IT Trenches

Dec 10 2008   1:19PM GMT

The larger world of free technical support – Craigslist computer forum

Troy Tate Profile: Troy Tate

I recently came across the computer forums on Craigslist. I had heard of Craigslist previously but was not aware of the significant scope of what it offers besides classified ads. I’m not suggesting that folks leave ITKE to the Craigslist computer forums for support – far from that.

I have been watching some of the exchanges between posters on the forums. It amazes me what people will post when the environment provides seeming anonymity. ITKE does offer this also, but the moderators do a great job of keeping the Trolls away. The Craigslist posters do not behave in the same professional manner that ITKE users do. There are many writers on Craigslist that belittle computer user skills for those asking “noob” questions. There are also those who attempt to discredit or otherwise tear down answers from those who have real computer skills and knowledge.

For example, there was a recent posting thread reminding people that the Microsoft Tuesday patches had been released. One feature that Craigslist offers similar to ITKE is the ability to rate postings. Someone rated the patch Tuesday reminder as a “thumbs down” posting. This is really unprofessional behavior. The thread went on to describe that exploits were sure to follow the patches since hackers use the patches to reverse-engineer the vulnerability. Someone asked if the exploits could already exist. Of course they might, but the exploits would become more likely after the patches are released.

The thread also described how the patches are to protect users from themselves. Most users are tempted into doing something (downloading software, answering yes to some popup window, visiting that interesting website) that causes malicious software to do something on their system that is totally unintended by the users… so the patch is there to fix some things that might be otherwise used by these malware writers. Really patching is the only preventive mechanism. Antivirus is a detective method that detects when something is trying to do something it shouldn’t. Patching won’t let those things happen – unless the user makes a poor judgement call… we all do! I have even opened an infected PDF file thinking it was a legitimate document. Fortunately, AV was able to clean up after my mistake.

For some reason, some troll thought they would say that these postings were by a “know-it-all n00b”. It seems like this Craigslist forum user may be one of those miscreants who want people to remain ignorant and cannot handle someone else teaching others about safe computing and answering other users’ questions.

I would like to encourage ITKE readers and IT professionals to help make IT support forums professional and user-friendly. If you have time, watch the Craigslist computer forums, offer support to the users  who don’t have the same professional support available we have on ITKE. Make the trolls look even worse by treating the users with some respect. By sharing our knowledge and skills, we can help users use the computer in a productive manner. Thanks for reading this and hope you join me in sharing knowledge either here on ITKE and/or Craigslist.

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