The Nine Types of Users
- El Explicito:
- "I tried the thing, ya know, and it worked, ya know, but now it doesn't, ya know?"
- Advantages: Provides interesting communication challanges.
- Disadvantages: So do chimps.
- Symptoms: Complete inability to use proper nouns
- Real Case: One user walked up to a certain Armenian pod
manager and said, "I can't get what I want!" The pod manager leaned
back, put his hands on his belt-buckle, and said, "Well, ma'am, you've
come to the right place."
- Mad Bomber:
- "Well, I hit Alt-f6, shift-f8, Cntrl-f10, f4, and f9, and now it looks all
- Advantages: Will try to find own solution to problems.
- Disadvantages: User might have translated document to Navajo without meaning
- Symptoms: More than six stopped jobs in UNIX, a 2:1 code-to-letter ratio in
- Real Case: One user came in complaining that his WordPerfect document was
underlined. When I used reveal codes on it, I found that he'd set and unset
underline more than fifty times in his document.
- Frying Pan/Fire Tactician:
- "It didn't work with the data set we had, so I fed in my aunt's recipe for
key lime pie."
- Advantages: Will usually fix error.
- Disadvantages: 'Fix' is defined VERY loosely here.
- Symptoms: A tendancy to delete lines that get errors instead of fixing them.
- Real Case: One user complained that their program executed, but didn't do
anything. The scon looked at it for twenty minutes before realizing that they'd
commented out EVERY LINE. The user said, "Well, that was the only way I could
get it to compile."
- "Last week, when the moon was full, the clouds were thick, and formahaut was
above the horizon, I typed f77, and lo, it did compile."
- Advantages: Gives insight into primative mythology.
- Disadvantages: Few scons are anthropology majors.
- Symptoms: Frequent questions about irrelavent objects.
- Real Case: One user complained that all information on one of their disks
got erased (as Norton Utilities showed nothing but empty sectors, I suspect
nothing had ever been on it). Reasoning that the deleted information went
*somewhere*, they wouldn't shut up until the scon checked four different disks
for the missing information.
- "Will you look at those...um, that resolution, quite impressive, really."
- Advantages: Using the cutting-edge in graphics technology.
- Disadvantages: Has little or no idea how to use the cutting-edge in graphics
- Symptoms: Fuzzy hands, blindness
- Real Case: When I was off duty, two users sat down in front of me at DEC
station 5000/200s that systems was reconfiguring. I suppressed my laughter
while, for twenty minutes, they sat down and did their best to act like they
were doing exectly what they wanted to do, even though they couldn't log in.
- Miracle Worker:
- "But it read a file from it yesterday!" 'Sir, at a guess, this disk has been
swollowed and regurgitated.' "But I did that a month ago, and it read a file
from it yesterday!"
- Advantages: Apparently has remarkable luck when you aren't around.
- Disadvantages: People complain when scons actually use the word
- Symptoms: Loses all ability to do impossible when you're around. Must be
the kryptonite in your pocket.
- Real Case: At least three users have claimed that they've loaded IBM
WordPerfect from Macintosh disks.
- "Well, this is a file in MacWrite. Do you know how I can upload it to MUSIC,
transfer it over to UNIX from there, download it onto an IBM, convert it to
WordPerfect, and put it in three-column format?"
- Advantages: Bold new challanges.
- Disadvantages: Makes one wish to be a garbage collector.
- Symptoms: An inability to keep quiet. Strong tendancies to make machines do
things they don't want to do.
- Real Case: One user tried to get a scon to find out what another person's
E-mail address was even though the user didn't know his target's home system,
account name, or real name.
- "Well, first I sat down, like this. Then I logged on, like this, and after
that, I typed in my password, like this, and after that I edited my file, like
this, and after that I went to this line here, like this, and after that I
picked my nose, like this..."
- Advantages: Willing to show you exactly what they did to get an error.
- Disadvantages: For as long as five or six hours.
- Symptoms: Selective deafness to the phrases, "Right, right, okay, but what
was the ERROR?", and a strong fondness for the phrase, "Well, I'm getting to
- Real Case: I once had to spend half an hour looking over a user's shoulder
while they continuously retrieved a document into itself and denied that they
did it (the user was complaining that their document was 87 copies of the same
- Princess (unfair, perhaps, as these tend, overwhelmingly, to be males):
- "I need a Mac, and someone's got the one I like reserved, would you please
garrote him and put him in the paper recycling bin?"
- Advantages: Flatters you with their high standards for your service.
- Disadvantages: Impresses you with their obliviousness to other people on
- Symptoms: Inability to communicate except by complaining.
- Real Case: One asked a scon to remove the message of the day because he (the
user) didn't like it.