Nobody likes to be called a dummy by a dummy.

Kathy Sierra -- Business Of Software 2009

http://blog.businessofsoftware.org/2010/05/kathy-sierra-at-business-of-software-2009.html

A lecture from Joel's "BOS 2009" tour.  It's 30 minutes, but I had to pause it after 15 minute from BS-fatigue.

I could never be in sales.  Because listening to her lecture is like listening to somebody talking about talking about talking.  The reality of the sales pitch is SO far away from the reality of the user experience, that they use all kinds of business double-talk to inspire themselves.

And if it's GOOD double-talk, people pay you lots of money to hear you say it, and leave with the impression that they've learned something, fired up to go out and sell their latest gadget.  And business magazines pay you (for a while) to write that kind of stuff and fill their magazine, so other business people can buy it an be inspired too.

"It's not if your PRODUCT is BETTER, it's if your PRODUCT makes your CUSTOMERS better!".  Well, duh, but isn't that quite a slim distinction to be so excited about it?

But if you're going to spend 30 minutes with a room-full of people who've spent $1,000 each to hear you say it, I guess it's GOT to be exciting.

But personally, I don't think I could ever do it myself.
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
May 18th, 2010 1:34pm
This is just infotainment. Joel writes about it so you know it's crap. He's just washing the hand of someone who washed his when he promotes this stuff. 

BoS is an assemblage of fanboys spooging over bingo card and personal organizer software.

I know one guy who is an mISV and makes an excellent living at it. He ignores EVERYTHING about BoS and the hangers on there.
Permalink Send private email Garibaldi loves pepperoni 
May 18th, 2010 1:40pm
Fair enough -- hopefully, this glimpse into what goes on at the seminar will remove some of the "suspense".
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
May 18th, 2010 1:56pm
Why would they want to do that?  If anything, it should leave you wanting more, hanging on the edge of your seat for that magic incantation that will make you as l33t as they.
Permalink Aaron 
May 18th, 2010 2:02pm
Here is what is going on.

There are multiple cottage industries of "self help in business" online courses, books, seminars, and other info-cational materials.

There are several people who sell "start your own PC service business" materials and seminars. Quite a few freelance copywriter gurus with their own entourages of products and fans. I am aware of these two niches.

Plus the whole mISV phenomenon, headed by Joel, Bingo Guy, Table Plan Guy, Bob Walsh, and no doubt some wanna bes floating around JoS who desperately want to have their own paying fan/groupie base.

I am sure that if you dig a bit you can find "mini gurus" in other industry segments that promote self employment opportunities and who make themselves the gatekeepers of the sole wisdom on the subject.

Having invested in one "start your own PC service biz" course a few years ago for a few hundred bucks, my perception is that the paid materials and the advice are much lower quality and much more narrow and less informative than seeking out non pimp types who are actively engaged in the trade in question who are willing to answer questions and provide some mentorship.

In other words attendees to BoS 2009 are snake oil buyers.
Permalink Send private email Garibaldi loves pepperoni 
May 18th, 2010 2:38pm
I agree with Kathy, but I didn't need a conference for that, she had promoted that message on her blog for years.
Permalink CC 
May 18th, 2010 2:39pm
Twenty five years ago it was Tony Robbins selling this kind of hyped up fluff.

The main difference between Tony Robbins and what we see today is that instead of one superstar horse faced guru that dominates the media, you have 1000 lighterweight niche gurus fueled by blogs and the internet who promise to help you earn actual money.

The economy has become much more squeezed in the last two decades, so what sells now is not general self improvement, it's supposed step by steps on how to make a living without having an asshole boss.
Permalink Send private email Garibaldi loves pepperoni 
May 18th, 2010 2:44pm
JoS - The ego inflation tour 2010 :

"You're a rockstar! Yes you are!
And you should demand a private office!"
Permalink Send private email xampl 
May 18th, 2010 3:07pm
>>"It's not if your PRODUCT is BETTER, it's if your PRODUCT makes your CUSTOMERS better!".  Well, duh, but isn't that quite a slim distinction to be so excited about it?

It's a slim distinction, but one that matters, and surprisingly many people -- OK, just nerds -- just don't get it.
Permalink Why the world is so complicated? 
May 18th, 2010 3:12pm
I'll one up it. It's not if your product is better, it's if your product sells more copies.

"it's if your PRODUCT makes your CUSTOMERS better" sounds like self-actualization psychobabble. But I should watch the video and make up my own mind.

Initially it sounds like "doing well by doing good". Which is a great idealistic Kum-bay-yah slogan. But it can't carry you by itself.
Permalink Send private email Bored Bystander 
May 18th, 2010 3:33pm
You guys are idiots. She's not a snake oil salesman, her articles on design are very useful.

Here's the idea. People like your software and spread word of mouth when it helps them get shit done, not because it has tons of features they don't need.
Permalink CC 
May 18th, 2010 3:40pm
For B2B. Not for consumer apps. And it just depends, anyway.

I don't like simplistic formulas. Building a business is hard work.
Permalink Send private email Bored Bystander 
May 18th, 2010 3:47pm
I agree that she's got things to say, in the sort of "wow I could have thought of that" way -- but the thing is, most people don't.

Like when I see Jason Calcanis talk, I am immediately struck that "I could do that.  No, really, like exactly what he's saying, with better delivery."

To which the obvious response is "... yeah, but you're not. And he is.  And he founded three successful companies and you collected a pay check.  You could have.  But you DIDN'T."

Which brings me to Kathy Sierra.

I don't take issue with her message.  IT's a little touchy-feely, it's a little obvious, I dunno if I'd pay to hear it live, but is it good?  Certainly.

Then there's her other work she's done - the java certification stuff and the heads-first stuff. This I take more issue with.

First, because the marketing makes it sound like heads-first is some sort of magic portion discovered based on deep brain science and cognitive psycology.  I haven't seen evidence of that.

But second, what heads-first promises to do  - and Sierra is very clear about this in her talk - what it allows you to do is to take a subject your brain is actively rebelling against and have your willpower and intellect overwhelm the subconscious elements of your brain, forcing you to learn.

In other words, it's boring stuff.  You read a sentence and then absolutely forget the content of that sentence.  Nothing sticks.  Heads-First is a brain fake to get things to stick.

What if, instead, you flowed where your energy took you?  What if you dropped the certification book and say "gee, some part of my sub-conscious is telling me it does not care about this subject.  I should listen and try to build my career on something else."

I wonder if you'd be happier forcing yourself to learn it or ignorning it.

I'm biased.  I tried to earn three different certs in my career.  The first two times, I gave up earlier - the third time, I crammed and studied and highlighted, but I never did get around to taking that test.

I'm pleased I didn't.

Thanks for the subject, man.  I wanted to say something like that for awhile but didn't want to blog it -- didn't want to look like a Sierra-hater.  I mean, really, she's done a fair amount of good stuff.

Besides, what with King's Quest I-VI and Space Quest and all the rest, she had a good run.  King's Quest VI and Mask of Eternity weren't great, but she had her moments. (Yes, that was a pun.  I realize they are different. Sheesh.)
Permalink HoyZa 
May 18th, 2010 3:52pm
King's Quest VII wasn't great, that is.  Then again, I think it was written for little girl, and by then I was too old for it to seem magical.  sigh.
Permalink HoyZa 
May 18th, 2010 3:55pm
"I don't like simplistic formulas"

I don't like it either, but unfortunately, people, aka consumers, are simplistic.
Permalink Why the world is so complicated? 
May 18th, 2010 3:56pm
In case you don't remember -- Death threats!

http://headrush.typepad.com/whathappened.html
Permalink Why the world is so complicated? 
May 18th, 2010 4:01pm
Most software is shit. Most software you can't get shit done with. When I find software that allows me to get shit done, I think it is awesome and tell others. This is why I agree with her message. If it's so obvious and easy, why is most software shit? Why is it so hard to find software that isn't shit?

As far as Heads First, yeah, it does make use of research into effective teaching methods. So?
Permalink CC 
May 18th, 2010 4:01pm
It threatens df...
Permalink Why the world is so complicated? 
May 18th, 2010 4:05pm
"As far as Heads First, yeah, it does make use of research into effective teaching methods. So?"

What research would that be, and what methodology was it used?

Some of the rhetoric around around heads-first as a series was over-hyped, all I'm saying.
Permalink HoyZa 
May 18th, 2010 4:07pm
I hated Head First Design Patterns. It tries way too hard to make a serious topic "fun".
Permalink triple-dot 
May 18th, 2010 4:46pm
Making your customers feel empowered.

Yes, I think I know what that means.  It means next time they need a project done, you teach them how to use Access, Crystal Reports, and perhaps a UML to DB schema program.  Where YOU are after that, I don't know, but the CUSTOMER should feel more EMPOWERED now.

Oh yes, and good luck on that recurring-revenue thing.
Permalink lorb 
May 18th, 2010 4:58pm
"It means next time they need a project done, you teach them how to use Access, Crystal Reports, and perhaps a UML to DB schema program."

I have a feeling that you don't understand what she's saying :)
Permalink Why the world is so complicated? 
May 18th, 2010 5:13pm
I have a better example, with making your customers better, that's probably what she means, I am simply pointing out if you stretch that analogy to the end of the axis.  ;-)
Permalink lorb 
May 18th, 2010 5:40pm
>"It's not if your PRODUCT is BETTER, it's if your PRODUCT
>makes your CUSTOMERS better!".  Well, duh, but isn't that
>quite a slim distinction to be so excited about it?

No. That's the point. This is partly why tech companies with superior marketing (like Apple) do so much better than companies with equivalent or better tech (like Nokia).
Permalink Send private email Colm 
May 18th, 2010 6:41pm
I think most geeks overestimate the benefits that normal people see in technology. They believe that the benefits are implicit, because they see them, whereas you have to sell the benefits explicitly because most people don't.

It's the difference as she says between "a camera with xyz features" and "a camera that lets you take photos like THIS"
Permalink Send private email Colm 
May 18th, 2010 6:44pm
s/benefits are implicit/benefits are implicitly obvious
Permalink Send private email Colm 
May 18th, 2010 6:44pm
I have a bit more patience than Hubble - I watched the video up to about the 29 minute mark.

It's easy to parody this sort of thing (IE, lorb) without seeing it laid out first.

I think that I understand her reasoning so far into the video and much of it makes sense. Unfortunately, all I can get out of it is that this lecture is targeted for web developers and social media types who are trying to attract users with no particular "value add". Sierra seems to be saying that you must determine what it will take to entice, fascinate, re-program, or improve your end user - this is what can make you successful at your site (I guess.) In other words it is about basing your business upon hacking masses of potential users.

My criticism of this is as follows.

First - most businesses, even lighter than air Web 2.0 shops, are based upon economic survival - the very bottom of the Maslow pyramid of psychological motivation. Kathy Sierra is telling you about operating in the stratosphere 10^3 meters above the apex of that pyramid where you are surviving at the base.

In other words it comes off as very ethereal, feel-good bullshit that I find it really difficult to believe that anyone can actually implement in real life. 

Secondly - I seriously, really question whether anyone who attends or who watches the video actually *does* anything with this material IRL. It comes off sort of like "Chicken Soup for the Social Web Developer's Soul" - it's feelgood stuff that lulls you into a trance. You nod along.. oh, yes, be awesome... oh, right, users key on faces.. users key on stories. Now, go back to your job designing a web site for an industrial grommet manufacturer while all the cool people who aren't you are are out there developing brilliant mind-melds with the mass population.

Rather than feel uncool, stupid and unaccomplished, which I really think is the objective here - I think the right thing to do - for me, anyway - is to completely ignore this sort of circle jerk fodder and focus on my "knitting."
Permalink Send private email Garibaldi loves pepperoni 
May 18th, 2010 10:51pm
>Plus the whole mISV phenomenon, headed
>by Joel, Bingo Guy, Table Plan Guy, Bob Walsh

Yeah that's one big circle jerk over there.

Bob Walsh is the guy that makes me laugh.  At least the other guys have created something; regardless of how small or niche-y, they all have products.  I remember Bob as Safari Software, selling a mediocre ToDo list program that never really took off.  People were heaping serious adulation on this program so I tried it too.  It was okay, I guess, but I could never reconcile the lavish praise with the software itself, it just wasn't *that* good. Plus it was the most sluggish program I'd ever seen in my life, even poorly-written Java apps were ridiculing it.

All of a sudden this guy starts offering his services as a professional startup consultant.  I giggled at the fact that he had no track record, couldn't even get his own company off the ground, yet he was offering to launch struggling mISVs into the stratosphere.  Long story short, I fell out of my chair watching the BoS posters start frothing at the mouth.  Shortly thereafter, posters started referring to him as an "expert" and a "guru".  That's when I realized the whole B0S mythos was a crock.  Apparently, to become a guru, all you have to do is start telling people that you are one and then sit back and wait for the fawning to begin.
Permalink Here We Go Again... 
May 19th, 2010 12:48am
Great synopsis on the principal players.

>> Apparently, to become a guru, all you have to do is start telling people that you are one and then sit back and wait for the fawning to begin.

Excellent observation and that is correct. That is exactly why there are so many mini-gurus popping up in different industries and niches advising people on creating a new freelance career in "whatever". It's great work if you can find it. But really, almost anyone with decent writing skills can do it. You just need the ego to make the claims.

All you need to do is to consistently assert that you're an expert. Eventually it will take hold.
Permalink Send private email Bored Bystander 
May 19th, 2010 1:26am
"Chicken Soup for the Social Web Developer's Soul" - it's feelgood stuff that lulls you into a trance. You nod along.. oh, yes, be awesome... oh, right, users key on faces.. users key on story"

This.

There's a fair amount of research that reducing to method and slogan, EG "The story is everything" in Hollywood or "Quality is Job One!" - saying those slogans allows you to trick your brain into thinking you are doing something, thus allowing you to not change.

This is why you can go to any shop producing trash remakes in Hollywood and hear "The story is everything", or why you can go to any software firm making garbage and have managers say "Quality is job one" and three minutes later "I don't care, it needs to ship Friday."

So the slogan was cool, and maybe accurate, but I think to incite create long-term sustainable, meaningful change you need to provide more than that.
Permalink HoyZa 
May 19th, 2010 8:32am
>> saying those slogans allows you to trick your brain into thinking you are doing something, thus allowing you to not change.

In other words they're just entertainment.

Every really shitty company that I've worked with has had slogans and manifestos and fealty to some thought leader.
Permalink Send private email Bored Bystander 
May 19th, 2010 12:25pm
Geez - thought of something else - this is exactly what motivational posters indicate. The same level and type of "be better" aphorisms.
Permalink Send private email Bored Bystander 
May 19th, 2010 12:39pm
Since losing my job at Sun in 2001, I have made my living entirely based on sales of products I have designed and created. (I don't take fees--ever--for speaking or consulting) If what I do does not work for my users, I don't eat.

How interesting, though, that a group of programmers would find it difficult to view my talk from a logical perspective, preferring instead to react so emotionally. I have found over and over again that the people who find this the most difficult to accept are those heavily invested in the idea of success == luck (or some other aspect beyond your control). I get that... it lets them off the hook when a product/service/website/book fails to interest and sustain enough people. I just don't agree.

As to the "chicken soup / feel-good slogan / not applicable in real life" notion, the Head First series has sold over a million copies (all post-dot-com-bust) and has been one of the most *profitable* that O'Reilly has ever had, measured in many many many millions of US dollars. The fact that the series format is *severely* flawed, cringe-worthy, not scalable, easy to do badly and hard to do well (and that I'm a crap writer) gives me even more reason to believe that a "passionate users / kicking ass" formula is robust enough to work *in spite* of all the mistakes I made in this one of a zillion possible implementations. In other words, even with all those issues -- it STILL does a better job at helping users actually learn and DO something than most (for some topics, ALL) of the competition.

When people challenged and dismissed these principles the first time I started talking about them, I decided to try to prove it again in a blog -- which within two years became a Technorati Top 50 blog, at the time that ranking still *meant* something substantial. And the original programming community I started in 1997 using these SAME principles (though I stopped running it myself years ago) still has nearly a million unique visitors a month, won several Jolt Cola Software Development Awards, etc. back when *that* still meant something.

So, diss them as you will -- these principles exist regardless of how you *feel* about them. The most challenging part for most tech geeks, though, is getting their ego out of the way, and that -- unfortunately -- is the prereq.

And you refer to this as a "slim" distinction? When people actively work at this, they often change at least 50% of their product design (or something in the eco system around the product). In tech books, for example, this means a radical shift in the TOC -- removing the 200 pages of content designed to make the *author* look good, and inserting 200 pages designed to make the *reader* good.

In software, it often means a radical shift in the quantity and/or type of features (and often a big shift in end-user docs and/or support). But it takes "balls" to quit chasing your competitors, and it takes humility to quit seeking the attention of people talking about YOU and YOUR AWESOME PRODUCT.

I am a programmer. I tend to trust data points and research over ad-hock reckoning. But we're all free to have our opinions and share them with abandon. But unlike many, I don't personally have the luxury of ad-hoc reckoning or trusting in "feelings"... I need useful data and sustained sales if I'm to pay the rent.

Regardless, I've learned a lot from the discussion here, and I appreciate that it's all been respectful-- especially the criticism. Without criticism, I'd never learn, grow, or improve. I hope you take my responses here in the same spirit. So, thank-you.
Permalink Send private email kathy sierra 
May 19th, 2010 12:49pm
Kathy, do you track statistics on the proportion of attendees who implement your advice successfully? I think that's a key metric here.
Permalink Send private email Bored Bystander 
May 19th, 2010 1:06pm
"And you refer to this as a "slim" distinction? When people actively work at this, they often change at least 50% of their product design (or something in the eco system around the product). In tech books, for example, this means a radical shift in the TOC -- removing the 200 pages of content designed to make the *author* look good, and inserting 200 pages designed to make the *reader* good."

Well said -- perhaps I turned off the video too early, because if you'd said something like this, it would have made a LOT more sense to me.

And probably your audience of high-powered high-ego uber-developers needed this message wrapped in nice euphemisms.  And don't get me wrong, a nice euphemism (or a good example) is a hugely valuable thing to have and be able to express.

Just because I couldn't appreciate the message where *I* am, doesn't mean there's not a lot of people who needed that message.  Thank you for your response.
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
May 19th, 2010 1:13pm
"do you track statistics on the proportion of attendees who implement your advice successfully? I think that's a key metric here."

Agree it's a key metric if you're measuring the benefits of a conferece, but since it's not how I make my living, it's not something I track. I have plenty of anecdotes, of course, but nothing I'd consider trustworthy. From purely a "feeling" perspective now, my sense is that almost *nobody* implements this advice after listening to a 50-minute talk.

But I don't consider most conference talks all that actionable when taken as a one-off. Now this is purely MY ad-hoc reckoning: the benefit of most conference talks like mine (or blog posts, etc.) comes when taken in aggregate. That could take many forms: hearing the same thing from a wide range of perspectives/speakers all sharing some underlying core, or perhaps just hearing the SAME thing enough times in enough contexts that something finally clicks, etc.

As I said, though, I have plenty of anecdotes -- every single day I hear from someone who tells me they've been trying to do something with what they feel they learned.

I am not capable of changing anyone's mind or behavior with a single one hour talk. And to evaluate any individual talk at a conference is to take it partly out of context. Not that it's not a valid discussion/evaluation... but it's not the whole picture.

I've been attending tech conferences since the late 80's. Personally, I learn more from seeing patterns in the whole of a single event or even a year's worth of events as I do from any single talk. For example, we might ask, what's the subtext that all these talks share? What are the talks with standing room only vs. the poorly attended talks? Or for me, I used to follow/stalk Jeff Bezos around the conference hall and then speculate, "Now why did he pick THIS talk to attend?"
Permalink Send private email kathy sierra 
May 19th, 2010 1:39pm
@savethehubble
You just pinpointed what I now consider a huge screwup in my talk. In previous talks, I've been more specific and careful about examples, but here I was sloppy and also made bad assumptions about the audience's prior knowledge of my earlier talks.
Thanks for the reminder/kick.
Permalink Send private email kathy sierra 
May 19th, 2010 1:45pm
>> but since it's not how I make my living,

This is key. I was talking about the actual benefit to an attendee.

I watched your presentation closely, which was fantastic. I want to give presentations like that when I grow up. :)

But in the end analysis it's 1) entertainment and 2) a social event. This is more or less what you're admitting.

Not bad things. But self employed people (like me, like BoS attendees) need to be mindful about spending resources and time in activities that aren't fruitful to their economic survival.

Leisure, being inspired, and commisseration with others in the same boat are worthwhile activities.

But when it's all said and done this appears to be entertainment for a certain niche of self employed type, pure and simple.

>> what's the subtext that all these talks share? What are the talks with standing room only vs. the poorly attended talks? Or for me, I used to follow/stalk Jeff Bezos around the conference hall and then speculate, "Now why did he pick THIS talk to attend?"

Being social and following a group has never gotten me business. Usually I'm just around a bunch of other pack animals trying to emulate success that isn't accessible in that way.
Permalink Send private email Bored Bystander 
May 19th, 2010 1:47pm
(I'm responding with the same post in both threads on this topic.)

Bored asked if she tracks metrics for who has adopted the advice and succeeded, knowing she doesn't because no author does, and also that that was a good propaganda tactic to cast doubt on her methodology even though the question was irrelevant since it equally applied to all other books without this data.

Besides, studies are useless in this industry. Every study on the subject shows that one of the least expensive and most effective way to improve productivity and quality is to give every programmer a private office with sufficient square footage, a door that closes, and a telephone that can be disconnected. Yet every time this data is cited, we have the same response. Productive programmers say "yep" and the rest say "those studies are wrong. I work in a bullpen on the stock trading floor where it is louder than working on the runway next to jet engines, and I am perfectly productive. Also, all the stock market problems are not MY fault, that was some other guy".

But still, to answer the question in a tiny way, here's one of the many ways that I as a programmer found Kathy's design advice useful.

I've reorganized the customer manual from being a list of features, describing each feature, to a list of tutorials, showing how to do things. The list of features is still there as a reference and the tutorials link to them constantly. But it's the tutorials that the customers like the best. Both written ones with lots of screenshots, and video tutorials that show in real time exactly what can be done and how to do it.

Kathy's advice made sense. So did Joel's UI advice back when he wrote about such things. I have found the two of them to be two of the only contemporary tech writers that aren't full of shit, who provide useful advice. Just think about Joel's advice on Options/Preferences windows. He points out that they become obese because programmers don't want to make a decision. "Should this button be red or blue? I don't know so I'll make it an option." Then you have giant options windows with dozens of tabbed panels each with 30 options and it's hopeless for any user to understand any of it. That is not producing a kicking ass customer! That is producing a frustrated customer that feels stupid because he can't figure out where the fuck to set the margins.
Permalink Scott 
May 19th, 2010 1:58pm
"I've reorganized the customer manual from being a list of features, describing each feature, to a list of tutorials, showing how to do things."

I learned this distinction in two ways: First by learning PC-DOS and basic using the IBM 3-ring binders in the early 1980's, the noticing that same effect in the 1990's reading the WROX press red books. "Hey, wait, this is telling me all about the command except how to use it!" :-)

I felt the most pain of WROX books trying to figure out a connection string for OLE DB or ODBC.  "dude, I just want to connect to an access database and I know the exact name a directory - what do I type?" and the book says:

db.connect flags, type, string

flag - Set of connection flags

type - type of connection

string - connectionstring

ARG! :-)
Permalink HoyZa 
May 19th, 2010 2:04pm
I meant to say above "Agreed.  Personally, this distinction hit home for me when ..."
Permalink HoyZa 
May 19th, 2010 2:06pm
Also, I am not saying this just because she is a hot babe. Kathy and Joel are the two modern tech writers whose advice has been the most useful to me.

That's not to say they are the best or most concise writers (although they are probably the most funny), just the most useful.

Older stuff, the K&R is my example of best tech writing. Not funny at all, but very very concise and well organized.

That segues to: The Heads First books are kind of the opposite of this. I appreciate their concept a lot, but some of them go off on tangents and end up taking so much time to explain some simple concept with funny drawings that have been selected by a committee or something that I just can't maintain focus. Recently reviewed the "Heads First Algebra" for example. Good concept, but takes too much time to get to the point, and then dumps questions on the student that he/she can't answer with the lead up since it had no concrete examples worked out or things laid out explicitly. It's still a very good attempt though and not awful like a lot of other tech book series, and the lateral move into the secondary school market is interesting. I think the idea on these books is right, but needs better execution and writers for some of them, and editing to remove a lot of the extraneous jokes that are completely irrelevant and a big distraction to following the chain of reasoning being laid out.
Permalink Scott 
May 19th, 2010 2:07pm
@boredbystander "I was talking about the actual benefit to an attendee."  Totally agree.

"But in the end analysis it's 1) entertainment and 2) a social event. This is more or less what you're admitting."

DISAGREE!! Or at least, that's not *at all* how I see it, so if I gave that impression, my bad.

I believe as attendees, readers, participants, etc. we make changes or actually DO something useful based on learning things in aggregate, not based exclusively on any single presentation or post. But I still believe it IS about the learning, NOT the socializing.

But I do not attend the parties, the 'after-hours' activities, or socialize at conferences whether as speaker or attendee, so I can't really speak to those benefits.

"Being social and following a group has never gotten me business."

Totally agree. I make a HUGE distinction (personally) between "following" vs. "trying to discern patterns." Part of how I make my living depends on finding out what people consider difficult and painful.
Permalink Send private email kathy sierra 
May 19th, 2010 2:20pm
>I've reorganized the customer manual from being a list of features, describing each feature, to a list of tutorials, showing how to do things...

I've been trying to get our product docs into task-oriented documentation for years [1]. The majority of our tech support calls prior to this year [2] are things that could have been answered from RTFM, and are basically a narrative by the tech support guy how to do X. If our managers had to spend a couple days answering tech support calls - instead of doing lunch with the execs who buy our stuff - they'd realize that a lot of changes need to be made.


Notes:
1 - The boss says "that's the way we've always done it" and therefore we've got to make buggy whips for dinosaurs. 
2 - This year, the idiot bosses have been promising features that need 2x our staff to fulfil, so we've been working 50-70 hour work weeks non stop for 6 months. His idea of a vacation is to take a monday off if and only if we've worked the previous Saturday. Job interview this afternoon, we'll see how it goes.
Permalink Peter 
May 19th, 2010 2:58pm
"In tech books, for example, this means a radical shift in the TOC -- removing the 200 pages of content designed to make the *author* look good, and inserting 200 pages designed to make the *reader* good."

This is exactly the problem I have with most of the mathematics articles in Wikipedia. I've stopped reading them now, since they are clearly designed to polish the self-inflated ego of the author and have little pedagogical value.
Permalink Q 
May 19th, 2010 3:38pm
Everyone in the seminar business knows that there are seminar junkies who just like the 'feel good' aspects of seminars, but don't ever do anything with the knowledge they get at the seminars. They account for the vast bulk of seminar attendees.

For those who actually put the iron in the fire and DO something, seminars can be a useful tool for gaining new insights into how to do their jobs better.

For everyone else, it's a fun diversion.
Permalink Half name 
May 19th, 2010 4:23pm

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