The rest of the world is not like you

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Highly technical people often have trouble comprehending how non-technical the rest of the world (the Normals) really is. The things we see, discuss, and get excited about simply don’t hold the same sway over everyone else.

A perfect example of this appeared over the weekend with the release of the Apple iPad. Techmeme at one point had 70% of the front page covered in iPad stories. Geeks at BarCamp Orlando who were carrying theirs around were treated with awe. Twitter and blogs were awash with reviews, predictions, and breathless fawning over the device. Online debates over whether the closed nature of the computer was a good thing or a bad thing or if it would attract or drive away consumers. Even the mainstream news covered the release. You’d think that the entire world was caught up in iPad release day frenzy.

But while the Normals were often aware that the iPad was out, they were by no means understanding what it was, never mind discussing how to jailbreak it.

On Saturday evening, while sitting at the airport in Orlando, three different people saw my Kindle and asked if it was an iPad. They had no idea what an iPad was supposed to look like.

One person asked if my laptop was "one of those new Apple things." They knew Apple had released something, but had no idea what it was.

Later in the weekend, a fairly tech savvy person saw me pull my iPhone from my pocket and asked if I planned to upgrade to the new one now that it was out. He thought the iPad was the next revision of the iPhone.

Normal people watch technology from afar. It’s a tool to them, not a way of life. The next time you’re building something that you expect Normals to use, understand they don’t think like you.

Aaron Klein
April 5, 2010 3:17 PM

Very important point for product people. Way too easy to drift from "normal" to "insider" as well as you immerse yourself into a product or industry. Great post.

Dan York
April 6, 2010 1:45 PM

Great reminder, Adam, of the world outside our tech bubble.

David Fenwick
March 2, 2011 3:22 AM

Very sage advice which can be applied to many fields. I was a professional scientist for 20 years. Trying to convey the essence of my work to a non-scientific audience was always challenging - but it was a challenge worth rising to. Communicating new ideas, or the benefits of new technology, benefits us all.

Chris Martin
May 31, 2011 6:21 AM

I would consider myself very Technical, A BA Hons in electronics and Mathematics !, how boring I hear you say !! :). More than that though I love gadgets but take your point sometimes technology seems to be moving at light speed!!. Thanks for sharing, off to look at the new ipad now :)

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