Homework Exercise

The goal of this exercise is to understand how network attached devices are being explained to everyday consumers. Your job is to mostly ask questions and try to understand the responses.

Total Time: Probably about 30 minutes for a full featured experience.

The Everyday Consumer Game

Step 1. Identify a networked device that you might actually buy or replace if you were a consumer. Some possible options might be:

  • a new access point,
  • a device to put your printer on a network,
  • a media adapter (for music or video),
  • a universal remote,
  • wireless speakers, or
  • ... well, you get the idea here.

Step 2. Create a simple problem statement for the device. You will use this to prompt a sales person in the next step. For example:

  • access point - "I have DSL at home and I've heard I can use wireless to connect my laptop to the Internet. Can you help me?"
  • printer - "I have a wireless network, a printer, and a laptop. I would like to print without having to plug my laptop into the printer. Is there a way to connect my printer to my wireless network?"
  • media adapter - "I have 500gigs of music on my desktop PC in my office and I want to listen to that music on my stereo system in the living room. Is there a good way to do that?"
  • ... ok, again you probably get the idea here.

Step 3. Head out to your local computer, office, or electronics store. In the US places like Best Buy, Circuit City, Fry's, Office Depot, Office Max and Staples are all good places for this exercise.

Wait to get help.

Provide your problem statement and ask questions to see how the item is explained. Remember, you're supposed to be an everyday consumer, so you can't ask questions that are too sophisticated. For example, you might have to say things like "Will this work with my other equipment?" rather than "Will this work with my Frobnitz PM1211 802.11a PCMCIA card?"

Step 4. After you leave, write a few notes that you can use to explain or share your experience with us all when you get to the workshop.

This is actually great fun! Just one quick example, when we (the workshop organizers) tried this we had a sales person say: "Yeah, the Home Theater PC is basically just a regular PC, but it's easier to use because it has a remote." It was all we could do to prevent ourselves from busting out laughing.