Posted 01 February 2012 - 11:37 PM
Apparently a lot of us have had similar experiences, ones where novices keep calling us to "fix" what at the end of the day may very well be their own doing out of foolishness (and we "pay" for it . . . more on the "pay" concept in a moment.)
We suffer the consequences primarily, to paraphrase Marco, because these people are friends (in other arenas) or family.
Hence I can see the pursuit of "set-it-and-forget-it" solutions . . . if such a thing existed I can see where it would relieve a lot of us of bothersome and annoying phone calls.
But they're not "bothersome" and "annoying" at first. Most of us are civil (despite that inner voice that says "Hey, bozo, I told you not to mess around with it." or "Hey, you moron, can't you understand plain English?") and polite, certainly not wanting to call good friends or family members "stupid". We naturally restrain ourselves, sometimes remembering when we too were novices and how what seems simple to us now was mystifying back then.
But that very civility and polite approach is what gets us into that endless cycle that snowballs into those "bothersome" and "annoying" times.
So barring some rather impolite and uncivil outburts, which I don't think many of us want to do, and barring the fantasy notion of "set-it-and-forget-it", I see two potential solutions FOR OUR FRUSTRATION.
The first is the "pay" scheme, which may not be too palatable for some of us (myself included). But if we were to start charging our friends and family for these repairs, my suspicion is that the volume of requests for "help" from these people would dramatically decline.
The second solution, more to my own liking and one which I've started to implement, is "claiming ignorance". What I mean is this:
For computer problems that friends and family have, I've become known as the unofficial resident geek (I really don't know that much, but "in the land of the blind the one-eyed man is King" . . . and I'm the one-eyed man and friends and family are totally blind) and the "go-to-guy".
They call me regularly with "Hey, I've got a 'small' computer problem, can you fire up [Crossloop or Teamviewer . . . I use both] and take a look at it for me? Shouldn't take you but a few minutes" (I'm sure you've all heard that one before.) I used to encourage them to try and "fix" it themselves, pointing out that if they got stumped there's usually a "Cancel" button and to back out and call me. But I soon found that my troubleshooting session was beset by trying to figure out what they had done and as I'm sure most of you know, one of the cardinal rules of troubleshooting is to do one thing at a time. Identifying the root problem is all the more difficult when there are multiiple sources to the problem. Trying to trace their path and drill down to the original problem (which has long since been obscured in most cases) takes more than "a few minutes". So I stopped telling them to try things themselves first . . . now that WAS stupid on my part.
So, the second possible solution (for me, that is), and one I have high hopes for, is just to say to them early on "Geeezz, I really have no idea what the problem could be."
Most of them are gradually getting the notion that I'm no longer that "go-to-guy" and the calls are going down. I'm not proud of absolutely lying to my friends and family, but it's a heck of a lot better than becoming frustrated and nasty with them and calling them "stupid moron bozos" because I got angry and lost control (like when they interrupt my dinner with things that end up to run several hours rather than "a few minutes".)
I still maintain the friendships (is much easier now that I'm not resentful) and still on good terms with family, so the method, as ethically questionable as it might be, seems to be working for me.
Nevertheless, I still get hooked now and then. That "inner geek" that wants to solve puzzles and doesn't want to see a new machine trashed now and then takes over. My fault, not theirs, so I can't say it's their own doing in that case. If my dinner gets cold because I SAID I WOULD GIVE IT A TRY, the burden is mine alone.
Not too many cold dinners anymore though . . . I'm no longer as much the "resident geek" . . . a title I've gladly given up.
(Now this still doesn't solve THEIR problems. I think Jim's middle road between "set-it-and-forget-it" and ease of use for a novice may apply here . . . or as I phrased it myself, some degree of basic security best practices skills in intervention.)