Personas and plogs

A couple of years ago, after I heard Alan Cooper speak about his company's ethnographic approach to interaction design, the word persona first appeared in this blog. Last Friday, "persona" popped up in back-to-back phone interviews, and made me realize that Cooper's formulation of IT stakeholders as characters in a story has become deeply rooted and widespread. The first interview was with Microsoft's Bob Muglia who, in the course of laying out the Windows server roadmap, said this:

Over the last 18 months we've focused on trying to understand the different audiences, or roles, within IT, and how they consume technology. We do this by associating personas with the individual roles.
The second interview was with Forrester's Harley Manning. We were discussing usability testing, and he said this:
What we've been focusing on lately is behavioral segmentation and modeling, typically as represented by a persona -- a one-page front end with a face and a name, and a narrative description of the person's behaviors. We do that to encourage companies to design for a small number of segments about which they are very well informed.

The literary theme continued today, when Roland Piquepaille blogged a Michael Shrage article in that coins the term 'plog' for 'project log' -- a powerful technique that I've used myself and written about.

Persona is an ancient and beautiful word. Plog is a brand-new word that's even uglier (if possible) than blog. But the words don't matter. What's striking is how the art of storytelling -- our instinctive human way of making sense of the world -- has woven itself into the science of information technology.

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