How much do you really understand the ins-and-outs of Twitter? Can you, hand on heart, say you know exactly how your website works? And are you able to delve into the depths of your email system to ensure you get no spam? The chances are you know what these things are about, but the more in-depth details are something of a mystery to you.
New research conducted in Canada shows that when it comes to technology we know a little bit about a lot of things. But we are pretty poor at gaining in-depth knowledge about technology. Even though the study was focused on people who work in a big business, the chances are they don’t behave that differently to the rest of us. Indeed, just ask any of your Facebook friends if they know the depths of the software? Or check with your LinkedIn connections to see if they truly understand what goes on “under the hood”. Equally, how many people do you know who fully understand every menu option in Microsoft Word?
Many of us can use word processors, get the basics from Twitter and communicate OK on Facebook, but are we getting the most out of them with such scant knowledge? The Canadian researchers say there is a huge level of underuse of technology, meaning that many individuals and businesses are not making the most from the advantages on offer.
However, the study also revealed a significant problem. The research uncovered several different learning styles to understanding technology – and few organisations actually provide support or teaching that match the needs of these different learning styles. For instance, some people are “explorers” who prefer to delve into systems themselves, whereas others are “problem solvers” who focus and drill down into technology only to solve a specific problem.
The researchers suggest that one way of satisfying the varying learning styles is to have a “sandbox” – an area of a computer or a website that can be used to experiment or find out more without the possibility of causing any damage. It is well known that one of the things which puts-off adults from adopting new technology is the fear of breaking it, something which children do not share as a feeling.
So, what does this research imply for your online business? It suggests that having a copy of your website on a private “test” domain could be worthwhile. On this site you could make all sorts of adjustments, experiment with new add-ons and technologies with no worries about harming your actual website. Once you have learnt about the new systems and improvements, then all you need to do is to transfer them to the actual site.
Similarly, if you want to learn about the in-depth aspects of Twitter, why not set up a test account and experiment there with all the add-ons, before using them on your live account?
Test accounts, copies of website and so on will help all learning styles it seems; at the heart of technology ignorance is the fear of breaking things. If what you break is only a temporary, private thing, why worry?
If you want to test things on your computer then get something like Acronis True Image, (buy it here) which allows you to set up a “Try and Decide” portion of your computer. You can then tinker and learn with software and untrusted websites, with no fear of any harm to your actual PC.
One thing is for sure; the people who are truly succeeding online are those who have bothered to study and learn the new technologies available. Only having a surface level knowledge is not going to help.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+