The other morning one of my neighbors called saying "I don't know
what I did, but I can't get to the Internet any more". Earlier last week
a customer called saying "DNS isn't working".
Both of them were wrong.
The neighbor had simply deleted his browser shortcut from
the Desktop. The customer's router was blocking everything,
not just DNS. A reload of a saved configuration file restored
the router to sanity, and recreating the shortcut of course made
my neighbor happy.
My point? You can't trust what people say, because their
ability to describe a problem accurately heavily depends upon
their general understanding of technology. My neighbor doesn't
know how to do "Start->Run" and even if he did, he certainly
wouldn't know that "iexplore.exe" is what he needed. The customer
who thought DNS was not working had a more
misleading problem: he knew that DNS translates names to IP
addresses, but he didn't know how to test to see that he actually
had no path through the router at all. That caused me to make a mistake:
I assumed that he in fact did know that everything but DNS was
working, so we wasted a few minutes looking in the wrong places.
Usually I'm suspicious of any stated "fact" from anyone
asking for help. Understand I mean nothing derogatory or demeaning
by that: any doctor would rightly be suspicious of any "fact"
I might state in describing a medical symptom and an auto mechanic
will surely have misgivings if I blithely asserted that my timing
must be off. It's a matter of how much we know about the technology
we are working with and the auto mechanic shouldn't feel any more
ashamed of his basic understanding of computers than I do of
my basic understanding of auto mechanics. I'm suspicious
not because I think these people are incapable of intelligent
diagnosis, but simply because they don't eat, sleep, drink and breathe
this stuff every day as I do. The less accurate your mental model
of a given process is, the less accurate is any guess you make about
its malfunction. Your explanation for an earthquake is going
to be a little off if you think your world is turtles all the way down.
By the way, neither of these calls put any money in my coffers. I
don't charge my neighbors because I might need their help with something
someday, and even if I never do, most of them are retired and could better
spend the money elsewhere. Technically, I could have charged the
other customer (I didn't sell him the router and he doesn't have
general support with me), but it was such a short call I didn't bother..
yeah, I know: I'm a fool. That's OK.
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© 2011-03-10 Anthony Lawrence