[caption id="attachment_228" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="3D glasses made of paper"][/caption]
Some time ago I posted a question on Stackoverflow which I thought wouldn't interest many people: "How to learn Cobol". Yet the question attracted about 1K views and got upvoted 16 times, making it the top question I asked so far. A couple of days ago I found out the reason for this. Jeff Attwood an Joe Spolsky mentioned this question in one of their podcasts. I was very surprised to hear the two claiming that they never met a single COBOL developer, while I myself work with those in many projects. Since they never met a COBOL programmer they assumed that there really can't be that much important code be written in COBOL. Trust me this is very wrong.
On a completely different note, a couple of (mostly?) German minor internet celebrities publish a Internet Manifesto in which they claim:
Web-based platforms like social networks, Wikipedia or YouTube have become a part of everyday life for the majority of people in the western world.
I found this rather confusing. Why the heck would a group of Germans write an Internet Manifesto without collaboration with people from other places of the world? Why are they limiting a statement about usage of the internet to the western world? And is their claim about web2.0 usage in the western world accurate?
There is a lesson to be learned from this: Your perspective is biased. I can proof that by telling you a couple of things, that probably apply to yourself:
- You are working in IT
- You are curious
- You are smart
- You are well educated
- You are using the internet and especially web2.0 stuff a lot
- You read a lot
- You are german or american
- You have a nice reliable income.
How do I know these things? Simple they apply to the most people that surround me. Because I know them from university, from america, from the internet. But this description fits most of my friends, coworkers and readers of my blog does not mean this applies to the whole population of the world. Most of the population is asian. On average they have (obviously) an average education and income which is way below the average of the industrial nations. But you don't have to look at the whole world. Even if you look at your home town. There are probably hundreds of people that can't even read. Thousands that don't have a job. Thousands that only have very basic education.
Ok. Nice piece of trivia. But how does this affect us as IT professionals?
The answer is: Your user, your customer might be one of the persons that is very different from you. If you build enterprise applications your users do not use the computer because they enjoy all the options it gives them. They use it because their boss told them. They will not be impressed, when you tell them that all of the application is generated from a DSL implemented in Ruby. They will be impressed when they can get their job done faster and easier with your new application.
The message is this: If you want to serve your customer, your user, your audience, you have to find out who they are and what they want. Listening to them is a good easy way to do that. Watching them using your stuff works great to. Telling them what they need, how they should do their work and trying to impress them with fancy stuff won't work. You have to find their perspective, in order to find solutions that work for them, not for you.
So here is your homework: In which ways does your perspective differ from the perspective of your user? What are the things that work perfect for you that just sucks for them, or vice versa?