_Be_ the user

Subject: _Be_ the user
From: Fred M Jacobson <fred -at- BOOLE -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 29 Jul 1994 14:01:23 PDT


I am working over the specification for an upcoming
software release and I realize I am doing something some
other of you may want to try.

Over the last few months I have changed how I phrase my
questions and comments about our plans and our product.
I now use the first person when I ask about or comment
on a design or operation. For example:

- If the foo file has something invalid in it when I
convert it, where do I see the error message?

- I don't like this way of saving the bar setting,
because it make me open another window.

- Do I have to write a baz to launch an emulator from
a map element?

Most of us avoid writing "the user" in our documents.
I find it valuable to avoid the third person when
discussing the software. If I put myself in the user
role, my questions and assertions are simpler and more
powerful. The engineers and managers I am talking to
are encouraged to think of the user as a real person,
namely me, rather than some abstract entity. If they
have to say "You can't do that," they may think more
about why than if they can say "They can't do that."
They will probably find it harder to say "You don't
want to do that," than "They don't want to do that."


INTERNET: fred -at- boole -dot- com PHONE: (408) 526-3292 FAX: (408) 526-3055
USPS: Fred Jacobson / Boole & Babbage / 3131 Zanker Road / San Jose CA 95134

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