Build for Us, Hope They Might Use It

by Dwayne Phillips

We usually build things for ourselves. We then hope that someone else will use what we build. Sometimes we adapt to doing it right; sometimes not.

A recent story related how we want 80-somethings to register for and then receive the virus vaccine. “All you have to do” is go online and… Wait, is there a contradiction here? “80-somethings” and “go online” seem to not go together or something.

A 30-something built something for 30-somethings. Then someone told 80-somethings to use this 30-something gizmo. Hmmm. Sort of doesn’t make sense, huh? How can smart people do this?

Consider Facebook. It was built by college students for college students. Remember how you needed a dot-edu email address to get an account?

Those college-student builders received and heeded some good advice from somewhere. They revised the software so that other folks (not college students) would use it. Viola’! A trillion dollars or something in profits.

Back in 2008, I visited a company that was under contract to build gadgets for the 2010 census. Someone at the Census Bureau thought it a great idea for census takers — those who walked neighborhoods and knocked on doors — to have a little digital device in their hands on which to enter information that would be zapped up to a computer where wonderfulness would occur. Oh, by the way, those census takers were usually retired volunteers in their 70s who had poor eyesight and had just mastered the push-button telephone at home. A 30-something building a gizmo for a 70-something.

I guess we don’t learn fast or maybe some folks learn faster than others. And then there are those who do learn and rake in a trillion dollars.

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Dwayne Phillips

Engineer, computing, consulting, writing, teaching, and a few other things in an effort to make us all better and smarter.