Wrong concept leads to wrong question


Today I installed two Mesh WiFi units to improve internet speed on computers distant from the router. I didn’t feel I was getting enough improvement, so I looked on the app that came with the Mesh units. It showed me that my distant computers were, in my own words to myself, “connecting to the wrong Mesh unit”. They were listed as connected to the Mesh unit not closest to the computers. The Mesh unit I had placed closer (I thought) to the distant computers had nobody listed connected to it.

The Question

I phoned technical support and asked them this question: “When I select a WiFi connection for my computer most distant from the router, how do I select the nearest Mesh unit to connect to? Especially when all the Mesh units take on the same WiFi network name as the router!”

The technical support person gave her answer. She told me to place the Mesh units close to the distant computers, as long as they are not too far from the router or another Mesh unit to indicate (with a white light showing) that they are connected to each other.

The Concept

I didn’t feel, though, that she was addressing my specific question. I even said so. She very patiently explained again. It took a moment for it to sink in: I had the wrong concept in mind.

Effectively, her answer to my question about selecting which Mesh unit to connect to was, “you can’t.” That felt, at first, like she wasn’t addressing my question. But really, the implied addition in her answer was, “and you don’t need to.”

Suddenly I understood that the concept of the Mesh has nothing to do with multiple WiFi connection points, but instead is: “extends the router’s area of high signal strength to around all connected Mesh units”. Or more simply, “creates a mesh of strong WiFi signal”. Well, that’s no surprise – that’s why they call it “Mesh”.

Once I understood the concept, I knew that I had asked the wrong question, whose answer could not help me operate the system properly. With the right concept, I could hear the technical support person’s correct answer, and act accordingly.


Now I know what question I should have asked: “How should I place the Mesh units throughout the house for best WiFi service?”

It’s a much simpler question. Because it matches the concept.


Yes, wrong concept. Also, wrong mental model. It’s why I’d much rather sit with a user and see what they are trying to do than give them a way to just shoot me questions. Their questions are based on what they think is happening, which is not always what is actually the way the system works.

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