Jon Udell’s column on tacit knowledge about computers touches on a trait that can be used to separate computer geeks from regular users. Computer geekds know how to and are comfortable figuring out how to do something with their computer (setup mail filters, reconfigure their desktop, automate repetitive tasks) and casual users are frustrated by the seeming non-obviousness of such tasks. He doesn’t touch on if such behavior is more of a trait you possess or a skill you can acquire. I would think its more of a skill that improves with practive, but you need to have acquired it fairly early in life, no later than the teen years I bet, for it to be second-nature.
he clash of these cognitive styles — knowing how to do things versus knowing how to find out how to do things — is a source of friction between IT folk and our clientele. From our perspective, it’s annoying to be asked constantly to write down detailed step-by-step procedures. If we don’t rely on them, why should anyone else need to?
From the perspective of the folks we support, on the other hand, it’s equally annoying to have to figure things out. Why aren’t things like turning off Smart Quotes just obvious?