User-Centered Doneness

Spring break* is over, we're halfway done with the semester, and my time in SDM is already 1/8 completed. If I'm 8x more knowledgeable next May, I'll be unstoppable. (Sadly, diminishing returns means that this is unlikely.)

I'm already done with one class, "User-Centered Design in the Internet Age" taught by Eric von Hippel. It consists mostly of ideas you could get by reading Slashdot for a few years, but backed by academic rigor instead of uninformed speculation. It's good to see that open platforms, user-driven innovation, and free sharing do have a place in a world of hard-headed analysis, ROI, and NPV. Open source: it's not just for ideologs anymore. (I liked that von hippel believes his own talk: he released his book creative commons!)

It was good to see corporate/military types who thought that open source is for unwashed hippie hackers realize that the spirit of open innovation could work for them. But if I had to improve the content of the class, I would suggest that we look more at where the user-centered approach fails and why. These techniques are great in some places, disastrous in others, and hard to quantify elsewhere. How deep should an organization go?

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