Friday, January 13, 2006

For the Last Time...The Sky is Blue, You Idiot

It appears both Ozzy (link on the left) and I suffer from the same problem. If you’ve read our last couple of posts you’ll see that both of us have been held back by our penchant for ‘plain speaking’.

However, today I read over yesterday’s post, as well as my comments on Ozzy’s blog, and thought that just from that post; I do come off as a bit of a Know-it-all, arrogant prick.

Let me see if I can explain myself.

I like to talk. I like to debate. Hell, I even like to argue. I don’t mean argue as in: “Shut up, shit for brains!” I mean argue with someone who has an opposing viewpoint about a suitably ambiguous topic. In other words, a topic that has no definite right or wrong answer. Topics like ‘should the death penalty be abolished’ or ‘should we have gone to war with Iraq’, those sorts of things.

When it comes to debate, I have to say that I’m unusual in that I actually enjoy being proven wrong, or at the very least having my point of view altered, no matter in how small a way. Debate is a way to explore a topic, and if I leave a debate feeling that I’ve grasped a deeper understanding of the topic, or have a new way of looking at it…that’s a victory to me, just as much as blowing the other person’s argument right out of the water.

In other words, I don’t think that I’m arrogant, or a know-it-all. In most situations, my argument can be boiled down to:

“This is my point of view, and here is my evidence, so this is what I believe. Now you tell me your point of view, show me your evidence and we’ll see whose is the most likely.”

In other words, for me, the reward in a debate, discussion or argument is the exploration of the topic…not proving that I know better.

However, the problem comes in when someone contradicts me, when I know for a fact that I’m right. This isn’t debate territory; I’m not talking about things that are open for interpretation. I’m talking about facts.

For example, when I was working in a bar, I was talking to a customer (it was a slow day), and he mentioned that he wanted to buy a digital camera, but couldn’t because he didn’t have a computer. I pointed out that he didn’t really need one. (He could buy a dedicated photo-printer, and most traditional photography stores now ‘develop’ digital pictures, either by handing over your memory card, or using a machine.)

Another customer piped up. He said that I was wrong, and that there was no possible way to get a photograph off a digital camera without a computer.

I have no patience for people like this. No patience at all.

You see, I’m talking about something I’m knowledgeable about. I know I’m right, and for some reason, some guy is trying to argue with me just for the sheer hell of it. No matter what I said, I was wrong. It even turned out that this guy didn't even own a digital camera or computer.

Actual Knowledge on the subject? None
Reason for interrupting? Wanted to make himself appear intelligent
Result? The guy proved himself to be an asshole.

There are more extreme examples of this. I once had a 30 minute argument with a family member about what I actually did for a living. Apparently, she knew someone who worked in the same building as me, so she knew what my job was better than I did. I tried to explain that there are different departments who do entirely different jobs. It did no good.

Apparently, the fact that she knew someone who worked in the same building as me better qualified her to know what my job was. The fact that I actually work my job, and had been working there for over a year didn't count.

It’s impossible to argue with people like that. No matter what you say, you’ll never convince them otherwise because being right is more important to them than anything else. They don’t talk to share information; they talk to prove that they know more than you.

Oh, and the less they know about a subject, the more adamant they are.

So it may not be ‘tactful’ or ‘politically correct’, but I just refuse to waste my time arguing with people like that, no matter who they are.

This is the kind of thing that gets me in trouble.

You see, on the one hand, I like to learn. Despite the fact that I consider myself to be highly proficient when it comes to computers, (I’ve built computers, I’ve upgraded computers and I’ve acted as tech support for nearly every friend or family member I have), I know that I don’t know everything. So in a conversation with someone like Ozzy or Kato, who I believe are both IT professionals, I’d let them take the lead.

If either one of them told me something that I believed was wrong, I’d say: “Hmm, I thought that (whatever) caused that? Are you sure?” Then I’d get the explanation, and go away slightly more knowledgeable than I was before.

In other words, I wouldn’t sit and argue for an hour and a half with someone who has had more training and experience than I have.

On the other hand, if someone who is less knowledgeable about something than me tries to argue with me about something about which I know I’m right, I tell them so…in plain English.

The biggest problem at my last job was that people who started working there, tended to stay working there. This meant that the people who where in charge started off working there using pen, paper and typewriters. When computers came in these people where trained on them they learned one particular way of doing things.

As anyone who works with computers will tell you, there is more than just one way of doing things. Not so to these people. They did things the way they where taught, and if anyone else did something a different way, they where wrong...and they just HAD to point it out.

It was a case of “We do things this way, because this is the way they’ve always been done, and if it was good enough for us, it’s good enough for you.”

You can imagine the problems. I once got into trouble because a co-worker’s mouse wasn’t working, so I did what any other sane person would do. Took the mouse, slide the bottom off, took out the ball, cleaned off the rollers and put it back together.

I got a talk. ‘Computer Repair’ wasn’t my job, and I should leave the ‘technical stuff’ to the IT people.

(Side note to Tech Support Staff out there. How much does it annoy you when you get called into an office to clean someone’s mouse?)

A monitor would go blank. The supervisor would panic and tell everyone to not touch anything. I'd point out that the lead had been stretched and had come out of the back...but no, IT Support had to be called, and we had to waste half an hour of some poor guy's time, because apparently he was the only person qualified in the building to put a square peg in a square hole.

‘Superior’ Admin Officers would argue with me because I’d use things like keyboard shortcuts (Alt-p to print etc), which wasn’t the ‘proper’ way to do things. Again, I’m meant to nod, and say “Yes, sir.” Rather than. “Look, both ways do exactly the same thing, only my way is easier and takes less time. I’ll keep doing things my way, thank you very much!”

I’m not arrogant, I’m not a Know-It-All, in fact I consider it to be one of my strengths that I KNOW that I don’t know everything.

…but if I’m right, and you’re wrong, I’ll tell you exactly that, and refuse to argue with you.

I'll end today with a little anecdote I read somewhere. This is a true story.

A manager called in his Tech Support because his computer was running slowly. The Tech said that the machine needed more RAM. The Manager decided to argue and said that the machine had plenty of RAM, but in needed more 'Meg'.

Nothing could convince the Manager that 'meg' is short for 'megabyte', and measurement of RAM (Another note, this is common...why hire a professional, if you're just going to argue and say you know better).

Finally the Tech lost her patience, and told the Manager to go out and buy 16 megabytes of meg.

He returned an hour later, threw a static free bag on the table. On the side was written '16 megabytes of meg'. The Manager said:

"The guy at the store tried to tell me the same thing you did, but I spoke to the Manager and he sorted it out."

That story always makes me think one thing. That Manager had better be bloody glad that I didn't own that computer store. I'd have laughed him out of the door.


OzzyC said...

YES!!! It's sooooo refreshing to see someone who not only sees things from my philosophical veiwpoint, but actually lives that way...

I think we're going to have to actually meet someday.

On the mouseball thing... there's a woman in our office who calls up about once per month for this EXACT thing, and it's one of our running jokes. We've seriously considered giving her an infrared mouse but not telling her, just to see if she continues to call.

BTW, the link to my blog is on the right, not the left.

Kato said...

Damn you, Ozzy, you pointed out his left/right thing before I had the chance :) Of course, he comes from England, so maybe left and right don't mean the same things over there.

You can generally say I'm IT (I'm a programmer and a computer geek), thought saying I'm "professional" might be stretching it a bit. I guess you could say I'm pseudo-professional. For instance, I'm wearing a polo shirt at work today, but if you look closely it bears a small, stitched Trogdor.

Anyway, I have no tolerance for the "wait for tech support" ideology. But then I've been opening up mice (and PC's for that matter) and cleaning them since I was about 8 years old.

Paulius said...

Ok let me explain:

1) It was 4am (with no sleep) when I wrote that post.
2) I write all my posts in word, and use the blogger plugin to post them.
3) The alliteration (LLLink on the LLLeft) must've got me.

Link on the right, then.