here."

Note: The same thing happens when I play poker. But then they pay me for their error.
posted by carmicha at 9:27 AM on September 12, 2015 [34 favorites]


Fwiw in many of the technical communities I participate in it is already considered extremely poor form to make such an analogy, and will be commented on as uncool pretty quickly if done.

This was not true five years ago, but people started speaking up about uncool ambient sexist shit and the discourse shifted. For which I'm very glad.
posted by ead at 9:39 AM on September 12, 2015 [16 favorites]


Yeah, it's definitely been criticized as ageist and sexist for a while now.

Enough With the Ageist, Sexist Mom Jokes, by Amanda Hess in Slate in April 2014
But for a generation that likes to view itself as so current, the new mom joke relies on some mighty outdated assumptions. It seeks to reposition mothers in their traditional roles—mom may know how to make us dinner and send care packages, but isn't it funny how she doesn't understand the Internet?

For women, it's really hard to hit the sweet spot: Young women are dismissed as too naive to understand the world, but once we have kids of our own, we're instantly infantilized again. That's insulting to our moms, but it's not very respectful to ourselves, either.
posted by jaguar at 10:35 AM on September 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


On the question of "offense"; I think it's super pertinent that at least two women in this thread have stated that these sort of comments contribute to a generalized attitude that cost them in their professional fields both in terms of advancement and income. I don't know how you weigh the word offense, but I find that pretty offensive.
posted by Iteki at 2:00 AM on September 13, 2015 [12 favorites]


"It could mean that iPhones have a terrible user interface"

(audience gasps)
posted by klangklangston at 3:11 AM on September 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


My dad worked in telephony for most of his professional life. Worked for a company that measured network performance benchmarks so the Bells could make a case before utility commissions when they were asking for rate increases. Ah, the good old days of reliable and measurable service. I only mention this because like a few others have mentioned, having a parent in tech back in the Sixties and Seventies had a profound influence on me. My dad would bring home these 80 lb "portable" computers with tiny displays that did only one or two things, but did them well, so there were always computers in the house. And when the TRS-80 and the Commodore came out, we got one. And an Apple and a PC. When my mom passed last year the house was packed with computer equipment. And it was both of them. My mom liked building her own MacBooks from parts of broken MacBooks. My dad liked to attempt insane configurations like trying to get linux to run on a virtual PC on his Mac, just to see if he could.

The odd thing was, even they bought into the stereotype that because they were old, I knew more about computers than they did, which probably wasn't ever true. Yeah, I had built a few databases, and a few websites, but that never compensated for the breadth of experience they had with hardware and the guts of some software. When they asked for help with stuff, it was rarely software or hardware, it would typically involve finding a cable that had gone bad somewhere in the ceiling or cellar, which in their seventies, wasn't possible. Or taking a router back to the store because it didn't work. And occasionally they'd hit a bad interface they might ask for help with, but frankly, I typically wasn't able to help. Yet, we all assumed I was more technologically savvy.

So yeah, in retrospect, if a stereotype is so pervasive that it's convincing the competent that they're incompetent, then maybe we should question it, and perhaps give it a timeout.

Funny thing is I didn't follow my dad's footsteps and go into tech, but being exposed to all that early tech does help me do a better job at whatever I attempt. For the last 16 years I've been in book publishing. And it strikes me that the two things my parents house had the most of when cleaning out after my mom passed were books and computer equipment, so I suppose some of it did rub off. Which reminds me of another thing my parents were always very good at, pirating. Books, songs, movies, software, you name it. I used to remind my mom over and over, "You know I'm a publisher, right?" It made me feel a bit like Alex P. Keaton.

"Shut up, go make me some microwave popcorn, and then come sit down and watch Avatar with me."
posted by Toekneesan at 3:52 AM on September 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


Can people start getting suspended for the stupid meta "so this thread is winding down" thing? This has been an educational and interesting thread to me front to back. As a lot of recent site interaction threads on the grey have been. Maybe, if it bugs you, just don't read it B.B.?
posted by emptythought at 4:16 AM on September 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Unless things are seriously tailspinning into shitstorm, I also find the pleas to close a thread to be annoying and uncalled for. I don't know about "suspended" but I think it'd be awesome if people could just Remove From Activity instead of telling everyone else to be quiet.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 5:14 AM on September 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


I know people stopped talking about iTunes a bit upthread, but I came to this Meta a bit late and I just wanted to say:

I hate iTunes because last time I agreed to update it, iTunes decided that my copy of Johannes Brahms' 3rd symphony was a part of the album "Kinky Boots: the Soundtrack" and re-classified it as pop music.
posted by colfax at 7:15 AM on September 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


This thread has been so great, mostly for the stories of people's badass parents, especially their moms, but also for the reassurance that interface design can take the blame I'd been putting on my own aging brain.
posted by latkes at 7:23 AM on September 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


i refuse to install itunes. from launch on i've been waiting for it to have modicum of the great design that apple is known for but they've never seemed to achieve it.
posted by nadawi at 8:29 AM on September 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


if a stereotype is so pervasive that it's convincing the competent that they're incompetent, then maybe we should question it, and perhaps give it a timeout.

This is very well put.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:46 AM on September 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


i refuse to install itunes. from launch on i've been waiting for it to have modicum of the great design that apple is known for but they've never seemed to achieve it.

Itunes is Apple's picture of Dorian Grey.
posted by jeather at 10:51 AM on September 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


What's really odd is that Apple Stores are tend to be very well designed, but iTunes itself doesn't match that level of design at all. Plus its telling, to me, that even the notoriously implacable design of Steve Jobs didn't (or couldn't?) fix iTunes.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:22 AM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Seriously, with every update they seem to have embraced Jobs' arrogance in deciding what features users actually get without the corresponding competence in making the right calls on them. It's the number one reason why anyone who says that Apple software "just works!" shouldn't be trusted with any technology decisions because they clearly don't actually use the shit they have an opinion on.

I keep hoping that the person who asked the question about iTunes substitutes for an NAS comes back and says what he ended up doing, since I have nearly the same setup.
posted by klangklangston at 1:40 PM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Quoted for the sheer humanity of the response"

Oh puh-leeeze. Give me a break.
posted by DrAmerica at 4:11 PM on September 13, 2015


Wait, what is wrong with admiring someone for saying something humane?
posted by gingerest at 6:35 PM on September 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


iTunes is so epically bad. I think the ultimate admission of defeat was how quickly they made it so that idevices could be used independent of it, without ever interfacing with it. It was what, 2 years into iOS even existing(back when it was called "iphone os" even).

I REALLY thought with itunes 10 they'd nuke it and start from scratch, i also thought that they might do that with the iOS 7 redesign, or the first non-cat named OSX version, or...

And yet it's the zombie that won't die.

They really need to cut it off at the knees and go "ok, here's the old version people with ipods from 2004 or whatever can use, it'll never be updated again but it works fine and we'll make sure it still works for a few more new versions of OSX and windows. Now, here's the NEW itunes. It only works with devices we're currently still putting out updates for, and it's totally 100% new"

Like, for fucks sake, really? That's too controversial or whatever?
posted by emptythought at 9:36 PM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Quoted for the sheer inanity of the response:

"Oh puh-leeeze. Give me a break."
posted by Dysk at 3:32 AM on September 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


And yet it's the zombie that won't die.

But why? Apple has an army of highly trained zombie killers on staff who probably sit around talking about how they'd kill it. Is the code just so deeply embedded and messed up that it's just cheaper to not redo it? Or is rebuilding it just taking forever in some secret skunkworks project? Please say yes to the latter. PLEASE.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:33 AM on September 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Absolutely reasonable request! I will try not to do this in my life anymore.
posted by teststrip at 11:14 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


So… Apple wants me to install a new iTunes update…
posted by klangklangston at 3:25 PM on September 17, 2015


So… Apple wants me to install a new iTunes update…

Those misogynists!!
posted by latkes at 4:41 PM on September 17, 2015


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