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The gulf between non-techie people and the experts is so very wide

Bob_Milton
Grafter
Posts: 688
Registered: 31-07-2007

The gulf between non-techie people and the experts is so very wide

This was part of a comment made on a topic (Postini Email Security Trial) back in January 2008.
The bit more of the comment is as follows;
The gulf between non-techie people and the experts is so very wide and I honestly don't believe that most of the 'experts' actually grasp that.
So why repeat it ?
The situation is about the same as then. I am hoping that PlusNet have some plans to ease the problem of their advice etc not being decipherable by ordinary folk.
I don't remember the origin of this next quotation, but it is perhaps relevant.
Quote
Therefore, it is probably a good idea to shed some light on the matter, since I don’t want to leave people with the wrong impression. If the majority of people still don’t get it after this post, then that will mean that we have failed and we shouldn’t have published the research.

I don't want to minimise the importance of this problem, by inventing a headline, but is it not time for a 'Campaign for Clarity'.
It is too important to even think about a 'poll', because they are only answered by people who haunt these topics.
I hope that PlusNet will respond 'officially'.
52 REPLIES
mcgurka
Grafter
Posts: 764
Registered: 09-10-2007

Re: The gulf between non-techie people and the experts is so very wide

Seconded, I frequently have to explain things in my day-to-day work, and its painfully clear that a lot of people require non-techie explanations to techie problems.
notheruser
Grafter
Posts: 139
Registered: 08-01-2008

Re: The gulf between non-techie people and the experts is so very wide

The problem though, is that on a forum you often don't know what level of knowledge the poster has. sometimes the post gives it away - often it doesn't. You don't want to insult someone's intelligence by starting with "have you checked the power is on? is the green light lit on front of your router (that's the silver plastic box with the flashing lights and maybe an aerial on it!)".
Posters need to try and give as much info as possible, and perhaps even state their experience etc. when asking questions.
So instead of "can't get connected - what should I try" - "I have no internet connection, my router is switched on and the following lights are lit....etc." would be a big help to those who will reply to their posts.
Bob_Milton
Grafter
Posts: 688
Registered: 31-07-2007

Re: The gulf between non-techie people and the experts is so very wide

I think that my details displayed, and shown in my profile give a fair interpretation of my extent of knowledge. It is clear to me that many of the respondents still do not understand the depth of my ignorance. Some do explain quite clearly and in an understandable way. I will never be insulted by people trying to help. (As a matter of fact, I beleive that there are some folk who can only talk in a jargon, as an example someone today on a topic spoke of 'backscatter', I ask was it necessary to use that term on a forum which is inhabited by ordinary ignorant folk like me ?) I hope that it will not be suggested that I would be better off somewhere else, or in another time.
But, --- this topic is really directed at PlusNet officially.
I await the official response. I hope we are not going to wait too long before we are advised if they have any plans to ease the problems of the 'non-techies'.
Moderators note by James_H : Removed full quote of preceding post - its not needed in these circumstances. : link:rules
Community Veteran
Posts: 1,886
Registered: 05-04-2007

Re: The gulf between non-techie people and the experts is so very wide

Bob,
Whilst I can appreciate what you're saying, we have to try and cater for everyones' needs, and it's exceedingly difficult sometimes to post a term which someone would consider non techie, but others would struggle to understand what it means.
The moderating team recently had a meeting discussing this whole issue of catering for all levels of knowledge.
I'm not in a position to say exactly what is being done about it at the moment, however, I can tell you is that it was discussed at the moderators' meeting, and the minutes will be released soon, which should give further information.
In the meantime, please remember, what might not be techie to some, might be techie to another. All you have to do is ask someone to clarify what they mean as you don't understand.
Roger.
N/A

Re: The gulf between non-techie people and the experts is so very wide

Unfortunately there's little PN can do about the technical nature of the replies of the general populous posting here. PN can of course change the way that *they* respond to queries.
It also should be pointed out too that these boards aren't an official support channel direct to PlusNet.
PN do try to give useful input as much as possible, but the primary purpose is for discussion between customers, sometimes trying to give as much input as possible will inevitably mean that some of the background info might have to be decoded by those with more time available to go into detail.
There are of course times when the situation dictates that the forums are the only medium to be used for specific communications, for example some trials require a central collaborative discussion to iron out problems - in these circumstances however, one would expect that triallists would be people with a level of technical knowledge that makes it useful for them to be participants initially. (Why would somebody without technical knowledge volunteer for a technical trial?)
It may also be worth considering the history of PN forums - back in the early days it was almost exclusively populated by the techy types amongst us, its only relatively recently that they have become more mainstream and simplistic.
Community Veteran
Posts: 3,789
Registered: 08-06-2007

Re: The gulf between non-techie people and the experts is so very wide

As the recent user of the term Backscatter, I defend introducing it into the thread. The phenomenon *is* called Backscatter, and I included a link to a page explaining it.
The point was to educate any reader who so chose to enlighten themselves.  For me, forums provide an excellent place to further my knowledge as well as assist others. 
For those that are not technically inclined, there is no requirement to research any more into the subject.  This certainly doesn't mean that those people aren't welcome on the forums!
Unfortunately, these forums are used to provide technical assistance as a complement to the Plusnet support staff.  In doing so, it is often required to use technical terms and abbreviations.  Avoiding using such terms can add substantially to posting times, which reduces the number of responses that can be given to any number of threads.  I believe, as long as any technical terms are qualified in a way that an interested (or confused!) reader can find out their meaning, then they are acceptable.
I'm certainly in favour of providing a forum experience that all of Plusnet's staff and customers enjoy, and find beneficial.  Please let me know if I do post any technical 'jargon' that you don't understand and I'll be more than happy to provide additional links to more information where those terms are explained.
B.
Community Veteran
Posts: 14,469
Registered: 30-07-2007

Re: The gulf between non-techie people and the experts is so very wide

This is aways a tricky one.... Often you have no idea of the technical understanding of the person asking for help.
All you can do is answer as best you can in a way you hope people will undersand. If people don't (including the person asking for help) I would hope they will just say they don't understand and the answer can then be simplified.
I have no problem with people saying they don't get it - being from a technical background in OS / software support I come across all levels of understanding. When you speak to someone you can quickly get an understanding of there technical ability and you adjust your conversation accordingly, Fron an on-line format such as this it is very difficult to know.
jazz
Grafter
Posts: 240
Registered: 06-04-2007

Re: The gulf between non-techie people and the experts is so very wide

I understand Bob's concerns.  I'm non-techie too - though I think I've learned a tremendous amount from this forum while I've been with PlusNet. 
I appreciate that the forum membership is divided between tech and non-tech and, generally speaking techie folk post more often.  However I've always found posters are very willing to re-explain in layman's terms if there is a response which has not been clearly understood.  I think it's up to us non-techies to ask the question clearly as possible and indicate when further explanation is required.
Superuser
Superuser
Posts: 2,510
Thanks: 219
Fixes: 5
Registered: 06-04-2007

Re: The gulf between non-techie people and the experts is so very wide

One of the things that many people like about PlusNet is that they are prepared to come out and release the technical details of what and how they are doing things.  For some people that amount of details is what they are after.  Some non-teckies wouldn't understand it, but even if they could most probably wouldn't care about it.
Most non technical people who come here have a problem that they want to fix.  If they don't understand the solution someone is usually along pretty quickly to give details of exactly what they need to do.  ADSL, networks, email, web hosting etc... are all very technical.
Community Veteran
Posts: 1,699
Registered: 30-07-2007

Re: The gulf between non-techie people and the experts is so very wide

Hi
I'm one of those "not very technical" users (at least that's how I feel).  When I've asked for help on these pages, it's always been forthcoming, and at a good level.  If ever there was a term used I didn't understand, a simple "?" would usually suffice to get an explanation, and I had learned something along the way.
I think it's virtually impossible to discuss a subject without use of technical terms, and if you took time to explain every one, then every post would be pages long, and take hours to write.  The practice of including a link to another site with an explanation is excellent, and I've often followed those links and been happy to spend an hour link chasing if I've got the time.
Please keep up the good work of helping us ignoramuses to become less ignorant.
John
Community Veteran
Posts: 16,814
Thanks: 1,112
Fixes: 13
Registered: 06-11-2007

Re: The gulf between non-techie people and the experts is so very wide

Perhaps it would be possible to have a "scale of experience"  as a part of the User Profile, which should be a mandatory field to fill in, and then the said scale could be published with the "avatar" as a series of spanners?  i.e. 1 spanner  =  very little experience  to 5 spanners =  very experienced.  Or some other icon could be used...
The person posting the query would therefore be identified, and the response could be tailored to that level of experience..... 
N/A

Re: The gulf between non-techie people and the experts is so very wide

A good idea, but flawed by the breadth of discussion that goes on here.
<devils advocate>
I might be a 5 spanner man for some stuff, but for a lot of stuff I'd be a 1 spanner kinda guy. Many topics would fall in between.
How would I represent my understanding of the question I was asking on a post by post basis?
/<devils advocate>
Captainkirk
Grafter
Posts: 92
Registered: 07-12-2007

Re: The gulf between non-techie people and the experts is so very wide

Excellent idea Shutter - I see myself as having a little knowledge but not much - can keep the computer ticking along and change a hard drive if I have to - sometimes the technical talk gets lost on me but I wouldn't want it to be oversimplified - If I don't understand I'll always say - that way I learn a little more (hopefully)  Grin
Tracey
Captainkirk
Grafter
Posts: 92
Registered: 07-12-2007

Re: The gulf between non-techie people and the experts is so very wide

sitting here chuckling ..... the mind just bogles at the thought of a '5 spanner man'  Shocked Shocked  Grin Grin