Earlier today I was reminded that working with computers all day gives you a different view of the internet to, for want of a better word, normal people! For instance, I don’t use Google to find sites I already know about, preferring URLs or del.icio.us, while I think to some people Google is the internet. They use Google, and feel lucky, when they are returning to a previous site. I was also asked why Google doesn’t always find the right site- they were looking for a hotel and the search results included the one they were looking for, along with hotels of the same name in different places. Targeting the right search results to people, instead of adverts, might be interesting, if we’re going to be watched anyway that is.
Later in the day Google failed me as I was unable to find anything about some artwork from my time at Warwick (it was a traffic cone and plastic pipe triffid-like sculpture which appeared in different locations around campus each day – brilliant – but can’t find it anywhere using google, or on flickr, hmmm). Still, it seems that Warwick blogs and I did stumble across a review of something I was thinking of getting for a spot of DIY home automation. Perhaps random Google search results are the modern day alternative to reading tea leaves?
If you would a different perspective on not only how “normal” people use the internet, but also computers, try working in a public library for some time.
Patience is required… and you always walk away from the experience amazed and bewildered.
If only computers were easy to use! What are most people trying to use them for in the library? Are there any common problems that stop them?
Ah, the joys of public library computer use… my favourite is trying to explain what email is to people who have never used a computer let alone the internet. Of course we don’t make things easy, the keyboards get hammered so much that letters rub off and people can spend ages searching for the ‘e’! I think the biggest problem is the jargon, we expect people to understand what a website is, what email is and what a search page is… and don’t get me started on library catalogues :(
Completely off topic… here’s a blogging librarian from Warwick http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/kwiddows enjoy!
http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/kwiddows – blogging librarian from Warwick!
Sarah is right, even especially about library catalogs, those are pretty bad.
The computer itself is a barrier for most people. I’ve seen people so downright scared of them they won’t touch them. The patron could be the most confident person in the world about anything else, but the computer will turn them into helpless piles on the floor. Most people are afraid of breaking them just by touching them. I think helping people use the computer is the biggest challenge of my job.
In Michgian our economy is really bad, I would say 80% of adult use of computers are people coming in to find jobs and making resumes. Many people have difficulty using the computer, but the sad reality is that many prospective employers are expecting these skills out of these same people. Our economy in Michigan is mostly made up of the automotive industry and many of these people without jobs are misplaced factory workers that have never needed these skills before.
Many public libraries offer computer classes for free, at our particular library though we have our classes spread out among 16 branches. They are also 6 weeks long so my branch sees a class maybe once a year. Also our classes seem to be marketed mostly to seniors for some reason (an important demographic for sure, but given the state of our economy I think we could shift priorities just a little bit). Every library is different in how they offer training though so our situation is likely unique.
On the hand, working with the public in this capacity is also a humbling experience. I think it’s easy to take for granted how difficult computer use can be for some people when they’re so integral to your own life.
Sarah- so there’s a problem with library catalogues then… :)
Heidi- removing the fear of breaking computers would make a big difference. I don’t have a clue how to do most of the things people ask me about on computers but I’m quite happy just trying things out. Things are unlikely to go _that_ badly wrong! (If only life had an undo feature!!)
Oooh, life undo feature, that could be nice… although I seem to think there would be no fun in that either.
I keep telling patrons that you can’t really break them. I mean seriously, if anybody should be able to break a computer it’s me. Last week I spilled beer on my computer… In the last year I’ve dropped both my mp3 player and my camera on the ground and luckily only walked away with cosmetic damage to both. I should be banned from all things electronic!!!
Sounds like you’re just looking for a good excuse to buy a new computer/mp3 player/camera!