Matt RaibleMatt Raible is a Web Architecture Consultant specializing in open source frameworks.

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Over 10 years ago, I wrote my first blog post. Since then, I've authored books, had kids, traveled the world, found Trish and blogged about it all.

[OSCON] Tuesday Afternoon

Creating Passionate Users
Presented by Kathy Sierra, OSCON 2005

How do you create passionate users? People will do anything and be enthusiastic about it if they're passionate about it. For example, teaches you how to be a better photographer. In their tutorials, they happen to mention that you might need a better camera to take better pictures. If you're going for passion, you have to provide a continuous path for becoming more knowledgeable about a product - and eventually becoming an expert in something. The beauty is the path or thing you provide doesn't even have to be related to the product. It simply has to provide users with enthusiasm about something you provide, which in turn supplies them with the path for that passionate experience.

"Things that look better actually work better." In other words, aesthetics matter.

When writing a book or documentation - you have to make what you're writing about matters to the user. It has to be so important to them that it gives them a queasy feeling. Naturally, the person won't be interested in what you're talking about - you need to be able to communicate the real core of why a person would have an emotional reaction and why it matters to them. "Well, why didn't you say that?" is the reaction you're looking for. If you're can answer that question w/o answering all the questions leading up to id - you're golden. You're supposed to try and scare them to the point that they're never going to have sex again, and then step back one level. What's the compelling meaningful benefit of the product?

You need to seduce your users and keep them interested and passionate by challenging them to learn more. Flow is the feeling when you have no sense of time - and you need to somehow figure out how to get your users into the flow. As long as you believe you're only one compile away from fixing it - you'll spend hours working on something. This is the flow state and comes from the perfect balance between a challenge and the skill+knowledge to solve that challenge.

One of the challenges to creating passionate users is to establish some sort of next level that your users can get to. First of all, you have to figure out what the next level is, followed by what "new powers" and abilities you can give to your users once they get to that level.

Tips for engaging users

When writing, use a conversational tone. The brain has a conversation with text when you read it and you'll have a 40% better retention rate by reading writing with a conversational tone. Also, use pictures whenever possible since they often make things easier to understand. Don't reveal everything - make your users curious.

What do film makers and novelists do? They tell stories.

Where there is community, there is legend, myth, passion and stories. Where there is passion, there are people. How can you propagate the stories and people from the project?

People don't care about you - all they care about is how they feel about themselves after interacting with your product or service.

This was a great session by Kathy and I was very impressed how she presented it. No laptop, just an overhead projector. Lots of group activities and lots of group discussions. I could easily see Kathy and Bert writing a book on Creating Passionate Users.

Posted in Open Source at Aug 03 2005, 12:30:10 AM MDT 1 Comment

Matt, Sounds like a cool presentation. I like some of the stuff Kathy and Bert are doing, particulary the SCJP and SCJD study guide (I just got my SCJP and I'm working on the SCJD now). Kathy has a great blog that I don't always agree with but is always interesting and worth a read. Some of the things you relate from her presentation are familiar to me from studying cognitive psychology and when you see them applied they hit you as so obvious that you wonder why you didn't see it for yourself.
I wonder where she got the 40% improved retention for conversational style prose from? I know that the main activity that the brain undertakes each day is to filter out the useless stuff and concentrate on the important stuff. Important stuff relates to things like not being killed, finding food and someone to procreate with. With competion like this its easy to see why we only retain a small fraction of what we read!
The subject of community is also interesting. I've just finshed reading a book called The Wisdom Of Crowds that has a brief section on Linux and open-sourcing. This book states the case for community (or crowd) based approaches and gives a novel twist on why it is so good. Not just because of the reason you state in your blog but because it also produces wiser solutions to problems. This may help to explain why open source software is better than closed source in some instances and gives useful insight into how the open source process could be improved. I think you'd enjoy this book.
I'm re-locating to the Denver in the next few weeks, (I finally have my visa!), and will look out for one of Kathys talks. In the meantime I've just bought the Desgin Patterns book from Kathy and Berts O'Reilly series, it's different to other text books and I'm really enjoying it so far.

Posted by Andrew Moores on August 04, 2005 at 12:57 PM MDT #

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