November 19, 2009

People Don't Read

Why don't people read (or listen to) things properly?
Is this a modern phenomenon? A consequence of the digital age? A reflection of our increasingly complicated lives?
Maybe it indicates a disturbing increase in self-absorption, with corresponding disinterest in the thoughts, views and opinions of others?

Case 1
I spent yesterday as a clinical examiner for 3rd year graduate medical students. These are people in their mid-late 20's or early 30's, all of them with previous University degrees, and with only one more year of study until they graduate as doctors. You might reasonably expect them to be intelligent, perceptive, and capable of paying attention.

The station for which I was an examiner gave the very simple instruction to "Select a case you have seen this year which illustrates ... ". There were three such questions, each relating to a different issue, and most students were able to describe suitable cases. However, to my great surprise, not just one but several of them ignored the question entirely and proceeded to talk in general terms about issues arising from their clinical experiences.

All of them knew this would be part of the exam, and they were allowed to bring their case reports with them, so it wasn't as if they couldn't remember any specific cases. It seems they simply didn't read the actual question, and instead gave the answer they wanted to.

Case 2
I have written many times, and at great length about the process of becoming a volunteer editor in the Open Directory Project, as have many other editors (such as my friend and colleague shadow575), and the application form itself contains very clear instructions. These are not at all complicated or hard to follow, and we have had successful applications from people of all ages and levels of education.
To prove my point, here are some of the instructions:
"A poorly written application ... that only serves to hype and promote websites is unlikely to be approved."
And yet we receive many applications every day which are full of careless mistakes, and/or read like advertisements for sites belonging to the applicant.
"You'll be asked to supply 3 sample URLs on your application. The sites you suggest should be specific to the subject matter of the category for which you are applying to edit."
So why do thousands of people apply with only one or two sample URLs, often completely unrelated to the category for which they apply? The form even goes on to explain in more detail:
"By providing a sample of 3 URLs (websites) in your application, you are showing us
  • your understanding of the kinds of sites listed in the category
  • your ability to pick quality websites, and
  • your ability to provide good and useful descriptions."
I simply don't see what is so difficult.
But then I didn't understand why a highly educated person could fail to understand the instruction to "select a case ..."
I think the situation in both cases is the same: the instructions are ignored in favour of what they want to do - a reflection of the "Me" society I guess.
In other words, these people are saying
"I don't really care what you think. I am more interested in what I think, and I will demonstrate this by ignoring your request."
A very selfish attitude in most situations, but downright short-sighted and self-defeating when it comes to exams and applications.


ODP Editor said...

It's kind of contradictory to insult people in this post, and then try to entice people to volunteer in the previous one. If you're not capable of being patient, maybe you shouldn't be reviewing applications. :-)

Unknown said...

LOL Thank you for proving my point exactly! If you had read my posts properly (instead of apparently just skimming them to find ways to score points), you would see that my aim is to help people to submit successful applications, rather than suffer the frustration of rejection by being careless.
It is certainly a frustrating waste of volunteer time to review such applications, but it is something we choose to do in the hope of finding ones to accept. Fortunately we do, every day. :-)

Unknown said...

FTR I received a subsequent comment from someone with a different name, but who was obviously the same person who commented above. There didn't seem to be any point in accepting more comments from someone so keen to hide their identity behind more than one misleading pseudonym, but comments from others are always welcome, and will usually be published even if they disagree with me.

Unknown said...

Heh!. There was a guy in RZ today. Politeness prevented me from saying 'You're either dishonest, careless or unwilling to read directives and advice. None of these is a good attribute in an editor'.

..but I didn't.


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