[pmwiki-users] audiences revisited or revised ???

Patrick R. Michaud pmichaud at pobox.com
Sun Aug 14 12:42:22 CDT 2005

On Sat, Aug 13, 2005 at 11:27:08AM -0700, H. Fox wrote:
> On 8/13/05, Thomas -Balu- Walter <list+pmwiki-users at b-a-l-u.de> wrote:
> > On Mon, Aug 08, 2005 at 02:04:35PM -0500, Patrick R. Michaud wrote:
> > > On Mon, Aug 08, 2005 at 03:31:17PM +1200, John Rankin wrote:
> > > > Another industry that calls its customers 'users' is the drug trade.
> > > >
> > > > FWIW I tend to refer to 'information seekers' rather than 'readers'.
> > >
> > > Hmm, I like "seekers".
> > 
> > They are probably "finders" already.
> > 
> > I don't like this discussion. Here on campus we already call our users
> > customers :-/. Just use the words as they are commonly used.
> Heh.  What once were users are now "customers".  Elsewhere what once
> were customers are now "guests". :-)
> FWIW, I've settled on "visitors" in Qdig documentation and discussion.

I like "visitors", that's very appropriate for Qdig and might work here.

I find that the choice of words is often key to establishing cultures, 
values, and expectations for any organization or product, which is why 
I'm picky about it for PmWiki.  What's more, many highly successful 
organizations agree:

  * Disney employees are all "cast members", and their customers 
    are "guests".
  * Wal-Mart has "associates", not "employees".
  * Southwest Airlines has a "People Department", not "Human Resources".
  * Visitors to libraries are called "patrons".

In "The Experience Economy" (ISBN:0875878192), authors Pine and Gilmore 
make the point that products, services, and organizations all deliver 
some sort of experience to the customer, and this experience is formed
from the words, props, and people employed to stage the experience,
as well as the degree to which those ideas pervade the organizational
systems behind it.

Imagine a bricks-and-mortar establishment (e.g., a bookstore or a
Chamber of Commerce) that calls the people who walk through its doors
"users", and describes its interactions as such.  Ick!  (Although it
would be interesting to hear a loudspeaker announcement that began
with "Attention Wal-Mart users, we now have a special on..."  :-)

But this is exactly what website (and software) designers do when 
they employ a word like "user" to describe the people interacting
with their systems.  System designers often speak of having to
design to "meet the needs of the user", but to me this phrase
is sooooo different when expressed as:

    (word processing)  "meet the needs of the author"
    (spreadsheets)     "meet the needs of the analyst"
    (database)         "meet the needs of the programmer"
                       "meet the needs of the decision maker"

So, I tend to think of things in terms of the "PmWiki experience" 
for its different audiences, and trying to make that total 
experience as positive as I can.


I have some personal reflections about the statement

    "Here on campus we already call our users customers :-/."

None of this is intended as criticisms or negative in any way;
it's just another perspective on things.

Exchanging "user" for "customer" is common in IT departments, but
at my university I would've lobbied strongly against that particular
term.  (I'm somewhat assuming that this is from the perspective of
a University IT department, but my comments work equally well for
other groups.)  While "customer" does imply a service-oriented
perspective for the department, which is good, it also carries
connotations that the customer is not a member of the organization,
and is related to the department primarily through the exchange of 
value and services.  At A&M-Corpus Christi we were very big into 
community and team-building (or at least we were trying to be), 
so it would've been important for IT to recognize that its "users" 
were actually a part of the same organization as the IT
department itself, and "customers" implies a division.

At the university our "users" were in fact "students, faculty, 
staff, and researchers", or more generally "the university 
community".  A staff member or researcher in another department 
isn't a "customer" -- it's a member of our organization (the university)
who is working to fulfill one of our goals and needs our particular
expertise to get there.

(Although it's often fashionable to think of students
as "customers" of a University, I didn't agree with this either -- 
students were integral partners in the university's mission to serve
the people of the state of Texas through increased activity
in building knowledges, arts, and society.  Yes, students pay 
money to receive education and a degree, but everyone who is at a
university "pays" something and "receives" something in return.
Our "product" wasn't degrees or education, it was a richer
society and students who were helped to reach their goals and 



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