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  Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Phil Agre is an associate professor of information studies at UCLA. He has some handy suggestions on how to teach someone to use a computer -- some of which we can apply to writing good technical documentation and designing user experiences. For instance:
  • Most user interfaces are terrible. When people make mistakes it's usually the fault of the interface. You've forgotten how many ways you've learned to adapt to bad interfaces.
  • Whenever they start to blame themselves, respond by blaming the computer. Then keep on blaming the computer, no matter how many times it takes, in a calm, authoritative tone of voice. If you need to show off, show off your ability to criticize bad design. When they get nailed by a false assumption about the computer's behavior, tell them their assumption was reasonable. Tell *yourself* that it was reasonable.
  • Don't say "it's in the manual". (You knew that.)
Also of interest is Phil's treatise on "How to Be a Leader in Your Profession." Some of his thoughts are applicable to both the transformation of STC, and to the discussions around offshoring:

In a knowledge-intensive world of ceaseless innovation and change, I assert, every professional must be a leader. . . The skills that the leader exercises in building a critical mass of opinion around emerging issues are the same skills that every professional needs to stay employed at all. . .  Every professional's job is now the front lines, and the skills of leadership must become central to everyone's conception of themselves as a professional.

The rest of this piece builds on the concept I heard some years ago from a motivational speaker, who suggested that everyone become an expert on something. He recommended spending an hour a day reading, researching, discussing, writing about some one interest. Before long, you become the come-to person on that topic. And maybe it turns into a job for which you're the only candidate. In other words, you're no longer a commodity.

How did I happen upon Agre's work? This thread on MacSlash.

4:44:12 PM    Questions? Comments? Flames? []

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