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Reflections on Two Years of Ask Leo!

On August 10, 2003 I posted the first answer on Ask Leo! – How
do I keep the status bar from disappearing in Internet Explorer 6?
. As of
this writing there have been 577 articles posted to Ask Leo!,
and another 671 quick responses posted to the Ask Leo! Mailbag. Add to that almost two dozen
podcasts and a handful of video tips, and you can see it’s been a busy two
years!

As I did last year, I want to
share some of my observations from the thousands of questions I’ve
received.

Yes, thousands.

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For the record, I did some math. Between August 10 of last year and
today:

  • Approximately 7,500 questions were asked.
  • of which approximately 2,200 were answered via email – some resulting in
    new Ask Leo! articles being posted on the site.
  • Approximately 5,300 comments were posted on Ask Leo! articles.
  • of which I responded to roughly 800.
  • and of which I deleted a little over 250 as inappropriate or spam

Want more math? Between comments and questions, that’s 12,800 incoming items
in the last year … 35 a day, every day, resulting in about 3000 responses, or
an average about 8 responses every single day.

You do realize it’s just me, right? There are no ghost writers, no research
team or anything like that. Just Leo.

No wonder I’m tired.

Trends

The big trend that’s become apparent over the last year at Ask Leo! is the
problems people are having with Hotmail and MSN Messenger. I get multiple
questions on each every day. Every day. And it’s typically the
same question. As outlined in one of my podcasts, my most
frequently asked question remains variations on I’ve lost my
Hotmail password, can you help get it back?
. (And no, I cannot.)

In fact, the Hotmail related issues have surpassed virus and spyware issues
as my most common questions. I don’t really claim this as a shift in the
industry. More likely it is simply a reflection of how Ask Leo! ranks in the
search engines for various topics.

What it has done, however, is given my some insight into users of Hotmail,
MSN Messenger and the like. And my insight can best be summed up this way:
Parents – you have no idea
what your kids are doing on-line.

To be fair, there are very legitimate, and common, questions and problems
with Hotmail and MSN Messenger. In fact, so many, that I can’t see relying on either. But
I’d wager that a full two-thirds of my Hotmail and MSN questions are from:

  • kids who’ve had their password and account hacked or stolen by a friend,
    former friend or tormentor
  • kids who are trying to figure out how to hack a classmate’s password and
    account
  • kids who are trying to bypass their school’s attempts to block MSN
    Messenger

Now, I’m not a parent, but I just find that all very frightening.

Viruses and Spyware remain the second most frequently asked about topic. In
fact, the after effects of the Sasser worm (which is totally avoidable,
by the way) continues to make
my article on the topic
the number one malware related article on Ask Leo!
A large number of computer users, larger I suspect than we realize, still are
not taking the
proper steps to protect their computers
.

Some things don’t change.

As I noted last year, English remains a challenge for many people – both
“native speakers” and non-English speakers. I’d guess a full 10% of the
questions I don’t answer are because I simply cannot understand what is being
asked of me.

Also as noted last year, people are still not reading the articles before
posting a comment on the article. I know this because a frighteningly high
percentage of comments are questions that are very clearly answered in the
article. I still don’t know why this is.

As I did last year, I’ve posted on my personal blog some of the sillier
questions I’ve gotten in the last year, and the answers I wish I could have
given. This weeks’s regular three minute podcast touches on some of what I’ve
covered here, and a special edition podcast, longer and less formal, is also
included here, discussing the last two years, the trends, and some of the
silliness.

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3 comments on “Reflections on Two Years of Ask Leo!”

  1. Hey Leo.
    Thanks a lot for your time and effort. I’m quite new to computers and it was very reassuring to find your site and discover that there was somebody knowledgable who could give me a helping hand. I really appreciate it.

    Reply

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