Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

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.

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.

Article C2400 - August 10, 2005 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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3 Comments
Larry Osterman
August 11, 2005 5:10 AM

Wow, Congrats Leo!

Roel
August 27, 2005 6:04 AM

A load of work for one guy - but thanks for doing it.

Laura
August 18, 2009 7:21 AM

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.

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