People really, really suck at using computers


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I'd like to know how much of these results reflect users either not being able to properly think through a problem, or if they simply panic at the thought of using a computer. If it's the latter, that will disappear with time, but the former will need a great deal more training.


I'd fail basically anything related to basic auto maintenance. Vlookups - check. Changing my own oil - fail.


It's interesting to see the results for Japan – the highest proportion of competent level 3 users (which is as I'd expect), but almost 50% can barely use computers, if at all.


I just use the same method for both.


That was the biggest surprise of that study. After many decades of building up their tech and engineering industries, the overall population there has been doing badly in computer literacy?


Interesting to see in statistical form what I've seen and come to expect as a given in my own experience. Over the years, technology engineers and designers have created a situation where the only people who'll have mastery over these critical and pervasive systems ("mastery" implying an even smaller subset of Level 3 skills) are those who think exactly like them.

I'm also not surprised to see that the USA falls below the OECD average for strong and medium computer skills (which by the definitions of the study seems to have a lot to do with non-tech problem-solving skills, e.g. finding a time convenient for three different people to meet).


I got to see some of this in action during the Thanksgiving holiday. My mother-in-law's iPad received an update that required her to use a password she apparently hasn't used in years and was totally boggled by the idea that I couldn't "just make it work" for her (keeping in mind I have never owned an Apple tablet). Meanwhile my father-in-law, who earned his engineering degree in the '50s, spent all morning trying to "diagnose" why it had happened while we tried explaining that he wasn't going to out-think Apple's security features and that they should just click the damn "I forgot my password" link on the screen.


Tha's because they've got more Olds than everybody else.


Japan's population is aging - we may just be seeing that they have a greater proportion of 55-65-year-olds than other countries.


Not a single thing about privacy or security for Level 1.

I'm amazed at how many Millennials and younger don't have a clue about such things, or only the most basic options.


As a control, I'd like to see a study of similar tasks performed without computers. I wonder how much of this is people lacking computing skills and how much is simply people lacking basic critical thinking and/or math skills. The one example task involving computing a percentage of emails requires one to know what a percentage is, and sadly, I'm not optimistic that a majority of the population knows this. (On the other hand, the specific failures observed may have been computer-related things like email filtering.)


Yeah, that's why my tech support advice to friends and family and clients about Apple devices these days is usually "just take it to the Apple store and they'll fix it/replace it." This response is not something they expect from someone with three decades of personal and professional experience in IT, but I can't be arsed to try to fix Apple's locked-down devices myself anymore. Apple is welcome to deal with users bewildered by their "helpful" and "intuitive" configuration options themselves.


The computer industry should be well aware that they create or at least exacerbate this problem themselves by marketing computers as appliances and entertainment products instead of the tools that they actually are. But they do it anyway because flashy widgets sell more units than tools.

I agree that ignorance is generally not good, and we should encourage better education. But I also think that for most people, computers are a solution looking for a problem. But the marketplace won't acknowledge that, because they want sales and happy customers rather than solving real-world problems. Also, companies (and increasingly, governments) are bottom-line-chasing cheapskates who prefer to automate everything because it improves their own profit margins - NOT because it is what all or even most people want.

I bet that the statistics for being able to use a multimeter or oscilloscope are even worse.


Not surprised about Japan at all. If only they measured fax machine know-how Japan would have been #1!

One story I heard is that Japan had an early lead in the 90s with advanced cell phone services so that people never felt the need to buy a family computer and hop on the Internet.


I don't really think it's fair to complain about actually effective security being "locked down". That's the whole point. I'm happy that the devices that carry all my personal information can finally be locked down enough that if I lose one, I don't have to worry about some random person getting access to my private data.

Unfortunately, computer security has been so terrible for so long that the general population now expects that any computer expert can just "hack" past any security system with ease.


Read tfa earlier, and my first reaction was that the tasks designed don't necessarily reflect common real world usage, and my second thought was 'what about smartphones?' To put it another way, if the tasks were redesigned for things people really do with their personal mobile devices and not a standard desktop PC, I suspect the results might be different.

The irony is that Nielsen is using this as a club to beat his favorite hobby horse (designers), yet he couldn't be arsed to look at the design of the survey because it concurs with his bias.


It's the machine and OS and (to an extent) the interface that's locked down, to the point where most users can't figure out how or where to configure the security and privacy settings themselves (and where it's too much of a hassle for IT people to get under that pretty and sleek hood). Most of the time that's not a problem, but Apple has made sure that when it is that those users are stuck going directly to the company to solve it as quickly as an IT person could on a device running Windows or an open-source *Nix distro. That's why I always recommend that people who buy the devices invest in Applecare protection -- it's one of the few insurance/warranty programmes that users avail themselves of on a regular basis.


The fastest way to computer expertise is to be a cheap bastard that refuses to upgrade.


I blame ageism; people generally assume that young people are "digital natives" and therefore proficient with computers, as well as the first corollary that old people are bad at computers, prima facie.

The upshot is that neither group is empowered to challenge this assumption and the cone of ignorance continues to swallow us all...