Michal Migurski's notebook, listening post, and soapbox. Subscribe to this blog. Check out the rest of my site as well.

Aug 10, 2005 6:20pm

rediscovering america

Three recent accusations of recognition masquerading as discovery:

  • "Funny, but while reading the article my brain made several twitches. It's not so much that I disagree with the sentinence of the article (focusing on activites as compared to, uh, other human aspects, such as colors, shapes and taste, maybe), but I really disagree with the problem specified above; what the hell is the difference between designing for some users compared to all users? They are still both user-centred design!" (Alexander Johannesen on Don Norman)
  • "I'm more troubled by the 'Get Real' philosophy. Not that it is in itself wrong, but I can see the horde of inexperienced managers and sloppy programmers who use this kind of rationale as an excuse for poor planning and bad execution." (Cedric, commenting on 9Rules in response to 37signals)
  • "First we have to set aside the fact that Clay is now talking about free-text search, and not tagging. But, let's say he is talking about tagging. The system he's discussing already exists. It's called "postcoordinate indexing," and I mentioned it in a prior folksonomy post of mine. I guess that's another thing that's really bugging me. Clay acting as if he's discovered unchartered territory, when, really, it's been well-trod upon for awhile." (Peter Merholz on Clay Shirky)

I think what's happening is that all the accused parties above have absorbed the lessons of All Marketers Are Liars:

Successful marketers don't talk about features or even benefits. Instead, they tell a story. A story we want to believe.

The problem is that there are only so many untold-stories out there. Norman is rehashing the time-worn lessons of attentive, professional design, while making dubious distinctions between "human centered" and "activity centered". 37Signals is repackaging agile software development a.k.a extreme programming, warts and all. Clay Shirky is an academic, and academics are frequently required to take aggressive or contrarian positions to ensure attention, tenure, and publication. If you take the step of distilling your story to a one-sentence elevator pitch, there's a solid chance you'll be overlapping someone else's pitch. This is fine... if you're not also pretending to break new ground by conventiently omitting mention of where the idea may have originated.


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