Last summer I went back to Madison, and part of the trip was a tour of the Computer Science building, where I had been a graduate student many years ago. The building had changed in many ways, and in others, not at all.
1. The outside was exactly the same.
2. The mainframes were gone, replaced by labs of personal computers.
3. The basement was divided up in a totally different way than it was before. The two rooms I spent most of my time in were gone.
4. And most important, the most exciting idea -- there's now a computer store in the front of the building.
I was excited because I assumed that this meant that computer science students were actually meeting users, and learning how they think. But no, they staff the store with employees, just like any other store. My guide looked at me with what I imagined was puzzlement. Why would they want their students to work with users.
Me, I'm always thinking about users, what I can and can't get them to do. What I can get away with, and how can I make them tell other people about my software, and even better, get them to get others to use it. ;-)
There are frustrations, both ways. But if you see software development as a performing art, as I do, inevitably you're going to be judged by them. They will determine your success or failure.
And over the years, I've found this is the hardest point to make to the developers I work with.
Pretty cool these comments still work! Even Doc Searls uses 'em. Dave, I'm really looking forward to learning the OPML Comments protocol, let me know if I can pitch in somehow. Thanks.
As a user of a lot of software, I really like meeting developers, because it helps me understand not just the tool and how it works, but also the possibilities for how I can express myself and create content and connect with people and build community. And I really enjoyed meeting you last summer here in North Carolina.
Dave, honestly, I've learned something really important about being a user by participating in the OPML community, and that's being able to describe what I was expecting when I was using a software feature, what happened, and why I want to understand why it didn't do what I was expecting (i.e. why does it seem to be broken). This experience of being able to communicate clearly and on point has really helped me use software differently. It sure helps when the developer is listening, too. This and this are great examples, and make me feel valued as a user of your software.
Hey Anton. Great to see you here.
I am thinking about the other side of the story too, have you met your developers?
Asked them how they're using their product. What were they thinking about when they did this feature.
I think it's too hard to try out software. It should be as easy as listening to a new song. Then we'd hear more from users.
These days it's very very quiet! :-)
Hey it's pretty cool these comments still work.