Tuesday, July 13, 2004

People Versus Users: Where Technology Usually Fails Content and its Audiences

eWeek reports on a visit to Microsoft's Center for Information Work, described by Microsoft as "a companywide effort to build a prototype of what productivity technology could look like three to five years from now." This is essentially the same facility seen in company videos earlier this year, with ZDNet allowed an on-the-record look at the test bed in person. I found some of the insights in the article very telling, particularly this choice tidbit near the end of the article: "Microsoft is very good at understanding software, but not so good at understanding people and human behavior (as opposed to user behavior, which they study extensively). CIW shows us a future in which computers do their thing almost without consideration of the problems that would cause to their supposed masters - the users." It's a key factor to consider when looking at I.T. versus vContent: in I.T., humans are "users", machine operators, annoying presences that need to understand the brilliance of the machine before them. In vContent, the presence of people is the primary value creation point, with all other factors working from human needs into a solution that meets those needs in not just mechanical terms but in all of the complexities that make up human value systems. This is what so many technology and content companies miss in trying to meet the needs of today's sophisticated content audiences - and why so many "rogue" products succeed when they simply listen carefully to what it is that people really value. Simple lesson, but simple doesn't always mean easy...
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