more photos on flickr: photos.matthewragan.com

There are  a great many things that I’ll miss about my work and time here and New England in general. I know that I’m going to miss the color of green after the winter, and I know that I’ll miss the colleagues that I share a hallway with (as well as those who are across the street in another building). I won’t miss some of the regular complaints that I’ve heard when working with people over the past two years, and for good reason. 

     I forgot my password, what is it?
Why it’s offensive
I don’t know any of your passwords, and I don’t want to. In fact, when you’re typing a password I’m going to look away from the keyboard and screen to make sure that I can’t see anything. Your passwords are the keys to your whole digital life, and it is beyond ethically irresponsible of me to even consider keeping your password tucked away in some corner of my memory. Right now passwords and the web suck, and there are plenty of very smart people trying to figure out how to crack that nut. It’s a problem that needs solving, and as a stop-gap most modern browsers are doing their best to remember these things so you don’t have to. More to the point, I’m not your personal assistant. I don’t drive you to work, or order your special latte, remembering your password is none of my business.

     So, what is this screen telling me?
Why it’s offensive
I know that internet jargon can be hard to parse. The developers making great tools on the web have to write to the broadest possible audience while also using terminology that can be confusing. You’re right, it can be awfully confusing. The thing is, I see you flaunting that Ph.D in all of your email signatures. I’d guess that at some point you had to learn how to decode complex and specific linguistic conventions, so your insistance that I give you the cliff-note version of an online service or the terms-of-use you have to agree to; well that just shows me that you’re lazy. At least, I’m hoping that you’re just being lazy. If you’re not being lazy, than you’re being a jerk. I don’t bring you tea, I don’t open your mail and read it to you, enabling your intelectual laziness is not my job.

     But why is [insert any web service here] doing that? I want it to [insert unrealistic, highly specific and mostly inconsequential operation here], can you do that for me?
Why it’s offensive
Some of the best tools on the web do very general things in intuitive and clever ways. Tools that are based on simple rules in simple frameworks scale faster, and smoother, than complex and highly specialized tools. The more specialized your order, the more complex the process of delivering it to you. Furthermore, you’re highly specific use of a particular tool makes perfect sense to you because that’s what you want the tool to do, not because that’s the nature of the tool itself. I’m happy to work with you to come up with a solution that’s a mixture of compromise and creativity, but asking me to invest time and energy into fixing a “problem” that is really only a “problem-for-you-some-of-the-time” is offensive. It’s offensive because it demonstrates that you don’t really understand the nature of my work or my experience. You may as well ask me to fetch you a bag of M&M’s, and while I’m at it to scratch off all of the M’s on the red and blue ones.

     Can’t you just do this for me?
Why it’s offensive
No. Learning is hard, and learning to be good at something means practice. If you want to be proficient in the use of technology both in your classroom and in your professional life, than you simply have to use it. Don’t voyeuristically ask me to “drive” the computer so you can just watch – you drive. Don’t patronize me and say that you just can’t learn to write a formula for excel like I can – I didn’t know either; I looked it up, I practiced, I experimented, and I did that until it stuck, you can too. Don’t ask me to do your job – I’m happy to help you learn to do your work better, but doing your work for you is not what I’m here to do.

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