Mozilla Chief R&D Officer on Creating People Focused Tech Products (Part 2)
One of my partner’s product partners has this nice quote that I love, which is that our products are our dialogue with our users. Therefore, you don’t have a dialogue if you’re not listening. So we make sure that we understand what the users are trying to accomplish and that it is something they love. Thus, making sure that we can address all aspects of their digital life.
Sometimes the creation of dialogue requires just listening. I know that sounds obvious and most great product people do that. However, it requires you to look for certain things. You have to listen to how are people using it. How are they thinking about it? What would they care about? This is the ecosystem, from all the stakeholders to the people who are using it. So in cases where there’s a developer ecosystem, you’re listening to developers and cycling that back into the product with our different kinds of end-users.
Going From Product To Business
For everything that we do. The first framing is actually knowing what you’re doing. And one of my first rules, is to understand that a great idea isn’t always a great product, and a great product isn’t always a great business. So what I mean by that is that you might have an idea for a great technology or something like that. However, it might not be addressing a user need. So you want to be really clear on that, who’s user in need you’re addressing?
Art Asks The Question, Design Answers It
There are a lot of discussions in the art and design community about this. But it always seems to me that art is great at asking questions and design is good at answering them. And so you really are answering the user need in design. I’m a big fan of the ideal design thinking process where you’re trying to constantly bringing things in, but you’re always asking questions and trying to answer them. So there’s a little combination of Art and Design, but really design is about answering those questions. Art is great at asking questions.
Voice is kind of fascinating to me because it’s a 100,000 year old technology, in terms of humans first communicating with each other. So currently we are looking at using voice with new products that help us interact with each other. As a result, we are just now getting our computational systems to understand us.
Currently, we end up having to do more work to understand the computational systems, but we really want it to work the other way. So when you look at voice and how it shows up, there are certain cultural differences in terms of awareness of privacy. That is expectations around what happens with voice data. For instance, in the United States and in Europe, you see different expectations about the kinds of voices whether the voices are gendered or not. And sometimes that is not geographic differences. It’s just different societal differences or cohort differences. And of course, the best way to learn about that is to continue to put things in the world to learn from those, but to make sure you listen, not just driving it forward.
About the speaker
Sean is an executive, entrepreneur, inventor, and musician who has spent his career leading innovative development of the experiences, systems, and technologies that enable creative expression, connect us to each other, and enhance our understanding of the world around us. He is currently Chief R&D Officer @ Mozilla. Previously, he cofounded BrightSky Labs, a company he incubated while an EIR at Greylock Partners. Before Greylock Partners, Dr. White founded and built the Interaction Ecologies Group at Nokia, leading multiple innovative efforts in new mobile forms and experiences in the areas of wearables, Internet of Things, and augmented reality. His previous roles include CTO of NeoCarta Ventures, VP of Technology for Lycos, Inc. (acquired by Terra Networks), and CTO of WhoWhere? (acquired by Lycos). Prior to that, Sean was a project lead and member of the research staff at Paul Allen's Interval Research Corporation. He holds Advisory Board positions with Perch and Virtual Workflow, and previously held Advisory Board positions with NY Sun Works, Environmental Defense, Evite, Gravity, and OpenVoice.