627: Tech Support Cheat Sheet

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Tech Support Cheat Sheet
'Hey Megan, it's your father. How do I print off a flowchart?'
Title text: 'Hey Megan, it's your father. How do I print off a flowchart?'


It is impossible to support all things for all people. That should be a maxim posted in every IT office. There is a belief that because someone is good with computers that they have used all software and know all of its intricacies. This is not true. In the case of the support person not knowing the exact answer, which is most of the time, they begin to follow a set of rules that they have developed for finding the answer to the problem. This is what Randall has given us. A generalized form for how to find the solution for almost anything.

A flowchart is an organizational tool for showing process flow. A box is informational, a diamond indicates a decision, and the arrows control the flow from one symbol to another.

The title text is a sad admission that even knowing the procedure for how to fix the problem, many people will not follow it and still call tech support.


Narrator: Dear various parents, grandparents, co-workers, and other "not computer people."
Narrator: We don't magically know how to do everything in every program. When we help you, we're usually just doing this:
[There is a flowchart there. Numbers are included to improve clarity, and do not appear in the original.]
Rectangle: Start.
[go to 1]
{1. Diamond} Find a menu item or button which looks related to what you want to do.
[I can't find one - go to 2]
[ok - go to 3]
{2. Diamond} Pick one at random.
[I've tried them all - go to 4]
[Ok - go to 3]
{3. Rectangle} Click it.
[go to 5]
{4. Rectangle} Google the name of the program plus a few words related to what you want to do. Follow any instructions.
[go to 5]
{5. Diamond} Did it work?
[Yes - go to 8]
[No - go to 6]
{6. Diamond} Have you been trying this for over half an hour?
[Yes - go to 7]
[No - go to 1]
{7. Rectangle} Ask someone for help or give up.
[End of flowchart]
{8. Rectangle} You're done!
[End of flowchart]
Narrator: Please print this flowchart out and tape it near your screen. Congratulations; you're now the local computer expert!
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I think he forgot one: "Use the built-in help, it's magic!" Zilti (talk) 19:48, 29 April 2013 (UTC)

Most people I know that have to ask for computer help couldn't read a flowchart in the first place. This may be the problem. 23:01, 17 November 2014 (UTC)

This comic is so true, I just printed it out for my mom (though I doubt it will help much). She always asks questions like “how do I change the language?”, “where did my song/book/website/photo/document/tab/window go?”, or “how do I log in?”, providing no context whatsoever. I tell her to show me her screen (often AirPlayed to the TV (which she forgets how to do every other time)), and often immediately see a button doing exactly what she wants (or she closed her browser window, thinking it was a tab again 😑).

A slight complaint with the explanation, it states that tech-savvy people don’t know much about computers, which isn’t necessarily true, I could tell you how your computer works from the UI level, down to the components, and logic gates in the CPU. What I don’t necessarily know is how the designers of every single program in the universe laid out their user interface, which is when I use the method depicted in the comic. PotatoGod (talk) 17:10, 17 December 2017 (UTC)

This issue doesn't apply to me since my parents and I are quite tech-savvy, meaning we don't need any help.Boeing-787lover 14:59, 1 July 2018 (UTC)

I suspect that in a few cases, the person might have tried to follow the flowchart, but still ended up at the "Ask someone else for help or give up" step. Make of such a result as you will, but I suspect if that happens for printing out that flowchart, it doesn't speak well for one's ability to become more tech-savvy. 14:22, 3 August 2018 (UTC)