How About a Round of Applause?

My ‘diversion’ today was to help a distant relative who yesterday,  in order to resolve an issue with her Mac, followed my suggestion to click the “Repair Disk” button in Disk Utility. When she phoned me today, it was to exclaim in horror “All my files have disappeared!”  She confessed to disregarding my request, “Call me back when it’s done repairing the disk and we’ll determine  what to do next”. After the repair she had impatiently proceeded to click some nearby buttons until she had … reinstalled her iMac’s operating system. More precisely (and less conveniently), she had installed a previous version of the OS (the extinct Tiger).

Over the years, for her peace of mind, my relative had been relying on a duly-connected backup drive. But as with other domains in life, plugging is not all there is to it. Some pre- and post-action is de rigueur. In particular, one actually has to launch backup software, such as Carbon Copy Cloner, to  indicate one’s specific intentions. One should also verify the backups once in a while, in case one’s instructions have been misunderstood. In her case, unfortunately, the drive was still in its initial, empty, state.

Fortunately for her, Mac OS X is forgiving. It has excellent administrative tools to boot; and I know a few things about them. Within a few clicks and shell commands, I ascertained that OS X had carefully archived her old files—fewf! So, from 3,000 miles away I have been nursing her iMac back to its former state of health. To her, at least (and the odd other person who remembers my prowess), I am an amazing wizard. She is happy to figure in this post.

And so it was, today, that I enjoyed what people like St-Justine emergency doctor (and former Department Head), Michael Arsenault, must experience every day—adulation for having tended to a painful, self-inflicted wound. Maybe in addition to offering computer-based cognitive productivity training, I should also provide emergency Mac services. That might elicit even more intense (though less enduring) expressions of joy. Perhaps that’s what draws some doctors (and patients, for that matter) away from proactive health counselling and to emergency medicine.

To pre-empt the flood of emails that the last paragraph might provoke: Note that in 2004, I told my friends and relatives that if they insisted on using Windows, I would no longer tend to the consequences. (Where are the UNIX tools?) Many of them switched platforms, and today’s call was the first true 911 I have received since. It would thus be more profitable to doctor Microsoft systems than Macs, I suppose. If you’re using an older version of Windows please consider upgrading to Windows 7, per the Ars Technica review. I’m happy to help clients with productivity across platforms. But I digress.

Today’s experience reminds me of how I feel when I attend the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Here is what happens. Bramwell Tovey, the conductor, walks onto the stage. Yes, he looks more sophisticated than most of us do even tonight; but his gait does not suggest a recent accomplishment that most of us bipeds in the audience haven’t recently performed. Nevertheless, thunder erupts from all round (of applause, that is). We remember his past performance and joyously anticipate the upcoming display of virtuosity.

Now why is it that when I arrive at work, all I hear is the quiet hum of my 15″ MacBook Pro? Surely, this can’t reflect expectations of me for the day ahead.

You know, the morning after a good day’s work,  I sometimes feel that a warm round would be neither unwarranted nor unwelcome. And why stop at that, for me or you? One can count on the audience at the Orpheum to supply a standing ovation at one of the virtuosos’ attempted exits. For instance, the last time I attended a VSO concert, Joyce Yang dazzled us all, and so we cheerfully (and rightfully) stood for her. In fact, I can’t recall a night when we, at the Orpheum, held back a standing OV. So, why shouldn’t people stand up and clap when we walk out of our offices? Granted, in my case, I would have to hire clappers, as I mainly work from home these days. That would give a whole new meaning to the word ‘claptrap’. But it would be worth it, wouldn’t it?

All of this leads me to share with you a brilliant idea of mine. It is to activate one of my long fallowed talents, software development, and my longstanding desire not only to help (and applaud) myself, but my readers and customers too. To make us feel as appreciated as we truly ought to be, I should write us a program that applauds when we approach our desks; whistles when we pause from doing our business (or on returning from doing our business, as the case may be); and chants “Bravo!”, “Encore!” after we’ve put in a first-class keyboard (or touchpad) performance. With the right sound arrangement, this might also rouse a classroom or a meeting room. As a reader of this blog, I know you value and do great work; so you deserve it!

But there’s an easier way for me to provide knowledge workers with some of the recognition they deserve. I shall suggest to Mark Zuckerberg  that he rename the “Like” button to “Applause”—WordPress and related platforms would surely follow suit! And then, when one’s applause counter reaches the magic threshold, the software would simulate a standing ovation. Enfin!

Maybe, after a few weeks of promptly returning to our desks at the bidding of an electric (if not electrifying) encore, out of sympathy for the symphony, we’d remain seated the next time virtuosos—in the normal sense of the word—conclude a performance of their art, so that they can have a pint (or whatever it is they drink backstage) sooner than usual.

Until Facebook, WordPress or CogZest implements “Applause” software, I’ll settle for some “likes”.

But before liberally pushing buttons, let’s not forget to read the labels. Otherwise, we too might give ourselves a frightful scare and (with some ironic luck) find ourselves heaping praise on an expansive computer geek.

Thank you…. Thank you….. Thank you….

Luc P. Beaudoin
PS My relative is pleased to figure in this post, which I have just read to her as it will be a couple of hours before she will be able to read it herself.
PPS, this gets me thinking again about the need for Knowledge Worker Academy Awards. Wouldn’t it be nice if…

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Luc P. Beaudoin

Head of CogZest. Author of Cognitive Productivity books. Co-founder of CogSci Apps Corp. Adjunct Professor of Education, Simon Fraser University. Why, Where, and What I Write. See About Me for more information.

One thought on “How About a Round of Applause?”

  1. I henceforth offer you the sound of not one, but two hands clapping in appreciative applause for your genial, genuine, and genius-like geek hood. Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping me conspicuously consume, configure and collaborate with my new Mac. You may NOW take that bow!

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