That’s the portion of computer experts who report getting helpdesk calls from friends or family at least once a week, according to the survey I ran on twitter the last two weeks.
My survey was not very scientific (163 samples) and definitely has a selection bias (most people who answered use Linux in one way or another, for example, although that doesn’t mean their friends and family do).
But that doesn’t change the fact that 58% is a big chunk of pain.
And a big opportunity for people who want to make computers simpler and more reliable.
What sorts of issues prompted computer novices to call their computer-expert friends and family for help? I went through 163 free-form responses in a spreadsheet and tagged them all to find the trends.
Here are the top 15 issues, in order of frequency (percent of issues mentioned):
Skype setup came up surprisingly often; I guess a lot of people are installing it lately. I was distressed to see how common printing issues still are, and curious to note that five different people reported that their friends and family cannot attach files to emails.
About a third of these issues could be addressed by webbook efforts like ChromeOS and litl, although the webbook model will probably raise new issues as well.
It will be interesting to see where Internet/WiFi setup, currently #1 with a bullet, ranks five years from now as the wireless infrastructure matures.
I also asked whether computer frustration has waxed or waned among family and friends over the last five years. There was some disagreement on this.
The top theories for a decline in computer frustration were: increasing skill and comfort with computers (25%), and “they switched to a Mac” (23%). Some people also noted that software quality has improved (13%).
But on the other hand, people are doing much more with their computers, and there are many more computer users.
So your parent who five years ago struggled to do email is now comfortable with email and struggling with online banking or video editing.
Some people also cited an increase in the complexity of computer software.
Computer frustration is not limited to our less-skilled friends and family. Even though 90% of the survey-takers consider themselves either 4/5 or 5/5 on the expertise scale, 32% of them report getting frustrated by their computer at least once a week.
Rate your computer expertise.
|How often do you get frustrated trying to do something on your computer?
The list of issues which frustrate experts was more varied and detailed. A few key things came up again and again, however: bugs, bad docs, poor user interfaces, and interoperability/compatibility issues. Not the same as the novice list.
I was hoping to find a strong correlation between operating system use and personal frustration, so I asked people which operating systems they use. They could select multiple operating systems, and 61% of respondents did.
The sample sizes were small, but there was a trend. Here’s the percentage of experts who claim to be frustrated with their computers at least once a week (sample size in parentheses):
I also asked people for their age, and we can make the groundbreaking observation that younger people don’t get frustrated with computers as much as older people, or at least they don’t admit to it. Here’s the percentage of experts who claim to be frustrated with their computers at least once a week:
So what does all this mean?
Mostly I see a huge opportunity. People are so frustrated with computers that products and services that make things simpler and more reliable have a huge market.
Best Buy has figured this out. They don’t break out Geek Squad revenues anymore, but it’s safe to say that they’re pulling in well over a billion dollars a year helping people with their computers (at a healthy 10-20% margin – very decent in Best Buy’s universe).
But that’s just a small piece of the pie. Most people still lean on the nerd in the family. As one commenter on my survey wrote,
Not only am I contacted daily, everybody expects the help that I provide to be free. Why is it that most people feel that computer people love to work on computers, therefore, they do not mind helping me just this one time for free? If they experience an electrical issue, or clog their toilet, do they expect the electrician or plumber to fix their problem for free? No they gladly pay them and move on.
That probably won’t last.(You can view or download the raw data.)
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