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Whenever I try to teach my dad about new tech, he will try to make some convoluted analogy comparing it to other things he is familiar with. I say no, it's not like that at all, don't make these inaccurate and confusing comparisons.

But maybe it's hard for old people to learn new things, especially new tech, because they have so many memories, and their brains have made certain neural pathways and have decreased neuroplasticity, so it's hard for them to just think of new things on their own and not comparing them to lots of other things they are already familiar with.

Sometimes I make this learning mistake, but sometimes it's easier just to learn something without trying to think of how it relates to other things. Whether it's a new programming paradigm, a new programming language, new app, new API, etc there isn't always a direct comparison to something else.

Thoughts? What have your experiences been like when you learn new tech?


Depends on the analogies. It seems fine to me that someone compare some new concept to something they already is familiar with. The most important thing is that they learn.

I myself like to simplify, like when people talk about cloud stuff like azure and their "apps", and all I see is a virtual machine running on hardware you don't own or manage yourself. I often get strong resistance from such people when I simplify like that. Usually I just see a new spin on old technology. The worst ones strongly disagree with what I said, then change a few words and repeat back to me what I just said. Maybe they think I'm dismissing their new stuff as unimportant, which isn't the case at all.

I often have a hard time learning from documentation and guides that just list out all the commands you need to run to get your desired result. I need to learn why you must run those commands, and I want the explanation in plain english. I think Gentoo and FreeBSD are good about such things, and is something I try hard to live up to when I have to teach something to some new user.


This is how everyone learns; the human brain is always trying to contextualise new knowledge in relation to old. We begin with fuzzy representaions that may be wrong in many areas, but provide enough information to engage with that object. The next crucial stage is coming to realise, through use, the ways in which computer is not actually like a car and needs a set of symbols of its own.

Don't be hard on your dad just because he didn't grow up with modern technology like you did. I have no doubt that there are concepts out there that you understand in terms of how they're simmilar to computers.

It's the classic mistake of describing all the details of [i]what[/i] something is, when most of the time a user actually wants to know [i]how[/i] it should be used. The OpenBSD man pages are generally excellent at providing practical examples; I frequently check them, even when working on Gnu/Linux.


Azure and AWS are more than just VMs. Containers and container orchestrators (and microservices architecture you can create with it) is very different from traditional hypervisors and VMs in the sense of scalability, and creating/destroying containers really quickly on an as-needed basis ("elasticity"). There's also caching, lots of APIs you won't get with a basic hypervisor, and the fact that many places are looking to hire people with these specific skills. And, of course, the issue of not having to build a data center to have at-scale resources.

A reductionist approach to it isn't going to make anyone think you're smart just because you're vaguely familiar with something you think is the same even when it's really not.

Documentation is important, but you're right, a lot of documentation is hard to follow. I think part of that is because experiential learning is best. It's hard to get an idea of how to use something based on a man page, but doing on online course, or an in-person workshop at a hackathon is wonderful for learning. These days, I actually prefer watching Youtube tutorials over reading documentation, with the one exception being the Oracle API documentation, which is really good, even if you're not a fan of Java.

But I also think a lot of boomers in tech take pride in the fact that there is a barrier to entry, and they kind of enjoy that some things are difficult to learn, even if it's only because documentation and community resources are poor. They want that elitist mentality instead of making things easier to use.

A program being hard to use is an example of bad UX, which is the fault of the developer. But a lot of "1337" people think something being hard to use makes it better. I do a lot of frontend development and if the user can't figure out how to use it, that's your problem, not theirs.


>A reductionist approach to it isn't going to make anyone think you're smart just because you're vaguely familiar with something you think is the same even when it's really not.

Someone that sees the nuts and bolts aren't trying to sound smart. They just see the simple construct the bigger house is really made of. A lot of people see the big house and think they can't ever fix that on their own, others just see the broken bolt and replace that.

Yes there are APIs, and yes it is scalable, and reduces the need for a business to run their own data center, but it is still very much just a bunch of virtual machines. You're renting a machine preinstalled with MSSQL, or maybe another with some other service (or no services). A lot of cloud providers that just present their stuff as KVM-based virtual machines also have APIs for developers and admins.

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