There is absolutely nothing in the world like the feeling you get when you're doing tech support on a program you have literally never used before with a cooperative end-user. othercat
is having troubles with The Gimp. Since I'd recommended it to her as a free open source photo editor, I decided it was high time to install and use it for myself. I installed it sometime yesterday afternoon, opened it, looked at the shiny menus, and closed it up and went back to my fugue. othercat
IMed me this morning with a docking issue, so I had to open up The Gimp and figure out, first, what the heck she was talking about, then figure out how to explain that to her remotely. The excellent thing about this whole situation is that while othercat
is not a natural computer person, she is also highly cooperative with people who do know computer stuff, and happily accepts all the computer help she can get. She will describe what is going on on her end (sometimes in language I can understand, sometimes not), and will willingly re-describe it until I can get a sense of what is going on. Then I have to diagnose the problem, and figure out what it is that she's doing (or not). Programmers and designers have a common language, a common set of assumptions, and some common blind spots. End-users have little to none of this, and will adopt some of the techies' jargon regardless, though not in the same way the techies use it.
There are also some common conventions used by programmers for different platforms. Microsoft-released ware will have a fuzzy approach to some controls: you may click or drop on them or near them, and it works the same. Things designed by computer people for computer people (Linux, Firefox, the Gimp) require that you click exactly
on something to use it, on the very reasonable assumption that if you clicked near
it, you might have been looking for something else that was near it. It helps to know this, and other things like it. From this, I was able to figure out othercat
's problem with docking -- need to grab the item in just
the right place, and need to drop it in just
the right place also, and I was able to explain how to do this over a text-based IM with nary a graphic in sight.
I'm very happy with both of us. This is valuable tech-support experience for me. Text chat is more limited than voice phone, and uses a somewhat different skill set, but I've got the phone experience from work. She got her issue resolved, and that thrills me.