Monday, September 24, 2007

I am not a total idiot

... I'd like to think, although, I admit, I sometimes behave like one... (Don't we all ?)
I am just not interested in technological details, which, I think, I should not need to know in order to use technology to do what I want it to do.
What??? you ask. OK, I shall explain: do you think that it is necessary to know how the car's engine works in order to be able to drive a car?
No, I did not think you did, because most people, most drivers in fact, would just laugh at such a demand. (And I bet that most drivers - me included - do not even want to know how and when to change gears - particularly Americans, since they had it so good for so long. Everything that can be automated, should.) Yet, when I was a young girl in the then communist Poland I was expected to pass the written exam proving I knew how a car's engine worked and how it was built, before I could actually start to learn driving the car with an instructor and get a license to drive it on my own.
The - ridiculous - explanation for that requirement was that Poland at that time had almost no car service stations, so car drivers were supposed to be self sufficient if anything happened to their vehicles. The incredible naivety of the car techies, who imagined that anybody, without a technical background, would be able (even if he or she was willing and had appropriate tools) to fix his/her broken engine at the side of the road, just after a few theoretical lessons on the inner secrets of car engines, still makes me laugh.
Today I feel in the same situation trying to upload my pictures to my wordpress blog.
Not that i am a total novice at uploading pictures. No, I uploaded tons of images to various power point presentations, email letters, etc. But not to a blog...
During the weekend I wanted to write a post about Scania's gardens and to do that I needed to upload some photos, but no matter how hard I tried, I could either post thumbnails or - when I tried full size images, they came out so huge, as to show only tiny, totally inconsequential fragment of the image on screen... even though one photo somehow accidentally "uploaded itself" (?) to a category (???) ... and ... lo and behold... there it showed in its desired size. Aah, the miracles of technology!
OK, I DID try not to be totally tech-arrogant, so I read - rather carefully - wordpress's faq posts about uploading images, and the forum discussions and did not find what I needed to find, because
1) the information I needed was not there
2) whatever information was there was written by geeks to geeks in Geeklish (= geek English), not for non geeks in English, so, not being conversant in Geeklish, I did not understand most of it.
Thus today I contacted technical support at wordpress to get some help and Mark responded very promptly (I have to admit, giving the credit where the credit is due), that wordpress has no autoresizing ... and referred me to a faq question: how big can my images be..... which I previously read and had no idea how to follow. Sigh....
This reminds me of another technology dilemma, which was faced by one of my former clients, a small, but international manufacturer of a highly specialized, technologically cutting edge product, who hired me several years ago to solve some serious problems they were having with their instruction manual and product training.
The instruction manual was written in an extreme Geeklish ( actually in geek-German and translated to Geeklish and geek-Japanese), by the company's tech aficionados, so proud with the cutting edge technology they developed and used in their product, that..... the manual they have written enabled their most advanced competitors to copy their technology and bridge the gap from their to my client's technological advancement level in almost no time at all, which, of course, was not exactly what the company's management and shareholders had in mind business wise.
But the same manual - and the tech-repair loaded training - was a constant subject of complaints of their clients, because, although their maintenance staff could fix the product if it malfunctioned with the help of the manual, their operators - the very people to which the manual was ostensibly being addressed - lacked enough technical background to be able to use the product on the basis of those waaay too geeky instructions.
It took me no time at all to convince company management to stop the manual asap and withdraw as many already distributed copies of it from circulation as possible, as not to give away all of their secrets to their competitors.... but it took me a lot longer to convince those tech-geniuses to help me as SMEs (= subject matter experts) to completely redesign it and publish in several interactive versions (on line, on DVDs, in different languages, not only those of the company owners, but those of the majority of clients) able to accommodate every kind of user with every level of technical background from - if need be - a practically illiterate (they did happen, particularly in Malaysia and Brazil) operator of a machine, in which this technological marvel of a product, critical to the quality of production, was installed, to a PH.D in physics at any manufacturer of a machine using this product as one of its components - without either boring to death the PhD in physics and similar or going over the heads of any of the end users
Immediately after we were able to get these recommendations implemented, and the new interactive instruction tools were distributed, clients started calling with praise how pleased they were with the improvements and soon after the company got a public endorsement - at the largest relevant technology fair in the world - from several largest manufacturers of those machines that used my client's product as a component, not only for the technological advancement of their product, but for "extraordinary customer friendliness" of their product training and interactive instruction tools. The sales' levels and company's profits shot up and stayed up for almost three years.... until their techies - left again to their own devices - managed to ruin the "extraordinary customer friendliness" of the company's new and improved products' instruction tools, once again reducing them to - incomprehensible for most end users - techno-gobbledygook. And the sales responded accordingly: they fell.
Geeesh, will they ever learn????

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