Ever since I have started writing about enterprise software I have had countless conversations with people about what audience we should appeal to and how the context of stories should be framed. Most of the time these conversations were with people completely removed from the profession, but everyone has an opinion. Everyone has an idea of what the stories should be about, and that is the point I want to make.
Just because someone is removed from a profession, does that mean they have no opinion or vested interest in the matter? Conversely, are we defined by what we do or is that line blurring?
Everyone knows a catchy title and an interesting topic will drive more people to what you are writing about. This is not supposed to be a meta-blog, but I could not help but think that people interested in software are the same as you and me. There is the argument that when reaching out to a broader audience that content needs to be “watered-down.” Having mass appeal does not serve the niche or target audience that you may be looking for. However, people who work in technology companies, law firms, hospitals or any kind of institution still watch the Super bowl, record the latest episodes of American Idol on their DVR, are interested in politics, and have normal lives that extend beyond their professions. At the backbone of it all, it is software and technology that allows people to enjoy many of these “normal” things.
Knowing how it works
It is often said that people do not care about how something works, just as long as it does. In this culture of technological advancements that seems to be less true each day. The number of students receiving science and engineering degrees over the past 15 years has steadily increased. There is much more interest and fascination for how and why technology works than ever before. Everyday someone is trying to figure out how to build the next bigger and better . . . everything.
Techy versus fuzzy
When I was getting my undergraduate degree at Stanford, I was introduced to two terms, or personality types my freshman year: “techy” and “fuzzy.” Techies were students who went into science and engineering fields, while fuzzies tended toward humanities majors. No sooner than you were introduced to the two camps did you feel the urge to pick one. As a naive freshman, that’s what I thought at the time.
What I soon started to notice was in the classroom my peers undeniably had their specialized interests. At a very broad level, humanists like to write and computer scientists like to code. This was the stereotype perpetuated throughout classroom hallways and many liked to think was reality. Everyone wants to be part of some kind of insiders club others do not have access to. However, outside of the classroom it was not like Stanford had a fuzzy dorm and a techie dorm to keep the two schools of thinking separate from each other at all hours. The two “types” of students intermingled and talked about “normal” everyday subjects just like everyone else at dinnertime.
21 year olds have interests that are not all in a textbook, just as you have varied passions. Stanford has even made it a priority to get rid of the divide in the classroom to highlight the cross-disciplinary research available at the school – simply because the dichotomized generalization is not true. Prime example: Andrew Luck, the number one pick of the 2012 NFL draft came out of Stanford with an architectural design degree. I wonder if he ever thinks about the design of the stadiums he is selling out?
I was an English major that now writes for a technology based blog. My throwing arm is not as good as Andrew’s but I have picked up a football before. I am not a fusion of a “techy,” “fuzzy,” and “sporty” having some kind of identity crisis – I am a person with various interests. I have a degree in the humanities, but when I write, read, or watch something dealing with technology, whether it is a blog, commercial, or advertisement, I do not dismiss it and think I was not the intended audience for it. Conversely, my ears do not perk up any more or less when I see an ad related to Shakespeare.
I am sure a person interested in technology also would get a reference from the latest movies or knows who won the Los Angeles Lakers vs. Golden State Warriors game. Did you just miss a potential customer, client, or reader because you did not think about every aspect of him or her? Are we not all just ordinary people?