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:
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:
- 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
- Don't say "it's in the manual". (You knew that.)
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.
© Copyright 2002-2005 Fred Sampson.
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