Write For Persons, Not Groups

Ryan King links to this great essay.

Anyway, I babbled at Nat along these lines for a while, predicting that, while I was sure that anyone he talked to in a corporation would tell him, “free groupware, yes, awesome!”, there was really no reason to even bother releasing something like that as open source, because there was going to be absolutely no buy-in from the “itch-scratching” crowd. With a product like that, there was going to be no teenager in his basement hacking on it just because it was cool, or because it doing so made his life easier. Maybe IBM would throw some bucks at a developer or two to help out with it, because it might be cheaper to pay someone to write software than to just buy it off the shelf. But with a groupware product, nobody would ever work on it unless they were getting paid to, because it’s just fundamentally not interesting to individuals.

And there you have it in a nutshell. No **organization** ever wrote or used a program. **Individuals** write and use programs. If you want people to love your software, it has to appeal to individuals.

As a corollary, if your program sucks for individuals, it will suck for the organization. This goes along with the complex adaptive systems and emergent behavior issues I rant about from time to time.

Good idea for a project at the end of the article, too: server-less calendar sharing. Cool.

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4 thoughts on “Write For Persons, Not Groups

  1. I presume that the software being discussed is Hula.

    I was idling in #hula a couple of nights ago, the day of the announcement, and I have to say that the overall impression was something completely different – there was geniune excitement of the sort I havn’t seen around a software release for a long time.

    In a large way it is targetted at individuals, take a look at the ideas on their website, which include things like allowing you to easily setup party invitations/RSVPs, or to share your calendar between class mates.

  2. Hi, Jon — although the linked article may be critical of Hula, I did not intend to seem so. I know nothing about Hula itself. My point was to say that individuals are primary, not organizations.

  3. Yeah, it is about hula, but I’m pretty sure the encounter which it describes is from awhile back. In other words, this article may have influenced hula, I think.

    Anyways, Paul, you missed the best line of the article. 🙂 Everyone should click back to my blog to see it.

  4. I agree with Ryan that you skipped the best part. I know I am not the only software developer who was forever changed when I heard that “use case”.

    While it is somewhat crass, it is exactly correct.

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