On the difference between techies and non-techies (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source, Science, and Nature.

Tue, 01 Sep 2009

On the difference between techies and non-techies

It's so easy as a techie to forget how many people tune out anything that looks like it has to do with technology.

I've been following the terrible "Station fire" that's threatening Mt Wilson observatory as well as homes and firefighters' lives down in southern California. And in addition to all the serious and useful URLs for tracking the fire, I happened to come across this one: http://iscaliforniaonfire.com/

Very funny! I laughed, and so did the friends with whom I shared it. So when a non-technical mailing list began talking about the fire, I had to share it, with the comment "Here's a useful site I found for tracking the status of California fires."

Several people laughed (not all of them computer geeks). But one person said,

All it said was "YES." No further comments.

The joke seems obvious, right? But think about it: it's only funny if you read the domain name before you go to the page. Then you load the page, see what's there, and laugh.

But if you're the sort of person who immediately tunes out when you see a URL -- because "that's one of those technical things I don't understand" -- then the page wouldn't make any sense.

I'm not going to stop sharing techie jokes that require some background -- or at least the ability to read a URL. But sometimes it's helpful to be reminded of how a lot of the world looks at things. People see anything that looks "technical" -- be it an equation, a Latin word, or a URL -- and just tune out. The rest of it might as well not be there -- even if the words following that "http://" are normal English you think anyone should understand.

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