Best-practice: Avoid the term "User" in common language #12

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opened 8 months ago by circlebuilder · 1 comments
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Aral Balkan and Laura Kalbag in their Ethical Design, Small Tech and Small Web initiatives advocate an avoidance of the term "User" in any language related to software development.

I tend to agree, and that it is worthwhile to do the exercise to avoid its use.

Rationale being that "user" expresses a dependency relation, like "drug user", an addict. And that software is for people, not users. Also it serves to distinguish from the types of corporate software development where "users" are exploited for max. revenue. Like the so dominant advertising business models in software and the surveillance capitalism that arose from that.

This morning I created a fediverse post about the subject directed to Aral. It is getting interesting responses. In one reply I expressed another thought in reaction to:

@chfkch mentioned: "what is wrong with the term user? I know it is also used for drug users.
If we start removing all words which have a (possibly bad) niche second meaning to them, we will run out of terms quite quickly..."

And I responded:

"I understand and we're using it for many years, right? Yet I feel that by using it there's a subtle psychology at play that leads to a depersonalization of those whom you are building the software for. It becomes easier to forget to address real human needs and become mired in technical concerns.

Guess it works similarly to how in war we refer to "enemy" and never specifically mention groups of people, because they must be anonymous, dehumanized so you'll willing to fight them."

Hence avoiding "User" may well be a humane technology best-practice imho, that allows for a better focus on people and their requirements for the software.

However it also makes documentation a bit harder, sometimes awkward. In iT "user" is used in many places and also in 'official' terminology. Think "User stories" in agile development.

I would like to create a Best Practice page that gives a good rational of avoiding the term, and highlights alternative language use, also for the awkward cases.

Aral Balkan and Laura Kalbag in their Ethical Design, Small Tech and Small Web initiatives advocate an avoidance of the term "User" in any language related to software development. I tend to agree, and that it is worthwhile to do the exercise to avoid its use. Rationale being that "user" expresses a dependency relation, like "drug user", an addict. And that software is for people, not users. Also it serves to distinguish from the types of corporate software development where "users" are exploited for max. revenue. Like the so dominant advertising business models in software and the surveillance capitalism that arose from that. This morning I created a [fediverse post about the subject](https://mastodon.social/@humanetech/107477632485291404) directed to Aral. It is getting interesting responses. In one reply I expressed another thought in reaction to: > [**@chfkch**](https://ruhr.social/@chfkch) mentioned: _"what is wrong with the term user? I know it is also used for drug users. If we start removing all words which have a (possibly bad) niche second meaning to them, we will run out of terms quite quickly..."_ And I responded: > _"I understand and we're using it for many years, right? Yet I feel that by using it there's a subtle psychology at play that leads to a depersonalization of those whom you are building the software for. It becomes easier to forget to address real human needs and become mired in technical concerns._ > >_Guess it works similarly to how in war we refer to "enemy" and never specifically mention groups of people, because they must be anonymous, dehumanized so you'll willing to fight them."_ Hence avoiding "User" may well be a humane technology best-practice imho, that allows for a better focus on people and their requirements for the software. However it also makes documentation a bit harder, sometimes awkward. In iT "user" is used in many places and also in 'official' terminology. Think "User stories" in agile development. I would like to create a Best Practice page that gives a good rational of avoiding the term, and highlights alternative language use, also for the awkward cases.
circlebuilder added the
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The discussion visualized with @Chartodon:

Hierarchy of fediverse discussion

The discussion visualized with [@Chartodon](https://mathstodon.xyz/@Chartodon): ![Hierarchy of fediverse discussion](https://codeberg.org/attachments/75aea8c2-822d-43f2-8a40-c8cb22c48773)
circlebuilder added the
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Reference: SocialCoding/discussion#12
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