Being Helpful   Leave a comment


So I got my early night on Monday! And then on Tuesday morning I woke up, a little late, with a headache. Not a proper, thumping headache, but the kind of dull niggling headache that is enough to upset any chance of thinking about anything.

So the day didn’t go well. A trip out in the sunshine for twenty minutes didn’t help.

And then to make things even worse, my sister called demanding to come ’round for tech support (I don’t know why. I installed Linux on her machine partly because I have no idea how to fix it, so that doing so wouldn’t be my problem). Not Wednesday? No. Fine, come around in a couple of hours (just before six). The plan: Sort out computer, go shopping, make dinner, get work done.


Despite a subtle reminder at about ten minutes to six, and acknowledgement that she’d soon arrive shortly therafter, she didn’t actually turn up until quarter to seven. When I’d given up wasting time waiting and was just about to go to Lidl.
And afterwards I didn’t get rid of her until well after nine, despite the computer problems not taking half an hour to sort. And then she telephoned to say that the wireless dongle had stopped working, so I had to email her the console commands to fix that (“How can I get emails? The dongle’s not working!” “You’ve got another ruddy computer.”). And then she called back *again* when I was trying to make dinner to complain that her portable hard disk wasn’t working. It was working. Absolutely fine. She was just being too bloody impatient. Finally, after some derision, she went away and left me alone.
Most annoyingly, the only thing she uses the computer for is playing an absolutely, irredeemably awful Facebook game that’s gone beyond “obsession” and is now well into “problem”.

In the end dinner didn’t happen until after midnight, so the day – and any hope of productivity – was ruined. And, of course, when I went to bed I was frustrated and angry about it (the only mistake I made was not saying “get lost”), so I couldn’t get to sleep.

It really pisses me off that people don’t understand that “working from home” doesn’t mean “not working”, or even “desperately requiring pointless things to do”. When I say “I am busy” it means “I am busy”, and also “so go away and leave me alone until I say otherwise”. Not “Yes I will fix your computer that is only used for pointless, trivial and probably even harmful tasks right now” or “yes I would like to listen to your drunken drivel and ranting”. I know it’s a subtle distinction, but I feel it’s one that should be respected.

And as a helpful (and genuinely accurate) guide to technical support, I shall post this comic from XKCD:

XKCD 627 - How do I print out a flowchart?

You see? That’s what you do. It’s all the person you’re pestering for help will do. So by doing it yourself you 1) will not waste their time, and 2) may learn something.
Computers are not dark, arcane devices. Using them requires little in the way of knowledge, skill, dexterity or ability, and if you can’t cope with “typing the problem into Google and doing what the results tell you” you probably shouldn’t be using one at all.


Posted 16 June 2011 by Colthor in Diary

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