A talk I gave at XTech08 looking at the psychology behind technology adoption, looking particularly at OpenID and OAuth using RSS as a guide. This is a slightly revised version of the original talk.
How relevant is the data portability of social networks to those who don’t knowingly have an OpenID already? Millions of OpenIDs are deployed but how many are actually used? What about microformats, ever tried explaining why the hCard is a good idea? It makes a smart demo if you have the right plugins installed, but the holy grail of browser adoption may never come for many people.
Defining the problem is the real issue; yes, solving it is hard, but we need to assess whether we are solving the right problems or just satisfying our own curiosity. The psychology of why non-geeks need data portability etc is murky. However understanding the needs of the rest of usHH them will mean these innovations take root.
We live in a small tight circle of people who care about a new beta of Firefox. We are more prone to criticise a website for not being fully buzzword compliant than on its actual merits as a project. We don’t make sites to show off new technologies, we build them for people to use to do something relevant to their lives.
How can we ensure that we include their needs and expectations along side the buzzword tick list? We are no longer building software components which are aimed at other developers, this is no CSS or XHTML. The last mainstream new web technology aimed at the general population was RSS. OpenID, OAuth and their kind are much more social in their impact, we expect people to use their OpenIDs in multiple places, we expect them to allow OAuth to enable access to their data.
Happily, there is already plenty of research into how people understand and process information. It is called psychology. I’ll give an overview of cognitive psychology and how the learning from this subject are can be applied to the kinds of systems we are developing. How people form models of the world, how they handle change. How people setup expectations and what happens when we break these. Come, find out about how the people you are developing for function as individuals and as a group.