My contribution to public radio

When public radio asks listeners for contributions, it's dollars that they're looking for. And sometimes I give those dollars. But in the era of podcasting, why not also contribute audio? I've collaborated before with New Hampshire Public Radio's Jon Greenberg, and when I proposed doing a series of occasional commentaries he agreed. The first of these, based on the experience I described here, aired last night and this morning on NHPR. The audio (with transcript) is available at

These commentaries will replay many of the same themes that I explore here: collaboration, lightweight integration, network effects. I want to reach folks who don't read this blog, but my agenda includes those of you who do. We of the geek tribe face an interesting problem. We can invent just about anything we can imagine, but our imaginations are insufficiently grounded in the needs, expectations, and realities of the people we refer to as "users". Here's Alan Cox, for example, on the inconvenience of having users.

How do we reconcile this (in some ways necessary) perspective with Eric von Hippel's notion, which I take very seriously, that these inconvenient users are in fact a vital source of innovation?

Communication has to flow both ways. People need to be shown, in ways that make sense to them, how the technologies we provide really can solve problems and improve their lives. Much of what we supply goes unused because the bottleneck is on the demand side. I'd like to help raise people's expectations, and thus ratchet up that demand.

More demand will lead to more use of the services we provide. And that, in turn, will create more opportunities for us to observe patterns of use, and to notice and react to the innovations that people produce as they adapt our stuff to their circumstances.

This is an ambitious and maybe quixotic agenda, but it can't hurt to try. And in any case I'll feel good about my contribution to public radio.

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