The Distribution of Users’ Computer Skills: Worse Than You Think
www.nngroup.com
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Across 33 rich countries, only 5% of the population has high computer-related abilities, and only a third of people can complete medium-complexity tasks.

via Michiel

Friends of my generation who weren’t in families with a computer they could play around on have ended up far less comfortable with tech. I would love to see data like this broken out by class background.

I suspect companies have historically been overvalued based on what a techie user could get out of them rather than their intended user. Does this happen with phone apps too?

Are there modes of instruction that help people advance in these skills? They seem like they ought to have a lot of impact, and yet I don’t think I see training around me.

How does good/bad UI design impact this?

@monobot
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When watching non techy friends use phones and computers,I just see how cluttered and non consistent GUIs really are. And changing with each version.

I hate uodating because something will change. Worst offender by far is OsmAnd, great application with awful UI, but even worser is they change it all the time and I can not even learn it and get used to it after years of use.

Most aplications, desktop, mobile and web havr a lot of options 90% of users don’t want to see or use. Solution might be to make simplified and complex UI for each software and mke simplified and consistent UI as default and easy switch to change it to complex and custom.

I don’t think this is user fault, I do think this is just bad decision making on all levels of application design.

After helping them with, to me, unknown applucation people usualy ask me “How did you know where to find that option?” and my answer is “I would put it there.” and I am certainly not a person to male any kind of decision on UI side of things.

tl;dr: UI bad.

@sia
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poVoq
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Research like this will sadly lead to another round of dumbing down user-interfaces, instead of asking how it can be that such a large percentage of people in our modern world fail at such somewhat artificial but ultimately still simple tasks. Initially I thought they included a lot of people in retirement age, but they explicitly excluded people above 65 years it seems. To me it seems unlikely that the majority of people are actually too dumb to do these tasks, so there must be another reason why research comes up with such results…

Maya
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I mean, if making user interfaces simpler really could allow such a large portion of people to realize the productivity gains of such basic computer skills, I’d be all for it. Really I think it shows that there’s so much of a disconnect between software’s designers and intended users that we need a lot more research into why it is that people aren’t managing this stuff.

poVoq
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Or to say it with an anecdotal example: while my mother (around 65) was initially completely computer illiterate, she managed to get quite proficient in recent years (even uses Linux installed by me), but her computer problems come in two ways:

  1. Some a bit more complex task she can’t remember fully, but is afraid/uncertain to try the first steps which would surely lead her to either remember or figure it out again.

  2. A general and likely somewhat unconscious unwillingness to do problem solving when it involves computers.

Only the 1. she says herself, but I think 2. is much more relevant, because if it is something on a website that actually interests her, 1. is rarely an blocking issue…

@tatooinesunset
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I’m sure class (or more generally, growing up with computers) matters a lot, but the distribution described in this article pretty much looks like an IQ distribution - this doesn’t mean its conclusions are wrong (two thirds of the population can’t use your design) but that it might be futile to try to teach advanced computer skills to a large proportion of society.

Maya
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So even given

  • people argue about exactly what mediates the impact of poverty (esp. childhood poverty) on IQ, but it’s, like, there, and
  • studies broadly show education has an impact on IQ

instead you’re projecting the idea that IQ accurately tracks something meaningful and immutable onto “advanced” tech skills (which, let’s be clear, in this context are explicitly not Ph.D. stuff) because of… the shape of a distribution?

yikes

@tatooinesunset
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Fair enough. Re-reading that comment, it isn’t very clear what I meant and it’s also true that the fact that something looks like a bell curve doesn’t mean at all that it’s related to IQ.

What I was trying to say is that the tasks given to the participants were at least as much about reasoning skills as about the computer skills and it is hard to separate the two.

I alway thought (was taught) that IQ is fixed and cannot really be changed so I found the study you linked especially interesting. If this is indeed broadly proven, it would change my entire worldview! Where can I read more about this?

Maya
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TWICE this post has disappeared TWICE I have written out a nice long reply and it’s died… Oh my GOD I hate this so much

so EVEN MORE BRIEFLY full of polemic, but talks about how IQ is asymmetrically reliable more meaningful / reliable on the low end. so the idea of IQ being mutable is then obvious from things we know drag people down toward that end: long-term air pollution exposure, childhood poverty, childhood lead exposure, etc.

Maya
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the concept of IQ is that it is a measurement of whatever component of intelligence is fixed, so it’s hard to talk about it changing when the No True Scotsman rejoinder is “well then you weren’t really measuring IQ”. that said there’s a lot of interesting stuff about situational impacts on intelligence test results

Maya
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Maya
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Sorry for Going Off; I’m touchy about the topic because when it comes to actually advanced computer programming skills, there was this retracted paper that got a lot of traction that people used to justify their belief in their own superiority as people who Just Got programming, and that others just Weren’t Wired That Way. In my CS education it seemed pretty obvious that whether people got it or not had a lot to do with the alignment of their backgrounds and interests with the analogies and explanations that were used, rather than something fundamental, and I found this really really irritating.

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