Sunday, June 11, 2006

Live nude... computer help

Something I should have talked about for a while now is an email I got at work a while back from a complete stranger whom I'd helped on-line (via email) in a listserv.

The person in question sent a question about an issue he was having with Word (yes, the Microsoft Office application, just so we're clear), and of all the responses he received from others on the listserv, he noted mine was the only one where someone took the time to analyze the symptoms to properly diagnose his problem and give him a suggestion that led to the solution.

It’s worth bearing in mind that it’s entirely volunteer on the listserv, and with any question posed to the membership any responses offered are done by people taking time out of what they’re supposed to be doing to help a stranger. It’s very much fueled by everyone’s respective (if unconscious) belief in karma, and perhaps by the desire of some to show off what they know. No one is paid to give answers, and the people who do usually are taking time out of their paying jobs to do something that doesn’t earn them any money (but may have alternative rewards). Which is what I was doing by helping him.

For me, it assuages my guilt for the times I’ve posed queries about problems I’ve encountered and for which I got someone to give me more of his time than I deserved (my job involves, amongst other responsibilities, the troubleshooting of issues that no one else can resolve, and on occasion I have called upon the collective wisdom and experience of others on the list to assist me when I cannot figure something out).

Sure, I’ve given more answers than questions I’ve had answered, but it’s not about it being equal. I’m not sure what it is about, but I know I ain’t gonna get out of it (directly) what I put in, so there’s no point in expecting that.

At times it’s more of a curse than anything, this tenacity to get to the bottom of things (to the extent I can). Okay, all of the time it’s a curse; being able to do a half-assed effort would allow me to think I accomplished things (not that I would actually accomplish much, but the point is mere perception, not reality).

He thanked me for helping him, and that's all good and well, but having been part of this Word listserv for some six years now, I've helped a number of people (and each instance certainly does not justify being mentioned here). Big whoop.

The noteworthy aspect of this incident (finally we get to it!) was how he mentioned he'd used the experience as an example to try to convince his elderly neighbor that the internet wasn’t only for porn.

I thought to myself, upon reading that in his email: Mostly it’s for porn; not exclusively, but certainly that’s its bread and butter. Egad, is there a lot of pornography on the World Wide Web. It's not like the neighbor was off-base. (Of course, there was a lot of porn in the so-called real world long before the internet was even conceivable.)

So, uh, anyway, to wrap up this mundane anecdote, it's always nice to get some acknowledgement for making that effort that I can’t help but make, but in this case I was inadvertantly doing my small part to offset the massive hordes of smut. For what little benefit that has for the world.

By the way, because I spend my days dealing with Word problems rather than dealing with porn, I have no advice to offer in that arena. However, if you need help finding porn you really are a lost cause.

And if you have Word questions, I'm off the clock.

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