Ok, so I kept reading User Error by Ellen Rose even after chapter one when I thought the book was way off base. I kept reading because I thought that perhaps since I fall on the lower rungs on the techie ladder I was being biased and by golly I am not going to let my bias get in the way of hearing something possibly useful or important. Still, I kept gritting my teeth because the experience she described even when I was a new computer user was not my experience. I continued on anyway because I wanted to be open minded.

Then I began checking the notes section to see where she was getting the information and cases she was citing and quoting. To my dismay, she quotes quite a lot from sources that were published in the early to mid 1990s. User Error was published in 2003 so Rose should have been able to get more up to date sources and information especially as it relates to computer culture because it changes so darn fast. I don’t think I am wrong to criticize her for this because computing in the early 90s was much different than it was in 2003.

What is even more annoying is that she doesn’t put the cases and quotes into any kind of context and tosses them out like they were said yesterday. Like when she pulls a quote from a book called Technostress published in 1984:

Thus, the computer has become a means which must now go in search of appropriate ends, a solution in search of a problem. Which is precisely why, as Craig Brad points out in Technostress, many new computer owners find that what to do with the new, so-called solution becomes a bit of a problem itself: “Computer store managers have reported in surveys that first-tme buyers have returned to the store after a few days to ask for ideas on how to use their new acquisitions.” Indeed, what Brad neglects to mention is that many of these new users are doubtless persuaded, during their second visit, to fork over additional dollars in order to make their machines more “usable.”

In 1984, this was probably true. But in 2003?

I kept going right up through page 110, through chapters that make it sound like there is some quasi-technological conspiracy of techies vs users; and through the chapter trying to convince me that software and operating system designers and developers and programmers actually hate the average computer user and think they are stupid. I admit I have met one programmer with this attitude. One. Everyone else I have met in the tech industry are really nice people. Do we laugh at people sometimes? You bet. But how can you not laugh at getting a call about a broken printer only to discover that the reason it isn’t printing is because it is out of paper? You don’t have to be a techie to laugh at that. Nor are techies the only ones who laugh at their “customers.”

I am done trying to keep an open mind about this book. I am done worrying about being biased. I am done with this book. It is going, unfinished, back to the library.