A few years ago I remember reading an interview with with either Ev Williams or Jack Dorsey about the early days of Twitter when something like the following was said. The reason Odeo, the podcast service that spawned Twitter, was never a success was that nobody in the team really listened to podcasts and so while they were building it to the best of their abilities they weren’t ever using it themselves so couldn’t see the problems.
The reason this popped in to my head was that I really like the idea of doing a ‘Digital by Default’ podcast interviewing people from the digital public/civic sector. Except like those Odeo guys back in the day I don’t actually listen to podcasts so am wondering why I would create something I wouldn’t actually listen to myself? [I think it is a good idea still but maybe I’ll go for written email/IM interviews like I did for Mozilla years ago?]
It also is a factor in my day job. I think part of the reason it has taken me longer than usual to really get under the skin of our website is that I am not any kind of user of our content. While I was never a medical researcher or e-learning practitioner I had a much better understanding of the audiences and the tasks they undertook. These days I rely more than ever on our user research and feedback which is great but I think I need to better understand the motivations of our users and their frustrations and to do that I need to become a user myself.
The Marissa Mayer profile I linked to recently also mentioned how “she would recreate the technological circumstances of her users in her own life. Mayer went without broadband for years in her home, refusing to install it until it was also installed in the majority of American homes. She carried an iPhone at Google, which makes Android phones, because so did most mobile Web users.” Putting herself in the place of her user to better represent them.
I’m going to be honest I am a little at a loss as to just how I am going to manage this – I think maybe a little data journalism side project? Will have to give this some thought.