It can happen to the best of us. To be honest , it will happen MOSTLY to the best of us. Your geeky sunday afternoon is brutally interrupted by a friend / family member / aquantance ringing your doorbell while you just need all your braincell to get through a particularly complex chapter in “the hand of Thrawn’. As you sigh, put your ebook reader down and open the door you are greeted by a laptop (or desktop tower) that is extended in your direction with the pleading words ‘please fix my computer’. Now you know Laptops and Desktop towers don’t have arms and legs, thus behind this somehow broken computer contraption, hides a person. A person with whom you hopefully have some kind of social bond and social responsibilities. In other words in order to be a “nice person” its not the question of “Will you fix my computer” but more of “You HAVE to fix my computer”
Your sunday peace destroyed, you fake a nice warm smile and invite the defective piece of hardware (and its attached owner-family member etc inside). The usual routine ensues. As you hook up their machine, you ask the usual questions : Whats wrong with it , when did it start, do you still have data on it, are there any passwords I should need etc. Best case scenario will give you clear answers to these questions. Worst case scenario ? A lot of blank stares, shrugs, mumbles that “it all happened on its own, I didn’t do anything” and the kicker : ” Don’t YOU know all my passwords ? “.
But hey, its like I said : “The best of us” and you are one of those right ? So with an absolute minimum of information you manage to tame this mall ware infected , virus riddled hornets nest of toolbars and bad user behavior. You try to ignore the 5000 icons on the desktop, the porn sites that have somehow become the users starting page and the many suspiciously looking EXE’s that where downloaded (and probably executed). You spend several hours prying loose every scrap of data and settings and recover every single lost password. At the end of the ride you have preformed a true feat of geek superiority. The system has been rebuilt, (reformatted and reinstalled) and completely reconfigured in a way that the user can pick it up and run with it.
If you where a vet you would have taken a sick puppy, replaced the insides of the puppy with a NEW and healthy puppy, put the old puppies memory and personality back into the new puppy and then slid it back into the skin of the old puppy like nothing ever happened. I would refrain from using this very analogy to convince the user of your awesomeness … they would not understand. (and look at you funny)
So you think your work is done, but before you have come out of the dopamine induced rush of your victory over non functional systems … the doorbell rings. A couple of weeks later ( in worst case, a couple of days ) the friend/relative/acquaintance is BACK holding the same system. You query puzzled if there is some data you forgot to restore or if there is a program missing. But the laptop-desktop with arms and legs just shrugs and says ” It’s not working” After recovering from your initial surprise, you boot up the system and see that all your hard work has been for nothing. The shiny new puppy has been dragged through the filthy side of the internets again, towing mall ware, viruses and hidden trojans in its wake. Cpu cycles once devoted to clean system operation are now churning away for some Russian bot net. Clean and available diskspace filled with infected and corrupted crap from a peer to peer network. Once again the user has clicked YES on every dialog box on the internet, including the one ‘Click here to turn your computer into a limping pile of junk’. Shiny puppy is a dirty dirty puppy all over.
So here is my query : How do you deal with this ? Does one just happily start over and REDO the system ? And if so … how many times ? I know said answer is influenced by your direct relation with the subject. (mom, dad, girlfriend, neighbor, friend) but where is the limit ? We come to the awkward space where your technological expertise becomes the battleground between social politeness and the mayhem of mall ware that is called the internet. But what is good social behavior in a situation like this ? With the total number of computers on the rise and the average percentage of people who actually know how to operate them slowly declining .. What is good policy here ? Do you go for a superiority complex and brush them off ? Or do you crawl in the sharp gravel of complex social relationships and become their techno-bitch and do as you are asked ? It is a difficult and complex question that I would love to ask you .. How many times is the limit ?