Strongly Emergent

What comes from combining humans, computers, and narrative

Perception Gap

In my last post, I touched on the perception differences between lucky people and unlucky people, comparing them to the perception differences between IT people and regular users. The differences in thought patterns are very different, and today I’m going to discuss that in more detail.

The first thing I want to discuss is the iPad. Yes, again. The iPad is a great lens for talking about differences between computer professionals and non-professionals, and part of what makes it a great opportunity to talk about that is that this time, it’s the professionals that Don’t Get It. Usually we’re egotistical, prone to falling into stories about how those proles, those peasants, those users, don’t get what we’re trying to do here. But that story completely falls apart here.

The iPad is about making the computer vanish. I’ve said for quite a while that the computer revolution has already happened - it’s just that most of the computer that affect your life aren’t things that you think of as a “computer.” They’re in cars, in industry, in stores, in restaurants - and in iPods. Matt Gemmell has a great piece about this. The iPad doesn’t want to be a “computer.” It wants to be a tablet. Something that you use to get the Internet and play some games and use some apps. It abstracts away a lot of what we’ve come to think of as “computer.” That’s a good thing - for its market. I’m gratified that Gemmell is on the same page that I am: Apple isn’t competing with most of the people we think it’s competing with.

The thing to notice here is the difference between Computer Professionals and users. We IT people get hung up on computers because we like them - and we make them an end in themselves. That’s great for us in our professional roles, but we can’t lose sight of the fact that we’re abnormal in that regard. For most people, the computer is just a means to an end, and it’s a finicky, mysterious, frustrating means. Many of the things that Computer Professionals complain about regarding the iPad just do not matter to the actual users that the iPad is targeting.

This is in contrast to the other example I want to talk about, Google Buzz. I’ll talk about that on Wednesday, and then on Friday talk about the Facebook/ReadWriteWeb deal. All of these tie into this theme of perception differences - and I think that all of them point to how we IT people can better be part of the interface between humans and technology.