Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Persona Non Grata article is a gift. Really.

A little more on persona's ...

"Bad, bad blogger. It’s been far too long since my last underpants entry. And what jolted me out of my blog lethargy? You guessed it. The ongoing fracas from that Persona Non Grata article in Interactions magazine by Steve Portigal. The one where he says personas suck. And that we should find other ways to communicate what we know about users, like, for example, stories.

Here’s the deal…he’s got a great point, and I actually kinda furiously like the article because it reflects what annoys me about persona efforts (not personas themselves).

Note here that I’ve lately come to believe that people who are annoying are giving you a gift. They are showing you their true colors. It’s up to you whether you believe them and act accordingly (by, like, not working with them or dating-and-trying-to-change-them or whatever) or you choose to ignore the clear signs. I’m not saying that Steve is annoying (though I was annoyed.) I’m saying that, annoying or not, he’s showing us what many people really truly think of personas. Our choice whether we consider this a gift or a large dose of itching powder in some inopportune article of clothing.

And wait a second…I am NOT trying to flame Steve Portigal. He’s actually made things quite fun again. I disagree with him on his conclusions, but I think his is an awesome cautionary tale–it just took me a minute to get over being annoyed so I could realize that. And while I am not trying to flame him, I do think that his argument is terribly flawed, and would like to continue talking about what I think the real issues are (and I think the real issues are around communication inside organizations–see the end of this post for the challenge to Steve to debate this stuff.)

Oh, so here are key sentences in Steve’s last paragraph—and I don’t think I’m taking things out of context, but if I am, then yell at me and I’ll try to fix it:

If [personas are] the best way to have to keep the organization focused on a “real” customer, then we have larger organizational problems that need to be addressed.”

EXACTLY. Most companies totally have really big organizational problems. To me, that’s exactly what personas are helpful at solving…it’s not about using cardboard cutouts. It’s about what’s keeping a bunch of smart people from creating something great, which is usually related to a huge communication problem that makes people think they’re talking to each other when they are really talking past each other."    (Continued via Corporate Underpants)    [Usability Resources]

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