The golden rule of computing

Reading is important. I don't think anyone would disagree with that. Reading and understanding what you have read is such a simple concept. It has been drummed into us since we were children. We don't pay it any mind anymore, even though we know it to be true deep down inside.

JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

What if I were to say that it is the single most important thing that will make your computing experience easier?

I speak truly and the reason I bring this to your attention, is because a lot of the problems we have with computers, are because we don’t read and understand important information when it is presented to us. It’s understandable, as human beings we lead incredible fast paced lives and are often in a hurry to get things done.

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What do I mean? How about an example. If you receive a prompt asking you to upgrade your PC to Windows 10 immediately or postpone it, you have two options. Unfortunately there are three ways to select them! You can click on the obvious buttons to postpone or install, but if you are in a rush and simply click the little x button to close the prompt, you will find Windows 10 is installing! The reason is of course, because you did not opt to postpone the install.

Now admittedly that example also highlights another problem. The people that design the systems and write the messages often make assumptions based upon their own experiences. I can tell you now that someone who is buried in computer code all day every day, may not realise that everyday normal people don’t understand that doing x will result in y. Which means taking the time to read and try to understand messages as they appear deserves a little more care and attention.

Coming at this from another angle, if you ever have a problem and need to ask someone else for help, taking note of any error messages (instead of just dismissing them) is really important. The first thing a technician will ask is if there are any error messages and if so, what they say. They give the technician vital information that may be used to diagnose and resolve whatever issue it is that you are experiencing. Without that information the technician is often left in the dark and troubleshooting may take longer.

Some messages are really useful, with error codes and detailed information for those who understand such things and links to helpful articles describing the exact remedy. Others are not so useful and leave you scratching your head. Like the unforgettable Windows 10 upgrade error message that simply says, “Something happened.” Well duh. Thanks to whoever wrote that one, it was really helpful.

For times not like those, it really does pay to pay attention. It not only helps you to avoid things going wrong, but it can also help you fix things when they do. A lot of problems are simple to fix yourself or are simply not an issue if you read the prompts. You know the phrase less haste more speed? This is one of those things.