How (not) to be annoying

Okay, young people, the time has come for us to have a serious discussion.

DiscussionWhen I was young, I was very annoying. Now that I am old, I am frequently annoyed, proving thereby that God has a sense of humor. I think pretty often the people who are annoying me are not doing so deliberately. In fact, they often want something from me, whether it be a job, a grade, an internship, assistance with a technical problem or a consulting contract, so it would be counter to their own self-interest to deliberately annoy me. And yet ….

So, here, as a private service to me and a public service to anyone else like me, are Dr. AnnMaria’s instructions on how to be annoying. If you’d like not to be annoying, just cut out everything below. If you’d LIKE to be annoying, on the other hand, feel free to carry on as you are, and have a nice life, just don’t have it around me.

seal swimming

  1. Be simultaneously vague and demanding. “This computer is totally screwed up. I’ve never seen it do this before. I need you to fix it!” Do you know why when you call technical support they ask you a litany of questions beginning with what kind of operating system you have and whether the computer is turned on? Because specific solutions can only be given to specific problems. What exactly does, “I’ve never seen it do this” mean? Does it mean your monitor turned into a seal and swam away? I certainly have never seen THAT. If you have a problem, be very specific about what you have done and how the obtained results differ from what you want, e.g., “I was using the tabs in the jQuery-ui library and it worked fine in Safari as far as when I clicked on the tab, a new page came up, as expected, but when I tried the same page in Firefox, when I clicked on the tab, nothing happened.”
  2. Be helpless. Whether it is an employee,  a student or just a random acquaintance, you will be less annoying if you at least make some effort to fix the problem. Try Google. I have heard that you can find lots of things on the Internet. You know how I solved my jquery ui problem? I read a book.  Before you ask someone else to fix your problem, unless you PERSONALLY are paying that person WELL, you should probably try the simplest things – turn the computer off and on, make sure you’re connected to the internet, use Google, look in the manual, check the settings on your computer, read the textbook – you get the idea. Of course, as far as clients, I bill by the hour. If you want to call every fifteen minutes and ask what time it is, I can have someone in my office sit by a clock, take your calls and tell you the time. Unfortunately, when the bill comes in, your boss may have something to say about it.
  3. Tell everyone to use Google.  The Rocket Scientist walked by and suggested this. He mentioned those people on forums who will answer every question with, “Why don’t you just use Google?” and then post a link saying, “I found this in eight seconds.” This post is often followed by the original poster responding, “Yes, I read that link and it was completely unhelpful.” If you don’t have any good advice, just shut up.
  4. Answer every question, whether you know the answer or not. If you don’t have any good advice, just shut up. One of the MOST annoying things to me is people who post answers on a forum who are just WRONG. If you don’t know, don’t say anything.
  5. Convince yourself that criticizing what someone else made is just as valuable a contribution as making something, because “You made it better”. This is probably my GREATEST annoyance from young people. I write programs that run. They do stuff. Little guys move across the screen, standard errors of estimates are produced, or whatever. We write other programs for clients to their specifications. I write grant proposals that start with me sitting down at a word processor and opening a vein; 225 pages later we have a needs assessment, literature review, design, preliminary data, budgets, person-loading charts. It takes me about 200 hours over two months and three bottles of Chardonnay. If you come in on it during the last week and point out that I left out a semi-colon on page 38, have square bullet points on page 67 but round ones on page 115 or make a suggestion for the color scheme for the daily, weekly and monthly reports produced by our program, that is a contribution and it is appreciated. It is NOT, however, an equal contribution. Without you, our proposal might not have gotten as high of a score, our program might not have produced web pages that are as visually appealing. Without me (or whoever wrote the thing), the proposal or web pages would not exist. There is an enormous difference between making something from nothing and making something better.
  6. Think you’re stupid. I doubt anyone thinks you’re stupid. *I* certainly don’t think you’re stupid. Pretty much all of the above I have done in spades (except the helpless thing). Probably most older people, when you do something really annoying cringe not at your stupidity, but at the memory of themselves doing the exact same things many time.

So, the good news is that no matter how immature and annoying you are, the likelihood is great that eventually you will mature out of it.

Of course, then, you’ll be old.

And have to put up with annoying young people.

How depressing is that? Oh well, there’s always Chardonnay.

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  1. Brilliant point on telling everyone to use Google. If you have time, help someone. If you don’t, either suggest a way they can help themselves, or stay quiet. IT needs fewer snards.

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