2. Creating Passionate Users: The importance of seduction and curiosity

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"The importance of seduction and curiosity" is another great entry from one of my favorite blogs, Creating Passionate Users. Kathy Sierra writes:

Part of creating passionate users starts with building curiosity. Inspire them to want to learn, know, and do more.

I love making people curious about things, whether it's Emacs, Planner, computer science, or even far-out stuff like street performance.

Kathy Sierra gives these tips:

  1. Be passionately curious yourself.
  2. Be seductive.
  3. Make them curious by doing something unusual, without an obvious explanation.
  4. Offer a puzzle or interesting question... without giving them the solution.
Be passionately curious yourself. Heck yeah. I love learning about things. When people give me feedback on my talk, the first thing that usually comes to their mind is my enthusiasm for the topic. Even when I can't go into a lot of detail about something like Squeak, they pick up on the fact that I think it's really interesting and something worth being curious about. Be seductive. I often do my Planner help that way when the person I'm talking to expresses interest in learning Lisp. I'll take them partway to a solution and leave enough for them to figure things out. Even with the hacks we put together for Planner, there's always that tantalizing glimpse of what _else_ could be possible. Make them curious by doing something unusual, without an obvious explanation. This is why I've taken to starting my Knoppix presentations with a Windows display. ;) Offer a puzzle or interesting question... without giving them the solution. Oooh, still have to figure out how to do this one properly.


私は1匹の黒猫がその家へ走り込むのを見た。 I saw a black cat run into the house.

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3. Paul Lussier on possible Planner Linux Journal article

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I just started getting you blog via rss yesterday, and just read the discussion you had over writing an article on planner. I just wanted to say that I think that is an AWESOME idea.

As Travis mentioned in the discussion, I too, have become totally adicted to using planner (which, ironically, helps me procrasinate from doing the stuff I need to, but "planning" it :)

There were a couple of points you mentioned that I'd like to touch on, and share my experiences with emacs-wiki, planner, the community, etc. Perhaps it's something you can use in your articles, perhaps not, but I'd like to share it with you nonetheless :)

  <sachac> We're sitting on something cool here. We're sitting on a
           software project crazy enough to interest people who
           ordinarily wouldn't consider Emacs.

I think this is a fantastic observation. My own experience isn't too far off. I started using emacs over 10 years ago. But it was "just a powerful editor". I used it for the obvious things writing perl/shell code because I just liked the font-lock colors. And I used it for somewhat less obvious things like the column/rectangle manipulation which comes in *real* handy for dealing with things like large /etc/hosts or DNS zone tables which are all column oriented data. I had hacked a few functions of things I found useful, but maintained a rather small .emacs file.

About a year ago, my manager was gone for 6 weeks (boy was that nice :) She and I didnt' get along overly well, but the guy who stood in for her I got along with quite well. He happened to be a project manager, who has had MS Project surgically implanted :) I needed something I could keep track of things with. I found etask, but then saw emacs-wiki and planner. This seemed a more natural way of planning.

As I started in using planner and emacs-wiki, I very quickly became addicted. This was almost literally, an overnight conversion of my life. I no sooner started using emacs-wiki/planner, than I found myself using erc. Reading johnw's README for planner led me to his site, where I discovered ledger (John's unbelievably powerful financial app.) and eshell. Then came (in no specific order) w3m, muse, remember, bbdb, and last, but not least, gnus. The last three are significant. I had been mostly happy with my prior e-mail environment of an mh-backend based e-mail solution for the better part of a decade. But there was no way I could hook that in to planner, and after a several months of resistance, I attempted the switch to mh-e which, as you may remember, didn't go so well :) So, now I'm on gnus, and almost every facet of my life is now hooked into emacs. I've learned more about emacs and lisp in the past year than I have in the past 10 years.

A more profound observation is this:

  <sachac> Heck, we're even getting non-programmers into Lisp.

I wouldn't consider myself a non-programmer, but I'm not a programmer either. I've got a degree in CS, and know my way around C a little bit, but my strengths, as a sysadmin, are really in perl. I love perl, think in perl, and can solve almost all my problems in perl. All except the hacks I want added into planner :) As a result of planner though, I've felt very much at a loss. The ability to contribute is so obviously there and within my reach, but the capability not so much. I can plainly see that if I could think in lisp, I could contribute to planner, but the stumbling block is my thought process, which is wired to think in perl. As a result, planner has inspired me to begin learning lisp, merely to be able to help myself, and others through what contributions to planner I may someday come up with. I learned perl out of necessity because it was better for the job I needed to do at the time. I'm learning lisp out of love of an application written in it, and a desire to help make it better :)

Then there's this:

  <sachac> - We don't hide the Lisp code. It's there. Newbies get
           exposed to it. The way we deal with it, though, is by asking
           people to describe--in English--what they want to do--their
           dream PIM--and more experienced people would give them
           snippets of code and tips for making it happen.

This has been instrumental for me. To be able say "when I do X, I want Y to happen", and have that feature within minutes (or seconds!) available to me is astounding. The hack you presented for getting remember to know when it was on a task and create a related note, while I don't understand it yet, works superbly! That I could ask for that feature, and you could provide it is both a testament to how easy it is to extend planner and to how welcoming the community is of requests and features that may not be immediately useful to anyne else but the requestor (err, have I mentioned how much hippie-expand ROCKS lately ;)

  <travisbhartwell> Yes.  But was this growth conscious?

This is a great question. And I think the answer is twofold. Did johnw intend to create such a vibrant community around planner? No, I don't think so. He was scratching a personal itch. Did you intend/expect this to explode the way it has, or did you plan it? I don't think so. In retrospect though, I think we could say that it was inevitable given your personality, love of people, and desire to help/teach others. Those who actively reach out, soon find themselves surrounded by others of like quality. Once you realized there was a community growing though, I think it became very much a conscious thought as to how to grow the community, and how to get planner to fit as many people's habits as possible. The open acceptance of hacking the code to custom fit anyone who happened to be interested is the obvious way to do that. Planner's design which allows people to choose from a menu of features, and to start out extremely simple and build up slowly is also very much a factor in why the community has evolved the way it has.

Planner seems to have created friendships and acquaintances across a diverse set of individuals. Some of us are #emacs, some are on the mailing list, and some are on both. A few of us see each other in other IRC channels as well (of course, the common link is johnw, which is why I think we should really create #johnw :) Regardless, planner has definitely had quite an impact on a lot of people, and I don't see that ending any time soon!

I guess that's it. I'm beginning to ramble now :) I just wanted to share that with you, and wish you luck on the forthcoming articles for LJ. I'll certainly be eagerly awaiting those issues!

Oh, and if there's any help I can provide for the articles, I'd be happy to assist.

E-Mail from Paul Lussier

隣人は4人姉妹と猫1匹です。 My neighbors are four sisters and a cat.

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