Tag Archives: user

2009: Let’s make it the Year of the User

2008 was a year of reckoning.  The chickens came home to roost.  Our bad behavior, from a rowdy adolescence in the 90s to the reckless drunkenness of the new century, boomeranged.

The great thing about our way of counting days gives us 365 new ones to either continue the orgy or return to sensible fun and frolic.  For me, like most people, the latter includes a balance of work and play, success and failure. 

Images

Remember that scene in The Ten Commandments when Moses comes down from Mount Sinai to find the Israelites partying in front of the golden calf created by Dathan from all their gold?  We're having a similar moment.

It's time to start from scratch. 

For those of us in technology and particularly in the online corner, we can discipline ourselves to put the user first.  If we're startups looking to leverage the Web for social purposes or to introduce new tools, we can dedicate ourselves to putting the user first.  If we're bankers or brokers, we can be the first to admit that the past years were never about making everyone wealthy, they were about participating in an institutional practice of elitism.  If we're government types, we can acknowledge that we have crumbling physical and financial infrastructures because we abandoned that rarely-used descriptor, civil service. 

We can all examine the past years and learn what we must — including the invaluable lessons taught by countless leaders who sacrificed and saved — to make this the first year of a new historical period.  The Year of the User.  A focus on our customers, clients and stakeholders will save us not only from the navel-gazing and the poor-me-ing, that focus will point us to higher levels of innovation and performance.  Because when we think about what our buyers value and need, we counteract the all too human obsession with self, and we wind up taking care of ourselves in the process.

Data portability and the user — we’re finally considering the value chain!

Wrote this to some friends the other day.  We were discussing the whole exploding world of data portability.

Bob, still not sure that everyone along the data porting spectrum concurs on the problem.  Especially users.  What's a problem for Bob Scoble or Chris Messina — as meaningful as their perspectives may be — might not be a problem for the mainstream user.  So I think engineers have to be clear on why they're interested in this — and if it's not addressing a user benefit directly, then why a solution is important along the "supply chain" of data solutions — where that solution fits in the chain that eventually ends at the mainstream user.

Stephen, the larger sites, if they're smart, will build their traction and retention by acquiring either the brains or the existing solutions that will protect their intellectual property and market share while giving users the ability to use their content flexibly.

Then along came Dan Farber's post, "Birthing pains in the colonization of the social web," on cnet.com, to which I made the following comment.

Dan, how do we know that the big social networks aren't giving users
what they want? How do we know there is a mainstream need for open
identity, data portability and apple pie? If it were profitable to be
open, I think we all know that the for-profit entities would be all
over the entire spectrum, from openness to portability. Any chance they
know something we do not?
Either way, companies in the space of creating networks and serving
them need to put the mainstream user first. You do that by
understanding what that user values — not what you think they might
value.
Thank you for the thought-provoking post. Mary

Saw this piece by Tim Bull and this one by Chris Saad, one of the founders of The Dataportability Project and its most assertive evangelist.  And Bob Ngu's blog, which addresses technology in a way that many mainstream users can understand.

Posted this comment to Fred Wilson regarding a piece he did for thestandard.com.  He was referring to last week's podcast by the Gillmor Gang and the key points made by the participants.  My compliments to Mr Wilson on being able to distill any conclusions from that podcast.  Yikes.  Without them, I wouldn't have thought of this response.

Whether the user owns
the tree is not important unless the user thinks it is. And telling the
user that the network makes a lot of money transporting his data is not
enough to make most users storm the gates. In fact, they LIKE to feel a
connection to the kid in flip-flops who hit it big.

These networks are competitors. Please tell us something we don't know.

Moving user data is "gonna happen" only if users demand it. So far,
the only users demanding it live in zipcodes beginning with 94. And
their direct influence over the mainstream user is unmeasured so far.

There are startups that already give users the flexibility and
access they want without taking the data off the networks. Those
startups will be ripe for the picking within six months.

Yes, sir, you are absolutely right. It's the experience that counts.
Not the plumbing, nor the pseudo-arguments, nor the posturing, nor the
pontificating. If I were an engineer, I'd try to figure out a way to
make data portable in the way the user defines it. That's the next stop
on the gravy train.

Then Marshall Kirkpatrick wrote this really great piece for
ReadWriteWeb.  He addresses the question of where portable data could
add value to the culture and business of an enterprise — the impact of
data portability on economics.

There are so many aspects of data portability, and so many solutions
and opinions being thrown into the mix, that our tech community has
come very close to losing perspective.  But I'm thinking the tide has
turned.  Time to articulate the value chain.

Expert analysis: When will it meet the people?

Silicon Valley is blessed with brilliance.  Which means we are blessed with opinions that grow exponentially with each new technology and trend.

Right now, the opinions about what constitutes data portability are swirling around in the air here.  Which I applaud.  But I'm having trouble with the fact that the cloud doesn't include anyone representing the people beyond the Valley.

Last evening, I spent some time reading the blogs of some of our most insightful journalists and commentators.  Looking for Joe User in their comments.  From podcasts to blogs to tweets, I'm still not finding Joe User front and center.

I am finding a lot of folks who think they know Joe User and are telling us what he wants.  But they might be confusing this with what they think he needs.  It is possible that these folks know something we don't.  I have begun asking them to share this knowledge with the rest of us [comment 22].  If that's not the case, I'm not going to rest until I understand whether regular users around the world want one sign-in, or the ability to scrape data from one network and port it to another, or simply the ability to share data on a selective basis via tools that work within acceptable bounds for the social networks.

Until then, I'm afraid I'm going to have to view the swirling opinions as circular chatter rolling around the Silicon Echo Chamber.  And to think about ways to understand whether openness and portability are as important to Joe User as his privacy.

Here's the thing we all must keep in front of us:  we may know best, but we must begin consulting the user and the user experience in testing ourselves.  Especially since it was Silicon Valley brilliance that brought them to the party in the first place.  We changed the rules.  Now we must play by them, too.