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Rule #1: DON'T DISREGARD this factor!

As many technology-driven people are in their families, we end up being the Nick Burns of the family.  We are often called on by our non-technical members of our families to explain, install, fix, debug, and generally be a shoulder to lean on for technology woes.

I'm no different. 

My mother-in-law, bless her heart, hates technology.  She views it as a necessary evil rather than a blessing.  Here's some things she's had wrong with technology (NOTE: had I not seen them for myself I wouldn't have believed it):

  • bad black printer cartridge - it printed only green
  • two defective hard drives -- to the clicking type of defect: one on an emachine, the other on a dell (after recommending a dell because they are more reputible than emachine)
  • docking station hardware failures to BSOD on her laptop
  • CD burners scratching backup data
  • failed USB keys
  • scratched scanner lense
  • defective wireless access point that would reset to manufacturer configuration every other day

As you can see, she has had some troubles...this makes her hate technology.

But she uses it.  But she doesn't use it well, in my opinon.  Here are a few anecdotes descriping the Mother-in-law Factor (MLF):

  • Bookmarks:  I was called into her office one day and she said 'you have to see this website I visited, let me find it.'  Perplexed, I waited.  She ruffled through stacks and stacks of stapled papers and produced the 'website' in paper form.  That's right, her bookmark system was printing out the websites she liked.  I tried to explain the concept of bookmarks, but she didn't trust them and to this day prints out her 'bookmarks.'
  • Saving in Word:  She couldn't find a file one day and I told her to look in My Documents.  She wondered why because 'I don't save them there, I save them in Word.'  She could not initially comprehend (and still doesn't a bit) the concept of an application versus documents and how they relate...to her, all her stuff was saved 'in Word.'
  • Email: let's not even go there...try explaining POP3 to your mom and why two different computers don't share the same email storage.
  • Wireless: she bought a laptop because it 'had wireless' and figured she could use it when meeting with clients (she's a real estate agent).  She didn't realize you needed someone to provide access to the Internet -- she thought that if she bought wireless it wouldn't be needed.
  • Database: how does she manage her client list.  In a database of course, unless you don't consider a 2-column Word document as a database.  Mail merges?  Oh she does that.  By hand.  Print out database, write on paper...that's her mail merge.  Every month she does this -- to about 100 people.  We finally bought her ACT...hasn't even been installed yet.
  • Plug-ins: she doesn't know what this is and if you mention it, she'll be looking for an outlet.

So as you can see, MLF is your least common denominator for technology.  Design to this personna.

Please don't disregard it, you'll be sorry.

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