13 March 2011

Too Great Expectations

Clients, home users and even professionals have less and less understanding of what exactly can be done on computers and not only how but who can accomplish what they can do.

Because I use a computer in my work and an proficient with certain software, I am expected to teach, update, repair and write specialized software for every operating system and every computer brand out there.

Now, I am a good driver, but no one has ever asked me to change their transmission or even assumed I would know how to do it simply because I drove them to the airport once. Why then, because I designed a business card for someone 4 years ago, do I get called asking to install a hard drive, upgrade memory or fix a software glitch?

On a more basic level, even professionals make the mistake that computer itself «should know» what they want it to do or worse, adapt to their needs, magically. What seems like a completely basic feature to me or you working in film production is likely a completely useless extra to the 30 million other people using the same type of computer or software for something else.

If you buy a professional, specialized software you have every right to expect it to do most if not all of the current functions needed to complete a task in it’s speciality. More and more the attitude that your photo editing program should do page layout as well, simply because it was expensive and you want it to to it is simply unreasonable. I’d say the «jack of all trades, master of none» problem quickly shows it’s head when a software is forced to go beyond it’s speciality.

The same is easily said when using professional workers. A designer is not a programmer. A programmer is not a photographer. The important thing here is for you to know what you need and how to get it. Just as «he drives a car, mechanics drive cars, he must be a mechanic» is an obvious logical fallacy, so is «he uses a computer, programmers use computers, he must be a programer» or «Word is software, video is edited with software, Word must edit video».

As easy as it has become to use computers, they only do what you tell them to do and what they are programmed to accomplish. This means you still have to know what to tell them. It takes effort and it’s your responsibility to make that effort. If you need something done that requires a specialist, you need to research who you need to hire and what to reasonably expect from them.

This is not to say software or people don’t claim to do things they can’t, that’s another topic. However, if you make it a requirement for someone or something to do more than they are qualified to do for any reason and it doesn’t work out, you have no one to blame but yourself for asking too much in the first place!