Why it matters what users like

August 16, 2008

In theory, you can force a lot of things down the throats of users, whether or not they like it; you provide what you provide, and the users have to live with it. (I will assume that the 'you' here includes management.)

In practice, this is not so, and you ultimately do need the support of your users to survive and prosper. No system can last unless the users actually like it and it does what they want. If users dislike your system or are just indifferent to it, you either become irrelevant, ignored in a corner, or the users consider you damage and route around you (to steal from a famous quote).

In the long run it does no good to 'force' people to use your system or to starve them of alternatives (for example, by trying to deny them funding to buy them). Either the users win in the end, one way or another, or you destroy everything worthwhile in the process of fighting the battle and wind up presiding over little more than a scorched wasteland. (My impression is that scorched wastelands are surprisingly popular, and I will admit that in retrospect I have been involved in one or two in my time.)

(Any time you are trying to tell users that they don't actually want what they're asking you for and they certainly can't have it anyways, watch out. There may be a wasteland in your future.)

This is ultimately why things like user exposure to Ubuntu matter. Users generally wind up liking what they are exposed to (assuming that it is decent to start with), and whether you like it or not their likes wind up driving your technology.

Written on 16 August 2008.
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Last modified: Sat Aug 16 01:12:30 2008
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