More on user profiles

June 26, 2008

Think about blog entries by our usability experts on user types and user profiles.  Now let’s generalize a little more about the “types” of users that use KDE.  Think about the types of users the KDE 3.5.9 and 4.0.5 might target (hint: they’re not the same).

Ok, done with that?  Now close your eyes and envision what traits an ideal user might be like for each type, and what the worst user might be like.  No matter what your Real Life ™ or day-time job is, you likely deal with a spectrum of users/clients/customers.  Remember when Best Buy created generalized customer profiles?  You need to think about how to approach different users, how to work with them, and even whether you want them at all.

Small freelancers value their time and want to use it efficiently as possible.  But they also want to build their client base.  It’s tough to say no.  Yet you’ll find plenty of pages on giving tough love and dropping clients. Big business have the same issues.  What happens when 10% of your users generate 60% of your help desk calls?  What if a certain large client accounts for 40% of all returned products and has a much higher return rate than any other?  If ungrateful and unprofitable clients are consuming resources that could be used to secure new and profitable clients?

Whether you’re a corporation or a single KDE community member, you have to realize that your time is valuable and think about how you want to spend it.  At some point, are you going to spend that last hour of the night fixing bugs, adding new features, writing documentation, emailing helpful users or once again defending yourself against trolling emailers?  And if you want to expand popularity and user base, will unjustified negative press stunt potential growth?

Think about the ideal user: Someone who is thoughtful, submits meaningful and logical bug reports, evangelizes to others about KDE (while still being truthful in setting expectations).  Someone that over time may become a contributor.  Your version may vary.  To me, the ideal user thinks “This free software is great.  It may not be perfect, but if someone took the time to create this software for me, the least I can do is give some of my time to help them constructively improve it or give them some gratitude.”

Think about the worst type of user: Someone who is thankless.  And who isn’t helpful or constructive.  And who doesn’t want to listen to reason.  And worst of all, someone that spreads falsehoods (based on either ignorance, stupidity, maliciousness or indifference) that are read by other community newbies that may not know better.

Corresponding cliches abound: You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.  You have to periodically prune a tree to help growth.  And on and on.  Which finally leads me to my point (and everyone breathes a sigh of relief!):  I was chatting with Troy about his recent blog entry tonight.  He has quite a way with words, doesn’t he?  Canadians are really the modern day bards.

The point being: It’s difficult and unenviable and awkward to discuss when to “drop” clients or in our case, users.  We have a passion for KDE and we want to share it with others.  As KDE grows, we know we’ll encounter others less tech savvy, and we are by-and-large courteous and graceful as possible.  Perhaps overly so.  So when someone shifts from innocent questions and misunderstandings and gradually into harmful territory – not so easy to tell right away, is it?  So we let it slide, and we constantly and politely correct them.  Yet it continues.  The situation then slides from burning precious time for our KDE philanthropists and into actively repelling other potential new users.  Potential good users.  Potential healthy users.

Let’s be clear: This isn’t unique to KDE.  It isn’t unique to free software or the software industry in general.  Whether it’s a prestigious client now that is secretly making your life hell, or that dude 10 years ago that wouldn’t take a hint and leave your dorm room to leave you alone with your girlfriend  (aka the CockBlock), or that person at the Release Event that wore out their welcome…it’s difficult and it doesn’t come naturally.  At some point you’ve got to be mature, take a stand with integrity, and remember that you’re not being the jerk, the other party is.  Bite down, rip the bandaid off, and go on with your life.

Of course, I don’t know exactly how the analogy of firing a client relates to users and free software with free choice.  Remind them that they can “be free” to go elsewhere?  But we all love KDE, no matter our role.  As a MWG member with multiple half-written blogs on similar topics, no one knows more than I about truth in advertising, and being honest about KDE’s strengths and weaknesses.  So accusations about deceit sting.  Declaring we’ve misrepresented something stinks.   Writing misleading forum posts hurt.  Relaying misquotes or misinterpretations suck.  More on that soon.

In the meantime, we need to constructively look at how to add the right type of users and assess detrimental users; constructive contributors instead of worrisome contributors.  Healthy contributor communities and user communities have symbiotic relationships and issues in one will inevitably impact the other.

A new concept show: “Two guys.  Bad cliches and bad toupees.”

Can Troy and I get a prime time show on Fox?  Stay tuned.


One Response to “More on user profiles”

  1. Troy Unrau Says:

    You know I’d win. I got all the comments 😛

    Anyway, thanks for a clear reply to a rant.


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