A lot of work to do

RreadWriteWeb’s interesting experience with Facebook Connect and frustrated Facebook users was an interesting example of how ‘ordinary’ people use the internet.

Many of the commenters on the post didn’t actually read it. It’s an interesting bit about how Facebook and AOL are working together to integrate Facebook contacts into AOL instant messaging contacts. But that’s not what made this post so popular.

It turns out that many people searched for “Facebook Login” in Google, clicked on one of the first returns, scrolled down to the familiar Facebook logo to sign in to Facebook and…nothing. They simply signed in to leave a comment on the post at RWW. Outraged that Facebook had changed the log in, many of these people left unhappy (to put it nicely) comments about how bad the ‘new’ Facebook is. Many of the comments left are funny, if you look at it in a “OMG I can’t believe they didn’t notice it was Facebook” way. If you look at this from an educator’s perspective its kind of sad. I’ll discuss that more below.

In a follow up post RWW listed four things they learned from the experience. They discuss the things that should have let these people know that they were not actually on Facebook. The points seem obvious to most people but they weren’t obvious to the few hundred who thought they were logging in to Facebook. Its a thoughtful post about how a lot of people don’t use the web the way many designers intend or think they should. One quote really stands out to me:

And most of them have no idea what a web browser is or how it differs from a search engine or a social network. They’ve chosen to be smart about other things, like building cars or making art or raising families. I’ll bet some of them are terrific dancers. We have to build the Web for them, too.

I’m glad they said that. It would have been very easy for them to just sit back and laugh at all the people who couldn’t tell the difference between their site and Facebook. It seems to me they are at least being thoughtful about how ‘ordinary’ people are using the web. As someone who interacts with the public every day I see many people who would have easily done the same thing the commenters in the original post did. We have a lot of work to do to educate these people about the Internet and how it works.

This is an education process that will probably never really end. I taught an ‘Introduction to the Internet’ class last month and spent a good 20-30 minutes explaining the difference between a browser and a search engine. This wasn’t part of the class it was simply a question that came up…a few times. We teach this class multiple times in the library system every month. We’ve been teaching it for at least 8 years. It is still a popular class.

Just like everything else, you have to learn your way around a computer and the Internet. This takes exposure and time. Many people I see everyday are busy doing other things and don’t have the time I do to learn about the wonderful world of technology. The people that take our computer classes are not dumb because they don’t know how the Internet works they are just inexperienced. At least they are in a class wanting and willing to learn. It is my job to make sure they are more comfortable with the computer/Internet after the class than they were before it. From the looks of RWW’s post, I’ve got a lot of work to do.

One thought on “A lot of work to do

  1. That the browser’s address box and the search engine box are different things, different tools, is a teachable moment I address daily, too. I need to learn that it’s like “where’s the bathroom” and “what’s my PIN” — something I get to find perky, concise ways to answer every single shift.

    In a related vein, does it ever seem to you that people are cutting and pasting “I hate the new Facebook because it will give away your home address and shoe size unless you go to home>privacy>blah>blah” without actually trying it, because the “directions” they offer don’t seem to match anything on the screen?

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