If you guessed, “Turn it off and turn it on again,” you’d be close! But not quite. I’m talking about something that is obvious to almost everybody but is sometimes forgotten by I.T. staff:

The most important guiding principle for doing I.T. work is the following:

Technology is inherently weird and unnatural.

We must never assume that any part of technology knowledge is universal. Not even using a mouse and keyboard. Yes, I do basically suppose most people know some things, but I am always prepared to discover that someone does not know something, because for 95% of tech this is far more likely. Therefore:

There is no such thing as “user error.”

I don’t mean that people never make mistakes. They do. But my point is that this is not people’s fault and, as a rule, people are not to blame for technology mishaps.

Each of us has experienced the shame of being made to feel stupid for not knowing something we should. You know “The Look” – the one that says, “Wow, how did you get this far without learning ___________.” Maybe there are times when The Look is warranted (I use it, privately, when people do not signal when changing lanes). But I propose that The Look simply does not belong in the world of technology.

I joke sometimes that a professional’s ability to operate a projector is inversely proportionate to the number of advanced degrees they’ve earned. And to be sure, that’s a valuable skill for public speakers! But there is actually quite a lot of knowledge that goes into being prepared for every possible digital display situation–knowledge that can’t be taken for granted in anybody, far less someone who earned their first college degree before the Internet.

So that’s all, no snazzy tips in this post, just letting you all know that I vow to abide by The Most Fundamental Rule of I.T.. Thank you for your patience.