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It's time to retire the mom test

By Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier on September 08, 2007 (2:00:00 PM)

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One of the more humorous ad series today is the Geico "caveman" commercials, featuring a caveman complaining about the stereotype of something being "so easy a caveman could do it." Since we don't have to worry about offending cavemen (or cavewomen), companies can safely poke humor at that demographic group and not worry about alienating anyone. However, you might want to think twice about saying "it's so easy your mom can do it."

You're probably familiar with the phrase "the mom test," which is quick shorthand for "the most clueless computer user we can find." When being bandied about by a mostly male crowd, and a smattering of pre-motherhood female IT professionals, it's easy for this sort of condescension to pass unnoticed -- but it's not unnoticed by the mothers who have a clue and who deserve just as much credit as the father geeks in the crowd.

I've thought about this several times recently, after attending a talk at LinuxWorld Expo where someone said the concept of the workspace on Linux needed to be dumbed down for "single moms," and once again when computer shopping with my partner after the salesperson commented that she had brought a geek with her -- as if she weren't capable of being geeky on her own. While my partner might turn to me for a second opinion on a computer purchase, she's fully geeked out in her own right and fully capable of computer shopping on her own. Just because she's a mom doesn't mean she's helpless around computers -- but that certainly seems to be the dominant attitude.

This brought to the fore something that I've seen -- but not noticed -- for years. I could point to a number of examples where support efforts are described as making it "easy enough for your mom to do it", or the question is "Is Linux ready for mom?" If it's not mom, then it's grandma who is conjectured to be too feeble to grok computers.

But why do moms and grandmas take the fall when plenty of male parental units are just as computer-challenged as their female counterparts? Is there something about the reproductive process that's supposed to render mothers incapable of comprehending computers? Or is this just a not-so-subtle form of sexism, in that we assume moms are clueless with computers, whereas dads -- thanks to an extra supply of testosterone, perhaps -- will be able to muddle along without assistance?

Before you rush to the comments to reply, "but my mom really is clueless with computers," let me assure you that my mom is too (sorry, Mom). However, my dad isn't exactly a kernel hacker either (sorry, Pop), but I don't hear anyone going around saying "this needs to be easy enough for dads to use."

I'm not saying that anyone is deliberately trying to insult women by talking about the mom test, but it is time that we deliberately take steps to remove the phrase from our active lexicon.

To be sure, this isn't limited to the FOSS community or even the computing industry -- there's plenty of gender bias in evidence when you talk about moms (and women in general) and car repair, home improvement, and so forth. But if we really want to encourage more people to participate in the FOSS community, it'd be a big help if we stopped talking down to the moms in our midst.

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It's time to retire the mom test

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 84.164.111.66] on September 08, 2007 03:35 PM
In the german Wikipedia there's an OMA-Test[1] (Oma (ge.): grandma) but it actually has nothing to do with a senior. This test checks if a person without any knowledge (german: "Ohne die Mindeste Ahnung") is able to understand an article.

In my opinion this is quite funny :) and it proves that nobody thinks that anyone intended to insult women.




[1] http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Oma-Test

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It's time to retire the mom test

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 74.230.126.190] on September 08, 2007 03:39 PM
I'll have to ask my mom if she understands this before I'll do it!

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Not gender bias

Posted by: tomws on September 08, 2007 04:14 PM
In most cases, it's probably not gender bias so much as it is "generation bias" - and let's face it, there *is* a generation gap in (to use a broad and untechnical term) computers, so it's not a bias at all by definition. There's also a generation gap in many areas ranging from quantum mechanics to cuisine. That doesn't make it a gender-based consideration. It's a natural division.



That being said, gender can be a factor in this "stereotype", dare I legitimize it by using that term. What gender is mostly represented in computing, anyway? If more moms (that is, females) were so inclined to enter the field, you'd see the mom-test, as you call it, disappear because it would be meaningless. The overwhelming presence of males in the field does suggest that it is inherently more attractive to them than females. The reasons can be debated, but the fact remains, as with the generation gap mentioned above, that it's a natural division. So, a "dad-test" for computing would be absurd from the perspective of gender.



The article is well-written, but it's unfortunate that even in the geek field we can't escape the wrong ideas currently in vogue that everyone has a right to not be offended and that genders should be equally represented in all areas of society. As offensive an idea as it may be to some, men and women are different (thankfully). Let's enjoy it rather than force the world to be unisex.

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maybe not even a generation bias then?

Posted by: Michael Shigorin on September 09, 2007 10:32 PM
"...that everyone has a right to not be offended..." -- IOW if a person *wishes* to be offended, they'll find enough offense on them anyways, from any party. If a person can smile and forget, then probably even real problems are less, well, problems. At least that's what I've learned from communicating with quite a few people in person, on the phone and online: my problem's not outside me, it's inside me.

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Re: maybe not even a generation bias then?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.18.20.9] on September 09, 2007 11:08 PM
I'll speak as a 54-year old mom, and now grandmother who uses Linux. You two just don't get it. It isn't about "not offending" people -- it is about drawing people of all kinds and types into your projects. Why would you want to do that? Because that will MAKE YOUR PROJECT BETTER.

It isn't about "not offending." It is about respect, and inclusiveness.

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Re(1): maybe not even a generation bias then?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 98.203.150.239] on September 10, 2007 04:05 AM
exactly;)..bravo and well said...these 'other' people are here and just arrogant twits who can't think beyond their small 2d world ;)

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Re: maybe not even a generation bias then?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 202.78.240.7] on September 10, 2007 03:44 AM
the intent doesn't matter - it does offend, and mums are saying "quit calling me stupid" - so lets stop using the term, agreed?

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Re(1): maybe not even a generation bias then?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 98.203.150.239] on September 10, 2007 04:04 AM
not agreed..t he prior poster is correct saying that its not offensive..its inclusive. THe idea is to STOP THE INSANITY and stop the RTFM BS and making linux as easy as windows to use. It is stopping y ou l33t jerks into making linux a tech saavy kewl place where if you dont use the CLI your not welcome and told to 'go back to windows' where you belong...THAT attitude is the idea not to offend.

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Re(1): maybe not even a generation bias then?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 98.203.150.239] on September 10, 2007 04:11 AM
no one is calling them stupid..its called making linux approachable for the 'average' non tech user instead of forcing the CLI on people unlike windoes does. YOu leet geeks just dont get it and THAT is why windows is 'laughing' at you all and winning desktop market hands down.

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Re: Not gender bias

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: unknown] on September 11, 2007 08:30 PM
What generation? I am 42 so I am old enough to have a child in college. Am in that generation of which you speak? My first computer was a Commodore 64 and I got it 1982. I am now write c++ code on an embedded system that runs Linux. I know a lot of people around my age that are would agree with you about a generation gap. We feel that the younger generation is pretty clueless when it comes to technology. Most of the younger generation thinks that know how to use Myspace and knowing which video card gets the best frame rate in Prey makes them computer experts.

I think that Mom test is a pretty good term. Most Moms I know are too busy to fiddle with useless junk. They just want it to get the job done. I would just change the term from "so simple that your mom could use it" to "so elegant and reliable your Mom would use it."

That after all is the goal. To make a system so elegant, intuitive, and reliable that you don't have to be an expert to us it.

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It's time to retire the mom test

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 200.83.176.107] on September 08, 2007 05:02 PM
Actually, I've seen at least one using the male counterpart: <a href="http://www.debian-administration.org/articles/466">Desktop Adapted for Dad</a>, although this time the name is well founded (the system was built for the writer's dad).

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It's time to retire the mom test

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.86.144.18] on September 08, 2007 05:37 PM
Thank you! from a female + senior citizen who likes to keep up with tech news / blogs in all aspects of computing. I wade through a lot of tech articles that are repetitive and unimaginative or just thinly disguised marketing babble. I don't need to be constantly insulted by needless gender and age bias on top of all that.

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It's time to retire the mom test

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 83.83.60.203] on September 08, 2007 06:09 PM
Oh good god, when I saw the the first paragraph of this article I thought yes finally someone is taking a stand against the silly stereotype of classifying people as clueless just because they don't really care about what we care about, as if there were some grand divide and we we are all the "good" side while all of "them" were on the "bad" side.

And then it turns out it just gender war crap. Yes, of course, the dads are just as clueless, that's *obvious*. The only reason someone picked a mom is because more dads are into computers than moms, and hence it's a safer "shorthand".

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Off Topic: The Caveman commercial is humerous?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 208.101.168.53] on September 08, 2007 06:57 PM
Puh-leeze!
Those commercials are so awful and un-funny they are almost painful to watch. And, when the television show based on those commercials performs dismally in the ratings this fall, I'm sure the clueless executives at ABC/Disney will scratch their heads and wonder why nobody liked it.
They are *so* out of touch with reality, and *that* is what's really funny

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Re: Off Topic: The Caveman commercial is humerous?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.110.19.10] on September 09, 2007 01:38 AM
Silliness is in the eye of the beholder, I guess. Personally, I think those commercials are hilarious. :)

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Re: Off Topic: The Caveman commercial is humerous?

Posted by: pahosler on September 10, 2007 02:38 PM
Lighten up!! Those commercials are very funny!
I happened to see the pilot, it was freaking hilarious! I can't wait for this show. Most sitcoms are the same BS over and over, and I mean the same as all the other sitcoms, usually ala Friends. Yes, the Caveman thing is sort of like that too, but somehow it's just much more funny.

You're probably just a caveman anyway, so you don't even get this post. How do you even type, bang your club on the keyboard? Just kidding, had to get some caveman humor in there ;)

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Please, stop this politically correct circus

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 213.140.21.234] on September 08, 2007 07:06 PM
Oh, yes, THAT'S the real problem with GNU/Linux! Not the struggle to create a more functional desktop. Not writing better drivers / pushing on the hardware companies to release specs. No, the problem is that we're "insulting" moms instead than dads.

How can we put an end to this incredibly stupid politically correct babble? It's *damn obvious* to everyone with a couple of connected neurons inside the skull that dads can be as clueless as moms on computers (and viceversa, moms can be expert in using PCs). However, the expression "easy enough for your mom" immediately conveys to anyone a meaningful image and communicates a concept much faster than "easy enough for your more technologically challenged adult relative that is not affected by mental retard", and anyone understands that even if your mom is actually a software engineer. The fact that saying "moms" instead that "dads" underlies a (perfectly innocent) gender bias in our culture? Oh, thank you to have discovered warm water. But what is insulting in that specific gender bias? Do you want to deny that *genders are actually different*? Maybe moms are a good example because they usually have much better and more useful things to do than playing around with installing Linux from scratch. Is that a *bad bias*? The Italian equivalent for "single mom" in that context is the peculiar "Voghera's housewife" (Voghera is a small Italian city). It's an expression used everyday to indicate the average Italian that hasn't time and the culture to deal with complex things (for example: "the tax modules should be easily compiled by the Voghera's housewife as well". You can take for granted that no actual Voghera housewife ever complained about that.

Actually, using that expression is a *gentle attention* towards moms: it's like saying "hey, we want you (that have other interests and priorities) to be able to use a computer".

So, I'd like mister Brockmeier to tell me: what do we solve by abolishing the mom's rephrasing? Is there an angry movement of single moms that feels downplayed by that? Or is it just a problem that exists just because *you* think it's a problem?

devicerandom - http://opendevice.blogspot.com

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Re: Please, stop this politically correct circus

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 68.126.190.109] on September 08, 2007 08:39 PM
No, the problem is that we're "insulting" moms instead than dads. How can we put an end to this incredibly stupid politically correct babble?

I find that people who use that term in a negative context are often bigots.

Given what you claim as your culture upbringing, I can only see that as the rational explanation for your sexist behavior.

So, I'd like mister Brockmeier to tell me: what do we solve by abolishing the mom's rephrasing? Is there an angry movement of single moms that feels downplayed by that? Or is it just a problem that exists just because *you* think it's a problem?

Perhaps the issue is that not enough single moms are involved in such a movement because they feel repulsed by bigots like yourself that refuse to embrace change?

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Re(1): Please, stop this politically correct circus

Posted by: tomws on September 08, 2007 09:50 PM
This isn't meant as a flame... really.



You seem to be suffering from a case of pot-and-kettle syndrome. Calling the poster a "bigot" because you perceive his views as sexist (which, I suggest, is unfounded) is one thing. But to follow it up by engaging in bigotry yourself through disrespecting that viewpoint (as well as his "culture upbringing") suggests that perhaps you should actually practice what you preach. Tolerance is not a one-way street.

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Re(2): Please, stop this politically correct circus

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 70.114.39.217] on September 09, 2007 04:03 AM
Owned! :-) He is also committing numerous logical fallacies. Attacking straw man, attack the man would be the two that come directly to mind. NEVER attack the arguer ALWAYS attack the argument. By calling him a bigot you show yourself a bigot and the other persons argument still stands. Please come back with a better response or stop your "internet rage" :-P

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Re(3): Please, stop this politically correct circus

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 90.149.125.101] on September 09, 2007 05:32 PM
I don't know if this is something universal, but for me, reading all capital words is the same as someone shouting in a normal conversation. It's quite unpleasant and I loose sympathy for both the arguer and the argument. Even exclamation marks often makes me pull away a little. The emoticons are nice, though :-)

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CAPS

Posted by: Michael Shigorin on September 09, 2007 10:26 PM
Guess you can imagine the cultural differences that might lead an Italian talking a Finn into a corner, literally :-) One would subconsciously "insist" on closer distance, while another would be more comfortable at a yard, not at a foot between them. Yup, I'd prefer to use caps sparingly too, still Mr Zonker did jump over his techie head this time. Is it a politcor flu?

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It's not a straw man fallacy!!!!

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 75.135.77.186] on September 11, 2007 02:03 PM
Hey, calling it a STRAW MAN MAN ARGUMENT ISN'T VERY PROGRESSIVE - that's exclusive. In logic class last semester I was introduced to the alternative terms for it: STRAW PERSON or SCARECROW. I guess logic is infested with sexism just like Linux. :-)

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i-di-ot. :-(

Posted by: Michael Shigorin on September 09, 2007 10:21 PM
Well, he's Italian it seems (and does have a clue), and you seem to be stupid american embracing whatever shit your officials push down your throat. Sorry for offense, but it's intended. Go get yourself some brain instead of ego and get over it -- a *lot* of people have yet to see "that term" in _positive_ context and not a hypocrisy. Yep, those I know are on this side of the Pool. Vprochem, taburetka ne vrubitsa.

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Re: Please, stop this politically correct circus

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 12.169.163.241] on September 09, 2007 11:17 PM
Ah, the defense of bigots and sexists everywhere- "political correctness." What a great way to dodge the actual issue. I'd judge from your entire rant that showing respect and consideration to other people is just not something that is on your radar, because it violates your sacred free speech rights or something. Why don't you use your sacred free speech rights to support constructive things instead of defending the sacred right to be a butthead?

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Re: Please, stop this politically correct circus

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 82.71.194.253] on September 11, 2007 08:46 AM
Finally, someone feels the same way I do. Lets ignore all this bickering, Political Correctness has gone to stupid levels, I mean why can't we call it a blackboard?

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It's time to retire the mom test

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 213.140.21.234] on September 09, 2007 01:41 AM

Thanks for understanding my post. The fact is that the politically correctness babble is indeed bringing nothing else than groundless language censorship. I strongly advocate removal of racism and sexism and the like from human society, and I'm not usually considered a bigot by any mean. For the same lack of bigotry, I strongly repulse the censorship of any type of speech, including perfectly legit expressions because they do not sound "good" to someone. Real sexism and racism has nothing to do with innocent expressions of everyday language, trust me.



Perhaps the issue is that not enough single moms are involved in such a movement because they feel repulsed by bigots like yourself that refuse to embrace change?



This is actually one of the most comic things I've ever read. I imagine the crying, helpless mothers feeling deep psychic traumas because we bad, bad, bad bigot geeks do not use another easy-to-visualize example for a concept, and being so deeply traumatized to not even being able to raise their hands by themselves to tell their opinion. Sure as hell it's the reason.

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It's time to retire the mom test

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 121.45.203.87] on September 09, 2007 02:41 AM
Hmmm, perhaps we should use the expression "PA test" or "Secretary Test"?

My experience is that these people are the one group that seem to get given the task of setting up or using software with no training these days.
The amount of calls that I get on a weekly basis from this group who can't grasp the idea of setting up POP3 mail account which can take up to 6 minutes to walk them through.

To be fair this isn't in their job description, but why do they do this or get assigned this task when they know that they cannot complete the task or have the skills in the first place?

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Re: It's time to retire the mom test

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.73.169.250] on September 09, 2007 11:55 AM
"Hmmm, perhaps we should use the expression "PA test" "
well, at least I know what 'a mom' is... but a 'PA' ? Public Attorney , Public Announcement, Public Accounting, Proxy Agreement, Project Audit, Psoriatic Arthritis, Professor's, Assistant, Procurement Appropriation, Privacy Act, Press Agent, Power Amplifier, Power of Attorney, Police Academy, Philippine Army, Peano Arithmetics, Passenger Announcement, Palestinian Authority or even Pennsylvania ???

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It's time to retire the mom test

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.255.215.37] on September 09, 2007 03:06 AM
Thanks Joe. I'm a 40-something female programmer / Linux enthusiast and of course I'm very aware that I'm in the minority. Yeah, I get sick of the endless stream of "does Linux pass the mom/grandma test" articles and yeah I do feel insulted by the implication, but hey I've been used to that attitude all along. But forget about political correctness -- It's time for those articles to stop because they offer no new insight; they just repeat unoriginal drivel and serve no useful purpose. I'm also sick of the "is this the year of the Linux desktop"/"is Linux ready for the desktop" crap too.

If we really want to make Linux better and easier to use, how about instead of passing some meaningless "mom" test, we work on making it pass the "accessibility" test, so everyone can experience the advantages of GNU/Linux/FOSS regardless of disability? This is the real area of usability where the most work needs to be done to catch up to Mac/Windows.

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Mom test not offensive

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 70.114.39.217] on September 09, 2007 03:51 AM
Ok guys! When i was a kid... LONG LONG AGO *cough cough* yesterday. I was told to pass the mom test every dang time i did something at school . Thats because the mom test doesn't refer to an understanding that your momy had. It was all about weather or not your oh so loving momy approved of the action. (i got in trouble a lot when i was in kindergarten) Hey did your mom say it was ok to eat that chocolate!? Eh sounds like the "mom test" to me. The issue is the way it is being used in the tech community. I will have to say that my one feeble experience doesn't out weigh the global perspective yet i could say the same about your little article. My personal opinion... stop the politically correct crap. If you wife doesn't like it... move to the mars cuz this is planet earth suckers! Get with the program! :-)

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Re: stop the politically correct crap

Posted by: Michael Shigorin on September 09, 2007 10:11 PM
+1!

Modern american "culture" [CENSORED] hard enough even without that ugly substitute for having real heart to live with people, and not synthesized one to live with biorobots.

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my dad doesn't try.

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 70.49.128.94] on September 09, 2007 04:07 AM
My mom is not great with computers. but she does her email and internet, and simple document processing, and lately printing pictures. The thing is my mom wants to use the computer, she wants it to help her but it needs to be easy. But my dad refuses to even type at the keyboard, he doesn't try and dislikes them. So in my personal cays that is why it needs to pass the mom test, she is the one that cares

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Re: my dad doesn't try.

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 218.231.115.154] on September 09, 2007 09:45 AM
The same situation happens to me. It was my father who first wanted to use a "word processor" but it was my mother, well into seventies, who actually began using a Mac. My father hasn't touch the keyboard since she began to use it six years ago. In my case, grandpa test doesn't mean a sense because he doesn't care.

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Re(1): my dad doesn't try.

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 194.106.138.240] on September 11, 2007 09:54 AM
Same here. My mom can email / internet / photos / documents etc. My father dosent know which mouse button is which.

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Why retire when they can fight for their rights.

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.91.11.194] on September 09, 2007 04:10 AM
Judging by this article I can tell that it really does offend somebody. However, this is the first time in 50 years, since this phrase has been invented, we have heard any uprising in regards to the "mommy test" from the English language whether its involving technology or what your child is doing in school. And to be correct from what I have seen in the technology field is that many woman involved in technology have not only kept it a secret but also don't want the opposite sex to know about it. Mainly, because of the fact most men by stereotype find it as something geeky woman don't see that it will be appealing to their trophy husband that they want. Again this is by stereotype. To make a historical reference the best known video game of the period of time during the feminist movement was Centepede. This game was invented by a woman however it was never disclosed to anyone because of the fact that back then woman weren't seen as being able to get involved with technology. But after the feminist movement this changed and woman starting doing alot of other things like, being directors, being managers, and soon maybe a president. The thing I say in regards to this is just cause we take it out of linux doesn't mean we aren't taking it out of the English language. So if you find it offensive then alright it is not directed at you however to me I feel offensive that my last name is a command in linux and I haven't got any royalties at all for it being written in the operating system. That seems to be more of an issue than whether or not mom test should be kept.

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It's time to retire the mom test

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 72.179.10.251] on September 09, 2007 05:13 AM
As many Linux users, I make my living as a Tech support agent.

Trust me...Carla Schroeder hit the no-sexual-orientation nail on the no-male-or-female-dominant-features-noted head.

There are just some people who should never be allowed to touch a computer...

My mom had sense enough to know that she was one of them. She just never did see the need to "catch up" with the technology. To her, a computer was a pretty neat typwriter that held the text until you hit a button that said print.

Never mind someone had to "set up" that print button
Never mind that someone had to replace the ink in that "typewriter"
Never mind that the software just assumed the user is an idiot
Never mind that someone had to put in alot of work so that print button could work.

I teach my customers of HeliOS Solutions that no...they do not need to know how to write code to use linux...but likened to their car, they do not need to know how to replace the crankshaft...

But they sure as hell do need to know where to stick the key in and start the damned thing.

If you are so "computer illiterate" that you cannot do that...then count me in as one of the Schroeder-ites.

Pardon me mom...can I see your computer license and Registration...

helios

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I suggest

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 58.7.183.124] on September 09, 2007 12:17 PM
Both encompass demographics unlikely to using *nix, the last is probably safest.
"It's so easy even... a terminal alcoholic could do it"
or
"It's so easy even... Howard Dudly could do it"

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Re: I suggest

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 205.208.133.101] on September 09, 2007 05:38 PM
How about: "It's so easy, George W. Bush could use it."?

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Re(1): I suggest

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 59.167.122.5] on September 09, 2007 09:17 PM
with some help.... :-)

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It's time to retire the mom test

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 99.246.234.172] on September 09, 2007 04:17 PM
Ok, I'll say it...;-)

It needs to be easy enough for dads to use. Hell, it needs to be easy enough for moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, and everybody else to use.
Get over your overly sensitive politically correct nonsense. The expression simply means it needs to be easy enough for anybody to use, whether it is moms, dads or anybody else.

And by the way, I think that there are already several distributions/livecds/etc. that are easy enough for moms to use...
or dads to use...
or grandmas to use...
or grandpas to use...
etc.

Stop wasting bandwidth with such nonsensical junk.

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Take a pill lady

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 85.81.90.229] on September 09, 2007 04:27 PM
Jesus how awkwardly PC can you get??
you want to bubblewrap everything you come into contact with dont you??
There's always going to be phrases like this.. life sucks get a f'ing helmet.
And gtfo of the Linux world too while you're at it you mushy hippie!

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It is not the gender bias you think...

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 70.247.196.79] on September 09, 2007 10:32 PM
Both mom and dad are clueless. The difference is that we actually want to make it easy enough for mom. But if dad doesn't get it, screw him. He should have made someone else mow the lawn!

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It's time to retire the mom test & general BOFH behaviour

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 203.9.156.1] on September 10, 2007 01:44 AM
Treating *anybody* as clueless discourages people from getting into, enjoying and benefiting from tech. I really enjoy playing & working with tech & I want to share that sense of fun. If you diss anyone in their attempts to learn tech, you've lost your chance to share. Trolling, BOFH and other nasty behaviours are all too common in IT & it's a real turn off for those who really need encouragement & support while they learn. We were all noobs at one point & have asked questions of at least one person at some stage or other.

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It's time to retire the mom test

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.255.73.248] on September 10, 2007 05:46 AM
I think that the "Mom test" is invoked simply because of the culturally endearing emotions that word "Mom" (or "Mother") evokes. Additionally -- from my experience -- if "Mom" is not happy, then no one is... so she is the one to please.

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It's time to retire the mom test - should have been explicitely tagged as "humour"

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 193.33.94.130] on September 10, 2007 09:01 AM
Perhaps having labelled this article as humour would have made obvious to anybody this article is a joke, albeit a rather lame one. But hey, there is not of light material available for the Sunday column, is it?

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"It's so easy even a Mac-user can use it."

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 194.52.58.134] on September 10, 2007 11:45 AM
... nuff said.. ;)

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Re: "It's so easy even a Mac-user can use it."

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 74.10.0.26] on October 02, 2007 07:36 PM
I vote for this one!

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Re(1): "It's so easy even a Mac-user can use it."

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 206.253.39.35] on October 14, 2007 03:52 AM
Another stereotype - just because a user chooses simplicity doesn't mean they have to have everything dumbed down. Things can be simple yet complex at the same time, but they can't be dumb and complex without being overbearing, then no one could use it. Mac users probably use the command line more than windows users because the terminal isn't being cut out as the dos box is continually being minimized in windows.

I love windows and use it daily, but seriously get over the cliche. There are some things in the Mac OS that are harder to use than their windows counterparts that requires a greater amount of time being spent configuring. Same with Windows. In the end nothing is the "easiest to use" unless all you do is email and reading the news/playing solitaire.

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Re(2): "It's so easy even a Mac-user can use it."

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.249.102.33] on October 15, 2007 03:15 AM
You saw an mac joke and you're objecting to it under the presumption that the person who made the comment prefers windows? This is Linux.com.

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It's time to retire the mom test

Posted by: Rubberman on September 10, 2007 07:08 PM
Indeed! My wife is a mother (I guess that make me a father! :) and a certified PhD research physicist. I think she more than fits the "uber-geek" test myself. I'm a professional software engineer and she makes me seem like the one who needs "Computer Stuff For Dummies".

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It's time to retire the mom test

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 72.145.201.141] on September 11, 2007 04:53 AM
Hoping to get some tonight aren't you?

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It's time to retire the mom test

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 88.112.109.102] on September 11, 2007 07:13 AM
I think you're being a little too politically correct here. If the phrase was something like "easy enough for females to use" I'd be a lot more sympathetic to the cause, but the mom thing just has a kinda loving edge to it. To me it says that geeks are thinking about their moms even when coding.

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It's time to retire the mom test

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 82.71.194.253] on September 11, 2007 02:40 PM
The majority of mothers wouldn't have a clue though, that is the point. What a pointless article and a stupid question.

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As the 42-year old computer geek daughter of a computer geek mother, I say it's well past time to re

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 209.217.118.25] on September 11, 2007 04:51 PM

My mother was a computer programmer. She worked on mainframes with punch cards and real ttys. She was around when VT-100 was brand new. She was a computer geek. She hung around with computer geeks. Sometimes I would visit her at work. Where ever she was working, it always seemed about half female.



My father was a complete computer incompetent. We'd always say, "It has to be easy enough for Dad to use".



My older brother is only slightly more computer literate than my father was.



I'm a female embedded systems software developer and embedded systems designer. I have written kernels, device drivers, BIOS implementations, you name it. I have designed computer hardware from the chips up. My spouse brags that I can design the computer hardware from the transistors up [which is actually true but please don't ask me to do it]. I do this stuff for fun. I think that qualifies me as one serious geek.



When my brother needs a new piece of computer equipment, he sometimes takes me along. Frequently the salesman will tell my brother "It's so easy, your wife here will be able to use it". To this, I usually respond "First, I'm his sister. Second, if I were buying this computer for myself, I'd buy something more powerful, strip off Windows, install my own customized Linux, BSD, or Solaris, and make it jump through hoops so fast your head will spin. But this computer is for my brother here and it needs to be so easy, even he will be able to use it." (My brother doesn't always like this because it makes him feel like a computer moron, but the truth is, he really doesn't know much beyond point and click.)



I have long ago gotten sick and tired of some young male telling me about computers, about how to install a stick of memory, about how to use Windows, etc. This is the kind of assumption that is reinforced in the minds of young men and women by the "mom test" (i.e. that mothers in specific and women in general can't use it or understand it). I have frequently responded to it with "You weren't even a twinkle in either of your parent's eye when I was soldering chips on to my first computer motherboard (an Apple and by that I mean the computer before the Apple ][) and began programming it in hex, assembly, and graFORTH."



Amongst the crowd I hang out with, female geeks out number male geeks. We trade these stories around and all of us find it infuriating that people automatically assume that because we're women, we don't know anything about technology.



My favourite story and one that I think really exemplifies just how out of place and time this phrase is came from one of my friends. Her son went to buy a computer. The sales person told him "It's so easy, your mother will be able to use it." My friend's son's response was "My mother's a network administrator. She can use anything. I want something so easy I can use it."



While I'm sure that the "mom test" is suppose to be generational, it has ended up being very sexist. When people use it, they subconsciously think it, reinforcing the sexist message it contains (the same way that repetition reinforces/teaches any kind of behaviour). Like a lot of such phrases, it persists because people say it without thinking. So let's all start thinking about the words we're actually saying.



We can start by retiring this offensive phrase.



'nough said

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Re: As the 42-year old computer geek daughter of a computer geek mother, I say it's well past time t

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 64.39.134.99] on January 11, 2008 12:23 PM
I try to be as geeky as I have time for (I have a busy life with my family) but I consider myself as a geek even though I haven't had time to write code in several months. I'm getting back into it though. I've had very frustrating encounters with both men and women about my computer skills. The men that I have done service calls before for act overly surprised that I'm even there and then attempt to assist me in moving the computer around so I can get the side panel off. (I'm very short 4' 9" and maybe they see me as a bit weak.) One man came up as I was going to pick up his full tower to take it to my car. It needed extensive cleaning and a backup before I did anything. It was incredibly infested with spyware/viruses. He didn't think I could do it and before he got a chance to grab it I had it on my shoulder and was halfway to the door and his mouth was still open. But I have earned the respect of a lot of people who know me and they compliment me a lot on my geekiness.....though they don't understand why I like it. I've had women tell me, "Why do you like to be a programmer? I sounds really boring." I have no explanation other than I grew up in a family that had 2 programmers and I was deciphering source code at a young age. I decided that I wanted to do that when I was older. I would get on my uncle's computer and read his code from work and I understood quite a bit considering I had no books and he was not able to just sit and teach me to program.

The time I believe I was most frustrated was when I called a 60-70 yr old female customer who had left a message that she needed someone to check out her computer. All the other techs were out on service calls and I was the one sticking around the office working on 2-3 workstations in for repair. I told her that I could be there in about 30 min. She said she preferred one of the guys to come out. I told her that I was licensed and fully qualified. She lied and said that a girl that had worked there had messed up her computer one time and she preferred a male tech to visit. I was the only female that had worked there as a tech. I told her that I was the only one and that I had never been to her house. She didn't have an answer to that but still insisted on a male tech doing the work. I was upset for a while on that one. I finally got over it I guess.

I have also gone to get components in the store or have been looking at the laptop and I hate when the salesperson starts talking to me like I couldn't possibly understand anything tech related. When this happens I try to think of a really complicated question in the hopes that he will have to call in somebody more technical to be able to answer it. I try to make them feel dumb any way I possibly can.

I try not to let other people's comments bother me because I'm reasonably happen with what I'm done with my life and if they think less of me for being female then they aren't worth my precious time. It would be a waste of time to even acknowledge that their opinion is important. I just wish there were female geeks around to talk to because I feel alone sometimes in this.

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Thank you

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 128.171.113.94] on September 13, 2007 02:50 AM
Thank you for raising awareness of this gender bias. My mom's better at computers than my father. My wife is very good at computers. I hope the "mom test" can be stamped out by the time my daughter is a mom. We all want to eliminate the gender imbalance in technology. Little things like this helps.

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It's time to retire the mom test

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 124.181.49.191] on September 14, 2007 04:48 AM
My wife had no interest in learning anything about computers until I moved overseas for an extended posting. Then the incentive of staying in touch meant she wanted to learn and guess what? She was up and running in no time (mostly without help from the kids) - did some short courses in MS Office (uurgggh - Open Office for me) and now works in temp positions using those skills and more. 51 wasn't a hurdle.
A similar 'Even Mom...' thing that grinds my gears are in the Hi-Fi groups when guys are desperately trying to justify their expenditure of squillions of dollars on new speakers or cables, etc. They say, "even my wife could hear the difference". Meaning all wives are essentially tone deaf unless something radically different ($$$+++) and 'better' comes along?

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total bull

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 76.23.88.21] on September 20, 2007 06:33 PM
personally, i am really tired of the touchy feely new age bullshit. the whole "mom test" term has nothing to do with sex bias, you totally missed your target group. im tired of people blowing shit out of purportion and calling things gender biased or some other group biased. and besides, its called the mom test not because moms are women....idiot, otherwise it would be the woman test. its called the mom test because moms spend so much time working hard for their families, cooking, cleaning, taking care of babies, grocery shopping, etc, AND working, that they dont HAVE the time for themselves to play around with computers, or a lot of other things. unfortunately knowledge in computers is far down on their priority list. and if they ever do get a chance to sit in front of a computer, their minds are so frazzled from the wear of the day that they cant handle learning something new. now given that light of information, i think moms should wear the mom test as a badge of honor, thinking of it as men and women everywhere are considering them when writing software, and trying to tailor that software to their situations to honor them.

that being said, women ARE the weeker sex. its a fact, get over women. just accept that you are weeker than men. its not like anyone is looking down upon you for being weeker. you do other things better than men like....give birth. what i am saying is that their are differences between men and women, and it should be alright to make general distinctions between them. as if its alright for men to all be labled "schovanistic, inept mechanically and socially, ape like, oh and always willing and open for a crotch shot, and dont forget TOTALLY EVIL" not to mention always wrong about everything no matter what. so PLEASE even IF it really IS a gender bias, which it isnt, but if it were, let us have ONE, just ONE gender bias for women?! PLEASE? perty please? at least until you WOMEN get rid of your gender biases down to one, then we will simultaneously withdrawl our last one like in nuclear readiness staging. we have been at defcon 4 stupidly waiting for women to come back down from defcon 1. so i guess you women have a point about us men, we are stupid and retarded for letting you have all these "we are equal" concessions without demanding that you also treat us with respect.

to add one more thing, men are disrespected 100 times more than women every day yet you dont hear men travailing about the slightlest even implication of a gender biasing. is it because we are men and supposed to be strong? that we shouldnt have feelings? oh yeah, if we didnt have feelings you women would claim we werent sensitive enough.

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It's time to retire the mom test

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 76.23.88.21] on September 20, 2007 06:56 PM
yeah it sounds like anyone who would be offended at the mom test is really looking to be offended. they have pent up angst from being feminist nazis who burned their bras and divorced their husbands but never got the satisfaction they were promised by the "freedom movement". please women who dont fit into the sterotype, dont feel it like an offense. if you do, then thank your sons for thinking about you like that one guy said, geeks thinking about their moms when coding. so really its not offensive, but its possible to take offense at anything if you try hard enough. the other thing is this....women in general dont like computers enough to learn the science of it. they like technology no doubt about that, but they want it "one touch of a button does it" i KNOW this because i am a computer science major at indiana univeristy where there are thousands of students, and in a class of 30, there might be 2 girls. im not saying women arent capable, they just arent interested. so if you want to blame someone for the stereotype, blame yourselves. oh...and to respond to one point above, someone said it wasnt about being offensive, but inclusive? WTF? are you tripping on ACID? THIS IS AMERICA! its no longer acceptable to not be offensive but we have to make everyone feel included also otherwise that will be construed as offensive? THATS tHE STUPIDEST THING I EVER HEARD!. and since watching Homer Simpson for 20 years thats saying a lot. the is the country of the free! we have the RIGHT to be offensive, or rude, or dumb, stupid, and ignorant, or god forbid even noninclusive. get your patriotiscm in line lady. the problem isnt that people are offensive, its that people dont know how to let people live the way they want to without taking offense at them. look, if i dont want to include you, thats MY BUSINESS. you should be like "oh well, he is being ignorant but if thats what he wants to do or say thats his life" and just get over it and not let it bother you. if people spent more time worried about their own lives instead of what other people thought and trying to control their thinking, then we would be a lot better off. case closed.

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Single mom here, 46, self-taught gentoo & ubuntu geek hates definite gender bias

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 76.10.147.80] on September 28, 2007 07:24 AM
There's definitely both a gender bias and an age-ist bias at work here, as one poster is very correct in that one would never dream of using such an insulting phrase as "so easy dad could do it". I can attest that I've never had the funds to pay for a tech course in my life, being a sole-support single mom, a child of under-educated immigrants, invisibly disabled, and thus poor. With all of these labels at work, I'm very used to single moms being scapegoated and denigrated in all areas of life, including the technical arena -- more so than the other labels I've mentioned.

However, being poor meant that I couldn't afford professional technicians' fees, so always had to learn how to fix things myself, so the lack of resources turned into a positive. And who does my 19-year-old son turn to when something doesn't work on the XP computer I built for him and cost two grand in great components? Heck, that facebook, myspace, and msn devotee finally learned to defrag recently, after years of my nagging, and I was totally astounded I'd finally gotten through to him. Of course, that doesn't mean he maintains his virus definitions, malware utility definitions, registry, etc., but I think the defragging is evidence of *some* progress.

It's definitely time to retire the bias. I run servers here on my 64-bit htpc. I've used, troubleshooted, and fixed every Windows OS since 3.1 for employers and friends (except Vista) before the camel's back broke and I fled into the welcoming arms of Linux.

And FYI, when I'm online I use a male nick to avoid the attempts at cybering and other insulting practices the male-dominated techies often use if and when I tell them the truth about my status (but I do feel when it's telephone tech support and they hear a female voice). To their credit, the attitudes when I do let Linux techies into the secret doesn't often degenerate: the majority of the Linux crowd crowd is quite respectful.

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How About the Daughter Test -- Re: Single mom here, 46, self-taught gentoo & ubuntu geek hates defin

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 209.150.103.199] on September 29, 2007 08:23 PM
AMEN! (and the shout was intentional). The Ubuntu using Single Mom is so, so right! I am a 49 year olde mother. Single Mom and I have been through some of the same gender bias in technology, credit, medicine, and things we might not even have noticed because they were so endemic to this culture.

When I attended a presitigious business school in the '70s, the faculty and advisors were blatant in telling young women not to major in Comp Sci or Accounting because the professors in those departments did not want us. (Your GPA can only stand so many hours of serving as part of the shock troops. The fact we were even at the school was major change in the world. Some days you take your small victories and get on with life.)

Techies should know better than anyone that language and syntax matters. (GIGO) When one uses "the Mom test," it parses as -- "women are dumb about computers, and if you are female, get a clue, we are hostile to your presence in this environment." That latter part is still important because we continue to chase women of all ages away from technical careers by being blatantly obnoxious, demeaning, and outright hostile. Chasing away good minds because the owners don't have Y-chromosomes is just doing the entire planet a disservice.

If you have a daughter, granddaughter, sister, wife or mother, do you want her career opportunities limited because someone thinks that female brains are less able or valuable than male brains? Is what you say about women in technology, and women in general, something you would like your daughter or granddaughter to read in a transcript (or from this of other websites?) In 15 years, do you want your now infant daughter to come back to you and say, "I was reading the Linux archives for my project on women and computing,. Why did you say XYZ? Does that mean you think I shouldn't be president of my school's Linux club?" If your language doesn't pass "the daughter test," maybe you need to think again about what you are saying. What should a woman you don't even know who is considering entering a technical field take away from this discussion? Is it your intent to discourage another genenration of women from entering tech fields?

Does it what people say based on old fashioned ideas built on the history of narrow thinking about the abilities of matter? Yes. I became a Certified Public Accountant about 20 years later than I might have because some people are good at fighting the establishment, but I'm not one of them. I am good at accounting, but not don't wish to spend my entire life on a crusade. I am also a brown skinned woman. I do not seek housing in neighborhoods with reputations of being hostile to people who look like me. Some people are brave enough to face a firebomb through the front window at night, but I am not one of them. I still face firebombs in my career -- only two years ago, I was passed over for a promotion because the manager said, and I quote," I didn't know you have quantititive skills." -- (CPA, Charter ed Financial Analsyst, Masters degree, nope -- no reason for you to think I know what a calculator is, Boss.) If not wanting to fight with people like that everyday makes me a lesser person in your eyes, well so be it. I will be a living, breathing and less stressed lesser human being. (I moved into a different area at the bank.) I will work for excellence in the things I do; that is enough for me. (I'll bet even money think that manager still doesn't think that putting a man with half my experience and none of my certifications in the job might have something to do with his recent audit failure.)

What we say and how we say it often has consequences far beyond our less considered original intent. But there is time for reflection and improvement. This discussion is one of those places. If you are really proud of the attitudes you have expressed in this dialog, I encourage you to create electronic or paper copies so that you can transmit it to your daughters and granddaughters. I probably won't matter for your grandsons and great-grandsons if their mothers "fail the Mom test."

WriterCPA

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It's time to retire the mom test

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 124.107.219.190] on October 22, 2007 06:18 AM
well, I'm a grandmom. The problem is not gender (I got my first computer in 1980) but age.
And tho I usually get my grandson to do important things like setting up my wireless network, I do use Linux...because it's cheap.
And I have a series on it on one of my blogs, called Grandmom's guide to Ubuntu.
So maybe change it to "It's easy enough for grandma and grandpa...

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so call it the "Dad Test" then

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 67.183.27.117] on December 31, 2007 10:17 AM
i'm always having to explain everything to my dad, anyhow. my mom doesn't care.

the effect will be the same. everyone will understand it's geared to be accessible by the clueless older generation --

oh, crap.

never mind.

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Soooo... we have to be stupid to use a computer...

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 84.92.193.163] on February 18, 2008 06:26 PM
For the first part... trotting around spouting politically correct nonsense is probably far more damaging since it only serves to sanitise 'isms to the point of popular acceptance.
Secondly, what about the far more damaging assumption that you have to actually _be_ stupid to use a computer. Far better I feel to underline that it has a learning curve like everything else in life. I have bounced off far too many supposed dunces who were far more computer literate that an overwhelming number of supposedly intelligent individuals - simply because they never assumed that they didn't have to learn a thing.
The only implicit assumption in the so called "mom test" is the one that is telling you you are not only to daft to realise you might need to learn something to use a computer effectively, but that you are so brain-dead that you are happy to accept someone telling you you don't have to learn anything.
May as well tell everyone we can all fly aircraft without a license or that driving a car is so moronically simple that even a 15 year old drunk can handle it just fine.... if one never needs to learn anything for something as complex as a computer then why learn anything for far more simple tasks.
Beyond the rant your perfectly correct, but a more valid test would be the 'academic test' - after all, anyone who can stratify their opinions so far as to spout that sort of rubbish in the first place has a far more difficult task adapting.

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