Björn Balasz – The problem of representativity, challenges of user centred work in FLOSS projects.

Björn discusses some of the issues he sees in open source design work and will propose a way to fix.

You want to create great products? Then focus on your users. Problem is there is no one single typical user to make happy. There are many different people with different expectations. So you can’t ask them directly. Instead we introduce an abstraction in the form of personas and other artefacts (vision pieces, testing results, style guides). These abstractions are necessary because otherwise you’d be solving a problem with too many variables.

What’s the problem in open source here? There is no research data on the users! If you don’t know who your users are, you can’t abstract them into personas and thus you cannot create an optimised product for them.

An idea for a solution. Because IRC, bug trackers are not the right tools for taking care of your relationships with your users.

Introducing User Relationship Management.

You need to seduce people to participate in improving open source software. What if your software would actively thank you for using it and provide a link to find out why you are thanked. This would start a quick survey that asks people to rate the software. A quick initial round of feedback is achieved.

Offer adequate options for participation. After the first single input feedback, after some time add another prompt asking to fill out maybe a 5 question survey.

It’s about slowly turning a passive user into an active participant.

There would also have to be a backend to this to analyse and review the input and use it to model your personas and evolve them over time.

Sign user-rights.org and help this become real!