Caution: This really is an editorial and doesn't have much to do with usability. Below is a posting that I submitted to a web development discussion list. The moderator chose not to post it, but I feel that it should be seen by people. Especially folks that design and build web sites. It does a great job at capturing how I feel today. I thought that folks might be interested...
I was wondering if anyone else is starting to feel ill at ease about the work that we do. I personally do a lot of web development work. I regularly conduct usability testing on people so that web sites, and other technology, fit better with humans. I make it a point to stress that good design work yields higher profits, growth, and strategic advantage for our clients.
While these things are acceptable and fit with our social norms, I feel like we are becoming the defense contractors of the new economy. I remember when folks at General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Boeing were getting heat for being baby killers and the like. Will the masses start revolting against us? (I doubt this since most people lap up technology like thirsty dogs.)
In the digital age, however, we are the drivers of the economy. Our designs and developments impact people, often negatively. I just read yet another frightening article at Business Week about how our personal information is stored in database after database, and how this information will be used to stereotype us. As Ward A. Hanson, a marketing professor at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business puts it:
As developers, we are making this happen. Beyond the web, there is also the fact that we seem to be driving ourselves to extinction with our technology. Recently, Bill Joy of Sun Microsystems wrote an article for Wired about this very topic. It is long, interesting article and one that I have forwarded to many people. It scares the hell out of me.
I suppose that I am just waking up to some things. We really are becoming a heavily wired world. Here is another article posted on Fool.com (yes, that ever popular financial web site) that fits here. In the article, The Rushing of America, Jeff Fisher has some great (but frightening) comments:
So my question, or rather my comment, is that I am starting to really feel the burn for my efforts. I love technology and the web but I am uncertain as to what the real goal is. If it is greed, I want to rethink how I conduct my affairs. If it is for the greater corporate glory, I don't want that either.
How do you feel about your work? Tell me that you think it is fun yet benign. I want to get back to my development and testing...
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