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A Web of Tech Problems: Finding Answers Online

Visalia Direct: Virtual Valley
March 28, 2011 Deadline
May 2011 Issue

A Web of Tech Problems: Finding Answers Online

Computer hardware and software once came with stacks of manuals. I remember the massive slipcases containing manuals for DOS, WordPerfect and my programming tools. The original CorelDRAW manuals were in the most impressive box on my desk.

In addition to the manuals that accompanied products, the early 1980s were a glorious time for computer-related magazines. Once a year, most of the major publications would publish indices of that year’s issues. I learned that with patience and a good index I could locate the answer to almost any tech question in either a book or magazine.

Today, finding answers is no longer so simple.

I cannot recall the last application I purchased that included a full-length printed manual. Most software titles I now purchase are downloaded from the Internet and the only manuals are the online help systems. The quality of the online help systems ran…

The Employment Picture

Last week, the university program from which I earned my doctorate hosted its annual "visit day" for potential doctoral students. I wanted to e-mail each of them, "Don't do it!" Not because it isn't a good experience (it wasn't) and not because you don't learn something (you will learn something, mainly about humanity). You should reconsider a doctorate in the "digital humanities" because the job market is saturated, driving down wages for the few jobs that do exist.

I had a state college hiring committee tell me they could only offer $38,000 to $42,000 a year for a new professor. That's simply not enough money to justify selling a house and moving in my case: my wife is an engineer and technical writer with a great employer. Taking such a post would be impossible, financially. My wife's career and our overall security do come into play. Plus, we have already cut our expenses dramatically. Student loans must be paid, and they are t…