Consider the phrase “Cataloging and coding as applied empathy”. Here are some implications of those six words:
- Catalogers and coders share something: what we build is mainly for use by other people, not ourselves. (Yes, programmers often try to eat our own dogfood, and catalogers tend to be library users, but that’s mostly not what we’re paid for.)
- Consideration of the needs of our users is needed to do our jobs well, and to do right by our users.
- However: we cannot rely on our users to always tell us what to do:
- sometimes they don’t know what it is possible to want;
- sometimes they can’t articulate what they want in a way that lends itself to direct translation to code or taxonomy;
- it is rarely their paid job to tell us what they want, and how to build it.
- Waiting for users to tell exactly us what to do can be a decision… to do nothing. Sometimes doing nothing is the best thing to do; often it’s not.
- Therefore, catalogers and coders need to develop empathy.
- Applied empathy: our catalogs and our software in some sense embody our empathy (or lack thereof).
- Applied empathy: empathy can be a learned skill.
Is “applied empathy” a useful framework for discussing how to serve our users? I don’t know, so I’d like to chat about it. I will be moderating a Mashcat Twitter chat on Thursday, 12 May 2016, at 20:30 UTC (time converter). Do you have questions to suggest? Please add them to the Google doc for this week’s chat.