The person on the other side of the screen

Last week, instead of sharing my own stuff, I emailed my newsletter and asked them two questions:

  1. What are you working on right now?

  2. What's your biggest struggle?

I received hundreds and hundreds of replies. It took me a whole week to answer them all. Each email I received was accompanied by a grinning avatar in Gmail: real people. Instead of me writing for them, they shared with me. Wonderful people, from around the world, who are creating, struggling, dreaming, and hoping.

If all you ever do is push out your own stuff, you're at risk of forgetting that every time we publish, deploy, or tweet we're impacting people around the world: the people on the other side of the screen.

These are real human beings. They have faces, jobs, and stories. They're sitting in offices, or at home in their basement, or on the bus with their mobile phone. Through the magic of technology you released something into the world, and it connected with that person.

We're so used to publishing things into the anonymous void, that we forget that these people have names: Navin, Andrew, Patricia, Katie, Marc, Tom... (those are real people on my mailing list by the way)

There's a huge difference between: "I wonder if this will be popular on the internet?" and "I wonder if this will resonate with Katie."

I worry that the startup culture doesn't have enough empathy for the real people that use our products, read our blog posts, or follow our tweets.

"Thanks for asking about me." – subscriber

The folks using our software (or reading our posts) are trying to get somewhere: they have a problem they're trying to solve, or a dream they're trying to achieve.

Too often we make it about us instead of them:

  • Why aren't people using my software?

  • Why aren't more people signing up?

  • Why aren't more people subscribing?

We need to focus on them, and not just the anonymous blob that is them, but the individuals: Navin, Andrew, Patricia, Katie, Marc, and Tom.

The next time you're about to deploy something, think about a few of the real people who will be reading or using it. Even better: reach out personally. Ask them how they're doing, and how you can help.

Justin Jackson

PS: Part of the inspiration for this post came from this episode on Fizzle. It's a beauty.

Published on August 22nd, 2014
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