The Computer Corner: Change Happens

The Computer Corner: Change Happens

One of the frustrating things about using one of the free email services (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.) is that the interface keeps changing. Of course, to a lesser extent, this is true of software in general, but it is the free email services that are the most frequent subject of complaint. Millions of email users have had this experience: Everything was working just fine, and you had finally conquered the learning curve to get comfortable with how to use the various features of your email, when, without warning, your email provider changes everything. Now you are forced to learn a new and different way of doing things.

In my experience, Yahoo Mail has been one of the biggest offenders when it comes to changing up things on their email web page. I always know when this happens because my phone rings several times with confused clients calling to ask if I know where the “reply” button went or why their address book disappeared.

Then, just as sure as darkness follows sunset, they always ask, “Why did they do that?” It has always been frustrating to me when clients ask such a question because how could I possibly know the answer? The management at Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft do not consult with me, and I certainly do not claim any insider access to their decision-making processes.

Recently though, I read a piece about ageism in Silicon Valley and realized this could be the answer. In the information technology world, it is almost unheard of to see job postings seeking candidates with 10 years of experience. In Silicon Valley, “older” means 30 years of age, not 60. The median age of Facebook employees is 29, and it’s about the same with Amazon, Google, and Yahoo.

Now put those facts together with the latest census data. Baby Boomers, my generation, are the largest portion of the population and therefore comprise the greatest number of consumers. In spite of the stereotype that old folks do not use technology, the Pew Research Center finds that adults over the age of 65 report using the Internet in equal or possibly even greater numbers than younger generations. Perhaps we have more time on our hands.

The situation that exists is that the software industry is largely made up of young people making a lot of assumptions based on their own generational preferences. The Millennials, mostly in their twenties, are at an age where change is constant in their lives, and they have not had time to become set in their ways. It seems they assume we older generations will welcome having to relearn how to use our email every few months.

So, I think that the answer to the question “Why did they do that?” has to do with lack of experience by the generation that writes our software. Many people who have been extremely successful in their careers credit having had a great mentor. In Silicon Valley they really do seem to be missing out on that.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981, and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email