Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

What Kind Of Stooge Are You?

Have you ever wondered why people react differently when their computer acts up? Have you ever pondered why your friends mistreat their computer? Have you ever marveled at the strange ways people shop for computers? (Have you ever noticed how annoying questions can be? Apologies to Jerry Seinfeld.)

Well, puzzle no more. Here’s a quick quiz to help you identify the different types of users. Just answer all the questions (yes or no) and you will discover whether you’re a Moe, a Larry, or a Curly.

1. Do you fear the machine?
2. Does the latest hardware/software make you drool?
3. Do you give a lot of advice to other people?
4. Have you ever broken hardware or software?
5. Do you buy a lot of stuff you rarely use?
6. Were you sold more than you really needed?
7. Does your machine crash for no reason?
8. Have you ever stretched a keyboard cord to its limit?
9. Do you like the feeling of controlling your computer?
10. Do you run software before you read the manual?
11. Do you often look for help?
12. Are you afraid you’ll break something?

Now that you’ve answered all twelve questions, let’s see who you are. If you answered yes to at least three of questions 3, 7, 9, and 10, you are Type A. A yes to at least three of questions 1, 6, 11, and 12, you are Type B. And a yes to at least three of questions 2, 4, 5, and 8, you are Type C. This test has limited scientific validity and human traits are mixed, but let’s go for it anyway.

The Type A user is always right. This user never follows directions, never asks for help. No one blames the hardware more than Type A. Backup, to this user, is a crutch for weaker users. Problems are attacked head on, frequently by brute force. This user’s motto is, “I’ll get this thing to run if it kills me.”

The Type B user never seems to know what to do. This user wants to follow directions, but sees only ambiguity and is paralyzed with self-doubt. When you mention backup, Type B panics. The world of computers is filled with endless confusion. No problem is too small to seek help. This user’s motto is, “When in doubt, don’t.”

The Type C user seeks fun, not results. This user blithely ignores directions, eschews help, and laughs at backup. Voted most likely to be hit by a virus, the Type C user goes confidently where no user has gone before. Problems, for Type C, are no problemo. This user’s motto is, “If it feels good, do it.”

Do these sound familiar? They should. Users who fit these descriptions also match the movie metaphor known as The Three Stooges. Type A is Moe, who knows everything. He needs to give orders. Type B is Larry, who never knows enough to do anything by himself. He needs a Moe for guidance and a Curly for support. Type C, of course, is Curly, who just needs an audience.

If all this doesn’t give you a hint as to what kind of user you or your friends are, here are some verbal clues. Moe is often overheard saying, “It’s the machine’s fault.” Listen for this one: “I just don’t get it.” That’s Larry. Finally, if you hear someone marvel “Wow, look at this screen,” that person may be a Curly. And it could be you.

This post was modified from an article printed in the August 1992 issue of the SPCUG Monitor. Classifying computer users as Stooges first appeared in my article “The Three Stooges Theory of Computing” (originally printed in the October 1990 issue of the SPCUG Monitor). This theory was adapted from comedian David Steinberg. His originally related to politicians. Now there are some serious stooges.


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