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Thread started by Dave Winer on Wednesday, October 17, 2012.

Let's call them users

Every decade or so this question comes up. Why do we use that awful U-word to describe our users. It's hard to even formulate the question without sounding stupid. And every time the discussion comes up, it lasts a while before everyone gives up because there really aren't any better words, and this is the word everyone uses so what are you going to do.

Hey I called my second company UserLand Software, because I wanted to be clear who we were focused on. The idea was we would make a wonderful playground that we, as users, would love to er ahem -- use. And we'd make it easy enough to develop apps inside the land that developers and users would find they became the same people. Software made by users for users. This was a good idea, I felt.

Words are like formats. You could try to come up with a better version of RSS, for example -- but the old one won't go away, so now you have two formats where once there was just one. That's why I say that two ways to do something is worse than one way, no matter how much better the second way is than the first. It's like taking features out of products -- you really can't do it. The users will eventually make you put it back (that is if you pay any attention to them at all).

So rather than run away from the U-word (toward what exactly?) I decided to embrace it, fully -- and name the company UserLand. The idea caught on even if the company ultimately didn't make it.

The answer is to love those users so much that they don't mind being called users. That's an art a lot of tech companies have yet to master.

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