Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Software to Amplify What Your Users Do

In Five thoughts on software, Seth Godin points out that utility and ease of use have been pursued at the expense of power and simplicity and that it is urgent that software companies create tools that increase the quality of what user's create.

This is similar to an argument made by Frederick P. Brooks Jr. in the Computer Scientist as Toolsmith. Brooks made this argument in 1977 and again in 1996. In 1996 Brooks wrote:
If the computer scientist is a toolsmith, and if our delight is to fashion power tools and amplifiers for minds, we must partner with those who will use our tools, those whose intelligences we hope to amplify.
Godin lays some of the problems with software at the feet of customers who accept poor software as the norm. He requests that customers have higher aspirations for what their tools can achieve. I agree.

Good customers are demanding. In my experience, the most demanding customers provide the best insight on what your product roadmap should contain. Finding those customers is challenging because the relationship needs to evolve into a mutually beneficial partnership.

If you have software that doesn't amplify your intelligence contact the vendor. Whether that vendor is interested in helping you create value or not will become apparent very quickly. If you conclude that they aren't interested in helping you create value then spend your money elsewhere.

The same goes for the software developers. You can tell if your company cares about its customers by the quality of input you obtain from those customers. And how far you are from those customers. If you are far enough away that you wouldn't recognize a customer if you saw one then perhaps you are working for the wrong company.

Godin lays down a challenge to the entire software industry: build powerful and simple software that allows him to increase the quality of what he creates. I like building software. I think it's a challenge worth committing too.

What will you do?

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