A great comment from Tom Wolf showed up in my feed reader; left on a quote by Marco Arment on Simon Willison’s blog:

Over a decade ago when I started a program to teach senior citizens how to use computers (Windows 95, WordPerfect, and dial-up internet access :), the first day that I had them at the computer, I encouraged them to do their best to “break” it in order to remove some of their fear about doing just that.

Students who internalized my message of “there’s no way you can screw this up so bad that I can’t fix it” learned much, much faster. I reigned that message back in a bit later in the class so that I didn’t end up sending new users into the world who would click indiscriminately on absolutely everything, but removing the fear of breaking this expensive and mysterious machine was much more important to enhancing the students’ understanding.

What’s even more unfortunate is that this mentality, even when removed in certain arenas (users who regularly use a particular app, often develop a sense of comfort with the product and are more willing to do their own first-level troubleshooting) crops right back up as soon as the user is presented with a perceived “new” situation (even if it’s actually nearly identical).

Finally, the fact that there are hordes of so-called consultants out there who enhance these perceptions and prey on the average users’ lack of understanding to charge outrageous prices for sub-par (or in some cases no) work is incredibly frustrating.