As the meme turns…

The ripple continues to spread outward. Something usually causes a ripple and for the current iteration of the meme I trace it all back to Togs’s call last summer for interaction designers to lift themselves up and create their own world.

From that point on I began reading a lot of articles, posts, and listservs on the following overall topics: “Who are we?” “What do we do to live, thrive, and survive?” “Who’s in charge here?”

The last in the list is the underlying topic found in Molly Holzschlag‘s recent article on integrated Web design. The essence of the article is a light sampling of the pros and cons of “punditry versus people” that ends with a call to find a balance between the two. If you are smart, you might be saying, “Duh…” to yourself right now.

Punditry (or Guru-ness, or nana-nana-nana-nana-nana-nana-nana-nana-Leader!) is an inescapable byproduct of any field of work. Pundits usually rise from the ranks of the People to become the authorities on everything under the sun, regardless if they continue to do the research they did when they were a People. When Pundits get wealthy enough, they usually have People working for them, however the Pundit still drives what is researched.

But that’s where the line is drawn for punditry: Pundits (generally speaking) do not give you the information that led them to make a claim. And as Molly’s article points out, “The punditry approach requires less work for the less-experienced or motivated learner who will follow the rules set out by the authority—and not necessarily question that authority.” Questioning authority is always good. It’s one of my hobbies. But we can question most of the authorities on design and usability today and not get any information other than a link to buy their book. If you do get information, it will be different depending on which authority you talk to, even when the topic remains the same.

I put myself somewhere along the balance line. Hence, I sherp. I speak like a pundit, “The pundit will be concept-driven. He or she will teach concepts that may or may not have come from experience.” But, I also (try to) offer information for further edification (learnin’), “This is the ‘people’ part of the equation, and the job of the usability specialist in this approach is to study his or her audiences very closely and understand the needs of the individuals within the audience.”

I will leave it up to you, dear reader. It’s always good to stir up the pot now and again. I highly recommend questioning all authority. But, for a little while anyway, can we all just get back to work?

Making the Web a safer place, one hyperlink at a time.