After having a call today with a customer, my beliefs on this topic become stronger. Engineers need to be exposed to customers. We need to see who’s buying and using what we build. We need to talk with them - ask questions but also answer theirs. We need to convince them that the product is worth trying and paying for. It needs to be a two way conversation. We outsource the opportunity to prove that our work is valuable, to people that knows less about it than us.
The typical user interview doesn’t cut it, because it puts an imaginary glass panel between the two parties. It’s an unilateral conversation, where we are in the driving seat asking the questions. Often not even driving: we are in the front seat, nodding and paying attention to something else.
It’s like going to a Zoo. We see the species, we observe them, we decide when to leave, we are in control. It’s wrong for the same reasons.