Why Computer Experts Are Like Rural Folk When It Comes to Giving Directions

If you’ve ever asked for directions in a rural area you may have run into a local character who knows exactly where he is.  He has been here his whole life.  He knows every nook and cranny of the countryside.

But he has great difficulty giving directions to an outsider.

Friendly and with every intention of helping you, he offers advice:

“Just keep driving down this road until you come to where the old MacIntosh place used to be before it burned down.   It’s right across from the old mailbox and near the rusty barbed wire fence.  Just take a right and keep going past the field where they hold the county carnival every summer.  Then take a left at the stump of the big tree that got hit by lightning a couple of years ago.  You can’t miss it.”

This well-meaning rural denizen knows exactly what he’s talking about.  Every word he utters is true.  He can imagine every detail in his mind as he describes it to you.

Unfortunately he does not share your frame of reference.  He can’t see through your eyes.  In fact, he is so immersed in his area of expertise and its vocabulary that he cannot distinguish  terms that need further explanation from those that don’t.

If pressed for clarification, he will earnestly expand on the obvious. “Well, a carnival is just like a county fair but without the agricultural exhibits and competitions.  No 4-H.  It’s mostly just rides.  What do you mean you don’t understand about the field?  It’s just a field, it’s not important for the rides except they can’t set up near trees.”

The local cannot see his world from the perspective of the uninitiated.  His only hope is to dispense information of all sorts – every bit of it obvious to him —  until the listener seems to “get it.”  This can take a long time and frustrate both the speaker and listener.

Now compare this to articles by experts on how to use blogging software, followed by pages of confused questions and equally confused answers.  Turns out, that users don’t need computer experts as much as they need experts at explaining unfamiliar subjects to the lost travelers of the Internet.