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Compendium /

Why some people shouldn't be allowed near computers

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Network World Fusion 08/26/03

In one of the latest entries in the Somousepad competition, Brian Poirier recounts this tale from his small network:

We recently replaced one of the two systems on or net connected network, so still only had the pre-installed Norton AV running under the trial period. This system is for use by the office staff as needed, I use the other system on the network exclusively and both systems are in the same room. I'm working on my system and our receptionist is in the room using the other system to access her Yahoo account. Suddenly I hear a few "Boings" and the poor girl saying "I keep trying to open it but nothing happens." I look over and see her "ignoring" the Norton security warnings and about a dozen windows minimized to the task bar. I get up and look and she kept trying to open one of the attachments that sobig uses, over and over again.

I kick her off the machine and start trying to fix the havoc she has wrought and ask her if she recognized the name of the person who sent it to her?


"Why did you open an attachment from someone you don't know?"

"It might have been from a friend! They might have made up a new email address and didn't tell me!"

Back to Compendium


So what?

Is she "stupid" that's your point?

She's not computer literate that's all. And maybe she shouldn't care ok? She has a full life as it is and you the smart sysadmin who knows how many bytes are there in a kilobyte have a full life.

Computers should be easy, not users should be PhD's.

Posted by: Alex on September 3, 2003 04:16 PM

Alex: Yep, stupid I'd say.

Error prompts aren't always read, thats to be accepted, but the first time one pops up, doesn't everyone read it? if not, why not?

Alex, stop panicing about hurting someones feelings, and relax a little. I'm sure that mechanics have a laugh at people who can't fix a disjointed crank, or doctors snigger at people who can't transform a ballooned aeorta. Or Even both of those laughing at people who try to make examples of their professions, and end up typing (badly spelt) gobbledegook.

Posted by: Andrew Donaldson on September 4, 2003 08:45 AM

There were some great articles on the back page of the Sydney Morning Herald that I wish I'd saved now: they were collecting snippets of Doctors' slang: the medical equivalents of id-ten-T and PEBCAK.

There are a lot of them, and they make the sort of abuse us computer nerds come up with seem remarkably kind in comparison:

DPS - Dumb Parent Syndrome
DRT - Dead Right There (patient dead at scene of accident)
DRTTTT - Dead Right There, There, There and There (patient dead and in multiple parts at scene of accident)
DSB - Drug-Seeking Behaviour (faking illness to fuel narcotic addiction)
DTS - Danger To Shipping (in a particularly large patient's records)

Posted by: Charles Miller on September 4, 2003 09:21 PM

Alex ~

I see "the point" as being not that this particular clerk was "stupid" but that this is typical throughout the user-base.

Most viruses spread due to this typically "stupid" behavior ~ which effectively required only minimal "social engineering."

If we (the IS/IT professionals) trained more specifically that error messages and other message blocks are to be READ and NOT IGNORED, then maybe it would start "sinking in".

How much emphasis did you put on this topic the last time you provided training to End-Users?

Posted by: Scott on September 16, 2003 01:09 PM

It's a matter of conditioning. If one of the "silent-until-lit" lights in your car comes on you know something is up and take it to someone who knows how to fix it. The same should be true of pop-ups.

I have always told friends, neighbors and colleagues to READ THE TEXT OF THE MESSAGE OUT LOUD - then THINK about it for a moment. If it says that a virus has been found then you ignore it at your peril.

That's the difference between stupidity (from which we all suffer, at least on occasion) and ignorance (which is usually the result of years of practice, and IMHO should be a capital crime).

Just dismissing the message with the CANCEL button is like ignoring the SES light on the car - there's gonna be trouble, and the longer you leave it the worse it will get.

Posted by: Wizard Prang on October 5, 2004 09:26 AM

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