How to help people with computers post July 6, 2020 9:43 PM   Subscribe

A few years ago I came across a comment in this site which talked about how to teach people how to solve their computer issues compassionately.

Now I am managing tech people and wanted to share it with them and I can’t find it now and Googling has not been helpful nor has going through my favorites. Help appreciated!
posted by eleanna to MetaFilter-Related at 9:43 PM (7 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

Not sure which MetaFilter post it was, maybe this one, "Explain your thinking. Don't make it mysterious" about Phil Agre and jessamyn has a copy on her site.
posted by Gotanda at 10:18 PM on July 6 [9 favorites]


Is it this comment which makes reference to the Recurse Centre’s User Manual?

No feigning surprise

The first rule means you shouldn't act surprised when people say they don't know something. This applies to both technical things ("What?! I can't believe you don't know what the stack is!") and non-technical things ("You don't know who RMS is?!"). Feigning surprise has absolutely no social or educational benefit: When people feign surprise, it's usually to make them feel better about themselves and others feel worse. And even when that's not the intention, it's almost always the effect. As you've probably already guessed, this rule is tightly coupled to our belief in the importance of people feeling comfortable saying "I don't know" and "I don't understand."

posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:30 PM on July 6 [6 favorites]


Relevant XKCD The 10K. Totally changed the way I interact with people.
posted by Mitheral at 10:50 PM on July 6 [9 favorites]


If it somehow turns out NOT to be the Phil Agre one, let me strongly recommend it anyway. I encountered it early in my IT career and for years kept a printed copy tacked up somewhere near my desk to remind me of how to manage interactions with users.
posted by briank at 5:21 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Wow, Phil Agre. I was just thinking of him the other day; how much I liked reading his Red Rock Eater digest. He's one of those early cyberspace voices which just went suddenly silent one day, without warning, and was never heard from again.
posted by Rash at 8:31 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Yes, that's it! The Phil Agre. I couldn't remember his name so my searching wasn't working. Thanks so much! (The other resources are also great.)
posted by eleanna at 8:43 AM on July 7


The Phil Agre story is actually a little weirder and sadder. By all accounts he had a kind of mental health "thing" and walked out of his job and former life. He had a family member and some concerned internet people on the look out for him who suspected the worst. He was located, found to be safe and not in danger and they left him alone and I don't know if anyone's heard of him since then. But he was at least somewhat heard from after he went silent.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 4:52 PM on July 7 [6 favorites]


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