March 14, 2005

ETech day 1: Passionate users

This is a cool session. Start off by thinking:-

What kinds of things do people get passionate about?

Examples suggested in the session:-

  • Cars
  • Cooking
  • Wine
  • Dancing
  • Horses
  • Sports
  • Photography & sharing photos, etc. Flickr
  • Causes, eg. Justice (EFF)
  • Operating systems (!)

Next intereting question:

What do these things have in common; what attributes do they share?

Generally, they are:-

  • Fun
  • Emotive
  • Personal
  • Related to self-expression
  • They're interesting and/or challenging; there is a lot to learn about them,
  • You can acquire expertise in them, and it's possible to recognise expertise
  • There's a community associated with it
  • There's gear you can buy to support or enhance the activity

What does this tell us about our stuff?

  • Perhaps letting people personalise stuff (their blog, their SB content) is more important than we think because it's not about whether it improves the experience for the reader, it's about whether it makes the owner feel good.
  • It's consistent with the message of this session that our "What's new in SB" session is so popular; people want to learn new stuff, they want to acquire recognisable expertise, they want to participate in a community.

(As an aside, the style of handout for this session is really interesting; instead of miniature PowerPoint slides, each A4 page is the beginnings of a mind-map – a single idea in the centre of the page and then you draw concepts and sub-concepts around the centre, and the presenter does the same thing on the big screen as the session goes along. Sounds simple, but it's surprisingly effective and enjoyable. Observation from the presenter: "Lists make your brain think there's an order to the items, even if no order is intended or appropriate."

Also, it turns out that the book that Chris and I were interested in – Head First Design Patterns - is co-authored by the presenter, and she and her co-authors have done some others: Head First EJB, Head First Java and Head First Servlets & JSP We might want to pick up one or more of these when we're back in the UK.

How do you get past the brain's crap filter?
  • Show it something surprising
  • Show it something scary
  • Show it somthing sexy
  • Show it something involving a human face, especially with a none-neutral expression (is this why smileys are so popular?) (could we use face-based icons in our interface when we especially need to alert the user to something?)
What's a great way to create passionate users?

Give them an "I rule!" moment when they use your software. Note the difference between "I rule" and "This software rules" or "IT Services rule". The latter two are nice for the software provider, and not completely horrible for the user, but they aren't as compelling. Note too that it's incredibly easy to make software which yields "I suck" moments, which have exactly the opposite, negative effects that you'd expect.

This is an interesting idea: it's intuitively right in that most of us can remember having "I rule" moments in the course of our lives. They're powerful and affecting, and the idea that we become passionate about things that allow or empower us to have such moments seems credible. Chris notes an "I rule" moment when he successfully built a Linux box, and his resulting positive response to the software that allowed him to have the moment. Do we give our users such moments at the moment? Maybe. The guy who edited all his couse notes while he was in New York, say. Or the people who know nothing at all about anything to with the web, but nonetheless publish their writing on to a blog. But there must be more we could do if we had this goal in mind.

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