The Disconnect Between Tech Savvy Users and Average Users

I write about technology for a living. I explain how technology works, and I write for self-described tech geeks, as well as for “average users,” and even technophobes. Naturally, not all of my articles or books are targeted at this broad an audience. In my Macworld articles, I may write, say, about how to manage Apple’s Time Machine backup feature using the command line, or I may answer reader questions about simple features in the iOS 10 Music app.

Here on Kirkville, I also cover a wide range of topics. Not every article I write is for everyone. (And I don’t only write about technology, but right now, I’m discussing my articles about Macs, iTune, iPhones, and more.)

I allow comments on this site; something more and more people are terminating. I feel that a good discussion is useful, and commenters often provide useful information, telling me about their experiences, or correcting me when I’m wrong. Most of these comments are polite and helpful; some are angry and hateful, and are a symptom of the problems with comments on major websites. Anonymity allows people to hate very easily.

I rarely delete comments: I do so only when the commenter’s vocabulary is unacceptable, or when comments are simply hating. One thing I notice is that most of the comments I delete are from people who think they are better than me, and better than average users. Who suggest my opinion is stupid, because I don’t know enough about computers. And that they know so much more than me, and let me know, often in great detail.

A recent article entitled Apple Is U2ing macOS Installers to Users Running Older Versions of its Operating Systems drew a number of such comments. There are comments about that article right now that disagree with me, but do so politely. Some slightly less politely. And I’ve had to delete several that were just insulting. But what these comments show is that their authors have no understanding of what it’s like to be an “average user.”

The most popular article on my site for the past couple of weeks has been How to Sort Songs in the iOS 10 Music App by Title. I’ve gotten more than 100 emails about this issue, showing that it is indeed a widespread issue. It’s not hard to fix, but you need to know where to look. This small change in iOS 10 has confused lots of users. Mostly “average users.” Not the computer geniuses who comment on articles saying how stupid it is to complain about a feature that confuses “noobs” but not them.

I try to help all users. If an article I write is too simple for you, there’s no need to send in a hateful comment; just close your window, move on, and go read Reddit or something. And if you don’t like my opinions, then don’t read my articles. But at a minimum try to recall what it was like when you got your first computer, when you needed help to understand how to do some of the most basic tasks. Because there are lots of people in the world who aren’t as smart as you. Remember that we technology journalists don’t always write for the tech-savvy users, but write for everyone.

22 thoughts on “The Disconnect Between Tech Savvy Users and Average Users

  1. It is so sad that politeness has seemingly been overwhelmed. I’m sure there must be very thorough sociological studies that explain why this is happening all over the social portions of the Internet, but I don’t understand it – why is so there so much hate. I hope it is not an unwinnable battle.

  2. It is so sad that politeness has seemingly been overwhelmed. I’m sure there must be very thorough sociological studies that explain why this is happening all over the social portions of the Internet, but I don’t understand it – why is so there so much hate. I hope it is not an unwinnable battle.

  3. Thank you for this post. I really value your blog and your podcasts (esp. The Next Track) even though you mostly hear from me when I’m dissenting or nit-picking about something you’ve written, though I always try to avoid anything approaching nastiness or insult comedy. And I think that the way you range between elementary primer clarifications and more tech-y complex stuff is exactly what you should be doing. And as someone who does a lot of ad-hoc technical support for family and friends I think the Know-It-All ubermensch dudes really need to have a little empathy and heart.

  4. Thank you for this post. I really value your blog and your podcasts (esp. The Next Track) even though you mostly hear from me when I’m dissenting or nit-picking about something you’ve written, though I always try to avoid anything approaching nastiness or insult comedy. And I think that the way you range between elementary primer clarifications and more tech-y complex stuff is exactly what you should be doing. And as someone who does a lot of ad-hoc technical support for family and friends I think the Know-It-All ubermensch dudes really need to have a little empathy and heart.

  5. Gah, Kirk. This is obvious. Everyone already knows this. I don’t understand why you waste our time complaining about something that only parent and grandparents wouldn’t know. Give me a break!

    Also, the defaults on commenters are ALREADY set up to prevent this.

  6. Gah, Kirk. This is obvious. Everyone already knows this. I don’t understand why you waste our time complaining about something that only parent and grandparents wouldn’t know. Give me a break!

    Also, the defaults on commenters are ALREADY set up to prevent this.

  7. Nice article. I don’t understand the common hate against ‘average users’ either. So many techies assume that average users are just stupid and/or lazy. But I do user support at a university. Not one of the faculty or their students are at all stupid, and most work 80-100 hour weeks. They just know different things than I do, and in general much harder things. They want computers to become as invisible as pencils and that’s perfectly sensible. Time users spend fussing with computers is time that they aren’t spending doing research, writing, sculpting, designing materials that will make techie toys faster, or even just getting on with a real life (something that many techies wouldn’t recognize.)

  8. Nice article. I don’t understand the common hate against ‘average users’ either. So many techies assume that average users are just stupid and/or lazy. But I do user support at a university. Not one of the faculty or their students are at all stupid, and most work 80-100 hour weeks. They just know different things than I do, and in general much harder things. They want computers to become as invisible as pencils and that’s perfectly sensible. Time users spend fussing with computers is time that they aren’t spending doing research, writing, sculpting, designing materials that will make techie toys faster, or even just getting on with a real life (something that many techies wouldn’t recognize.)

  9. Hey Kirk, I haven’t been a reader for very long, a couple months maybe, but I just want to say that (even as a tech savvy user) I really appreciate your articles. Sure, I grew up using DOS commands without a GUI when I was 9, I went to college for Windows and there learned Red Hat Linux, but sit me in front of a Mac and I’m probably like a kid. I love my iPhone and iPad but Mac is a foreign operating system.

    And even the smartest of people can be at a loss when a developer relocates a long-time feature.

    Technology changes so quickly that it’s a never-ending learning process. I think part of being tech savvy is knowing when you’re in over your head and knowing how and when to do research. When we first started switching from SD to HD TVs, I didn’t know what anything meant, like the differences between, say, 720p and 1080i. I had to learn, from reading blogs by knowledgeable people, like yours. So, thanks

  10. Hey Kirk, I haven’t been a reader for very long, a couple months maybe, but I just want to say that (even as a tech savvy user) I really appreciate your articles. Sure, I grew up using DOS commands without a GUI when I was 9, I went to college for Windows and there learned Red Hat Linux, but sit me in front of a Mac and I’m probably like a kid. I love my iPhone and iPad but Mac is a foreign operating system.

    And even the smartest of people can be at a loss when a developer relocates a long-time feature.

    Technology changes so quickly that it’s a never-ending learning process. I think part of being tech savvy is knowing when you’re in over your head and knowing how and when to do research. When we first started switching from SD to HD TVs, I didn’t know what anything meant, like the differences between, say, 720p and 1080i. I had to learn, from reading blogs by knowledgeable people, like yours. So, thanks

  11. Kirk, I too really appreciate your writing on technology and classical music, and as a (highly) intelligent technophobe(!) who still hasn’t been able to get gmail to work after upgrading to El Capitan! Oh, dear now I’ve just got a message, that Sierra is ready for download. I am not as ancient as some might think reading this, but I have only been a computer user for a little more than 10 years, and do not have any tech savvy teenagers who can assist, so your posts are very helpful, Kirk. You have the balance right, I think, keep up the good work! PS How and earth can you find time to listen to all those enormous box sets of music etc you are so fond of? !!

  12. Kirk, I too really appreciate your writing on technology and classical music, and as a (highly) intelligent technophobe(!) who still hasn’t been able to get gmail to work after upgrading to El Capitan! Oh, dear now I’ve just got a message, that Sierra is ready for download. I am not as ancient as some might think reading this, but I have only been a computer user for a little more than 10 years, and do not have any tech savvy teenagers who can assist, so your posts are very helpful, Kirk. You have the balance right, I think, keep up the good work! PS How and earth can you find time to listen to all those enormous box sets of music etc you are so fond of? !!

  13. “…If an article is too simple… go read Reddit…”

    Kirk, that’s ridiculous/insulting.

    Otherwise, a good post, and long may you continue to write.

  14. “…If an article is too simple… go read Reddit…”

    Kirk, that’s ridiculous/insulting.

    Otherwise, a good post, and long may you continue to write.

  15. As a retired UPSer, a still active cellist and very long-time Mac aficionado, I must say that finding this site a few months ago has been a real joy. Love reading the classical music thoughts – agree with a very large percentage of your views. I consider myself a middle-of-the-road computer user. No command-line knowledge, though I wish I had some, but I can get around well most of the time and help family members if need arises. You did help me get my iOS song titles back in alphabetical order – thanks.
    Keep up the fine work! Classical music and Macs – what could be better?

  16. As a retired UPSer, a still active cellist and very long-time Mac aficionado, I must say that finding this site a few months ago has been a real joy. Love reading the classical music thoughts – agree with a very large percentage of your views. I consider myself a middle-of-the-road computer user. No command-line knowledge, though I wish I had some, but I can get around well most of the time and help family members if need arises. You did help me get my iOS song titles back in alphabetical order – thanks.
    Keep up the fine work! Classical music and Macs – what could be better?

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