Ed Bott, in a discussion thread in response to one of his blog postings about "No more Vista whining, please" revealed something very troubling - Ed twice stated that he was offered and could make "Big Bucks" if he wrote articles trashing Windows Vista. Well no kidding, was my immediate response - and then I was horrified at my own reaction - I was horrified, because I wasn't surprised by what Ed revealed. I just accepted the idea that people really were willing to ignore facts, obfuscate the truth about the new operating system and all users and small business owners were to be damned - as people were paid to lie about and then trash [for money] an operating system central to the evolution of the ecosystem supporting ninety-plus percent of the computers used around the world. My own reaction made me sick - I used to stand up against such things based upon the worth of truth alone.
Are advertisers and special interests really willing and or actually paying journalists and bloggers to trash Windows Vista? If so, how does one find evidence of it? I guess these are questions worth asking and it is quite a story, if true. I thought about researching the matter and then I thought about it some more and decided that pursuing so much potentially negative energy would be a lot more costly personally than it would be worth. Instead what you are about to read came to mind.
Dealing with the Unrelenting, Unforgiving Man in the Mirror - he isn't going to go away!
We may as well make peace with the man in the mirror right now. Those that do will learn what it is to truly live without fear. Those that don't will continue to seek out and find targets to blame for everything that is wrong in their lives - no matter how big, or small. For now, let's just keep it simple and deal with something small... computers and the operating system that likely runs on it.
Far too often we spend a lot of time and energy blaming others and or something else for what does not work in our lives - including our personal computers. It's a sad trend and it's getting worse and easier to do. Any time we need support for our efforts to blame others, all we need do is turn to the web and we'll find plenty of others willing to do the same and share our justifications. When it comes to personal computers and Windows we all have plenty of company and lots of angry voices to help us blame Windows for all things troubling, or even mildly challenging about our computers. Very few of those thumping in to support our blame game ever turn us around and march us straight into the nearest mirror and rightfully say, "Dude, the real problem here is between the chair and the keyboard - kindly deal with this idiot, first!"
The problem isn't the person - the computer user in general. The problem is how we are responding to challenges. Instead of taking ownership and responsibility, we're very quick to look for and blame someone, or some thing else - these days it may as well be Windows Vista. After all, people are apparently being paid to trash it and assign it fault for all things troubling about computers.
It's not my fault...
I have an adult child that uses that phrase like a crack addict hits the pipe and it makes me want to vomit and split my own stomach [where did I go so wrong with that one?!?!?] "No, it may very well NOT BE your FAULT, but it for damn sure is likely to be your responsibility."
Responsibility and Ownership
Being successful is not the result of the application of some secret formula, or instances of blind luck. Success is a product - responsibility multiplied by the number of times one is willing to take ownership of challenges on behalf of themselves and others. It is high time people re-took responsibility and ownership of their role when operating a modern connected computer. It is long past any time when computer users could wear ignorance like some merit badge. It is time those blessed enough to be born into modern and technically developed societies come to regard computer literacy in the same light as they should general literacy - as an imperative life skill.
People and Cars - Cars and Computers
Take your car, and your average driver as an example... Nearly all of us drive everyday. We drive safely, for the most part and responsibly most of the time. We drive without thinking about the mechanics of it and that is how it must be - if we had to think about it, we'd be whacking into one another and a lot of other objects with a great deal more regularity. When a human drives a car they are fully engaged - processing a myriad of actions and information simultaneously. Each of a driver's limbs is in motion and independent of the motion of the other limbs. We're modulating the accelerator, brakes and signals independent of steering and the amazing stereo-optic binocular vision our creator provided each of us is constantly triangulating not only our own time, speed and distance, but that of many dozens of other objects - each in independent motion. Our other sense are not idle either. Our ears are tuned in to all around us and our sense of touch senses how hard we are on and need to brake just as capably as it senses how a car is turning, or how well balanced its wheels are. Our sense of smell alerts us of any potential dangers to man and or machine - the smell of oil, gasoline, exhaust, and even coolant - each can alert us in an instant if there is cause for concern or action. We may even engage our sense of taste as we add the consumption of beverages and snacks as we motor along [not a great idea, and not at all recommended, but we all do it]. These days we also talk on our phones [hoping they are hands free, but realistic enough to know many are not], and God forbid, some even text and send emails! If we stopped and thought about it for even a moment, we might even slow down a little - as we marvel at just how complex and involved driving is.
As amazing as driving is, and as casually as we all perform the function of driving, we seldom think about how we arrived at such a capable state. Let me refresh our memories... We learned to drive over many years and it began first by watching a great many others drive. We absorbed and learned to mimic the mechanics and art of driving long before we ever touched a wheel of our own. A little later on we sat in the laps of parents, brothers and sisters and other adults in our families - they let us steer as we slowly tooled around an empty lot, farm or early morning road empty of other cars. A bit later we drove little carts at amusement parks and our arms, legs, hands and eyes picked up on the mechanics of driving. We thrilled at all of it - we could sense the freedom under our fingers and we longed to hit the open road on our own. Next we entered formalized drivers training and we learned the rules of the road as well as how to drive technically and safely. We were awarded permits and under the careful eye of an adult, we practiced driving. Finally, we took off on our own - masters of the wheel... or so we thought. As young drivers we all bumped, scrapped and crashed into a lot more things and other cars than most are willing to admit and only after many years of driving and having to pay the price for our mistakes, did we start to really get it and operate our cars like responsible and seasoned members of a very large and growing club.
All the while we paid for insurance, tickets and maintenance and it all hurt and still does. Over time we embraced the reality that owning and driving a car was a big and costly responsibility and we learned the value of doing it right each and every time. When we had kids we came to understand the real importance of driving safely and defensively and our understanding of this only grew as our children grew and began to drive themselves. We became keenly sensitive to the use of our cars - especially when our kids did not care for them, or heaven forbid, wrecked them. We all paid and very sadly, too many paid, too much and they lost loved ones in terrible accidents. In the end, as much as we came to appreciate our need to drive, we embraced how amazing a privilege it really is.
In a car, we are trained, licensed, insured, policed, inspected and governed. We are free to drive to any place we wish, when we wish, but there are basic rules and laws we must adhere to if we are to remain safe and retain our privilege to drive. When we wreck a car, even the worst of them seem only to affect a very few and as horrible and tragic as the losses may be, they are most often distant enough from us, that we are tricked into assessing it can't ever involve us. When we operate a personal computer however, we are subject to nearly no laws - though our potential to harm millions is very real.
Cars and Driving - Perhaps the First "Liberating Technology"
The car changed us - it changed society as we know it. The car liberated us. We could work, learn, marry, live and die hundreds and thousands of miles distant from where we were born. I named my company, "Liberating Technologies" because I saw computer based technologies as being even more liberating - freeing people from the finite paths over which cars might travel between any two, or more points. As a technology, computers are the most liberating technology we now have - they are the cars we drive along an unending and ever changing network of invisible roads and with them we travel as fast as our minds will let us - rendering the speed of light to some lesser velocity.
Driving Computers - the most Liberating of Technologies
First, we have to get our heads around the idea that we drive our computers and by so doing, we are participants on a network of many highways which require that we exercise at least as much care for how we operate a computer as we do a car. Second, we have to stop blaming people and companies for what we experience while operating a computer of any kind and start taking ownership of the experience and responsibility for our actions and the less visible actions taken by our computers. We wouldn't dream of letting an un-trained child or young adult drive our cars and we shouldn't dream of letting a child drive a computer without the same controls, supervision and care we apply to the use of a car. It took us years to reduce the driving of a car to muscle memory and we have to accept that it will take time to master the use of connected computers. We have to commit to educating ourselves and those we are responsible for.
Once we have accepted the life-long responsibility of properly and safely operating a connected computer, then and only then may we effectively participate among others who have accepted the same. The socialization of the web is great, but we have to admit that it may also be lending a disproportionate share of voice to a highly vocal group of people that may not have earned their full right to that voice. Simply, many operators out there may have the technical skills to drive, but we must ask, do they have the wisdom to drive alongside others and do they have the experience necessary to formulate policies, or even influence those policies that have the potential to impact so many others. We have to condition ourselves and others to stop blaming others and start taking responsibility for how well, or not well, computers operate.
Like Cars, Computers are More Capable and Complex than Ever Before
Very few people are shade-tree mechanics any longer. For better and for worse, cars have become so sophisticated and so complex that even the most seasoned professional mechanics are now highly specialized and focused on areas of responsibility. Precious few people are experienced in all areas of how a car is built or works. In our own company, which is a full-service enterprise, we have specialists and no one person has all the capabilities our customers need. Collectively however, our teams do have the required aggregate experience and skill. The very same is true of a modern computer in the context of a user. So it is most important that computer users come to understand to whom they may turn when they need assistance - and they WILL NEED assistance. They may not necessarily need repairs right away, but computer users nearly always need help immediately.
Stop Blaming Windows and Vista
Blaming Windows, Vista and Microsoft my score a forum poster style points over at /. or earn a compliant blogger a few more dollars, but it isn't going to solve the challenges people face when learning and using a new operating system.
We have proved to ourselves, our customers and readers that Windows Vista can be made to run not just well, but perfectly. I have shared our work and experiences here. We know and have shown that with the application of normal levels of effort and care, that Windows Vista is capable of satisfying claims of being the most capable, secure and easiest to use version of Windows yet made. We know from our own use that Windows Vista is more than just capable and reliable, it is a joy to use - it's fast, beautiful to look at and things really are easy to find - be they applications, documents, or media of any type.
We also know how sophisticated Windows Vista is and that it took very hard work to design and manufacture computers and software that allow it to do what it does best. We know how hard we studied to learn and understand it from every perspective and how to optimize it for different roles.
We assess that computer users need to apply similar, but relevant efforts in learning the new operating system and the hardware they purchased, or purposed in support of Windows Vista.
The Parallels between Cars and Computers are nearly Endless but there are differences, too!
The most common parallel between computers and cars are the people that drive them - we humble human beings. We are fragile, complex little bi-peds with sharp teeth and sharper tongues. We have devolved in a lot of ways - we seem to delight in getting over on the other guy, or we fume in traffic and on the message boards. When it all heads south, we look for whom we might blame and blaming Microsoft and Windows Vista is as big, fat and attractive a target as they come - juicier and more available than Ford and Firestone - despite the fact that we never, ever check the air in our tires!
No one is immune from the blame game. Not me, not you and not well heeled techies the likes of Jim Louderback [no wonder PC MAG is on the ropes - the former senior editor wouldn't have made a decent PC Tech, much less a great computer engineer - not if you read his empty rant and take from it what I did...].
We've all done it. We've set down our responsibilities, picked up a big fluffy pillow and cried out load about how unfair it all is. We need to stop it.
Action is what is Required
This post is not enough by a long shot. We have to do more. I have to assume that people will read this and really want to learn more and take back ownership of what they do on and with a PC.
While we have always made ourselves available for COST FREE computer user training, we're taking it a step further and opening a school. We're offering our customers, their families, friends and colleagues, FREE access to training on Windows Vista, Office 2007, Exchange 2007, WSS 3.0, Windows Server 2003/2008 and all that may be done with and on them. Every other Saturday of every month, we will host people in our data center and simply share what and how we drive our PC's, networks and software. We have a full lab available and it includes all the systems, media systems, HDTV's and associated bits we all use every day. We're open and we're going to share and help people take back and own their computers and perhaps learn to face that guy in the mirror on our own terms in the process.
We hope you'll join us for the ride.