Scripting News: It’s a User’s Conference

Posted in Linkage, technology at 12:07 pm by cori

Scripting News: 6/15/2006

Posting the ground rules for BloggerCon this year, Dave Winer rebaits a long-lived ideological trap:

“…if they say the technology is too complicated for a user to understand, ask them why, and if they could simplify it so we can understand. And if not, why should we use it?”

It’s not that I disagree (completely), or that I think Dave is being disingenuous or doesn’t believe in this idea. It’s how categorical this statement is that brings it to the foreground of his post for me.

Take XML-RPC as a good example. It’s widely used for a large proportion of online activites (I’m using it right now, in fact). It’s a large part of the central nervous system of the web, and it’s a technology that Dave is largely (perhaps solely) responsible for. However it’s not really a technology that users need to understand, or are necessarily equipped to. I wouldn’t care to try to explain XML-RPC to my father or my sister-in-law, and from my point of view they sholdn’t need to understand it. For that matter, I probably don’t understand all the complexities of it; I’ve only taken the time to understand the bits I needed to when I needed them.

I wholeheartedly agree that technology should be as simple as possible (and no simpler). To whatever extent we can, we should, as makers of tools, make what happens when a tool is used easy for the user to understand. I’m also fully cognisant that many of the users at BloggerCon will be extraordinary as far as their ability to understand technological complexity. But to suggest that, perhaps, a technology isn’t worth using if it’s users can’t understand it seems too broad a brush with which to paint either users or technology.