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People Feel Loyalty To Computers 476

Posted by timothy
from the cognitive-dissonance-overcompensation dept.
stoobthealien writes "According to BBC News researchers have discovered that people have loyalty to specific computers because of a tendancy to associate "human attributes to them" - and I thought it was just me that speaks to my PC...."
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People Feel Loyalty To Computers

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  • My iBook loves me. No, really! My iPod told me so, it said the iBook was just shy and didn't think I felt the same way.

    But I do....

    <3
    • by LostCluster (625375) * on Sunday April 25, 2004 @12:39PM (#8965420)
      Just be careful... I've seen some Macintoshes go into a state of suicidial depression. First they start being sad all of the time, and when they're sad they're demanding attention before they'll work again. Then they start pulling bombs out of nowhere...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I used to turn of Speech Recognition and Text-to-Speech on, then use AppleScript to reply to me. When I curse "Fuck you", it said "your place or mine?". See, even when I am mad, my Mac loved me. Geeks here probably recognize the reply from Matlab v. 5 and earlier. :)
    • You really shouldn't anthropomorphize computers -- they hate that.
  • Uhhhhhh (Score:4, Funny)

    by ev1lcanuck (718766) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @12:34PM (#8965378)
    What I feel towards my Windows box is something other than loyalty....
    • Re:Uhhhhhh (Score:4, Interesting)

      by screwballicus (313964) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @04:11PM (#8966927)

      I don't know. The more flawed the system, the more I find myself nostalgicaly cherishing it for its flaws, in the way one looks back in foolish nostalgia on what were at the time the most irritating aspects of a relationship.

      For example, I think I have more affection for my TI 99/4A [ystig.com] (why else would I regularly take pictures of it) than for any other system, all the more so due to its terrible system architecture (16-bit CPU with everything but 256 bytes of CPU RAM on an 8-bit bus), and due to the irritation of trying to get games running off of what is sometimes an infuriating cart+casette combo.

      You really value and develop a relationship with your system when it takes genuine effort to get the bloody software working (e.g., off of casettes, and sometimes having to type it out manually in line number BASIC).
  • by rueger (210566) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @12:34PM (#8965379) Homepage
    Sadly our computers seem less inclined to share that love...

    "Open the pod bay door HAL...."
    • Re:Unrequited love (Score:5, Informative)

      by lawngnome (573912) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @01:04PM (#8965607)
      HAL wasnt evil, he just got really paranoid because they gave him a complete set of instructions to carry out the mission in the event that the humans failed and told him to lie about it, which because he was designed to provide accurate information caused the conflict... this is explained in 2010...
      On a side note, is it just me or does the computer nerd that figures this out in the movie have something for hal? that long pause and "thank you hal..." at the end was creepy.
    • Re:Unrequited love (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tunabomber (259585) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @01:08PM (#8965637) Homepage
      Bad example. HAL seemed to like Dave until he decided to deactivate HAL. Just imagine how your human love would react if she heard you were going to "deactivate" her... somehow I suspect she'd be a little less polite than saying "I'm sorry Dave, but I can't allow you to do that."
    • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Sunday April 25, 2004 @03:12PM (#8966507) Journal
      I have Linux on all my computers, and they are all very obediant -- not because I've beaten them into submission, but because we are very intimate with one another. They know the darkest websites I visit, and I know their most hackish source code.

      This is what happens when you start giving them names:

      My desktop is called "Morpheus", and my laptop is called "Trinity". My fileserver is "Tank", and my router is "Ninja". I have had a healthy dose of male bonding with all but Trinity, who is the sexiest little notebook I've ever seen. Every now and then, I compile kernels for a little male bonding, or get down and dirty with Trinity's video drivers.

      The only other computer in this house is called "Dad", which is dual-boot Windows/Linux, and I have a more love/hate relationship with it. Dad is like a Jeckyll and Hyde, and will change with a single reboot from the nicest gentleman to the sickest, most twisted machine.

      But really, if your computers don't love you, have you considered that it's because you don't treat them right?
  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Sunday April 25, 2004 @12:35PM (#8965380)
    In a college computer lab, all of the terminals in a group are supposed to be identical and interchangable. However, it seems like users are building up a trust relationship with the computer they've used sucessfully before rather than wanting to take the chance with a computer they haven't met yet. It's almost as if users are presuming that most unfamiliar computers will fail on them...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Not reliability...

      They go where they've already got their P0rn/Games stashed.
    • by value_added (719364) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @12:48PM (#8965489)
      In Vegas you can witness the the same behaviour around slot machines. Maybe they know something the rest of don't?
      • I read that slot machines on the corners are rigged to win more often, cause they're the most visible. So always play the corner ones cause they got that extra 1-3% favor. :D
      • by LostCluster (625375) * on Sunday April 25, 2004 @01:54PM (#8965946)
        Actually, in Vegas, slot machines that look identical don't have to be. The key is in the PRNG (psuedo random number generator) chip installed in each. They don't have a "memory" of what they did last, but there are some PRNGs that are "looser" and "tigher" over time. Players can't exactly figure out where the looser machines are, however, because it'd take a large number of plays to notice a difference.
      • by NanoGator (522640) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @03:01PM (#8966452) Homepage Journal
        "In Vegas you can witness the the same behaviour around slot machines. Maybe they know something the rest of don't?"

        Not so surprising. I think the rationale is along the lines of "This machine has to spew out a lot of money at SOME point in its existence. So the longer I stay with this one, the more my odds go up that I'll be the one who pulls the lever at the right time." They feel that if they go around to other machines, they'll catch them at different points in their lives and have lower risk of winning.

        I'd like to think that people are stupid about this, but I have to be honest, it's exactly the strategy I'd employ.
    • Lab computer floppy drives are often broken and are some of the worst for destorying disks(springs from disks are left in the drive). If you are using floppies then going with a computer you have used succesfully before may save you a headache.

      I've just been using my iPod to boot one of the G4s in our lab.

    • by Amiga Lover (708890) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @01:07PM (#8965633)
      I think there's a large amount of unconscious thought & actions going on with computer use, which may end up being a large part of what's happening here. Not the least of which is WHERE a machine is. I like corners, so I used to sit in the corner and use the 3 machines around there, but thats just me. Other people liked edges.

      Add to that the subtle signals we pick up when using a machine. Usually there will be little idiosyncrasies in a group situation, where a dozen computers might all sound a little different. whine differently. have their volume set just a little different compared to others, and the ones people are used to, or perhaps even NOTICE this about will be the ones they're drawn to.

      I think the unconscious thought thing applies a great deal to Macs, PCs, Linux boxes. The first time I touched a Linux machine which was supposed to be stable, I locked it up. Why? I don't know. I can only guess that its user (a cousin) had his definition of "stable" defined by the routine of uses he went through every time he booted it, and never came across the particular odd combo I did. I found my Windows machine at the time stable as well (Win 98) but it'd guarantee to lockup within a few hours of use by someone who isn't me. non consciously, I think I'd learned to avoid the things to do that would crash it.

      Bet it's similar with OSX boxes. put a windows or linux user who's never touched one before in front of it and it'll bluescreen, kernel panic or beachball soon after use, until they also built up the internal map of what not to do.
      • by bcrowell (177657) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @02:05PM (#8966028) Homepage
        What they're describing seems to be the same sort of behavior I see with my physics students always sitting in the same chair for lecture, and always wanting to have the same people in their lab group.

        The article also seems to imply that attachment to a specific machine is irrational, but given how complex and unreliable computers are, it seems very sensible to me. If you know that you can do what you want on a particular machine, why introduce an extra unknown variable by switching to a different one?
        But they're all supposed to be equal...
        In the classroom where I do most of my teaching, typically only 4 or 5 of the six Windows machines are working at any given time. The other ones either have a virus/worm infection, or something else is wrong with them.

        What's really irrational is to expect people to stay on the hardware and software upgrade treadmills. If you've got something that works, you should be able to stick with it. My father ran his law practice on a TRS-80 for ca. 15 years. It Just Worked.

        BTW, I'm posting this from my FreeBSD box, Rintintin. He's the replacement for Lassie. I felt kind of bad about switching, but Lassie is in one of the classrooms at school now, hopefully turning young minds on to open source :-) --- I think she's OK with that.

      • by BillX (307153) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @04:13PM (#8966950) Homepage
        In college a roommate and I performed an exorcism [cexx.org] on a new Compaq computer his parents sent up for him. After formatting it and cleanly installing Windows 98, we loaded Half-Life onto it since that was the all-the-rage FPS on the dorm network at the time. I'd run it dozens of times without incident and blasted away at the hallmates for hours. But this other buddy of ours, Rob, couldn't run it. If he clicked the icon, the computer would bluescreen. Reboot, he tries to run it again...bluescreen. Eventually we just either let him play from MY computer, or have me run HL (click the icon) before turning over the controls. I think he and that machine must have been enemies in a past life or something.
    • by Spoing (152917) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @01:17PM (#8965695) Homepage
      1. In a college computer lab, all of the terminals in a group are supposed to be identical and interchangable. However, it seems like users are building up a trust relationship with the computer they've used sucessfully before rather than wanting to take the chance with a computer they haven't met yet. It's almost as if users are presuming that most unfamiliar computers will fail on them...

      I had the same problem with department groups. By contract with the primary customer, the subcontractors were told "no departmental 'ownership' of machines not in offices". That meant specifically no pictures, no knick-knacks, all documents locked up in another room when the worker goes home. No labels on machines.

      Two things destroyed this idea;

      IT never got out of firefighting mode to impose standards.

      Departments and individuals immediately took the attitude "if I'm not here, others can use my machine" as if that would satisfy the contract requirements.

      Reasons for why this does not work -- and many machines and people ended up being idle -- were basically;

      Without being able to sit down anywhere (possible if IT did make that possible), people stopped trying to use just any machine and focused on one or a small group "in our area".

      People would stop working if a specific -- "my machine" mentioned above -- was not available.

      Add to this lack of customer interest and management, and this becomes a bit of meat to fight over when other tensions arise.

  • by wkitchen (581276) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @12:35PM (#8965382)
    If people can feel loyalty to something as unintelligent as an automobile, then it is not at all unexpected that they feel that way towards their computers.
  • Wow (Score:5, Funny)

    by sydb (176695) * <<michael> <at> <wd21.co.uk>> on Sunday April 25, 2004 @12:35PM (#8965387)
    This could lead to an over dependence on electronically-generated news and information.

    Ground breaking stuff for slashdot.

    next! <hits CTRL-R>
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 25, 2004 @12:36PM (#8965392)
    People given the option of a range of PCs tended to have favourites, with some even prepared to wait in line to use a particular machine.

    Now we know which one had the hidden stash of pr0n!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 25, 2004 @12:36PM (#8965395)
    All I know is, my computer has a much better fashion sense than this guy from Penn State...

    (plaid on plaid! I mean einstein could do it, but that ain't exactly the same!)
  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Sunday April 25, 2004 @12:37PM (#8965398)
    In most college classrooms, professors don't particularly care to assign seats to anybody, yet students for the most part tend to seat themselves in more-or-less the same positions anyway. I wonder if this is related to want to have a favorite seat in the computer room.
    • Of course, you're absolutely right. It was a few years ago, but I was doing a block release college course as a trainee with a load of other trainees from the same workplace and we all did the same classes; for each class, we adopted different seating patterns, for I-don't-know-what subtle reasons, and stuck to them!

      The human does this, naturally.
    • by cscx (541332) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @01:02PM (#8965589) Homepage
      students for the most part tend to seat themselves in more-or-less the same positions anyway

      You're right -- it's usually "right behind the hot blond chick."
    • by SmackCrackandPot (641205) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @02:31PM (#8966238)
      This happened in our first computer labs. They were actually converted chemistry rooms - everything was removed except the slatted glass windows which meant one side of the room was colder than the other. In the beginning, the machines were identical (monitors, keyboards, base-units.

      From time to time the technicians would swap machines around, and nobody really noticed. Users really preferred to sit at the front of the labs next to the door so they could reach the printers quickly. As a consequence the bad keyboards (sticky keys), used to get bubble sorted to the back of the lab. These were eventually replaced with the quietkey keyboards.

      The most popular machines were those that were closest to the radiators, at the front of the room and quietkey keyboards. The most unpopular machines were those that were closest to the windows and/or had bad keyboards.
    • by kf6auf (719514) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @06:04PM (#8967769)
      At Caltech, we have sit-down dinners that are waited by students. Recently thought, Dining Services introduced the possibility of eating elsewhere once a week so often fewer people come to dinners. As a result, on these nights of low attendance, we pick a couple of tables to not set. It is really much fun to watch the people who always sit at these tables go "Ah! My seat!? Where do I sit?" On the other hand, it easier to wait if you know where everyone is sitting because you don't need to wonder where to find someone.
    • I think it has a lot to do with the other people in the class as well, and how big the class is.

      In a large lecture hall, I never seemed to care where I sat, and in some cases I sat wherever was available as I came in 5 minutes late.

      In small classrooms with 20 or 30 desks, even if I didn't feel the need to always sit the same place, 80-90% of the class did. It was always awkward to be sitting in "someone elses" chair when they came in, even if there was no actual posession. So sitting in the same place e
  • by ThrudTheBarbarian (670936) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @12:37PM (#8965401)
    Don't anthropomorphize computers. They hate it when you do that.
    • Don't anthropomorphize computers. They hate it when you do that.

      Mine takes it easy. It's just a running gag between us: he inhumans me, I anthopomorphize him, and so we have fun all the work day long...
  • by c_oflynn (649487) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @12:38PM (#8965406)
    There could be other reasons for this. At my school we have a computer lab - and some computers ARE better than others, even though they are all the "same" computer.

    One for example freezes every 95 seconds after you login - so you have to save what you are doing and reboot.

    Some of them seem prone to accidently give you administrator priviliges as well. So there are other reasons...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      One for example freezes every 95 seconds after you login

      You should upgrade to Windows 98, it needs 98 seconds to freeze up.
      OTOH, professional use Windows 2000. Half an hour of uninterruped work...
  • Ha! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Gangis (310282)
    I go much further than that! I name ALL my computers [uct2.net], even the XT in the closet.

    I know, I'm a nerd.
  • by ZPO (465615) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @12:39PM (#8965421)
    I don't think we have enough information to draw conclusions based on the article.

    - Do the computers that folks were willing to wait for have additional applications loaded?

    - Are they perhaps known to be the most stable ones out of a given set?

    - Did different machines have different monitors, keyboards, and mice?

    - Are they in a location that makes them more desireable (lighting, temperature, lack of people, etc)

    There are plenty of factors that influence choices such as this. Unless they took steps to ensure that the computers were 100pct identical in every way, the conclusions they have reached are suspect. The extrapolations they make about people blindingly trusting computers even more so.

    A computer is a tool. Just like an artisan may have a favorite tool for a task a user may have a favorite computer for a task. I don't see anything too earth-shattering here.
    • by LostCluster (625375) * on Sunday April 25, 2004 @12:42PM (#8965437)
      I'd also like to see what would happen if one night the computer room was rearraged quietly. Would people go looking for their "favorite" machine, or just use the one that had inherited the favorite's location?
      • I think that would be a rather interesting experiment. You'd likely want to put up a map of the old vs. new computer locations.

        You could also do some interesting variations on that. Assuming all the computers are externally identical (and you don't have any FUBAR'd mouse/kb's) just swap identification labels, change the maps, and see if anyone notices the difference.
      • by glpierce (731733) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @02:40PM (#8966306) Homepage
        I have a feeling that they'd just do the same thing they did originally - find a computer that works without problems and stick with it. My experience (at univerisities in both the UK and US) is that hardware can drive choice. Floppy drives and audio jacks don't hold up well to abuse, and are the first to go. Some machines have network problems, and some (depending on security) may have different programs or even personal files. Additionally, most computer labs tend to run Windows, which gradually begins to fail depending on its use.

        I actually recall a library at a UK university which had two computers with 1024x768 resolution and high color quality, while the rest (about 25) were at lower resolutions and lower color settings. I was working on graphics at the time, so you can guess how useful most of the computers were. I'd sit down at a random computer and check email and read news until someone got off of one of the good PCs. There were a few terminals which consistantly crashed, and I simply wouldn't use.

        Simply put, it's a matter of trust and reputation - if a computer works well consistantly, I stick with it. The odds of finding another "good" one is unfortunately low.
  • by WombatControl (74685) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @12:40PM (#8965428)

    Of course, this also presents an interesting conundrum. My current computer has had every single part replaced since I bought the first iteration way back in 1998. Of course, not everything was replaced at the same time, but rather a gradual process of upgrades over the years.

    So, is it really the same computer I started with? Or is it really some kind of sinister imposter only pretending to be my computer?

    • by .com b4 .storm (581701) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @12:58PM (#8965564)

      Of course, not everything was replaced at the same time, but rather a gradual process of upgrades over the years. So, is it really the same computer I started with?

      Your computer is not the only one that has undergone a "gradual process of upgrades" over time. Your body is not the same one you had a few years ago, or even a few hours ago for that matter... And don't forget the rather fickle and ever-changing mind, too.

    • It was Theseus's ship not Ulysses's.
  • by Alien54 (180860) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @12:41PM (#8965430) Journal
    Prof Sundar said there computer manufacturers and advertisers could learn from the results of the study. In general, computers are marketed as things that can easily be phased out and replaced.

    "A better advertising strategy might be to portray computers as something durable and reliable, something that grows with you," Prof Sundar told BBC News Online.

    they can't do that. No, seriously.

    This means that the industry would have to get off the treadmill of constant upgrades. It is no secret that MS is upset with the slow rate of people upgrading to XP. Most people now only upgrade when there is a definite need for it.

    This would be the end of the world as they know it, and I feel fine.

  • Sometimes people also show a preference for a particular location in a room (near the exit, by a window, close to the printer, next to the machine that the cute chick likes to use). Other times, one machine will have objectively determinable capabilities that others lack (good in-focus monitor, fastest processor, mouse that works properly). Pure observation will not always reveal these other factors.

  • Names? (Score:5, Funny)

    by QEDog (610238) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @12:42PM (#8965440)
    How many people name their computers? I do, and it takes me a bit to figure out names for them. I refer to them by their name usually, which causes my non-geeky friends to stare at me. Any one else does this compulsively? What is the name of your computer?
    • Re:Names? (Score:5, Funny)

      by thelenm (213782) <{mthelen} {at} {gmail.com}> on Sunday April 25, 2004 @12:50PM (#8965508) Homepage Journal
      Yep, currently I'm typing on Gandalf the laptop and dinking around on Pippin the Pocket PC, accessing the Internet through Sauron the wireless access point and Aragorn the firewall, while my wife plays games on Eowyn the PC, my daughter plays games on Gimli the other PC, and Samwise the web server silently does his job in the background. Legolas the old web server lies disemboweled on the floor after an unfortunate shield-sledding accident.
    • I name my computers, but that's largely because I find it easier to access them on the network as CLARK, BRUCE, DIANA, HAL, BARRY, OLIVER, ARTHUR, etc. rather than as 192.168.13.1, 192.168.13.2, 192.168.13.3, 192.168.13.4, etc.
    • Re:Names? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pla (258480)
      How many people name their computers?

      Anyone in any way connecting to a network... I mean, you don't really have a choice, right?


      What is the name of your computer?

      Currently sitting at Teleute, my primary machine (which slowly sucks away my life, thus the name). Across the room I have Lucien the file-server, and downstairs I have Virago (my SO's machine) and Bimbo (my masq'ing gateway).
    • Re:Names? (Score:2, Funny)

      by DissidentHere (750394)
      We do (did) were I work (which is a small company so we get away with lots of stuff). We've go Vinny, Bubba, SonOfBubba, a few more. We found a old baseball card of some guy named Bubba something with a HUGE plug of chew, and taped him to our server.

      Its good to laugh a little when you connect to a network share. And you don't have to remember if that folder is on MN04523 or MN04526. Granted, in a large enough institution you will run out of names and/or offend somebody by naming a server butmunch.
    • I named my computers. At least on the network. The desktop i'm on now is HAL 5320, the desktop in the basement is Hobbes, and my laptop on the network appears as Dude Man (its a dell, duuuude...). My SSID makes a bit more sense, blickNet, that being my last name... and the word net.
    • by UWC (664779)
      Transformers fan here, so my desktop (currently at home in a closet, unfortunately) is Vector_Sigma. The laptop here at school is Teletran-1.
    • Re:Names? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by /dev/trash (182850) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @01:53PM (#8965943) Homepage Journal
      Anyone with more than one PC names their computer. How else do you keep networked machines separated in your head?
    • Re:Names? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by golgotha007 (62687)
      that's the great thing about being the system administrator in charge; you get to name the servers whatever you want.

      as an example, at my old firm, our main ldap/smb, ypserv and nfs server i named 'MOTHER', from the main computer in the original Alien movie. how appropriate too, that IBM Netfinity system really took care of our developers. Mother had an uptime of 378 days when our company decided to move our office. the new office was 20 miles away, and we contemplated keeping the machine on during the
  • At my place of work, there's a pool of computers and its first come first serve. There are various factors for choosing a computer for the day in the pool... There's the flat-screen VS CRT issue, there's the near-the-door VS corner VS window issue, there's the where's the nice-chick-gonna-sit-today issue. So I can see that you make preferences toward a particular computer, but is it because of the computer? hardly.
  • Expandability (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wkitchen (581276) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @12:43PM (#8965449)
    "A better advertising strategy might be to portray computers as something durable and reliable, something that grows with you," Prof Sundar told BBC News Online.
    Back in the days of 8-bit home computers, many were promoted that way. "Expandability" was a major selling point, even if it only meant having a variety of external peripherals that you could plug into it. Now that we have an almost overwhelming variety of add-ons for every mainstream platform, you don't hear much about that any more.
  • I have zero attachment to my computers. I don't talk to them, I don't feel anything more for them than I would a hammer or a drill. They're equipment to maintain. If it breaks, I will either fix it or throw it out.
  • It'd be interesting to see how they actually conducted the tests, because I know people tend to sit in the same places in class over the course of a semester and that they seem to find analogous places to sit even for different classes when they're in different rooms (and this in the absence of any computers whatsoever). Maybe they're not as much attached to that one particular computer as they are to a certain "comfort zone" within the computer lab? Perhaps as a control study, they should make individual
  • People don't use the same computer necessarily out of "loyalty". Observe students selecting seats in a classroom (i.e. no computers), and you'll see them go to the same ones every time. Even if the friends that they originally chose to sit with aren't there, they'll usually continue sitting in the same place. It's more a matter of habit and the comfort of familiarity with one's environment, than an emotional attachment to the things themselves.

    Of course when you introduce computers (or any kind of equi

    • by djplurvert (737910)
      This is very true. In fact, you will upset students if you disrupt the seating after the first couple of weeks. In philosophy of religion some of us decided to sit in other peoples seats about halfway through the course in an attempt to modify the dynamics of discussion. People were clearly uncomfortable, so uncomfortable in fact, that some of the group gave up after a couple of days. Perhaps they were uncomfortable not being in their own seats, who knows.
  • Perhaps there is a force stronger than sentiment dictating what computer terminals a person is "loyal" to. This is becuase even in public terminals, there will be stuff that is saved after a session. For example, I always use computer S59 at a local lab not only becase of sentiment, but also because of the fact that someone took the security software off of it, allowing me to change the keyboard to Dvorak. Others might have documents saved on the hard disk, or pages bookmarked on a certain computer.
  • Apple Gets It (Score:3, Insightful)

    by frohike (32045) <bard.allusion@net> on Sunday April 25, 2004 @12:48PM (#8965482) Homepage

    Spend a few minutes talking to any user of an Apple product and you'll understand that Apple Gets It on this topic. Macs, iPods, etc, are all very personable computers, with interfaces designed to feel very organic (like the pulsing, heartbeat-like glow on sleeping monitors / iBooks, rounded edges on windows, shadows, etc).

    Dodge also Got It in a big way back with the Neon, though unrelated to cars. Anyone remember the ads that had the Neons bouncing up and down and saying "Hi!"? Anyone who owned a Neon knows that everything down to the horn's sound reinforces that image :) (Yes, I owned one of those too...)

    • Dodge also Got It in a big way back with the Neon, though unrelated to cars.
      It must have been pretty awful to be considered "unrelated to cars".
  • My computer knows when I'm angry at it, it's tough love - you have to show the beast who the boss really is !

    really isa really iss eally his deally iss reay is bzzt bzz t bzzzzt
  • I sort of expected an article about people preffering to use thier own PCs and going to lengths to not have to use someone elses or a public terminal.

    But, after I RTFA, there seem to more questions than answers. For example, were they Windows PCs? I don't ask just because this is /., but I can see some psych major wanting to use a specific PC because it had never crashed on her/him before, but the one over there _always_ crashes when trying to save a Word doc. There may be a bit of truth to this midnset, I
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 25, 2004 @12:50PM (#8965506)
    Habits are simply economically efficiently ways of doing things. For example, taking a certain route to work everyday means you don't have to figure out how to get to work each day. You save time and brain power.

    I'm sure I'm not the only one that has certain places I prefer to sit. I'm comfortable with the view, etc, that they provide. Computers are simply an extension of that.
  • by gevmage (213603) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @12:52PM (#8965525) Homepage
    I have my 486-66 on my network as my CD burner. It's certainly not the most efficient machine to do that on, and in fact compared to everything else I own is horribly slow.

    However, I am loathe to give it up because that's the machine that I played and beat Dark Forces on when I was in graduate school. (After my qualifying exams, I went home and played DF for about 4 days straight. Ah--those were the days!)

  • I don't really talk to my computers per say (Except, of course, the occasional expletive if something goes wrong) But certainly I attribute human characteristics to them.

    For example, one of the machines at work has a tendency to go into "sleep" mode and can't be revived without shutting them off. I tell my boss it has narcolepsy. Another won't connect to the network drive (where the data is kept) until you manually access it, even though it says the drive is mounted and ready. That one just doesn't like to
  • News Dependence (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wkitchen (581276) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @01:02PM (#8965592)
    From the article:
    "We increasingly view computers as sources of information not just mediums of information. We attribute social characteristics and treat them as autonomous," said the professor.


    This could lead to an over dependence on electronically-generated news and information.

    The tendency to treat computers as human could lead to people favouring or even blindly accepting computer-generated information, to the point of depending on it over superior alternatives, warned Prof Sundar.
    I think Prof. Sundar is overreaching a bit on this point. First of all, I don't personally know anyone who doesn't readily understand that news on cnn.com comes from CNN, not from inside their computer, any more than they'd think that news on TV originates inside their television. Second, I don't see it as much of a problem if people depend more on computers (by "computers" here I really mean the information resources that can be accessed through them, primarily the Internet) than on other sources of information. Often computers are the "superior alternative". You just have to use good judgement and keep your baloney detection kit in good working order, just as you should do with any other source of information.

    I visited my public library just yesterday. And I can assure you that there is plenty of bunk there too.
  • Computer #12 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Eberlin (570874)
    As many have pointed out, loyalty to a computer is, for the most part, based on conditions other than the computer itself.

    Where I work, there are patrons who frequent a particular machine (#12) because it has exhibited features that the other machines don't seem to have. It played streaming audio when the other machines didn't. It was more stable and it was also in the back row. So that's stability, features, and location.

    On the other hand, when I teach at the same place, I encourage people to name the
  • People talk to & give names to their animals, cars, firearms, sexual organs ... everything & anything. Why would anybody expect people to not do the same with their computers?
  • The tendency to treat computers as human could lead to people favouring or even blindly accepting computer-generated information, to the point of depending on it over superior alternatives, warned Prof Sundar.

    This sounds dangerously familiar. Just look at all those people who helped those poor Nigerian guy, or buying all those en.la/rg.em\ent pil|s, or checking out who loves them...

    I won't even bother mentioning Slashdot... oops.

  • I'll start feeling loyalty towards my computer when it can talk to me and feel loyalty towards me.
  • by djplurvert (737910) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @01:22PM (#8965724)
    Techies should keep this in mind when dealing with their users. Good "computerside" manner really helps to ease users minds, make them feel comfortable with the CHANGES you are making, and getting them to (god I hate this term) "buy-in" to the ideas you are presenting. When you need support from these employees later it will be easier to come by if you have thought of their relationships with their workspaces.

    I, and I suppose most techies, just think of a computer as a box of parts readied to be dumped as soon as any new piece of equipment comes along. The biggest pain to me is getting the configuration, not the data, moved from the old to the new. Users, on the other hand, don't have such an intimate knowledge of the inside of their machines and become attached to certain behaviours/modes of operation because they have attached those behaviours to ideas that they rely on.

    They say things like, "After you boost the rams how will I get to word." One can either respond smugly, or, one can give the user words that make them comfortable. Of course upgrading ram will, at least in most cases, not affect things like access to applications. Instead of trying to educate the user with a technical diatribe simply say "This shouldn't affect your access to word, but we'll make absolutely sure before I leave, how's that?"

    Of course this is slashdot, and I'm preaching to the choir. Given that I've seen SO MANY techs who don't recognize that a human touch would be beneficial to them, however, I felt a need to rant a bit.

    plurvert
    • by AeroIllini (726211) <<aeroillini> <at> <gmail.com>> on Sunday April 25, 2004 @02:31PM (#8966236)
      One can either respond smugly, or, one can give the user words that make them comfortable.
      **snip**
      Of course this is slashdot, and I'm preaching to the choir.


      I'm not so sure you are. In my experience, I've found that the majority of people who are exceptionally good with computers, such as the general population of Slashdot, simply do not understand the mentality of someone who is not technically inclined. To the novice computer users (and I'm speaking mostly about Windows and Macintosh users here -- the vast majority of Linux users are not novices) a computer is so complex and so powerful that it seems almost like magic. It is a completely new world to them, and it can be a little frightening and/or intimidating, but they plow ahead anyway because this thing is supposed to be easy to use. They really have no intuition regarding how things work. To use your example from above: RAM. Ask a novice computer user what RAM does, and they will likely tell you that it makes their computer faster, or that it gives their computer more memory (and when they say "memory" they are really referring to "disk space" -- many people cannot distinguish the two). Us techies have intuition regarding RAM. We know how it's used as temporary space for running processes and such, and we understand how most of that works on a fundamental level, even if we don't actually hard-code memory locations in our programs. So asking if adding RAM to their machine will affect other areas is a valid question -- they've been told by other people that RAM "makes their computer faster"... i.e., it affects the entire machine. Most techies I know, since the definition of RAM is so basic to them, will usually respond, at first, with astonishment at the supposedly stupid question (even if they don't express it out loud). Many will express astonishment verbally and say something smug, like, "No, of course not," as if they were reminding the user that 2+2 is indeed 4.

      The vast majority of computer users think they know how computers work; so when they ask what we perceive as "stupid questions" they are merely trying to reconsile all the conflicting views of their computers they have gotten from various sources. What the technical community has to learn is how to explain computers to novices without slipping into techspeak, without overwhelming them with information they don't need to know, without condescending, and with the idea that these people are not as passionate about computers as the techie.

      I see a lot of people on Slashdot getting frustruated with "supid users," usually because the users ask what the techie hears as "stupid questions." So I issue a challenge to the technically inclined: if you are unable to explain to a novice how a basic part of the computer works (like the video card) without diving into techincal details the user doesn't care about or talking down to them, then you are bogged down in details and need to step back to see the big picture. You don't know how something works unless you can explain it to a five-year-old.
      • "You don't know how something works unless you can explain it to a five-year-old."

        I was in a talk a couple of years ago and the speaker was Jim Gray (winner of the turing award in 1998) and he also said something along these lines... as a researcher, you have a clear picture of what you are doing if you can easily explain your research to your partner (assuming of course that your partner is not in your field and assuming that he/she understands your explanation).
  • by Observer2001 (447571) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @01:25PM (#8965742)
    That people anthropomorphize computers isn't really a new finding. In a 1998 talk at the national conference of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence, Clifford Nass [stanford.edu] described experiments that show social roles are applied to computers. In other words, people treat the computers that they use in much the same way that they treat other people.

    To see the implications of this, consider that people on a team--no matter how assembled--tend to regard their teammates as smarter than those not on the team. In light of the social roles of computers, a reasonable question might then be: Would individuals "teamed" with a computer think that the computer is smarter than would computer users not on a team?

    In an experiment, individuals were told that they were being teamed with a computer to solve a task. (How do you foster team identity when the team consists of a human and a computer? You declare the pair "The Blue Team," give the human a blue wristband, decorate the computer with a blue border, and place a "Blue Team" label on top. I'm not making this up.) The human member of each team then worked with the computer to solve the problem. Other individuals received the same responses from the computer in solving the task, but were not told they were on a team. Those teamed with the computer rated the computer as more helpful and insightful than those who were not.

    Through numerous other experiments, Nass and his colleagues have shown that computer "personality" and other factors can be manipulated to elicit positive responses to computers by their users. (One experiment demonstrated that humans seem to be suckers for computer-generated flattery.) For AI researchers, Nass made the point that users can be encouraged to perceive computers as intelligent through social strategies that have little to do with intelligence.

    Those interested in learning more might read The Media Equation: How People Treat Computers, Television, and New Media Like Real People and Places [amazon.com] in which Nass and Byron Reeves describe 35 experiments.

  • by uptownguy (215934) <UptownGuyEmail@gmail.com> on Sunday April 25, 2004 @01:43PM (#8965869)
    Humans have always felt a close relationship with the tools they use to get their work done. We have unearthed hunters from many thousands of years ago who were buried with their tools. You see people feel a kinship with their (book collection/music collection/car/favorite pair of jeans/lucky lighter/favorite pen) -- It appears to be in our nature to anthropomorphize things that we frequently interact with or associate with ourselves. We become accustomed to the particular quirks of these objects. The noises they make. The little things that need to be done to allow them to operate optimally. Why would computers be any different? I don't have a bow and arrow but I use my Sony Vaio every day to do my work. Human nature doesn't change just because the tools have...

    Just my two cents...
  • by cmacb (547347) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @01:59PM (#8965983) Homepage Journal
    Sounds like someone had trouble coming up with a project worth funding. Or was this just a class project? It's hard to tell. Much ado about nothing. You could draw the same conclusions about loyalty to cars, seating preference on airplanes, or picking the cleaner of two forks offered you in a restarant.

    In every case you could simply conclude that a complex selection process went on, that each individual may have had their own criteria, some of which might have been rational, some not (I like the color blue for example). On the other hand, such a study would probably not make the news. Why not ascribe human preference to some sort of totally irrational mechanism that will get a laugh. How about all our choices being controlled by space being in flying saucers? Maybe next years class will conclude that.

    Meanwhile, whats with the editing of BBC News? They must be drawing their journalists from the Pennsylvania State University:

    "The Penn State team set out to find discover just how far people were prepared to go to maintain a relationship with their favourite PC."
  • by Cruciform (42896) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @02:44PM (#8966345) Homepage
    Windows boxes: Like your friends big brother, who invites the younger kids into their exclusive clubhouse, only to find out that it's "Wedgie day" and you're the entertainment.

    Linux boxes: The computer equivalent of the guy on the streetcorner offering you the wonders of the world, if only you'll step into that alley with him. Sure, there's a bright light at the end of the tunnel, but you trip over a lot of shit getting there.

    Macs: Like the friendly, artsy folks who invite you into their cozy little cafe downtown and make you one of the gang, it's only later, when you're naked and broke and surrounded by other MacHeads do you realize you've joined a cult. :)
  • Nothing new here (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JoeCommodore (567479) <larry@portcommodore.com> on Sunday April 25, 2004 @02:51PM (#8966383) Homepage
    Heared it for years from people with their "trusty" Commodore 64s, Kaypro's, Apple IIs, Atari STs, etc. Also you can attribute that to printers, Modems, network routers, etc.

    But once a company tries to leverage it's market by playing on the established loyalty (i.e. coaxing Commodore 64 users to all gewt Amigas or long time mac OS Mac users to all switch to OS X) they may hurt their reputation even worse, as a loyal customer scorned they are in a good position to voice their opinions.

  • by Cryofan (194126) <cryofan@@@yahoo...com> on Sunday April 25, 2004 @03:22PM (#8966579) Homepage Journal
    Then again, some people feel very little loyalty towards their computer.
  • far fetched? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Wellmont (737226) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @04:19PM (#8966988) Homepage
    This is not entirely far fetched. The time, money, and actual love that goes into the average computer users (not to mention the avid or pro computer users) computer is astounding. I've upgraded my computer so much, but one or two pieces at a time, since 100mhz was the best intel could offer. The computer has never lost it's feel, because it's me in the driver's seat. The article doesn't even touch on the most intrinsic aspect of a computer! Most people tailor their computers to be exactly what they want, start up with exactly the right programs, and play the "just right" music. If we didn't feel loyalty to our computers in general, one might say we were a cold race..

    As far as loyalty for a brand, that could be seen as well, but I see brand loyalty brighten and fade along with the president's approval rating. It's fickle. Just as an example I've moved loyalty from one graphics card manufacturer to the next over the years, neither one can keep making "great" cards, for some reason they are all doomed to be taken over by a start up it seems. It wasn't long ago ATI was the "kiddie" version and 3DFX had a corner on the market.

    But for arguments sake, lets just read the brands i have slathered on my monitor in the form of stickers, case badges and markings of my own:

    ATARI
    Abit
    Antec
    Zalman
    Needless to say i've got some "loyalty" to a few brands.
  • by Mignon (34109) <satan@programmer.net> on Sunday April 25, 2004 @11:02PM (#8969358)
    My Linux machines are like the cool guys and I like to hang out with them, but I'm loyal to my Windows PC because it goes down on me regularly.

[Crash programs] fail because they are based on the theory that, with nine women pregnant, you can get a baby a month. -- Wernher von Braun

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