In reading through the postings generated in response to the recent article on Lindows
I am reminded once again of a phenomenon I've witnessed over and over through the years: People don't read what's on the screen!
As the local household oracle of all things digital, I'm often asked to help with various computer related issues. My typical first question is: "Was there an error message?". Often I'll get the reply: "Uhm, yeah, I think so". Then, when I ask what it said I typically get: "I don't know". Wait a minute... The error message popped up, the user/family member HAD to click on OK or whatever to make it go away, and they didn't read it? Perhaps the OK button is too obvious.
I've spent countless hours with folks of all stripes coaching them through this or that bit of software, and being continually amazed at how little they really comprehend. A dialogue pops up on the screen, and they sit there staring at it blankly. Some text comes back in response to a command entered from the prompt, and they sit there staring at it blankly. An icon starts blinking, a counter changes value or a progress bar reaches the 100% point and stops, and, yes, they sit there staring at it blankly. They'll sit there for a while until they finally ask: "What do I do now?"
Although I really want to yell at them, something along the lines of "Read the friggin' screen!", I don't. I grind my teeth, count to ten, and patiently (mostly) point out that perhaps they should read the message or look at the progress bar. And even then some of them just don't get it.
So, what's wrong here? Are these people morons? In most cases, no, they're not. Many of them have PhD's, a few run their own successful small businesses, and a couple of them have been around computers for years in the capacity of daily user. It seems that there's something going on involving how people perceive a computer screen, and it appears to be deeper than just the arrangement of icons or the color of a dialogue box.
I wish I had the time to look into this, as I think it would make a great topic for someone in cognitive science or psychology. But alas, time is short, I'm getting older by the second, and I have annoying things like a house mortage and other debts to fret over.
Maybe in my next lifetime.