Some helpful advice

via Aziz Ansari

I try not to give advice, but I am glad that Poetic Prophet does. I learned how to use a computer around the same time I learned how to write. Our school had some awesome grantwriters, and I can only assume that is how we got Atari 800s in the computer lab, in the early ’80s. I grew up using computers, and I see a definite generation gap between people in my position and those who learned computers later.

A bunch of these, minus Burger King cups = Computer Center, 1983

A bunch of these, minus Burger King cups = Computer Center, 1983

I think the language analogy is apt; just as it is easier to learn languages while your brain is still developing as a young kid, it is easier to learn to use a computer at that age. Computing ends up seeming intuitive, rather than being something you are constantly “translating” into and out of. An e-mail is not an electronic letter, and a chat room is not an e-mail, and a web page is not a newsletter. I know this for the same reason I know how to use grammar in English; I’ve been practicing the concepts, if not these exact iterations, since I was a child.

Which isn’t to say that these things can’t be learned. Just as you can learn a language at any time in your life (I didn’t start learning French until college and ended up majoring in it), you can learn to use any technology you care to. I think the key here is to learn. Even those of us who come by this more instinctively need to learn and apply new knowledge. I had to learn html, just as I originally had to learn DOS, just as I now need to learn css. If you scoff because you are just using the internet casually, I completely understand, but I think that even a little bit of learning can a) make things a lot easier, b) help you to use the technology more effectively, and c) keep you from accidentally breaching the rules of nettiquette. (Sorry about that: I can’t stop smushing words together!) (Good starter book on e-mail = David Shipley’s Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home)

I agree with PP, though, that the best way to learn this stuff is to look around and play around and learn by doing. You might need some basic stuff to get you started. I do not recommend asking your children for help learning this. There are plenty of books on the subject; ask at your library, rather than purchasing books, as this kind of stuff is ever-evolving. But get online yourself and start playing around. See what you like, what kind of aesthetic appeals to you, and bookmark some pages. Follow links and see what else is out there and bookmark some more pages. Remember when you were a kid and you had to write a report on something that interested you? Choose something that interests you and do some online research about it, find communities about it, and read blogs devoted to it. (Again, here is where a good reference librarian comes in handy.) Okay, /end advice

E-mail. Looking at websites. Searching the internet. Using social networking media (and I include forums in this category). Creating your own blog or webpage or site. All learnable. All doable, no matter your generation or experience level. We can all use these tools more effectively, no matter where we are starting from, if we are willing to learn– from reference librarians, from experience, from other users, and from rappers.

For more information:
The Real Heart-Juice to Social Networking from Mark Silver’s Heart of Business Site
Obsolete Technology Website (to learn more about Atari)
Blackalicious’ Alphabet Aerobics and Chemical Calisthenics (warning: audio) (to learn more about life through rap)

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1 Comment »

  1. […] think that I’ve expressed my love for aesthetics a bit already, but I want to add, also, how important this is to me, in terms of ease of use and […]


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