XKCD explains how to be a tech-support guru

From the incomparable nerd-toon XKCD, the "Tech Support Cheat Sheet" -- a print-and-save for the techno-clueless to keep by their monitors.

Tech Support Cheat Sheet


  1. I usually start with Google, then go with the buttons. My family related tech support is almost always non-presential, on messenger. I find that http://lmgtfy.com/ is generally good enough for people to understand what I do, but this chart is really well thought out. If only my family/friends could read flowcharts!

  2. This cartoon was funny. Though when I thought about forwarding it along to a relative of mine, I found myself adding various qualifiers about updates, Google-fu, and other context. Which makes me wonder if this is essentially an update on the old instant-repair invoice, e.g.:

    * Clicking the buttons: $1.00
    * Knowing which buttons to click: $99.00

  3. I also actually *gasp* use the help menus. But I am totally printing this out to hang on my cube.

  4. I’m a little more in depth than that on what I do, but for all the help desk problems I get bombarded with daily…

    Yep, most of your questions and problems would be fixed just by reading the help files or looking at the menus. A little curiosity and self-help would be nice, though you could take a little initiative and take some classes at your local small business center. What you learn might just get you a higer paying job also!

    And, heavens to Betsy, when one of those dialogs pops up, read it and write some of it down. My ESP module is broken and I cannot magically recall what you saw, so I may really not know what kind of error occurred, because despite all the improvements over the years, it does not get recorded in the error logs or gets recorded with an absolutely useless error message that bears no relation to what it told you on screen.

  5. Well there’s a little more to it than the flowchart implies. Anyone who “gets computers” understands that most software is designed with certain common conventions in mind. Clipboard functions and text searching are under a menu called Edit, printing is always under File, objects that can be individually manipulated usually have context menus describing what can be done with them, etc. We know that something called Export will usually take the data currently being worked on and write it to a file of some sort. We know how to read a dialog box and understand what it’s saying.

    The truly computer illiterate don’t get any of this: to them, everything is a series of carefully memorized incantations, and when something changes, they’re filled with frustration or sheer terror at what their “stupid computer” has done to them.

    It’s willful ignorance of a sort… UIs are mostly made up of words, and the ignorant make a conscious decision to refuse to parse those words.

  6. I went to school for 2 years to learn how to sound like I know what I’m doing while doing that. Really depressing. I think I’m gonna go back and learn something completely different

  7. when I am confident enough with the person, I set up an ssh door for me to see their desktops. 90% of the time is something pretty obvious if I am there and it saves tons of time on IM and phone.

  8. “The truly computer illiterate don’t get any of this: to them, everything is a series of carefully memorized incantations, and when something changes, they’re filled with frustration or sheer terror at what their “stupid computer” has done to them.”

    Syncrotic, that is dead on. I’m technically a paralegal but since the attorneys I work for are over 50 and I’m under 30, guess what I spend most of my day doing…

  9. Tech, gotta love it.

    Today was the first day back in school. All the admin folks got brand new laptops. Every one of the attachments that they sent, class lists, scheduled, lunch periods can’t be opened by the Windows rock and chisel version that runs in my classroom. I’ll have kids in a couple of days, but I won’t know who really should be in my class.

    I guess that this wasn’t predictable;)

  10. I think we dinosaurs over 50 are perhaps not as fascinated with other peoples’ software as you young-uns.

    My job is not exploring all the features of the software, configuring the system, perusing help files, or randomly monkeying with buttons in lieu of actual output. My job is to get things done here in meatspace. Often, these days, a PC is involved.

    When the PC is instead in the way of getting things done, I want it to stop being in the way. Right now. No, I don’t want to step through some insipid FAQ or byzantine help file that doesn’t address the problem, I want the PC to stop being in the way. Right now.

    You- IT guy- understanding this is your job. If you know how to make the PC stop being in the way, tell me which button to push and I will thank you, push said button, and return to my job.

    I’ll even stand there, smiling and grateful, and listen to you say that it was all my fault, even when I know damn well it wasn’t.

  11. So yeah, some of it’s knowing, or knowing how to find out.

    But also it’s the bronze nerves that let you put up with the process.

  12. @ACKPHT
    But, using a computer is a part of your job. (presumably if you have to use one) No, we don’t expect you to do everything, no we don’t expect you to fix things when they really do break, but we don’t really enjoy having to do every single computer-related task that would take a ten second peruse of menus to solve.

    I understand not everyone “gets” computers, but if it is a part of your every day routine and a requirement to do your own job, then you should have some level of proficiency, instead of eschewing the responsibility of knowing how your computer works.

    Some of my favorite people to work with are those who admit they’re not that savvy, but who really want to learn. I promise that we do have better things to do than answer questions like “How do I insert a picture into a word document?”. Whether you like it or not, we live with technology every day and it baffles me that some people refuse to understand the things that surround them on an every day basis.

    And yes, sometimes it really is your fault. But, we all make mistakes (myself included) and usually, we’re patient enough to tell you how to not do it again (and spend more of both of our precious time).

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