Don’t Want To Be Your Personal Geek Squad
Original image found over on Best Buy
Those who know me, know that my day job is in IT and that I’ve been doing this in some form or another for almost 25 years now [at multiple companies, I might add]. My official title is Network Administrator, with a special emphasis on email administration for the last 16 years, specifically Microsoft Exchange.
I also have a bit of experience in knowing MS Windows since the days of version 1.0 and can work my way around the various OS versions, with the exception of Vista, which I’ve not had much interest in knowing. I admit to liking Windows 7, though, as I silently praise it’s stability and ease of use.
But for those who really know me, know that all of my personal computing is done on a Macintosh for the last five years. In fact, I’ve been a Mac user since 1985, owning a Macintosh 512K [Fat Mac] and various other models over the last 25 years. It’s been my source of sanity for the many headaches I deal with on Windows for my job.
Which brings me to the subject matter of this post.
Can I Ask You A Computer Question?
I regularly get asked to help people fix their computers. Anything from removing a spyware or malware that’s taken over their computer, cleaning out a virus or two, saving their data from a failing hard drive, installing a new computer system, setting up a home network… pretty much any type of computer issue, I get asked and often.
And to be completely honest, I really don’t want to help. Especially if it involves Microsoft Windows. It’s nothing personal against anyone. It’s just that after working all day, the last thing I want to do is fix another computer issue. And most of the time, I don’t get paid for it. Sure I can demand payment and there are times where I do accept payment for my time and knowledge. But in the end, monetary compensation is not a motivation for offering my services. I honestly would prefer not to get involved at all.
Of course there are exceptions. Family, close friends and stuff that I can easily fix with a few simple commands or a program. Not a problem, so long as I don’t become your constant go-to tech guy each and every time something happens you don’t understand. Understand? Good.
Back in December 2008, I posted something similar, ranting about the people that I know that only call me when they have a computer issue. And while I still would prefer not to, I do help those that also remember that I am their friend to discuss other subjects other than fixing a borked desktop. Like going for drinks, talking about making videos, writing stories, gadget geek sessions and anything to do with movies and music. If I’m busy, I do my best to be honest and those who respect me and my time, are greeted with a smile as I offer to help them when I can.
For another take on what I said above, check out this wonderful, extremely funny and accurate scenario that the talented people at The Oatmeal have put together.
Not Always Reciprocal
Another side of my rant is that I rarely ask others for help. So if someone asks for my help, I could in turn, ask for their help with something. But I have no interest in scrap booking, nor do I wish for your help in mowing my lawn or for you to create a religious symbol that I wear around my neck. My rare need for help, when offered in exchange for my computer services, are almost always taken and very much appreciated. [the camera mount on my scooter and the light in our carport are two examples I can think of offhand] Which is why most people offer to pay me, which I’ve already discussed above.
So if you are in need of help with your computer, take note of the following before picking up the phone or sending that text or email:
- Do you only contact me when your computer is broken?
- Are you ok with me saying no, even if you offer me payment?
- Do you need it fixed right away or can it wait until I can schedule it when it works for me?
- Is there something that you know how to do that will be useful to me?
- Do you use a Mac? [hint: I’m more open to helping with Mac issues]
If you can go down this check list and answer appropriately, then feel free to ask. If I’ve helped you in the past and it’s been easy or simple and at least 80% of our other conversations are non-computer fixing related, then send that email or text and I’ll see what I do. If I can teach you how to fix the problem, then that goes a long way with me. And of course, if I offer out of the blue, that means I really like you and am willing to help, with the expectation that the above is all respected.
Because in the end, all that I’m wanting is mutual respect and consideration when it comes to technical matters. Which also means, I won’t cringe when you call, email or text. I’ll smile and know I have a friend for life.
Um, can I ask you a computer question? 😉
And if they haven’t used your checklist, your other option is to have them do what the rest of us do. Google that shit.
My Mum is sometimes amazed that I can answer her questions about her computer long distance via the phone. 97% of the time I don’t ever *know* the answers to her questions, but I know how to *find* the answers.
This reminds me of how people always want me to help them with architecture stuff… that is my day job. Let me relax!
I can only imagine!! I would go bonkers!!!
I therefore feel honored that you offered to look at my memory stick! 🙂
I’m very sure that I’ve never left a comment before, however, my computer is ya, know… running slow. Can you look at it? 🙂 I kid! I kid!
I know next to nothing about computers, but the stuff I do know I somehow ended up becoming the ALL TECHINCAL stuff guru for my family (everything from hooking up TV’s, DVD players, making Wii be able to hook up the interent and the list goes on- Oh! I was the last person to get a flat screen and a Wii in my family, but was the first one they asked to hook them up). I’m like, ‘Dude! I really have no idea” and they are like, ‘Yeah, but if you take look at it, I’m sure you can figure it out. You are good with stuff like that.” Then I bang my head because I know I just got sucked into a blackhole of me “fixing” whatever it code for me googling this and trying that.
Gives me a headache just thinking of it!
That would drive me nuts.
By the way – I have a question about my MacBook Pro…. ::wink::
My hours on paper are 9am – 5pm Monday through Friday, and my work is given to me by my supervisors. If you are not my supervisors then FUCK OFF. 🙂
Really well written post. You should never feel guilted, tricked, forced into helping people with their computers.
I don’t force anyone else to help me with anything else. I treat others how I WILL be treated, so have no problem telling them that.
I still get asked for that stuff a lot too. Most of the time, I do say no especially when it’s Windows problems because I explain I know very little about Windows troubleshooting anymore. I use a Windows computer at work, but because I’m not IT, I don’t really get to play with anything on it. I’m locked out. And I own Macs at home.
Of course this doesn’t help with Katie’s family which is mostly Mac based. I actually was asked to help troubleshoot a printer problem… on EASTER SUNDAY at an EASTER PARTY!
I’m a Web guy, folks. Not an IT technician.
I think this happens no matter what a persons day job is. I do home daycare and you would be surprised (or maybe not) by how many people ask me to watch their kids because “I’ll be home anyway”. Some people take advantage on purpose because I am a nice person but some people just don’t realize that the favor they are asking of me is actually a big deal and they might be overstepping. I have a limit on how many kids I can legally watch and if I take that extra kid as a favor I could end up in violation of my license! But obviously I would help a friend in an extreme situation/emergency, just as I am sure you would. I just don’t like it to be expected that I will because that is what I do. I think everyone wants to be thought of as more than their job.
I’m not even in this field but since I’ve been back home, my family members all call me whenever they have one little technical problem, simply because I know a helluva lot more than most laymen.
I would want to strangle someone if I were you. Uh huh.
i agree that this type of stuff happens to everyone, regardless of the job they do. people’s jobs tend to be what they like or what they are good at so their friends and family assume they won’t mind helping with something they are naturally gifted at.
personally, i ask any and everyone for help (if i truly need help). that being said, i am never, ever angry when someone says no or that they are too busy. i know that i am responsible for my life and don’t mind when others don’t care to help out.
also, without a doubt i support and encourage your saying no when you want to say no. i should have made that clearer above. no one should make you feel like you should help them just because your job gives you the knowledge to do something.
The thing I do most often for people now is remove spyware. The only time I get troubled by this is when it’s the same person, over and over, and they’ve not listened to what I’ve told them to do to *not* get infected. (I’m also not a big fan of “Our friend John said it would be okay to do it this one time.” Where “it” is something I’d warned against. In those cases I’d like John to work on the computer.)
OK, let me see…
* Do you only contact me when your computer is broken?
* Are you ok with me saying no, even if you offer me payment?
* Do you need it fixed right away or can it wait until I can schedule it when it works for me?
I can wait.
* Is there something that you know how to do that will be useful to me?
Order a drink?
* Do you use a Mac? [hint: I’m more open to helping with Mac issues]
OK, so here goes…
Quicken for Windows (2007, I think) running in VMware on my MacBook Pro often crashes (in three different ways) when it’s downloading bank transactions. FIX IT FOR ME!!!
(I’d really like to switch away from Quicken, but I refer to old data so often, and export/import has become so restrictive, that I can’t pull the plug.)
I get asked a lot of tech questions, too, though it seems to have fallen off a bit. When it comes to family, I’m the guy. Fortunately, I’m still using Windows XP, so many times I’m asked about Vista or Win 7 and say, “Sorry, never used them.” Avoids a lot of crap I don’t feel like doing.
finn – Um, sure. Let me schedule that in… 😉
kevin – I certainly wish they would learn to Google. That’s how I find out some of the solutions. And as you said, that is the key to fixing stuff. It’s not needing to know it all, just know where to find the answer.
kilax – Exactly. You do that all day, you need a break.
sybil law – Just email me and let me know. I’ll see what I can do to recover the photos.
janelle – It amazes me how people instantly cling to someone that knows about computers, even if it’s just the basics. We all need the reprieve.
robin – Well, since it’s about your MacBook, fire away… 😉
poppy – Thank you. And you are spot on with your comment. Learning to just say no helps a lot.
kapgar – Yep, that’s exactly me. I already despise Windows. The last thing I want is to use it after work hours for someone other than me.
tori – Awesome comment. See, you get it, too. I figured it was career independent. People feel like picking your brain on that subject that you know about, expecting you to help at any time.
hilly – Sometimes my hands move into the neck strangling position when I hear the requests.
hello haha narf – Understanding when someone says no is a big part of it. I would be less angry and upset if that were the case with some people.
delmer – Mind if I send people your way? ;-)… For Windows users, I get a lot of spyware removal. Sometimes a tough root kit. A few times, I’ve had to just say “back up your data, reformat and reinstall” just because I don’t have the hours to find the root.
ren – ha ha… Seriously, I still use Quicken 2006 for Mac because I’ve not wanted to move to anything else. Fortunately, it works for me and never crashes.
karl – I use the Vista excuse a lot. I really have not used it enough and I’m not going to learn on someone else’s computer. Plus, I don’t want to.