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lainchan archive - /r/ - 29738

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Hi there, lainchan. After encountering a few interesting comments and questions at various places, I started to think about how tech-illiterate users and the rest of us see computers, smartphones, and similar technology. I have come up with three rough categories:

>Plain users get to know technology exclusively by "talking" to it (as if it was a weird, exotic talking creature)

They believe what the screen says, because it's the computer talking. Computers are reliable, they do not lie. Why would a computer lie if it has no will of its own? Unlike them, the computer certainly knows how a computer works; it forms a single unit where every part knows what the other parts are doing. So when this or that program says anything, it is fact. When the computer says there is no internet but the IT guy says there is, it's clear as day that the IT guy is a lazy fuarrrk who should be fixing the internet.
These users push buttons around until they get what they want. They type whole sentences/questions in Google Search. They expect the computer to ask them what they want, and be shown a list of their options. They explore various menus, and build a mental map of all these "options". The structure of the computer - for them - is defined by the system of menus and options. Drive C: is not the same disk as Drive D: because you have to click a different icon to get into it. If something has no icon, no menu option or doesn't explicitly tell the user that it is there, it doesn't exist (except viruses). If the computer says that it has something, it's definitely there.

>Savvy users read the fuarrrking manual.

Unlike the previous group, the savvy user understands that the computer is not a single unit, and neither does it understand itself. For such a user, messages are not statements made by the computer, but simply prerecorded text; their appearance is an effect of some cause, and that cause is written, engineered and built by humans who may or may not expected certain things. He understands that the various components do not always work together. Most importantly, the savvy user understands that there are things he doesn't know about working and happening in the computer right now.
He does not talk to a computer as if it was another creature, but manipulates it. For this end, he reads the manuals, looks for more information on the internet, seeks how-to material or personal advice. Even if he doesn't know about many things, someone has to. Such a user is still reliant both on what the computer says and what the experts say, but he readily doubt the computer. He can probably script things or patch simple stuff together, and maybe use the big boys' toys for more basic tasks.

>Experts understand how things work

They have a comprehensive, (almost) full-stack understanding of the technology; while certain details or layers of abstraction might be vague, they understand how various components interact, and can educate themselves further. They often rely on commands and features that are not listed, and know multiple ways to get the same task done. They don't just manipulate, but control / program the system, sometimes without relying on the output or preemptively handling every possible scenario. They probably don't even understand what a message literally says, instead they just see the causes that lead to the appearance of the message. These people can likely build their own stuff, or reverse-engineer others'.

Obviously, people don't just fall in one category or the other as their knowledge may vary on different areas; but since the three categories represent different approaches, I highly doubt that someone could be an expert in some areas and a plain user in others.


> I highly doubt that someone could be an expert in some areas and a plain user in others.
For your interest, Torvalds himself uses default Debian install, without any tweaks other than his own emacs version. It isn't that he cannot tweak it, he just not care


Now, for a few examples of what I've encountered
- I once shared a room with a dude in some camp for a week. One evening when we were chitchatting about various stuff, he remarked with a certain awe in his voice:
>Humanity has really gone far! For example the internet - they could put all that data in just a few satellites. Isn't it wonderful?
I sort of ruined the experience for him by explaining how it's just a decentralized network of computers wired together.
- A far relative of mine (dude in his 30's and a science fiction fan) once asked me how all this programming thing works. He brought up as the Matrix for an example, and asked me if I also see the ready, visual appearance of the program while looking at the code. It was pretty funny, as I never thought of that and his idea was creative. I sort of tried to explain in layman's terms that code is like the blueprint of a car - you can't drive blueprints; and also how layered the whole thing is (APIs, libs, functions, system calls, etc) to give a general idea of why such short text can do so much.
- Kids and video games. Whenever you look at a popular torrent for some game on the pirate bay, you'll see countless kids raging and telling crackers to fix their stupid game, being completely oblivious to how little of an understanding crackers need or have about these games to successfully crack them; and thinking that just a vague description of the error they encounter is enough to do anything about it. This one shows greatly how the idea of "if it has no button, it doesn't exist" applies to the layman. Here's a few comments for joy (irony bonus: it's from a Watch Dogs torrent, where you hack into everything by pressing Q, from phones to evil corporate city surveillance systems)

vegeta777 at 2015-05-02 14:21 CET:
Don't download this piece of soykaf. Retard made a soykafty torrent. When you try to start a new game it loads ninety percent of the loading bar and then just shows a black screen forever. fuarrrking idiot.

winning1999 at 2016-08-28 23:02 CET:
This is so soykafty. I downloaded it and the game not worked. Fine, I find some solutions on YouTube, download Uplay, install Steam, GREAT! Until I try to start a new game, the loading screen is super slow, and the game just freeze at the cutscene.

The_Software at 2016-09-08 20:57 CET:
The game works very well, the installation was straightforward BUT I have noticed one major error. After installing and launching the game, the first cut scene starts, then right after beating Maurice the game will crash. To fix this I had to do some digging to finally find an update to the installed crack, some guy was kind enough to post it on YouTube, here's the title of the video since TPB doesn't allow links, just replace the previous files with the new ones and you're good to go!
Exact video title: Fix Watch Dogs launncher by SKY BP@3MD has stopped working


Thanks for supporting my point. A plain user would have no idea that there's anything else than the default, and would be too afraid to touch it anyway (what if it breaks?)


I'd say I'm probably under the 'savvy user' section
as for >>29741 I think I'm kind of the opposite, instead of 'what if it breaks' and not touching anything, I tend to fuarrrk around and break stuff without fully knowing how it works or how to fix it if something goes wrong. I guess this means I'm slowly learning by trial and error? Maybe not


>I highly doubt that someone could be an expert in some areas and a plain user in others
Well, that's nonsense. Linus Torvalds openly admits to being a "disaster" at mantaining OSs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHGTs1NSB1s
>"I may do kernels and people think that that means that I'm technical, but when it comes to actually mantaining machines I am a complete disaster."

The OP here seems like someone who doesn't really get tech at all. It's not a monolith - being an expert in one area does not necessarily effect your expertise in another at all. The main reason level of expertise in different areas correlate is because the type of person who is willing to make effort to understand one area will likely do the same in other areas.

Also, Linus says the video I linked that he has never used Debian. Maybe he has started using it since, I don't know.


>A second time
>>29744 is my first post in this thread.
>Torvalds can probably install an OS on his own
Yeah, maybe, but he cites Debian as "too difficult" in the video. How bad do you have to be at something before you're a "plain user"? I mean, I'm pretty sure if he was in the "savvy users who read the manual" category he could install Debian. It's not exactly that difficult when you read the manual. I think I remember him saying elsewhere (can't find it atm) that he got a friend to install something more difficult for him because he didn't know how (and didn't care to learn).

I mean I know older relatives who are experts at things like machine code and older programming languages, but who also have painfully slow systems covered in bloatware because they don't understand how to run an OS. I mean, you even talk about how good someone is at googling stuff in the "plain user" section of your OP (I assume you are OP). How good is Linus at googling stuff? This whole idea is absurd. Someone can be a god at the art of "finding stuff on the internet" and yet not know the first thing about Linux or programming or anything like that.

It's painfully obvious that you're looking for a way to classify yourself as "expert" and thereby feel superior on all levels to tech newbies or those who just aren't interested. I highly doubt you even watched the video. Linus literally classifies himself as "not technical", and I imagine this extends to more than just his ability to install OSs.


Read the thread you're posting in.
Would you say that when some popup in the browser claims that the computer is infected and needs Windows Repair 2017 to scan it, Torvalds would just go along with it because he has no idea what it is? Or that he asks his kids to help him reinstall his PC? That's what most plain users are like.

>being an expert in one area does not necessarily effect your expertise in another at all.

That's already in the OP post.
Tech (especially the kind that is the topic of this thread) is not a bunch of isolated areas. Good luck becoming a programmer without having any clue how your OS, the network, software licenses, etc work.

I'm not sure why you keep riding on Linus, he's one person. Thread is about like, the other 7 billion as well.
>It's painfully obvious that you're looking for a way to classify yourself as "expert" and thereby feel superior on all levels to tech newbies or those who just aren't interested.
At this point I can't help but laugh at your arm-chair criticism. Please try to be on topic, or hide/ignore the thread if it hurts your existence that much. I'll bump it for you so you can get to it right away.


I was a bit harsh saying you want to feel superior. Not exactly a fair comment, sorry about that.

You say that being an expert in one area doesn't effect your expertise in another, but then immediately follow that with
>Good luck becoming a programmer without having any clue how your OS, the network, software licenses, etc work.

Doesn't it depend what you're programming? Maybe your definition of programming is too narrow. Some people work with specific machines in a factory setting, that don't even connect to the internet. They could be experts in some programming languages, but when they come home to their home PC they really do just click about randomly, and don't know what to do when Windows Repair 2017 pops up. I think for hobbyists and those programmers who have broad interests your classification system might be more reasonable, but for some people (especially in the older generation) programming is just a job.

Look, maybe I was a little harsh, but when there is so much crossover with the kind of categories you're laying out here I don't see the point in making such an effort to fit people into them. You can make the "plain user" category so tech-illiterate that yeah, maybe there aren't any experts in other fields in there. But then it's not even plain users, it's a fairly small and largely elderly group of people with extremely poor understanding of technology. Or you just can make it only stupid people, which I guess works as well. They're more easily just labelled as stupid though.


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Firstly, I'm more focused on people's perception/impression of technology. Having an approximate idea of how things work is a lot easier to achieve than actual skill/experience with doing the real thing. For example, very few people took part in producing vinyl records, yet a considerably larger portion of the population understand how they work - not down to the smallest details, but they have a good overall idea.
The sort of factory-programmer you mention probably has a way more valid overall impression of how his computer at home works than e.g. his 10 year old son navigating through app stores and in-game menus and whatnot. But if we really take this factory example to a point where his knowledge isn't applicable to PC/smartphone OSes, we're probably talking about scripting anyway.

Actually, I think what I said about expertise there is coherent. Let's put it this way: You can be an expert in one field and a novice in another, but only if those fields are disjoint. When they aren't disjoint, becoming an expert in one field necessarily packs you up with knowledge that makes you savvy in some other, closely related fields. And since we're talking perceptions here and not actual work/use, it's even more likely that someone's perception is good enough. e.g. Linus might not have the patience or motivation to set up debian, but he probably still has a pretty good idea of how the whole ecosystem of the distro works.

>But then it's not even plain users, it's a fairly small and largely elderly group of people with extremely poor understanding of technology.

I'd say a good portion of the adult population, and most if not all children belong here as well - they just want their games and movies and music and chat to work; also children simply need to develop good enough reading and learning skills to even have a chance at educating themselves about technology. What most schools teach (windows, office, and in general just mindless list of what things you can click, press and load - the things they could explore themselves) doesn't really change their idea of a computer as a magical black box. Hence why most movies and series can get away with these ridiculous representations of technology (CSI zoom lol), why people keep buying buzzwords, and why "just works" dominates the client side. Having just a roughly valid image of how things work would make it hard to sell impossible bullsoykaf.

As for the harsh tone, I don't mind as long as we can get back on track. Well done, I guess?