The people who should know better

A couple of people have responded to my last weblog post saying that "tech-laymen" (as I'll refer to them) just don't know they have options. I know that, but I wasn't referring to them in my post -- even the word "nincompoop" in the 2nd paragraph was referring to the tech-savvy. Obviously that wasn't clear enough.

I want to reply to something Seth said on his weblog in response to my last post. I was going to reply on his site but then I decided I wanted it on my home page so I'll reply here instead.

Seth said:

"I know some very smart people who use computers all day, who (until I said something) didn't even know there was an alternative to Outlook. To them, Outlook equals email, and email equals Outlook. The viruses are just a way of life, like viruses in real life."

First, there's a difference between using computers all day and being tech-savvy. If a company has 500 employees who use Windows all day, that doesn't mean they have 500 tech-savvy people. It means they probably have 10 or so IT people who are tech-savvy, and maybe a dozen or so people who are tech-savvy on their own (depending on the type of business), and the rest are like everyone else, they use computers as a tool because they have to but know nothing about how they work or how they could work.

I sympathize with the tech-layman who doesn't understand they have options. I do not expect them to know better, and I do not think it's something they should need to know better to do their jobs or use their computers at home. (That's why I'm so happy my parents are iMac users now.)

However, I feel nothing but contempt for the tech-savvy people running Outlook Express who are whining about the SoBig virus causing them grief. I could link to a few of them but I'll spare them further humiliation, I think their public whining is embarassing enough.

To me that's just plain stupid. It's like a police officer who gets blitzed drunk and then drives off a cliff or drives into a telephone pole not wearing a seat belt. Completely, utterly, stupid, avoidable. Hence, Outlook Express == Masochism.

Then Seth said:

"This afternoon I was sitting in a waiting room while the dealer changed my truck's oil. CNN was on the television. They reported on the virus... but they referred to it only as an "email virus." They didn't mention that this is "email virus" is really an "Outlook virus," because it only affects Outlook users. They didn't mention that it only infects Outlook on Windows. They didn't mention that there are alternatives to Outlook."

This is another thing that bothers me. I bet the vast majority of us are one or two degrees of separation away from someone who's tech-savvy. Because so many people have asked me for free support of their (Windows) computers over the years, and it has sucked up a lot of my time, I try to refrain from discussing computers and software with most people so they don't say, "hey by the way my computer's acting funny can you come to my place and fix it?". If I did that I'd never have a night off. But still, it's sad that we're in a situation, whether for that reason or any other, that tech-savvy people don't distribute their knowledge to their "tech-layman" friends! Word-of-mouth is the most powerful form of advertising there is, and tech-savvy people can have huge influence over the technology decisions of their friends and family. If we (tech-savvy people) told all of our friends that using Outlook Express was optional and plenty of free or inexpensive alternatives exist that would simplify their lives because they wouldn't have to worry as much about receiving viruses, I'm pretty sure a lot of people would switch (and even more if we'd go over and install it for them, but that's another issue).

And another thing... why aren't the companies that make competing products getting the word out about their products? Maybe they don't have enough money because they compete with a free product bundled with a dominant operating system... but why not get creative here? Pool the money together and put out an advertisement on behalf of a bunch of software companies telling people that they have a choice.

I think the public is fed up with this, and they feel like they have no choice, that this is what the internet is like, period, and they are waiting for the government or Microsoft to fix the problem. That will not happen. People need to be informed, or force fed new software, so they can help themselves.

That new worm that exploits the same vulnerability as the Blaster worm to patch people's machines is brilliant. I found it hilarious that Symantec actually calls it a "threat" and offers a tool to remove it! The only person that worm is a threat to is Symantec's CFO. Perhaps that worm is the start of a new trend to clean up Windows machines everywhere. :-)

Written on August 21, 2003