[thelist] long, but gentle, rant about the non-ubiquity of technological knowledge (was RE:Newsletter as HTML Email)

Joel D Canfield joel at streamliine.com
Thu Feb 1 10:04:21 CST 2007

> With all due respect Joel, your thesis contradicts all the 
> reports I get
> from Nielsen Net Ratings and other internet usage trackers on 
> how ecommerce,
> for one example, is skyrocketing.
> Anecdotal evidence is good, but not conclusive in the face of well
> researched statistics.

that research simply means lots of people are using the internet. it
does not logically follow that, therefore, *everyone* can be expected to
use the internet. it especially does not follow that the aforementioned
'everyone' is willing to *learn some new skill* in order to use the
internet. my contention is that the number of people who, rather than
learning about technology, will find another way to accomplish their
goals, is larger than one might think. and rather than fussing about
whether or not empirical data is available to support that claim, I'll
address that below . . .

> Luddites are vanishing. 

only from internet usage statistics, not from the planet :)

> Cavemen have webcams. Savage tribes 
> are using email.
> It is a revolution, and it's up to us to Educate Our Family, 
> Friends, and Clients.

I don't think it is. That's exactly my point. [aside: my point is *not*
that the internet is not useful, widespread, improving, and a darn good
way to make a living without which I would be sad indeed]

Was it the automobile maker's job to teach drivers how to shift,
manually advance the spark, and do all the really geeky mechanical
things it took to drive a car at the turn of the last century? if it
was, why do virtually all cars on the road today do away with what's
complex about driving a car, and do everything possible to make it
easier? (yes, some folks prefer a manual transmission, and in some cases
it's a superior mechanical device, but it's not because teaching the
user was a better choice than simplifying the device.)

and that *is* my point - it's *not* our job to educate *anyone* (except
our own children) - it is our job to make technology so usable, so
intelligent, so advanced, that it requires no education to use it.

My Mom does not want a computer. It is not my job to 'educate' her into
a different perspective.

My client couldn't care less about how search engine optimization works,
or in some cases, even if it *does* work. Since I'm building it into
their site whether they ask for it or not, it's not my job to educate
them about SEO (unless they ask, in which case, since serving my client
is my job, answering their question is part of the job.)

My friend uses a computer at work, in order to track info on the trusses
his company sells and the clients who buy them. If I can build a better
tool to do that, he'll buy it - but it's not my job to teach him some
new skill in order to use the tool I build, it's my job to make a tool
that doesn't require instructions. (Obviously I subscribe heavily to the
Don Norman school of 'if it needs instructions it's too complicated.')

I understand your perspective, Steven - I spent the first 3/4 of my life
trying to teach the people around me how great technology was. One day I
realized that they don't care. They really don't. And they're not dying
off; they actually reproduce at about the same rate as geeks (actually,
geeks might even have a lower reproduction rate but that's another

And, as you did, I say it all with the respect you're due, Steven;
you're an intelligent congenial person and I much enjoy the
conversations we've had here and offline. I'm always glad to have my
thinking juices prompted, especially when I need them for that song I'm
supposed to be writing just to the right in that other window -->


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