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Thursday, May 18, 2017

1814. Help Family Members Help Themselves

I seem to be destined to be the tech support guy for my family. My parents, siblings, and even distant relatives contact me looking for help. Most of the time, I simply perform a Google search for them and send them the results. It takes all my self control not to just say “Google is your friend,” and let them do the work. Do you have any suggestions on subtle (or not-so-subtle) ways I can show them how to find the answers themselves, rather than depending on me to search for them?
Oh, my. Do we feel your pain! We have spent our adult lives acting as lookup/search servers for our families and less-tech-oriented friends. Unlike you, however, we have often sent response emails including the link to perform the Google search along with the “Google is your friend” response. Some acquaintances might even have taken offense at the passive aggressive sarcasm.
So why not take it even further? Rather than doing the lookup for them and leaving the aggression passive aggressive, why not be even more explicit? The Internet, in its infinite wisdom, provides just the right tool for us unwilling family tech support specialists: (Let Me Google That For You, get it?). This site allows you to specify the search, and it creates an animated tutorial that shows neophytes exactly how to use a search engine to find the answers they seek. You send them the link that provides, and when the family members click the link, the site walks them through the steps of using a search engine to perform the search for them. You have lots of options: You can select a specific search engine, the domain to search (Web, images, videos, maps, and so on), and whether to include a very basic tutorial on how Web browsers work, in general (for the seriously technically impaired). You provide the specific search text they should enter, and ask the site to generate a link you can send in your response.

Give it a try: Go to, enter search text, generate the link, and browse to that link. You’ll be amused, we promise. Then send the link as a response to a request for support. Your family members will either thank you, laugh at you, or get angry at your sarcastic response. No matter what, you’re likely to get fewer tech support queries in the future, and you’ll have actually provided a useful response!

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