by Thomas Wailgum

Luser, PEBKAC and Other Ways IT Insults Users

Aug 01, 20073 mins
IT Leadership

These terms of endearment may not further staff harmony, but who can resist a laugh?

IT departments have had a long, sometimes deleterious and mostly fun-filled history of making up nicknames for clueless, overwhelmed and tech-challenged users of IT software and hardware.

One of my favorite derisive terms is a calling a user a “luser.” Good one.

Another one that I’ve recently latched onto is “PEBKAC”—problem exists between keyboard and chair. Zinger!

How about this one? UBD: user brain damage. Nice.

Or this old acronym, which has a different (if still toxic) use these days: DDT. That is, “Don’t do that,” which is usually in response to a user who just said, “When I do this….”

This one was new to me: “Wetware,” referring to the source of some type of user-introduced error. There’s also the “id10t error,” and the less biting “Luddite.”

This antagonistic relationship between IT and users has been wonderfully parodied by Saturday Night Live’s skit “Nick Burns, Your Company’s Computer Guy,” played by Jimmy Fallon. (A couple of my favorites are on YouTube, including Nick and his dad (Billy Bob Thornton) and Nick and a smart user (Jamie Foxx).) His three catch phrases typify horrible IT and user interactions: Nick Burns shouts, “Move!” whenever he commandeers a confused user’s keyboard; “Was that so hard?!” is his sarcastic remark when he fixes the problem; and “Oh, by the way, you’re welcome!” is the snarky way he exits the room after he has easily solved all of the lusers’ tech problems.

As someone who has committed many idiotic computer transgressions over the years, I find the simmering animosity between IT staffers and the user base fascinating and mostly funny. (The legendary story of the user trying to use his CD drive tray for a cup holder justifiably lives on.) Still, many people feel that derisive IT comments widen the divide that IT sometimes drives between itself and other non-IT staff, according to an unscientific gathering of user opinions among my colleagues and friends.

We’ve tried to figure out the whys and wherefores of this dynamic on from time to time, as in Why IT and Users Hate Each Other and Users Are Right to Hate IT, or Time to Rethink Your Relationship to End Users and Why an Autocratic Approach to User Support Will Fail.

Whatever the case, you can’t deny the adversarial vibe and the occasional wit that results. So what other names have you heard IT use to identify clueless or annoying users? Let’s see what you can do.