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How do you feel about the increasingly popular meme of “Rich People Problems” or “Rich Country Problems?” I tend to be sympathetic to the intention of the meme – that the things we complain about or worry about are extraordinarily trivial when compared to the problems of people-times that were not as well-off as we are, even those of us who are not wealthy by American standards. I get it, and I am perhaps partly to blame for this idea becoming popular, after all I spend a disproportionately large chunk of my time telling students how great they have it today.

So, this morning as I was preparing for class, I was using our school’s course management system (it shall remain nameless, it is a horrible piece of software and the fact that I haven’t designed my own course websites offends my best senses). I had posted an announcement to the class and sent it off. It remains “sticky” to my announcements page after the message is sent out, which is nice. Sometimes however I want to save those messages as reminders for things to do in future courses, or to put it in some class notes or recitation notes for my TAs to know what I am sending to the class in the future, and so on. The simple point is that (and this is not the first time) I navigate over to the announcement section on my course page, I hover my mouse over the section of the announcement that I wanted to copy, clicked down on the mouse expecting to copy the desired text and … and … and … my screen just starts scrolling up.

Ugh! Argh! The horror! Now, I am sure you’ve had this happen with various protected documents, but this can be really annoying. So I could either take a screen capture of everything I had already written once, or I could go into the text editor and copy from there, close out the editor and be done – making sure that when I close out the editor I don’t re-send the entire announcement as an e-mail again, lest my students think I am dumber than they already think I am.

How annoying. So I added it to a long list of “wishes” I had that would be corrected or improved upon should our school ever move to new software or have the ability to tell this provider that some things could be improved upon. Before I get to my lesson, this would be a great starting point for what I see as a major economic problem. Our course management sorftware seems to have been designed by people, at least in part, who have never had to use the software either as students and certainly not as content creators/professors/TAs. It is entirely clunky and not at all responsive to the new media and technologies that are out there today, or to the best way to engage students (and course creators) with the lesson/course materials. It is almost astonishing. Think about how many times you’ve said something like this: “this locker room must have been designed by someone who never needed to shower after a workout!” And so on. Is this problem worsening or become less bad as technology and information and specialization march apace? Will the advent of 3D printing and other smart technologies enable creators of final products (such as my courses) to have better command of their inputs – to help us vertically integrate in a 21st century sort of way? Or with every small item of our lives be outsourced to a specialist?

OK, back to the point. My reaction to my whining about the lack of copying ability on the website was, “shut up Wintercow! Your grandfather died at the age of 60 from debilitating silicosis because he spent his life breathing in dust from his job as a tomb stone carver!” I initially said that for some perspective, but think a little more deeply about the implications of my thoughts. Yes, of course, it is “nice” to be able to complain about my small insignificant job inconveniences, my grandfather neither had the luxury nor the ability to do that. But does this mean my feedback about the website should not have been provided? Does it mean that such feedback should be ignored?

I am going to claim, without writing 10 more paragraphs, that such feedback should not be dismissed. This feedback is part of an enormous amount of information that entrepreneurs can and do respond to in order to make our lives better, and it is the process of engaging with the minute details like this that set the institutional stage for accepting feedback and making improvements in more consequential areas. I might even go as far as to say that making small adjustments and responding to feedback like this are themselves much maligned but overlooked improvements in our lives and perhaps even necessary components for future progress.

Before you entirely agree, note too that what also should be stated is that there is some possibility that the web developers have good reason to not allow me to easily copy this text. Whether I agree or not, before going internally (or externally) bananas, it is always worth asking that question.

2 Responses to “Rich People “Problems” … or Not?”

  1. Seattle Steve says:

    I would hazard to add that progress can only press on via infinitesimal steps such as this.

  2. Alex says:

    There’s a difference between complaining and providing feedback. Although it seems to focus on the nature of the particular problem (unimportant, first-world), I think the meme is more about complaining and NOT doing something about it.

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