It is fine if you don’t like Wikipedia. I do, despite its shortcomings. An easy way to get started, if it’s the sort of thing you’d like to try, is by adding citations which is a kind of natural librarian thing. I wrote an email to an online friend spelling out ways to get started. There are a few helpful tools and some “good to know” stuff. Adding citations can be a good way to get started and has maybe three steps
- Find something that needs a citation
- Find a citation for that thing
- Format and insert that citation (and add a note, and then if there are no more cites needed, remote the “citation needed” banner)
Continue reading “Ask A Librarian: How to get started adding citations to Wikipedia”
Subtitled: What’s the Yahoo! Internet Life for this generation?
From a friend: A nice older lady asked for advice on keeping up with technology and the kids. Are there any resources you’d recommend that I can in turn recommend to her? Web pages, books, etc?
That’s super challenging because some of it depends on what level she is at already.
- Online or offline information?
- Is she in an existing community?
- What’s her level of understanding? (for some people you have to overcome some pretty serious “I am an idiot” intertia, for others, not so much)
If she just wants to learn about her own technology I often suggest dummies guides or a few “for seniors” books that her library might have. GFC Learn Free has some great online tutorials as does Lynda.com (now owned by LinkedIn, UGH but that’s just a you+me complaint I think, most people don’t care). Also, of course, check out if there are classes at the local library.
If she’s just curious “What’s new in tech this week” she could do worse than AARP. I thought they had a “what’s new in tech” podcast and I guess they don’t? They do have this landing page which would be good, some older people don’t like AARP (can’t blame them, some of their stuff is annoying) but if she’s already in that zone, it’s a good one.
One group that does an good job for a specific niche is AAA for road/travel stuff. Their magazine is nice and readable but will also talk about apps and tools for traveling and I’ve always appreciate that. Same thing with Kiplingers for money stuff. I don’t know why I assume older people want “magazines” but that is what my mom liked. Yahoo used to have a great magazine that would highlight new tech trends and I think we all miss it. Wired is really not it and I don’t think there’s another one that does what the Yahoo mag did.
Podcasts are places a lot of people get information (I’ve never really made the jump) but they have some trusted brands. I think the big deal is convincing people that it’s just like listening to the radio which it can be but there are some hurdles first.
If she’s already using some news platform (Reddit, Google, I know I know) showing her how to get the “tech” section of those can be useful. Like Google News has a technology section
and I find it good for skimming what’s going on lately. Reddit’s ELI5
is great for basic explanations of stuff as is Simple Wikipedia
(Wikipedia written for about a third grader but you don’t have to tell her)
Hope this is helpful. I suspect there is probably a better place to go (I’ll ask people at drop-in time) but it’s so far outside of my wheelhouse I don’t know about it anymore. Cheers and happy autumn
I am looking for someone who can help me find and clear out excess data on one of my internal drives to free up space…
[While I am happy consulting, a lot of times if people know how to download, install and run software, they may not need my help. Someone emailed to ask about cleaning up his Mac’s hard drive. Here is my advice.]
The tool I usually use for identifying “What is taking up all the space?” is a free tool called Disk Inventory X which you can get at this link (click the upper right button to download, where it says 8.3 MB)
You may have to follow these instructions to open an application from an unknown developer. When you install and run it, it can give you an idea of what is taking up the space and where it is. Usually for a lot of people the answer is pretty straightforward like “Music” or “Old movies” or “Photos that you also have in iCloud.” In fact, a lot of times syncing iCloud stuff when you take a lot of photos is the thing filling up people’s hard drives. The #2 thing is old backups that are stored somewhere on the hard drive that they moved there when they got a new computer but never investigated. Continue reading “Ask A Librarian: Hard Drive Cleanup for Macs?”
From a friend’s email: My parent has become increasingly befuddled by things in older age, especially computers. I think the main problem is that everything offers way too much functionality, and they find it overwhelming and confusing. They are definitely confused by things updating and changing layouts and such. But they are also confused by long-standing things like tabs and new windows – when I went to help sort their laptop recently I found 78 Safari windows active, all opened to the same Yahoo Mail account. They had no idea. Are there any tools that you know of (hopefully for Mac) that maybe “simplify” things somehow? Or maybe an entirely different OS?
I feel like the Mac is usually the best option for older people if they want to use a computer and not a tablet. Tablets do solve some of these issues, but cause other ones. At the same time, I agree, I see my landlady’s computer like this all the time. And part of it is… maybe it’s okay to have it be weird?
One of the things I’ve been trying to get my landlady to do is turn the computer off every night. And then I set up her browser to not open all the old tabs (one of the culprits) and just open to her email. So when she opens it that day, there’s only so messed up it can get before she turns it off again and then… new start. And I think part of it all is that some people are just more… derailed by things. And so some of it is just “Well things change a lot, you do not have to like it (I sure don’t) but lets’ figure out how to get you to your email….” that sort of thing. Sometimes you have to let yourself be comfortable with someone else’s discomfort and just step them through how to get where they want to be.
Some people have found it easier to just get their email delivered via Mac’s Mail program. I think it creates more problems than it solves, honestly but it’s an option. But yeah, I have some people who
have been coming to drop-in time for over a decade and no matter what new tech they get they always sort of…. fail to learn how it works and then bitch or whine that it’s hard. Which, hey, those feelings are real and I can sympathize with them. But also realize that for whatever reason, absent any mental health issues, this is the way they are choosing to interact with it. There are some great “Missing manual” books for the Mac that can help explain things. But this is only good for people who are okay deputizing themselves to learn this stuff. The line I use a lot lately is: there are some people who demand lists when we try to give them flow charts. And you can’t learn to effectively operate a computer with a list, not anymore.
It might be helpful to hook them up with a local person who could swing by once a month and make sure stuff was basically working. I don’t know if you do this job but I feel like this is a great niche type job. One hour tune-ups. Don’t cost a lot but just swoop in, do software updates, make sure nothing is out of control, Flash is working nothing sketchy is going on, swoop out. If there’s a local senior center and/or library and they use a laptop, that can be a good place to send them. Otherwise, setting up Skype or Facetime to do desktop sharing and you can swoop in yourself to help with some of this. It’s always hardest with parent/kids. I always thought a good idea would be for people to ‘trade parents” with each other and like, I would have your parent with stuff and you could help my mom (RIP) with her stuff.
Note: This list, written in 1996 by Phil Agre is the best advice I can give people who are helping novice users with computer issues. Phil Agre was a visionary technologist and this list was up on his website forever but has been up and down lately so I am reprinting it.
Computer people are generally fine human beings, but nonetheless they do a lot of inadvertent harm in the ways they “help” other people with their computer problems. Now that we’re trying to get everyone on the net, I thought it might be helpful to write down everything I’ve been taught about helping people use computers.
First you have to tell yourself some things:
- Nobody is born knowing this stuff.
- You’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a beginner.
- If it’s not obvious to them, it’s not obvious.
- A computer is a means to an end. The person you’re helping probably cares mostly about the end. This is reasonable.
- Their knowledge of the computer is grounded in what they can do and see — “when I do this, it does that”. They need to develop a deeper understanding, of course, but this can only happen slowly, and not through abstract theory but through the real, concrete situations they encounter in their work.
- By the time they ask you for help, they’ve probably tried several different things. As a result, their computer might be in a strange state. This is natural.
- The best way to learn is through apprenticeship — that is, by doing some real task together with someone who has skills that you don’t have.
- Your primary goal is not to solve their problem. Your primary goal is to help them become one notch more capable of solving their problem on their own. So it’s okay if they take notes.
- Most user interfaces are terrible. When people make mistakes it’s usually the fault of the interface. You’ve forgotten how many ways you’ve learned to adapt to bad interfaces. You’ve forgotten how many things you once assumed that the interface would be able to do for you.
- Knowledge lives in communities, not individuals. A computer user who’s not part of a community of computer users is going to have a harder time of it than one who is.
Continue reading “How to Help Someone Use a Computer by Phil Agre”