Ethically bankrupt personas?

One reason I leave my phone number on my blog is so people and friends can call and tell me why they think something is worth paying attention to.

Sam Gentile just called.

I listen when he calls. He's a talented and influential software developer.

What did he call about? Scott Bellware's essay on "Mort or Elvis: A Question for a Bygone Era."

Sam called this the best post of the year on his blog.

I think Sam expected me to defend our developer personas. I won't. Something bothers me about them too. Not the least of which is that I am not even skilled enough to be a Mort. A sub-Mort, if you will. The names sound too elitist. And they are.

It's time to get rid of them. Good call Sam and Scott.

That doesn't mean, by the way, that personas aren't a valuable way to force you to think about your customers and the roles that they play. But these just don't work anymore and the names are horrible.

Yet another example of how naming matters.

22 thoughts on “Ethically bankrupt personas?

  1. I have to admit I’ve only skimmed the essay.

    One point I’d like to point out is that personas are best used as a way for marketing to communicate sterotypical users to the software designers and developers. I suppose the outbound marketing team might get some use out of it. However, they should be an internal document. Promoting a piece of software as being for “Mort” is crazy.

    These personas are supposed to be sterotypes. No one likes to be sterotyped. However, they are useful in focusing efforts on what the user wants. These personas may be dated, but the big mistake is to use them publicly.

    Like

  2. I have to admit I’ve only skimmed the essay.

    One point I’d like to point out is that personas are best used as a way for marketing to communicate sterotypical users to the software designers and developers. I suppose the outbound marketing team might get some use out of it. However, they should be an internal document. Promoting a piece of software as being for “Mort” is crazy.

    These personas are supposed to be sterotypes. No one likes to be sterotyped. However, they are useful in focusing efforts on what the user wants. These personas may be dated, but the big mistake is to use them publicly.

    Like

  3. Google Quote of the Day:

    “If we were to wake up some morning and find that everyone was the same race, creed and color, we would find some other cause for prejudice by noon.”
    – George Aiken

    “Persona” is just a euphemism for “stereotype.”

    I’m not sure if you even need to ask whether they’re ethically bankrupt. You can ask yourself whether they’re practical.

    The world is a complicated, messy place, so we invent stereotypes and put things into categories. It’s something humans apparently do. The problem is that once you mistake your categories for the Real World, you’re effectively blind to all the things that don’t fit your stereotypes, that don’t neatly go into your categories. If you are sorting rocks, and you have one bucket for black rocks and one bucket for white rocks, what do you do with a gray rock? Can you even *recognize* that it’s a gray rock if you don’t have a word for “gray?”

    That’s usually when your competitor comes along and starts selling a bucket for holding gray rocks and puts you out of business — because you were too busy trying to make the world fit into your neat and tidy categories.

    Think about the customer? Always. Think about stereotyping your customer? Know when to quit.

    Like

  4. Google Quote of the Day:

    “If we were to wake up some morning and find that everyone was the same race, creed and color, we would find some other cause for prejudice by noon.”
    – George Aiken

    “Persona” is just a euphemism for “stereotype.”

    I’m not sure if you even need to ask whether they’re ethically bankrupt. You can ask yourself whether they’re practical.

    The world is a complicated, messy place, so we invent stereotypes and put things into categories. It’s something humans apparently do. The problem is that once you mistake your categories for the Real World, you’re effectively blind to all the things that don’t fit your stereotypes, that don’t neatly go into your categories. If you are sorting rocks, and you have one bucket for black rocks and one bucket for white rocks, what do you do with a gray rock? Can you even *recognize* that it’s a gray rock if you don’t have a word for “gray?”

    That’s usually when your competitor comes along and starts selling a bucket for holding gray rocks and puts you out of business — because you were too busy trying to make the world fit into your neat and tidy categories.

    Think about the customer? Always. Think about stereotyping your customer? Know when to quit.

    Like

  5. Have you noticed lately that there seems to be a lot of smilies here and there on wordpress blogs. They never used to be there before. I found one right below the ‘c’ in Scobleizer. Has it been put deliberately or is there anything else behind that?

    Like

  6. Have you noticed lately that there seems to be a lot of smilies here and there on wordpress blogs. They never used to be there before. I found one right below the ‘c’ in Scobleizer. Has it been put deliberately or is there anything else behind that?

    Like

  7. I don’t like the personas either. In my opinion, all software developers need to be highly skilled AND focused on what the business needs. There should be no knowledge silos and every developer on the team should be aware of all parts of the code-base. Each developer is unique, but they can be classified as junior or senior, Apprentice, Journeyman or Master.

    Like

  8. I don’t like the personas either. In my opinion, all software developers need to be highly skilled AND focused on what the business needs. There should be no knowledge silos and every developer on the team should be aware of all parts of the code-base. Each developer is unique, but they can be classified as junior or senior, Apprentice, Journeyman or Master.

    Like

  9. I think personas have their place. Specifically, it helps engineers to think of the end user, and who their target audience is. Sure, no one fits a persona 100%. But, each have characteristics in them in which people identify to some extent. I can be an “Einstein” at times, while I can also see “Mort” and “Elvis” in me as well.

    Is it time for “Elvis” to leave the room? No, not as long we remember that Personas are tools: nothing more, nothing less. They help us keep focus on why we’re answering the questions people have, but if we lose sight of that, they’re worthless.

    That all being said, the title of this entry reminds me of possible personas I”ve never contemplated: Hackers, Crackers, and the like. So much for Threat Modeling like a good Programmer.. 😦

    Like

  10. I think personas have their place. Specifically, it helps engineers to think of the end user, and who their target audience is. Sure, no one fits a persona 100%. But, each have characteristics in them in which people identify to some extent. I can be an “Einstein” at times, while I can also see “Mort” and “Elvis” in me as well.

    Is it time for “Elvis” to leave the room? No, not as long we remember that Personas are tools: nothing more, nothing less. They help us keep focus on why we’re answering the questions people have, but if we lose sight of that, they’re worthless.

    That all being said, the title of this entry reminds me of possible personas I”ve never contemplated: Hackers, Crackers, and the like. So much for Threat Modeling like a good Programmer.. 😦

    Like

  11. Scoble, I TRY to have respect for your opinions, but every time I get close to thinking you have a grasp on reality, you go and post something like this. 🙂

    The personas were not developed as part of a marketing campaign. They were not meant as a means to categorize people for recruiting purposes. They are not printed under the names of visitor’s badges at Microsoft to help us better identify who they are. They are not injected into every single conversation and design decision. They do not carry more weight than actual customer feedback. These are simply starting points that help remind us that there are various types of developers who benefit from different features in different ways. Having been around the consulting block long enough, I know that the M/E/E designations are fairly accurate depictions of SOME of the types of developers as a stereotype, but in no way define any single customer to a tee. Take them for what they are, and not for the evil you apparently want them to be.

    Like

  12. Scoble, I TRY to have respect for your opinions, but every time I get close to thinking you have a grasp on reality, you go and post something like this. 🙂

    The personas were not developed as part of a marketing campaign. They were not meant as a means to categorize people for recruiting purposes. They are not printed under the names of visitor’s badges at Microsoft to help us better identify who they are. They are not injected into every single conversation and design decision. They do not carry more weight than actual customer feedback. These are simply starting points that help remind us that there are various types of developers who benefit from different features in different ways. Having been around the consulting block long enough, I know that the M/E/E designations are fairly accurate depictions of SOME of the types of developers as a stereotype, but in no way define any single customer to a tee. Take them for what they are, and not for the evil you apparently want them to be.

    Like

  13. Do you realize how freaky it is to actually BE that persona?

    I actually live on cap hill, snowboard, and do the trance/vis thing.

    C# was literally designed for me. I love it.

    Like

  14. Do you realize how freaky it is to actually BE that persona?

    I actually live on cap hill, snowboard, and do the trance/vis thing.

    C# was literally designed for me. I love it.

    Like

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