Programmers often talk about "stupid users" and there is a lot of humour revolving around this matter:
Every time someone declares their system fool-proof, nature retaliates by creating people who are more stupid.
People are the weakest link in any security system, airplane crashes are often the cause of pilot error, and nuclear disasters are often a consequence of the human factor. This is very well documented by Donald Norman in Turn signals are the facial expressions of automobiles.
It is often true, but not all the time; and when it is true - you're probably blaming the wrong person. The "credit" should be given to the creators of the system, for they are the ones who made the problem possible in the first place.
Programmers hide in their cubicles, spending time in front of glowing screens or sheets of paper - being completely isolated from the people who use their creations. When you are so distant from the place where the action happens, you continue living in your idealized world in which the code runs smoothly and the horses are perfectly spherical, just like the creator wanted. This is one of the root causes of such an arrogant attitude towards people - since the code is flawless, the culprit must be "between the keyboard and the chair".
To protect yourself from this trap, try "the mother test" (also known as the "sister test"):
If the person between the keyboard and the chair is your mother - would you still call the user stupid?
This applies not only to programmers, but to any decision-maker out there:
- It is easy to be against abortion when it is not you the one who dies giving birth
- It is easy to support a war, when you know that your children won't be anywhere near the war-zone
- It is easy to vote for creating a garbage dump in a certain location, when that is not the place where you live, and you won't be exposed to bad water and a foul air
A great distance from the subject matter contributes to such a distorted perception of reality.
As an exercise, have a look at this lecture excerpt, where I discuss the policy of locking the workstation when it is left unattended. Yes, you can "fix" it by writing a set of rules that tell people they must lock their computers when they walk away. When they break the rule, tell them "The rules warned you about this!" and call it a job well done.
That's what most of us would do. However, if you remember that blaming people makes you a part of the problem, you will probably find a much better solution.
I encourage you to think about alternative approaches before you click the picture and watch the video.
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