Great tool-makers are often not great tool-users, and vice-versa

Per Michael: you probably would rather have Stradivarius make your violin than Joshua Bell, but you’d probably rather hear Joshua Bell play. Each activity—violin-making and violin-playing—requires virtuosic skill and a lifetime of practice. It’s very unlikely to find both abilities in the same person!

Yet Great creative work is usually the product of a single person. This observation creates tension with Effective system design requires insights drawn from serious contexts of use: Groups researching tools for thought need enough capacity to build prototypes suitable for serious work. System designers often aren’t deep enough in an outside discipline to ground their work in their own serious use cases. Domain experts have the opposite problem: Academic software interfaces generally aren’t suitable for serious use.

So: Deep collaborations between tool-makers and tool-users may support insight through making.


Conversation with Michael Nielsen, 2019-10-30

Last updated 2023-07-13.