a companion discussion area for blog.codinghorror.com

Defending Perpetual Intermediacy


How many things would you classify yourself as "expert" at? I drive to and from work every day, but I hardly consider myself an expert driver. I brush my teeth at least twice every day, and I'm no expert on oral care; just ask my dentist. I use Visual SourceSafe all the time, but I rarely use the more esoteric branching, pinning, and rollback features. I have to look through the help files when I do those things. I am a perpetual intermediate at a vast array of tasks, and expert at only a very, very tiny number of tasks. In The Inmates are Running the Asylum, Alan Cooper makes a similar case for users as perpetual intermediates:

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2004/10/defending-perpetual-intermediacy.html


To continue the discussion we started on my site here: http://drazen.dotlic.name/weblog/archive/2004/10/06/193.aspx
Take a look at “Crossing the Chasm” by Geoffrey A. Moore. Author argues that the market is split into groups in a way similar to Alan Cooper, but his premise (vastly simplified) is that in order to reach more conservative users, you first have to win less conservative ones (and you have to start with visionars/tinkerers, which are what you would call expert users, they are even more hard-core than early adopters).
The only group this author suggest it’s safe to ignore is what he calles “laggards” or hard-core traditionalists, which will never change anything anyway.
It is a very interesting book, if not even eye opening, and I highly recommend it.


The only observation I have, is that the true “expert” users are developers, who may think they are users, but they really aren’t. For example, it is very rare for me to work on a project that has me as an intended user. Usually I’m developing software for people whose work is nothing like mine, people who really don’t care about computers other than as tools to get their work done.

I cover this in more detail here


I am definitely an “expert” user of software, so I see things differently than these users do. I think these are the kinds of expert users Cooper was thinking of-- inappropriate users. Real users would never achieve this level of expertise with software, because they have other things to do!


The link to the Windows Forms example didn’t work for me. This one does: a href="http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/dnforms/html/winforms07202004.asp?frame=truehidetoc=true"http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/dnforms/html/winforms07202004.asp?frame=truehidetoc=true/a


With the Web 2.0 initiative, IUI will not necessary be the only solution available though the concept is still best for the novice to intermediate users.


Updated link for IUI: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms997506.aspx


When I wish to view software from the perspective of intermediate users, I simply remove my eyeglasses and use the mouse with my left hand.

One step further would be to write a tool that will randomly replace a valid click with a double/triple/left/right-click or move the mouse X pixels immediately after a click to simulate a selection/drag.

This imaginary tool combined my self-imposed handicap would effectively simulate my grandfather using a computer.

…much love to my grandfather.


I know this article is old, but why are all of MSDN links dead :frowning: it makes me sad when a decent resource just kill off old links