Every day dozens of tech questions cross the desktops of editors and contributors on MakeUseOf Answers. Many of them are easy to answer and have actually been asked and solved previously. Looking at other Q&A forums, the same scenario unfolds.
It seems that many people don’t understand how to use the Internet. Or maybe they are overwhelmed by the amount of information presented. Or are they just plain lazy? Worse yet, I suspect there is a much, much larger number of users who never deal with issues in the first place. They simply accept error messages, slow computers, and broken hardware or software until their system breaks down completely. They do this, even though they have access to the Internet, where easy and free solutions are relatively easy to find.
One example. The other day I met a neighbor in the staircase. We chatted and she casually asked what my job was. I explained that I work for this website, managing a Q&A forum and writing articles about computer software and online tools. As soon as I had dropped the world ‘computer’, I had her full attention. She put on an impish grin and begged to ask a question. She went on to explain about her computer that didn’t turn on anymore, wondering what could be the cause. The thing is, I know she has WiFi and thus I suspect she has another Internet-enabled device she could use to search for help.
So I have been wondering what makes it so hard for people to look or ask for help and how to help them. This article is my answer. It’s for anyone with IT issues who isn’t currently dealing with them. It is a quick and easy instruction on how you can find help yourself or easily receive help. For free. The only requirement is that you have access to the Internet and use it. Anywhere.
Yes, Google it ! Whatever your issue is, go and type your question into a search engine, for example Google, then see what comes up. With over 300 million websites out there, chances are someone posted the exact same problem on a forum, someone else solved it, and Google will find it for you. This is how MakeUseOf receives a lot of traffic every day.
If you don’t get a match immediately, try to reword your question and watch for what searches Google suggests. Here are some tips how to properly use Google search:
- Best Google Search Tips (cheat sheet)
- Master the Google Operands – Search Like a God & Save Time
- 6 Ways To Reduce Irrelevant Results On Google Search
- 3 Google Tricks When You Don’t Know What to Search For
- 5 Advanced Gmail Search Operators You Should Know
2. Ask Your Question On a Q&A Forum
So Google didn’t give you any satisfying results or you are overwhelmed with the amount of information. Don’t panic, that’s fine! That’s precisely the reason forums exist. You need step by step instructions from real people. And fortunately there are people who love to help and they are waiting for you to ask your question. Seriously!
First, find a Q&A forum that matches the topic of your question and post your question. Remember that the people you are asking don’t know anything about you or your situation. So provide them with all the information they may need. For example if you have an issue with a specific website, include the URL, any error messages and symptoms, the browser you are using to access the website, other browsers this issue does or doesn’t occur with, and what you have tried already to fix it. Yes, do mention that you have searched Google and couldn’t find a solution that made sense to you.
Here is a list of Q&A forums for technology and internet related questions:
3. Ask a Friend
If you are not able to fix the issue yourself because no one understands what you are talking about or because the suggested fixes are too complicated, ask a friend for their opinion or help. Before you do that, please read this article of mine, especially the conclusion!
I understand that it isn’t always easy to ask someone else for help. Let me tell you though, that people love the recognition they receive, when someone asks them for help. When you ask them for help, you do so because you think they have the skills to help you. In other words, you acknowledge their skills. This is an honor! So being asked for help is appreciated, as long as it is done with the right mindset, occasionally, and without abusing the helpfulness.
To make it even easier for someone else to help you, offer them ways to help you without having to visit your home. Obviously, this will only work if your computer is still running, if you have Internet, and if you are dealing with software issues, rather than hardware damage. There are many remote support tools you and your friend could use. One of them is Soluto, which we have written about here:
I didn’t offer to help my neighbor. When she asked her question, I could see myself crawling underneath her desk, pulling out a dusty old desktop PC, working on it for hours, ordering parts, re-installing Windows 98, and subsequently being her best ‘can you fix this‘ buddy forever. Honestly, that’s a nightmare. You don’t do that for strangers, you only do that for people you love!
So what is keeping you from fixing your annoying PC issues? Do you need help?
Image credits: Oops! via Shutterstock