Are your users stupid?

Are the users of your software stupid? Ignorant? "Know just enough to be dangerous?"

I know we have all had them. People who just simply don't understand what you are trying to do, and just get in the way by their sheer incompetence. They can be angry, pushy, and even sometimes go around established channels to get around you and do things their own way.

Well I am currently sitting on both sides of this table at the moment ... In on aspect of my job I am the "stupid user" and another I am working with users who clearly think they know more than they do. Now firstly, I am not saying me or my co-workers are calling our customers stupid, or anything else I mentioned above. I just wanted to point out that taken to an extreme users can seem this way.

In the case where I am the (stupid) user, our security department wants to take away any administrative privileges we have on our own windows boxes. This makes me really angry, because I don't like being told that I cannot upgrade my copy of eclipse without an appointment, and If I want to try/update opera, I will need to call tech support into my office to do the work for me. The fact of the matter is that I can do these things myself and use less employee time than I would take in making the phone call to setup the appointment.

HOWEVER, the security department sees users like me as dangerous, ingnorant half-wits, ready to install the next rootkit just to get a pretty screensaver. They already have us running on non-admin accounts, so most threats are nearly completely mitigated. Along with the automated windows update pushes and the required virus software, I haven't had any problems for more than 3 years. They do a nice job keeping the viruses and worms off campus, and the machines run much more smoothly for it. I feel rather insulted that they feel that employees who all have college level degrees and get paid $60K or more per year, cannot be taught what not to install, and instead they must install baby gates. I just want to do my work, and if they leave a hole open where I will be able to install/update software without them I will probably just do it. If you have a degree in computer science then you should be intelligent enough to keep your own software up to date. In the end I just want to do my work with as little hassle as possible.

Now, lets look at my own users:

I have some users who like me, just want to get work done. They have an expectation on how my programs/applications should run, and one of them even started learning Perl so that she could be part of the team I am on and do development. Because of this, our customers know just enough about the flow of the programs that they only know that certian things can be done, and not necessarily how they should be done.

As a result, we get a lot of 'suggestions' that are really design decisions. They tell us how our software should work on the inside, instead of letting us decide what is really the best design for their needs.

I really have nothing against my customers, but I am writing this to show others that it is real easy to think your customers are pushy, or even stupid when they simply want to get work done.

I suggest that the next time you feel your customers are stupid, pushy, angry, or just about anything else, consider that they probably just want to use the technology so that they can get their work done, so they can go to the pub. Try to find out in a nice(er) manner, what they are trying to do, and how you can help them achieve this goal, and still meet your needs weather you are part of the security department, a developer, HR, whatever.

Your users are seldomly stupid, they just might not know the things you know.


You might not like it, but I can absolutely see where your IT department is coming from. The problem is that if they allow you to keep priviliges, they also have to allow anybody else with the same sort of claim of competency to.

According to my friends in academia, the CS department is always, and I do mean always, the single biggest source of malware spread in a university. Given the fact that a degree in Computer Science is absolutely nothing to do with the ability to sysadmin your way out of a paper bag, this should come as no surprise to you whatsoever.

Back when I was a systems administrator for a software house, the biggest problem in terms of desktop support was invariably the developers - they'd install something like MSSQL for testing and then forget it was there, and the next time an MSSQL worm came round, BLAM.

So, while I sympathise with your situation and your frustration, the fact that IT "feel that employees who all have college level degrees and get paid $60K or more per year, cannot be taught what not to install" is a totally rational opinion on their part, no matter that in the specific case of you it isn't true.

Welcome to the wonder of having to set policies that can be provably consistently enforced in a user support environment. Note that I still think your overall point about specification processes is excellent - but it's sadly obscured by your initial bout of complaining.

-- mst, out

At our office, the developers are all given admin on our own machines and left largely to our own devices (with the exception of the internet nanny filter and unremovable anti-virus).

The caveat to this, however, is that you only get admin if you are within walking distance of a punch in the face from the admins.

Anyone outside of the same floor that the admins occupy doesn't get special privileges.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by leonard published on January 6, 2010 12:39 PM.

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