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Computer Jargon Too Difficult for Office Workers 601

Posted by Zonk
from the ping-me dept.
slashflood writes "Most office workers find computer terms such as javascript and jpeg just as difficult to understand as a foreign language, according to a new survey. A poll of 1,500 staff by recruitment firm Computer People showed that three out of four wasted more than an hour every week simply finding out what some technical term meant. 'A massive 61% don't understand the difference between gigabytes, kilobytes and megabytes and as a result have sent e-mails with huge attachments that have blocked clients' systems.'"
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Computer Jargon Too Difficult for Office Workers

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  • by suso (153703) * on Friday September 23, 2005 @02:32PM (#13631127) Homepage Journal
    Its not just computer jargon that is confusing

    I still don't know what TPS stands for.
    • I still don't know what TPS stands for.
      I'm not sure but I've got some suggestions. [acronymfinder.com]
    • by Eslyjah (245320) on Friday September 23, 2005 @02:38PM (#13631210)
      I still don't know what TPS stands for.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TPS_report [wikipedia.org].
    • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Friday September 23, 2005 @02:38PM (#13631213) Homepage Journal
      "Test Procedure Specification" as defined by IEEE 829, mostly used in government work.

      And as far as I'm concerned, workers need to get used to the jargon or take a hike. Measurements and particular jargon abound in all walks of life. If you're making cookies, for example, you need to understand a cup, teaspoon, pint, etc. (or liter and the like if you're not American). If you build a shed, you need to know what a foot or meter is, don't you? In those disciples, you also need to know things like what a hammer is, or a mixer. Computers aren't any different. No one is asking that the average user understand coding, but understanding things like storage space is a requirement.
      • by xsbellx (94649) on Friday September 23, 2005 @02:55PM (#13631465) Homepage
        What is truly amzaing is how we haven't managed to blow up the world yet with all of these acronyms especially when they are so context specific.

        To my simple mind, TPS is "Transactions Per Second". "Test Procedure Specification" would never have entered my mind.
      • by stonedonkey (416096) on Friday September 23, 2005 @03:01PM (#13631564)
        Measurements and particular jargon abound in all walks of life. If you're making cookies, for example, you need to understand a cup, teaspoon, pint, etc. (or liter and the like if you're not American). If you build a shed, you need to know what a foot or meter is, don't you? In those disciples, you also need to know things like what a hammer is, or a mixer. Computers aren't any different.

        True, but a computer is a device, not a tradecraft. Furthermore, unlike a device like a car or pocket calculator, it is a platform for entertainment and productivity, and it is far more complex than both and truly requires an additional vocabulary to operate it efficiently. And the complexity isn't necessarily the hardware, but in the lack of standardization, the abstraction of the interface, and in the necessities of modern security. The home computer is still a novelty to the general public, believe it or not. Partly because it's still a relatively expensive investment and prone to all kinds of exploits, tricks, and scams as soon as you connect it to the Internet.

        Think about evertyhing you must put in place to properly secure a Windows PC, for example. First, you must install a virus scanner. For the majority of users, this *is* a must, because they really aren't savvy about e-mail attachements, message spoofing, and shady-looking websites. Then you need at least a software firewall, which pops up a prompt the first time each app request a network connection -- and the prompts aren't always very informative. Win32 Generic Host Process? Um, okay, I guess. Either that, or you get a router, and that requires hooking it up with the modem and the computer. And God help you if you need to start forwarding ports and setting up wireless encryption. Then there's IE's default settings that allow browser helper objects, referral IDs, and every cookie that gets thrown your way.

        So what to do when you don't even know what a firewall is? When you aren't aware of the importance of shrinking down that huge "jpeg" you took with your digital camera before mass mailing it to all your friends and family who have email addresses? There's a lot of technical awareness that /. takes for granted, but it's important to remember that we represent a very small percentage of the populace.
        • by Fulcrum of Evil (560260) on Friday September 23, 2005 @03:23PM (#13631952)

          So what to do when you don't even know what a firewall is?

          You learn. A firewall is a very simple idea - it attempts to keep dangerous stuff away from you, just like a real firewall.

          When you aren't aware of the importance of shrinking down that huge "jpeg" you took with your digital camera before mass mailing it to all your friends and family who have email addresses?

          Knowing about files and their sizes is a basic part of operating a computer. That's like driving a car and not knowing that you have to change the oil.

          • by Enigma_Man (756516) on Friday September 23, 2005 @03:36PM (#13632156) Homepage
            A lot of people complain about automotive analogies, but I really like them:

            Knowing about files and their sizes is a basic part of operating a computer. That's like driving a car and not knowing that you have to change the oil.

            Not anymore. Any new car you buy, they tell you to bring the car in for service every 3000, 5000, or what-have-you miles. They don't tell you every specific thing they're going to do. They might not even necessarily mention that they're changing the oil. Obviously most people have been brought up enough around cars to realize that you need to change the oil every so often, but that's often the extent of their knowledge. If you bring up other maintenance, like flushing of coolant, suspension alignment and greasing, brake fluid changing; a lot more people will know a lot less information about it. While it may be obvious to an auto-enthusiast, people just don't know what they have to do, which is why manufacturers have "service intervals" where they do _something_ and your car continues to work. It stands to reason that most people probably need something like this for thier computer, something that automatically scans/protects/assumes things for them, such that for 99% of people, their computer "Just Works", just like for 99% of people, the service you get at the dealership so your car "just works" is ok-happy-fine.

            -Jesse
          • I'd wager that a fair percentage of drivers don't realize that they have to change the oil, either.
    • I still don't know what TPS stands for.

      Tiny Plastic Sword, of course!

      http://www.kingdomofloathing.com/ [kingdomofloathing.com]

    • by op12 (830015) on Friday September 23, 2005 @02:45PM (#13631311) Homepage
      I still don't know what TPS stands for.

      Didn't you get that memo?
  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Friday September 23, 2005 @02:32PM (#13631128)

    I laughed myself sick reading this article...especilly the oh-so-helpful second page, entitled 'what it all means'.

    Here's an especially good one from the list:
    • Excell - this helps to run programs on your PC.

    With 'helpful' articles like this, us IT professionals should remain in demand for a good long time. ^_^

    But seriously, a good IT professional isn't one who's good at explaining the jargon, or getting laypeople to understand the technical isues...it's one that takes care of the issues for the laypeople, so they don't need to worry about them. A correctly managed IT department should be all but transparent to the other people in the office. Everything should just work, with the IT guy making certain the users' needs are met before they even know what they are. In a correctly managed facility, the IT guy's phone should almost never ring.
    • Erm. There were no studies cited by this article, making it even more laughable. Some guy in Wales says Office people have a hard time understanding ITSpeak. I say I have a hard time understanding a welsh accent in the FIRST place, so it's completely possible that if someone was discussing Network setup in Welsh I wouldn't even have anything to compare it to, seeing as NetworkSpeak is so foreign to even certain types of IT professionals.

      But regardless, it has no 'base' layer of knowledge, no gradatio
    • by canfirman (697952) <pdavi25@ya[ ].ca ['hoo' in gap]> on Friday September 23, 2005 @02:44PM (#13631288)
      Also notice from TFA:

      Among office workers 26% aren't sure what a firewall does and therefore have been tempted to turn it off.

      ...and yet, on the second page, they didn't even explain what a firewall was, so I guess that 26% still won't know.

    • Is it some UK term that I'm missing? Or is he just proving he is part of the statistics in his report?
    • by Nos. (179609) <andrew@NospaM.thekerrs.ca> on Friday September 23, 2005 @02:47PM (#13631341) Homepage

      But seriously, a good IT professional isn't one who's good at explaining the jargon, or getting laypeople to understand the technical isues...it's one that takes care of the issues for the laypeople, so they don't need to worry about them.

      I think you came very close to hitting the nail on the head, but instead walked away with a brusined thumb. For most of us, understanding the issues that these people don't understand is common knowledge to us. We can take the time to explain these things to our customers or we can fix the problem, we can explain how to avoid similar problems in the future, or structure the environment to avoid them. To me, a "good IT professional" is one who recognizes what the customer wants and provides. Having worked a few help desk and similar type positions, I can tell you that some people don't want the problem fixed, they want to understand the problem. Others don't care, they just want it to work.

      Now, there may be other obstacles to providing exactly what the customer wants. Most help desks don't want you spending 20 minutes on the phone with someone explaining why sending Grandma who's on dial up, 20 pictures from your 8MP digital camera may not be a good idea. However, I've always found that taking the time you have available to explain things at the level the customer wants, results in a much happier customer.

      I said customers, but this of course can apply to anyone for whom you are working on a problem for. This also applies outside of IT. When I had someone in last year to clean our ducts, I spent a lot of time talking with him to find out what I could do to reduce dust and such in the air and picked up a lot of valuable information that has saved me money since then. Next time I need the ducts cleaned, I'll be calling him back because he was willing to pass on information and experience to me.

      • I'd go a step further and say that a good IT professional also operates in a manner designed to increase the knowledge and abilities of coworkers regardless of whether or not they want to learn. In this I don't mean being annoying, forcing people to learn, or being confrontational... but rather using subtle strategies to demonstrate or convey knowledge.

        For example, a number of my users occassionally use loaner laptops for presentations, but they really do not "get" dual displays. Why does projector scr
    • I almost spit out my tea while reading the worm part.

      But to comment on the quote: "But I don't feel I should know more - that is their job. If we did it all ourselves they would be out of a job." There is a big difference between knowing how to do day to day things (like not running programs from shady websites / MSN / email / etc.) and knowing how to configure a computer.

      To entend the car analogy, I recall being a small child and not knowing what the "triangle" button did. And, being four or five, I had
    • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Friday September 23, 2005 @02:49PM (#13631379) Homepage
      But seriously, a good IT professional isn't one who's good at explaining the jargon, or getting laypeople to understand the technical isues...it's one that takes care of the issues for the laypeople, so they don't need to worry about them.

      This is only sort of true. Sometimes users have to know some jargon. Sometimes users have to understand the technical issues well enough to avoid them. A real helpdesk pro (or anyone that deals with customers/users) will avoid jargon when possible. When technical issues need explaining, a good IT professional will distill the issues into a couple simple metaphorical ideas, making them no more complicated than they must be, and expect that the user probably won't remember the explanation for next time.

      Some users even insist on knowing why. You tell them you can't send an EXE through the e-mail system, and they ask "why?". You tell them it's a security issue, and they say, "so?"

      Some users won't accept any explanation they're given if it keeps them from doing what they want, and that's the real measure of your skill. How well does your helpdesk tech deal with the belligerent CEO who is completely irrational and has unrealistic expectations? If your tech can walk away, without giving in to the unrealistic demands, but also without the CEO feeling insulted or ignored, your tech has just earned his paycheck.

      So what am I saying? Forget the education angle. Users can't be educated. The real key to helpdesk interaction is to keep your users happy and feeling good about their computers, so that when you tell them "You can't do that," you won't really have to explain why (with all the jargon). They'll just believe you.

      I'm barely joking.

    • Yet... we're the ones who live in fear of outsourcing. Ain't that a kick in the teeth?

    • In a correctly managed facility, the IT guy's phone should almost never ring.

      Mine never rings. It's not because the lusers don't have problems, I've just instilled the correct level of fear in them - turned my fair share into "high protien animal feed slurry".

      Let me re-write your conclusion a bit:

      In a correctly managed facility, with correctly managed lusers, the BOFH's phone will never ring.

      Soko
    • My favorite was: "Jpeg - this is a compressed picture file."

      Not very helpful is it, when he doesn't bother to define "compressed?"

    • by frodo from middle ea (602941) on Friday September 23, 2005 @03:01PM (#13631573) Homepage
      Me and my office mate back from 4 years, use to play a little game, when we got bored of programming.

      We would try to explain "what we do", in simple lay-man's terms, It was not as easy as we thought it would be. Expecially if you are working on stuff like lax parser, CORBA,.

      There were times when we couldn't even begin to describe what we do, without using some kind of jargon or other. As we got better in the game, we narrowed down what terms we could use and , by the end of 3rd year, we weren't even using the term computer in our description.

      It worked wonders for me, at my next job interview. My would be boss asked to describe my current job (which involved building and distributing a J2EE app using perl scripts ) , to sombody like a stock broker. When I did, he told me that's the best answer he has ever heard from a techie, and I got the Job :-)

  • by MoxCamel (20484) * on Friday September 23, 2005 @02:33PM (#13631144)
    Among office workers 26% aren't sure what a firewall does and therefore have been tempted to turn it off.

    Among CIOs, an amazingly large number of them think that office workers should have the permissions to turn their firewall off.

    A massive 61% ... have sent e-mails with huge attachments that have blocked clients' systems.

    A massive number of mail administrators don't know how to configure their mailservers thus allowing this to happen.

    I could go on...

    • A massive number of mail administrators don't know how to configure their mailservers thus allowing this to happen.

      Yeah, you try explaining to a person that needs to be taught what Excell is how to share their 15 meg PDF via FTP, or a shared folder.

      Most of the people I deal with do not understand what happens when a bounce they recieve says "mail quota full". When they see an error that says "mail size exceeded" they'll assume the server is broken and tell you to "please fix ASAP," literally.
    • A massive 61% ... have sent e-mails with huge attachments that have blocked clients' systems.

      A massive number of mail administrators don't know how to configure their mailservers thus allowing this to happen.

      True confessions time: many years ago, I ran the mail server for a small non-profit ISP. One day, it started choking suddenly at regular intervals, for a few minutes at a time, before suddenly going back to normal.

      As it turns out, two of the users of the mail system were working for local business: o

    • by Neil Watson (60859) on Friday September 23, 2005 @03:07PM (#13631682) Homepage
      Ok, so you limit the size of allowed email attachments to a frugal 3MB. Now someone sends a 3MB attachment to all 500 people that use the mail server.
  • Empower IT with HR's traditional roles of hiring, promotion, and termination. Allow IT to veto any hire or promotion decision, and to terminate employees who are completely techno-clueless.

    This will aid the security mission greatly as well.

    Another word for this arrangement is "meritocracy".
    • Re:Simple solution (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Pichu0102 (916292)
      Well, a more appropriate decision would be to train those that are tech-clueless and help them learn more things about technology. Firing employees because they don't know something they never learned seems a bit harsh, especially since most of those employees could become quick learners at technology.
      • That is a good solution, when and where it does work, but frequently it does not work. There are people who can't and won't learn. If IT skills and knowledge are indeed important for their jobs, then they are unqualified and are in need of remediation -- whether that be training and education, transferral to a position where those skills are not essential, giving them an IT "seeing eye dog" to follow them around and explain and handhold every thing they do, or termination. Whatever works best should be d
      • Re:Simple solution (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jjeff1 (636051)
        Using a computer is part of any kind of office job, and plenty of other non-office jobs these days. It's along the same lines as using a phone or sorting through a file cabinet or any other common office tool.
        Think of it this way... Worker is given work -> worker does something -> worker produces finished product. That something might include alphabetizing files, or driving their car, or hammering in nails. If the worker couldn't read, couldn't drive a car, or couldn't use a hammer, we'd call them u
    • Re:Simple solution (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Friday September 23, 2005 @02:45PM (#13631317) Homepage Journal
      Empower IT with HR's traditional roles of hiring, promotion, and termination.

      And you wonder why people hate IT departments.

      Listen, this "holier than thou" attitude is just stupid. Do you know how to diversify a portfolio to meet acceptable risk according to an efficient frontier formula? Well, some of those "idiot users" do. Does that make them smarter than you? If so, should they have veto power on how you run the network?

      IT people are not necessarily smarter, despite what they may think. The goal is to work together in a company, and find solutions that take into account problems that employees may have. Which also means that locking everyone's computer so they can't do anything may not be the correct solution. Maybe, just maybe, users occassionly have a need that you're going to have to work extra to fullfill. That's why you were hired, not so you can sit on your duff and complain about all the work that users make for you.
  • News at 11... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Steamhead (714353) on Friday September 23, 2005 @02:34PM (#13631155) Homepage
    In other news people have trouble understanding lawyer speak, medical terms, names of car components, how to build a house to proper code, publishing industry slang etc...

    I guess that means people just have to learn eh?
    • As well, people who take a trip to France often have trouble understanding what people are saying. If you take that trip, you either expect to be confused or you learn the language. The same goes with computers, cars, and the rest of your excellent examples.
    • Re:News at 11... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by swestcott (44407)
      OH my god Learn somthing new you must be crazy I want you to do it for me and no I am not going to watch and learn how to do it my self
    • Re:News at 11... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tackhead (54550) on Friday September 23, 2005 @02:41PM (#13631246)
      > In other news people have trouble understanding lawyer speak, medical terms, names of car components, how to build a house to proper code, publishing industry slang etc...
      >
      > I guess that means people just have to learn eh?

      And that's the fundamental problem. Most people these days not only don't think they have to learn, they don't think they should have to learn. (And why, indeed, should they? Since the 1970s and 1980s, their teachers pretty much gave up teaching in the name of boosting self-esteem. If self-esteem is something everybody has - that is, if it's not something earned through performance, then everybody can feel great about themselves even though they're a bunch of ignorant fuckspittles who'll be first under the water when the revolving hurricane comes.)

      Every time you hear someone say "I shouldn't have to read the manual to figure out how to use it!", you're seeing another example of the problem.

      • Re:News at 11... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dominion (3153)
        (And why, indeed, should they? Since the 1970s and 1980s, their teachers pretty much gave up teaching in the name of boosting self-esteem. If self-esteem is something everybody has - that is, if it's not something earned through performance, then everybody can feel great about themselves even though they're a bunch of ignorant fuckspittles who'll be first under the water when the revolving hurricane comes.)

        I've heard this over and over again, and I fail to see where this concept of education originated. N
    • The difference:

      You can get a for dummies book on your computer. Countless free guides exist online that will help you solve any computer problem you may ever run into. There is tons of quick, easily available computer information.

      Likewise, your car comes with a manual, and an endless supply of car-oriented-websites will provide you with insite on the parts of your car.

      There are numerous free help information systems available for medical advice. Here in Canada, all the medical treatment you could ever wa
    • My Mother (Score:3, Funny)

      by Arandir (19206)
      I was going to post about my visit with my mother and the argument we had over computers. Then I saw your post.

      My mother gives people legal advice without being a lawyer: "Save your money, here's a website that will make a durable power of attorney for you that you can print out and sign."

      My mother gives medical advice without being a physician: "Here, take these pills for your cold, they really helped my thyroid problem."

      My mother knows next to nothing about cars, but that doesn't stop her: "My check engin
  • The article mentions foreign languages, but we aren't asking people to be able to read code.

    Learning a few common terms is no different than understanding what taco or rendevous mean.
  • by kevin_conaway (585204) on Friday September 23, 2005 @02:37PM (#13631184) Homepage
    Some people don't need to know what javascript is. They just want to use their computer to type documents and read email. I'd say a good portion of business users need their computers for just that.

    As far as sending huge files goes, they still don't need to know the differences between file sizes. People shouldn't be sending large documents through email anyway. A few megs at the MAX. Public drives or a webserver for anything else and the users should be educated on that.
    • You say: they still don't need to know the differences between file sizes.

      Then you say: People shouldn't be sending large documents through email anyway. A few megs at the MAX. Public drives or a webserver for anything else and the users should be educated on that.

      The problem is that these people have no conception of "a few megs" or even what's "large" and "what's small". This is basic computer literacy, which many people don't have, and what's worse, don't think they need.

      Of course, part of the problem
    • As far as sending huge files goes, they still don't need to know the differences between file sizes. People shouldn't be sending large documents through email anyway.

      If people don't need to know the differences between file sizes, how do you expect them to identify which files are too large for email?
    • As far as sending huge files goes, they still don't need to know the differences between file sizes. People shouldn't be sending large documents through email anyway. A few megs at the MAX. Public drives or a webserver for anything else and the users should be educated on that.

      So, if they don't need to know the differences between file sizes, how do they determine what stuff they can email versus what goes on the public share? If you're suggesting that file size limits be configured on the mail server, th

  • by Namronorman (901664) on Friday September 23, 2005 @02:37PM (#13631185)
    Has anyone else had a friend that works in an office enviroment that is extremely paranoid call you up screaming that the hackers have their port?
  • WTF? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by garcia (6573) on Friday September 23, 2005 @02:37PM (#13631186) Homepage
    A massive 61% don't understand the difference between gigabytes, kilobytes and megabytes and as a result have sent e-mails with huge attachments that have blocked clients' systems.

    And a massive 99% of people don't need to understand that. Mail servers should be designed to ignore e-mails of a larger size than they can handle. It's not up to the users to understand KB, MB, GB, mail server loads, HTTP, FTP, SMTP, SSH, whatever.

    Their understand lies in doing their jobs effectively, whatever that may be. When my doctor refers to medical jargon I may not know what it means and may be confused (I'm generally well versed in my particular conditions) so do you really expect them to understand what the jargon in your field is?

    Blah.
    • by Feyr (449684)

      Mail servers should be designed to ignore e-mails of a larger size than they can handle

      mine is, yet i still get an amazing number of angry queries asking why i was blocking their very important email!

      it's set at 25megs damnit! i am NOT increasing that, no matter how much you bitch.
    • Re:WTF? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by merreborn (853723)
      When my doctor refers to medical jargon I may not know what it means and may be confused... so do you really expect them to understand what the jargon in your field is?

      I'm not a mechanic -- hell, I don't even change my own oil -- but I understand "spark plug", "alternator", "transmission", "brake pad", "muffler"...

      I'm not a doctor, but I understand "catheter", "seratonin reuptake inhibitor", "priapism", "cyst", "tumor", "intestinal tract"...

      So why the fuck can't these people understand that 1,00
    • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by eMartin (210973) on Friday September 23, 2005 @02:50PM (#13631396)
      "And a massive 99% of people don't need to understand that. Mail servers should be designed to ignore e-mails of a larger size than they can handle. It's not up to the users to understand KB, MB, GB, mail server loads, HTTP, FTP, SMTP, SSH, whatever."

      I don't get this.

      You suggest blocking emails past a certain size, but you don't think people need to understand those sizes?

      How are they supposed to know whether what they are trying to send is too big or not?
    • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CyricZ (887944) on Friday September 23, 2005 @02:51PM (#13631400)
      Having a mail server simply ignore messages greater than a certain size will no doubt cause just as many problems as it will solve. Now the user will wonder, "Why the hell didn't my email get sent?" and chances are they'll hassle their IT guy or administrator about being unable to sent their mail. Either way, it will be their lack of very basic knowledge that is causing the problems. And until they acquire such knowledge, perhaps the best thing to do is for them to not use such systems at all.
    • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by FauxPasIII (75900) on Friday September 23, 2005 @02:56PM (#13631483)
      > When my doctor refers to medical jargon I may not know what it means and may be confused
      > (I'm generally well versed in my particular conditions)

      If your doctor regularly says things you don't understand, and you don't bother to ask/learn,
      some day you might die as a result. I would have died in July of 1996 if I hadn't been
      curious at that the acronym "TBI" stood for. I was slated for spot radiation to complement
      my high-dose cytoxan chemotherapy. If I had gotten the total body irradiation that was
      written on my order, I would not have survived.

      Jargon is fucking important. People should take the time to understand it.
  • by MudButt (853616) on Friday September 23, 2005 @02:37PM (#13631188)
    This is why I like to throw in the term "flux capacitor" every once in a while when I'm explaining stuff to end users...
  • It doesn't exactly take a rocket scientist to grok that most these complaints are from complete morons - duffers with more shine that substance, more muck that spine. :)
  • Education (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Apreche (239272) on Friday September 23, 2005 @02:37PM (#13631193) Homepage Journal
    Proper computing education should be mandatory for high school graduation and equivalent. Not knowing this kind of information in today's world is the equivalent of being illiterate. You wouldn't hire an illiterate person to read books all day. So don't hire a computer illiterate person to sit at a computer all day.
  • In related news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SlayerofGods (682938) on Friday September 23, 2005 @02:37PM (#13631194)
    Your average office worker is lazy and doesn't want to learn what those terms mean.
    The terms aren't the problem; it's the fact that your average cubical dweller simply doesn't want to learn them.
    I've personally explained how to fix a the same problem several times to the same person, yet they keep asking me how to fix it every time it comes up. If they'd simply listen the first time and learn how to do it rather then noding the whole time maybe they'd be able to help themselves once and a while.
  • Rubs hands together a'la Mr Burns

    Our long-term job security protection program is going precisely as planned.

    Excell - this helps to run programs on your PC.

    Especially with assistance like this from our allies in the media
  • Well (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ikn (712788) <rsmith29@a[ ]ni.nd.edu ['lum' in gap]> on Friday September 23, 2005 @02:39PM (#13631222) Homepage
    They don't seem to understand basic instructions, either. "Don't open any suspicious attachments, especially from someone you don't know." == "Open anything! It's fun! Oooh, pretty smileys!"
  • From TFA:

    'But I don't feel I should know more - that is their job. If we did it all ourselves they would be out of a job.'

    Oh, it's users like this that drive me nuts! Because this user feels she 'should know more' is the reason we have so many computer viruses/worms running rampant. I'll bet any cash that she'll be the first person who's demanding the IT staff fix her PC when things go wrong - probably because she didn't know but felt she doesn't feel she 'should know more'.

    (/rant)

  • by Rinzai (694786) on Friday September 23, 2005 @02:42PM (#13631264) Journal
    GIF USB IT, Java Ethernet Perl. PHP? Jpeg bandwidth kilobyte, iPod Bluetooth nano buffer kilobyte!

    Visio, visio--powerpoint PCX GIMP tar c++ RAM. Outlook? Gigahertz!

  • Users shouldn't have to know about a firewall, and the IT department should have their computers locked down so much, they should never even know there is one.

    HOWEVER...if your job requires you to use a computer all day, you should know something about them. Saying "I shouldn't have to know that stuff to do my job" is a copout.

    As far as e-mails cloggin the servers....well, that shouldn't happen unless the server is really underpowered/misconfigured. Now, users sending HUGE attachments for no reason...
  • A poll of 1,500 staff by recruitment firm Computer People showed that three out of four wasted more than an hour every week simply finding out what some technical term meant.

    I see, so learning things and educating yourself is a waste of time. I love our modern mentality.

  • My Secretary (Score:2, Insightful)

    by OctoberSky (888619)
    My secretary just came in and said "my email is broken" Well rather than ask her what the problem is I just went out to see. Seems what one of her stupid Cursor/screensaver/spyware/smiley things locked up and borked the system. I just hit Ctrl+Alt+Delete and ended Outlook, Dog thing (not sure, don't ask) and another unnecessary program. It gave me no real problems and I walked away. She asked what I did, I just say "I am not sure". See the problem is not that they don't get it. The problem is that we try
  • by kbahey (102895) on Friday September 23, 2005 @02:47PM (#13631345) Homepage
    Actually, this is normal.

    Every field has its jargon that is virtually undecipherable for outsiders.

    Think about medicine for example, and the names of medical conditions.

    Or think about botany, or construction engineering.

    Where the problem lies is that unlike the above fields, computers have become pervasive, and embedded everywhere.

    If computers have remained in mainframe rooms with an army of programmers and operators, this would never have been an issue. It became an issue after the PC was invented and made it to every office and every home...

    Live with it ...
  • by justforaday (560408) on Friday September 23, 2005 @02:47PM (#13631347)
    My boss has been using computers since the early 80s, and was a tech journalist during that time. He still doesn't even understand the simple concept of a zip file. I don't think it's just the jargon that's too difficult. I think it's simply that computers are too difficult for many people. And no, I don't think that dumbing any of it down will ever make it better. I really think it's just that some people out there are too dense to begin to understand anything remotely technical.
  • A massive 61% don't understand the difference between gigabytes, kilobytes and megabytes and as a result have sent e-mails with huge attachments that have blocked clients' systems.'

    Give 'em all 28.8k modems, that'll teach 'em!
  • by yagu (721525) * <yayaguNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday September 23, 2005 @02:49PM (#13631375) Journal

    My experience has been that office workers (non-IT) are not the only ones who are confused by IT jargon.

    From the article:

    • Among office workers 26% aren't sure what a firewall does and therefore have been tempted to turn it off.

      Yeah, well a LOT of IT people don't really know what a firewall does either. I've cringed at some of the definitions of firewalls I've heard peer IT workers give for firewall. And, of those who have an inkling, I would not be surprised at all if 75% of IT workers don't really know how and why firewalls work.

    • A massive 61% don't understand the difference between gigabytes, kilobytes and megabytes...

      I've seen IT people play fast and loose with these terms too. I've been on projects where estimations are off by 1 to 6 magnitudes because some erudite IT person didn't understand the differences. (I got an emergency call one time because an entire project was going to get canceled because a team member had confused baud (bits per second) with Bps (bytes per second, combined with parity bits, essentially a magnitude difference) and had said what we were attempting would kill our network. I walked them through a pencil estimate and put them back on track that night with an estimate of bandwidth within 2%.

    • Around 48% are confused by different kinds of files like Jpegs and PDFs and don't know how they should be used.

      Again, find me an IT team fo which the majority knows this, too. It's amazing how many times jpg's vs. gif's vs. pdf vs. pbm, etc. are selected mostly on the basis of only what the person involved knows.

    • further 23% are not sure whether to upload or download - requiring further conta ct with the IT department for an explanation.

      yeah, good luck getting consistent answers on this one. Again, my experience, IT people can be amazingly clueless about the notion of "direction" and server-side vs. client-side technology.

    • Nearly 75% of people said they spend more than an hour every week simply trying to find out what something means in order to finish a task, according to the survey by recruitment consultants Computer People.

      Yeah, me too! The IT jargon is inconsistent, overloaded, pseudointellectual, and obfuscated. It's a constantly moving target making true currency in technology jargon a royal pain-in-the-ass.

    • And it isn't just the older generation who feel out of the loop - more than one in two (54%) office workers under 30 have made a blunder because of confusion over the meaning of IT jargon.

      This is NOT a surprise. As may be inferred from my previous points, IT "experts" probably reach this level of blundering also.

    The fluid and obfuscated universe of IT jargon has long driven me crazy. And foisting it on the lay community is a crime -- it's fscked enough in the IT universe, who the heck would expect the user community to spend the time and energy to stay current. I would like to think in an industry as driven by rigorous technological underpinnings the language would distill to a more formal, stable, and consistent language. Unfortunately, that's not been my observation.

    Theory(?) The language is less driven by the technology and more by the commercial/business bent, thus pushing all in IT to distinguish themselves with the best and most sophisticated sounding terminology. (Just my theory.)

  • It's worth remembering that what you know you had to learn. These technical terms are not "too difficult." They are merely unknown or unfamiliar, and many people couldn't give a rat's ass what they mean, because they don't have to. Danish is not "too difficult for English-speakers," it's just not what they speak. If I said "crocheting patterns and terminology are 'too difficult' for IT workers," you'd spot the fallacy right away.
  • Let's teach them computer jargon the fun way [nyud.net]!
  • Metric system (Score:2, Insightful)

    by doorbot.com (184378)

    A massive 61% don't understand the difference between gigabytes, kilobytes and megabytes and as a result have sent e-mails with huge attachments that have blocked clients' systems.

    This is partially a side effect of not understanding the metric system. Cue Grandpa Simpson's quote about gas milage. While certainly a mail administrator can configure this to avoid overflowing their own system, the end user will still generate a complaint as to why they can't send mail. The real misunderstanding is file size c

  • Megabytes - the amount of disc space on your computer and the amount of memory


    Gigabytes - also refers to disc space, but measures it in larger quantities


    Excell - this helps to run programs on your PC.

    Is this supposed to help or hurt things? These definitions don't explain anything. Maybe this is the problem. What they should get is a simple course or some terms with proper definitions posted. If people learn the basics, they can figure out a lot more on their own. These just raise more questions than

  • The number of idiots I work with who don't know the difference between a hard drive, a modem and their PC is astounding, and most of these people are also home users.

    I just love getting the calls about how "My Microsoft isn't working".
  • by jav1231 (539129) on Friday September 23, 2005 @03:00PM (#13631549)
    If "Computer People" has a staff that doesn't understand these terms, perhaps they should change their name. Maybe I'm reading this wrong, but it sounds like they're doing piss-poor resume screening.
  • Culture (Score:3, Insightful)

    by garver (30881) on Friday September 23, 2005 @03:07PM (#13631675)
    I've flipped jobs more than I'd like to admit, but I usually land in telecom. Despite that these jobs are all in the same specialty and usually java development work, I still spend months trying to understand what's going on in a group meeting. Every worksite has it's own culture (e.g. terms, in jokes, personalities) and much of it has nothing to do with technology.
  • by tigheig (546423) on Friday September 23, 2005 @03:23PM (#13631966)
    So... if the worker is working a 40 hour work week, then they are essentially saying that they are spending 1/40th of their time learning the commonly accepted terminology used on what amounts to being their primary productivity tool. And I can see the term "wasted" being used if they were never going to use the words again, but I would hope that once they've learned the word and its meaning that it will stick for a little while.

    If they were going to be an auto mechanic would they be "wasting" their time learning the terms "torque wrench" or "floor jack", as well as what they mean and how to use them?

    At one point the article says:

    'It's like driving a car - you don't have to be a mechanical engineer to drive and most people will learn something about the mechanics of cars, like what the spark plugs or carburetors do. But with the computer people have not got to the point where they are willing to lift up the bonnet and have a go themselves.'

    The analogy is faulty. They're not being asked to swap out the hard disk, install a new video card, or bump up the RAM, just know the basics of their tool. In a large corporation the computer is the equivalent of a fleet car or other company asset the employee is being allowed to use. If the employee wants to "lift up the bonnet and have a go themselves" they need to buy one with their own dime and learn. I'm sure most desktop support people have had more than enough experience with repairing systems from users who decided to "have a go themselves". To continue the broken analogy, a driver that doesn't know the difference between an accelerator pedal and a break pedal probably shouldn't be driving.

    Nearly 75% of people said they spend more than an hour every week simply trying to find out what something means in order to finish a task, according to the survey by recruitment consultants Computer People.

    I've spent huge amounts of time trying to work my way through labyrinthine HR policies, Employee Manuals, and other detritus of the corporate world. It comes with the territory when you have to deal with something new.

    Excell - this helps to run programs on your PC.

    I feel much better now. Does the author mean Microsoft Excel? If this is what the writer of the article thinks "Excell"does then much of the tone and content of the article itself becomes clearer. And the HR department shoulldn't be hiring people who are this easily confused.
  • good advice (Score:3, Insightful)

    by yEvb0 (904248) on Friday September 23, 2005 @03:25PM (#13631993)
    Managing director of Computer People Adam Fletcher said the best IT professionals will tailor their language to their audience, explaining themselves in layman's terms to ordinary office workers.

    1) good idea. Ignorance of computer terms may be frustrating to those of us who use them fluently, but know-it-alls who overuse jargon (in any field) to appear smarter to novices are just assholes.

    2) is Manging Director of Computer People Adam Fletcher's real job title? Is IT Director jargon? ;)

  • by King_TJ (85913) on Friday September 23, 2005 @03:26PM (#13632010) Journal
    I can see this from both sides. On one hand, it's easy to say "Users need to *learn* the basics. If they're going to just say "I refuse to be bothered to learn what a megabyte is!" - then maybe they need to work elsewhere!" On the other hand, there's a strong argument for setting up a more user-friendly environment that makes a lot of this unnecessary. (EG. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Apple's Mail application in OS X is smart enough so when you tell it you want to attach an image to your message, it asks you if you'd like it sent "Small, Medium or Large size" and auto-scales to one of 3 reasonable preset sizes suitable for emailing. If this became standard behavior for all popular email clients, most of the problem of clogging mail servers with huge graphics attachments would disappear.)

    Like most things, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle. Educate the users on *some* of the jargon, but try to construct an environment where as many technical details are invisible as possible, so they only need to know a few basic concepts to function in the office.

    The biggest obstacle I see these days is the tendency for smaller or mid-sized businesses to try to cust costs on I.T. - eliminating full-time I.T. support staff, in favor of going with a service contract or a part-time worker. This does prevent the problem of paying someone to sit around and surf the web, etc. while they "wait for something to break". But it also causes such things as the situation mentioned in the article where users could simply "turn off their firewall" or make other harmful system changes. (EG. Can't send out my email!? Hey, maybe it's my network card settings! I remember the support guy at home walking me though that stuff in my "Control Panel" under "Networking" when I called for help with my DSL!. I'll try changing some of these numbers around in here!) Users are given more "administrator-type" system privileges due to the lack of real, full-time I.T. staff, and they begin tinkering with things, knowing it'll be a while before they get help otherwise. Then you've got much worse problems....
  • by Frequency Domain (601421) on Friday September 23, 2005 @03:28PM (#13632040)
    and half the population have IQ's below that...
  • by razmaspaz (568034) on Friday September 23, 2005 @03:32PM (#13632094)
    Excell - this helps to run programs on your PC

    What is Excell and what does this mean. I have never heard of it, but aparrently I should have it, because otherwise programs won't run on my PC.

    My favorite comment though was the PDF- a document that can be read on any PC. Oh yeah? Can it be read on the PC that doesn't have a PDF reader on it? Hmm!
  • by theManInTheYellowHat (451261) on Friday September 23, 2005 @05:37PM (#13633515)
    Mostly they don't look at how big the file is in the first place. Or realize that it is a big file.

    I had a group of users who had a one page MS Word file that they were using as a template that got broken somehow and it became 12 Megabytes. When they got a complaint from a recipient who was on a modem they asked me to look into it.

    I remade the file and it was 43 kilobytes. Then I showed them the way to figure out how to check the size and spent the next hour explaining about file sizes.

    New cameras are also very much to blame but nothing is more to blame than XP's default way of dealing with big images and just shrinking the image view. They have no idea that the files are huge, and have no desire to learn about re-sizing, compression, file formats.... Mailserver be damned I am going to send this collection of worthless pictures anyway, I just got this cool camera and I am going to use it.

It seems that more and more mathematicians are using a new, high level language named "research student".

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