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Are you a passionate tech user?

Are you a passionate user of a tech product? I'd really like to know about it for the book!

In the next couple of weeks I'm going to make a few requests for people who have a story to tell about something they're passionate about, and also to ask if you can point me to products/services you think fit the criteria I'm looking for. It's for the "Creating Passionate Users" book (from O'Reilly) that I'm now so behind on I'm surprised the publisher isn't holding my horse hostage. [And a big thanks to my review team that's come back online]

Remember, the definition of "passionate" we're using means that you are always learning, growing, improving in some way related to the tool/product/service OR (more likely) something that the tool lets you do. (For example, you're passionate about your Canon camera because it lets you take great photographs, and you're always trying to get better with your photos--tweaking the manual settings, etc.)

What I'm looking for today is:

1) Anyone who is truly passionate about their Wacom tablet.
Whether you're passionate about the device itself (programming the buttons just so, learning how to push the limits, maybe lusting after (or owning) the Cinteq, etc.) OR (again, more likely) passionate about the kinds of work you're able to do with your tablet that you know you couldn't do otherwise.

2) Anyone who is passionate about any tech product--hardware or software--that is not a game. I'm especially interested in things more associated with productivity or any kind of business work. For example, an Excel user who is constantly pushing to use the tool to do more interesting things with modeling, etc.

3) Anyone who is passionate about a particular non-profit cause or service. Again, I'm looking for things where you are actively involved and always trying to learn and/or do more related to it. Simply being a very strong believer/supporter is not enough... it must be something for which you are continuously learning more and potentially getting more involved.
(p.s. this could include a church, although I'm NOT looking for stories about passion for a religion, but rather a passion for a specific church/organization that you are involved with.)

4) Anyone with a pointer or story to tell about a company (anything other than a game or sport) that provides a great deal of learning support for its users at all levels, whether its through good tutorials, active online support forums, etc.

I'd love to hear from you, and it is entirely up to you if you want your real name in the book--anonymous is just fine, although if you've got a story of your own to tell, I will ask if I can quote you.

Thanks so much guys. Oh yeah, I know that a lot of YOU have products and services and causes that people are passionate about, so don't be shy about self-promoting that to me! If you think it meets the criteria I've listed, please let me know (although I'll ask for a reference to an actual passionate user I can talk to).

I realize this post does NOTHING to help you kick ass, but I appreciate any help you can give me. You can write to me directly -- headrush[at]wickedlysmart[dot]com, or just leave a comment (comment is probably better since it might trigger an idea from someone else).

Posted by Kathy on March 28, 2006 | Permalink


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Hi Kathy,

Don't know if this is any use to you - but we did our first trade show recently to promote our software and found the most effective thing was to teach the user how to use the software right there at the booth -



Posted by: Alexander McCabe | Mar 28, 2006 11:18:37 AM

One idea: Someone who uses and finds new ways to use, continually, and swears by, and is uttly dependant on: Quicksilver

i'm just dependant and swear by it, but i'm sure there's someone out there that reads your blog here...

Posted by: Daniel Nicolas | Mar 28, 2006 11:30:40 AM

I have a quirky passion for the product BeyondCompare (by ScooterSoftware.com). I have a yearly reminder on my calendar titled "Beyond Compare Changed My Life." It was January 13th, 2003 that it clicked for me and I realized just how indispensable this merge/compare tool was for me! I've been evangelising it ever since.

Posted by: Ben Christen | Mar 28, 2006 11:43:39 AM

I am passionate about a new find that has helped my family organization immensely, Airset.

I can't seem to find mentions of this incredible product anywhere and yet I can:

  • synchronize my Palm pilot,
  • my husbands and my cell phones and
  • we can check the calendar online anytime.

This has been the greatest most wonderful blessing. I tried all the other calendaring services and they just didn't work for us. I needed something to synch with my Palm and my husband's outlook.

My kids have their own username on the laptop and I set up their Google startup screen to load up their Gmail account and their calendar and list for Airset.

My daughter and I did a podcast about it from her perspective and blogged about it on the kid blog.

I'm not sure why there aren't any others I can find who really love this service. But it has made my life better!

P.S. I'm not employed by Airset

Posted by: Vicki Davis | Mar 28, 2006 11:50:34 AM

Working for special children. Someone having cerebral palsy or visually impaired. From past one year, time-to-time, as a designer I try to find the solution/s and as a passionate human I work for

Posted by: Paavani | Mar 28, 2006 11:56:53 AM

Hello Kathy,

I'd like to sign up under the Option 2. Not sure if that's what you are looking for, but you could call me a passionate Oracle Applications user. Actually, my blog The Feature (http://itsafeature.com/) is exactly along those same lines: how to get people excited about the software, how to help them learn and use it so that it improves their user experiences and adds value to the business. I also love to write about the big grey area of standard functionality (or the lack of) becoming unintended features and idiosyncrasies under different real-life circumstances, and hence crreating a negative effect on users' passion for and ownership of the applications.

Posted by: Marian Crkon | Mar 28, 2006 12:17:15 PM

I'm passionate about Excel. It's the tool I use to mock up collaborative, data driven, analysis driven applications. The time line from an idea in my head to a usable tool is in the minutes to hours range, and nothing does a better job of unlocking the power of hidden data. Two great features: external queries for data and Pivot Tables.

It's not enterprise, it's not relational, and it's not Web 2.0. It is ubiquitous and comfortable for most business users and helps them move beyond the interface to the information.

(I'm also passionate about my home built PVR: Hauppauge Win-TV PVR 250 and MediaMVP, BeyondTV, and the open source MVPBTV skin.)

Posted by: Joshua Herzig-Marx | Mar 28, 2006 12:34:00 PM

I'm passionate about Vim. I'm passionate and antipassionate about a lot of things but vim is my longest-running and deepest tech passion.

Posted by: Hans | Mar 28, 2006 12:37:02 PM

This might be too far out, but I'm passionate about C++, the STL and gcc. Both Emacs and Vim attract many passionate users, too.

Posted by: Sid Steward | Mar 28, 2006 12:38:56 PM

I'm passionate about Oracle's Database, especially their most recent version (10gR2). There is a steep learning curve to get past the "I suck" phase (its more like an "I didn't know I could do that" phase), but after getting over the hump, there are a sea of tools. I'm especially fond of the times where I've squeezed out massive time savings (sometimes going from > 1 hour to run to 15 seconds) or replaced 100's of lines of code with a 15-20 line sql statement.

On a related note, I think one indication of passion is the number of regularly checked bookmarks. For me, there are about 8 blogs and 3 websites about Oracle that I check daily.

Posted by: bb | Mar 28, 2006 12:51:05 PM

Hi Kathy,

I'm passionate about credit unions, the only non-profit in the financial sector.

Our small team (http://www.trabian.com) builds traditional websites and blogs for credit unions. We created Open Source CU (http://www.opensourcecu.com) almost a year ago to encourage credit unions to connect to their members through online channels.

We love credit unions, and in every CU we work with we see them living out their mission - to provide financial services to the underserved.

They fight predatory payday lenders. They've been doing the P2P lending thing for almost 100 years now. In addition to the websites we build for them, we've been providing local associations (chapters) custom-designed blogs so that credit unions in the same communities can collaborate and share best practices. Banks would NEVER do that!

Posted by: Trey Reeme | Mar 28, 2006 12:55:18 PM

I just wanted to take a second and tell you about the company I work for SubscriberMail. We are a permission-based email marketing company. I think that we fit into what you're looking for in terms of a software product that people are passionate about.

Our company is full of passionate employees and we have a bunch of really passionate users of our product (who I'm sure would be glad to talk to you about their experience with SubscriberMail).

I think your blog is a great resource. Thanks.

Posted by: Kendall Guillemette | Mar 28, 2006 1:11:43 PM

Hiya Kathy...

I'm a passionate user of a piece of $15 Japanese shareware called 'Mobile Atelier'. It's a painting package for use on a Pocket PC, and I do almost all of my drawing on it.

I own an iPAQ 2210 (almost three years old now, with a very scratched screen from all the drawing I do on it). And I've had Mobile Atelier for about two years.

I'm continually finding new ways of using the software, and making little breakthroughs in my drawing technique because of it.

You can take a look at my Flickr gallery to monitor my level of passionate use... http://www.flickr.com/photos/56788416@N00/.

I love the software. I love the hardware (even though it's old and decrepit now). And I love making art electronically.

(Ah... a measure of my passion is that I have a Toshiba Tecra M4 tablet PC running Procreate Painter Classic, an infinitely BETTER piece of drawing software. But I STILL use the iPAQ with humble Mobile Atelier to do almost ALL of my drawings.)

Blue skies

Independent Filmmaker, Screenwriter,
Voice-Over, & Artist-at-Large

Mobile: +27 82 659 3165
Email: [email protected]
Blog: http://schmucknews.blogspot.com
Home: http://royblumenthal.com
Sketches: http://www.flickr.com/photos/56788416@N00/
Voice: http://www.voicebank.co.za/artistlink/artistid912.asp
Voice: http://mysite.mweb.co.za/residents/rb000004/voice.html

All of my work is distributed under
a Creative Commons licence. You may
freely copy any of my work as long as you
attribute it to me, as long as it's not for
commercial gain, and as long as you don't
alter or build on it. Please see the full text at


Posted by: Roy Blumenthal | Mar 28, 2006 1:31:24 PM

I'm passionate about Pandora (www.pandora.com)

By its very nature it is constantly improving. If I hear about a new artist I can create a new station to check them out. I can also tweak my settings constantly to get a station that is playing music just for me. I listen to it while working, reading and browsing the internet. These guys are going to be big, I'm sure of it.

Posted by: Scott Young | Mar 28, 2006 1:37:24 PM

An addendum to my iPAQ Pocket PC post:

When I use my tablet PC, it's almost always in notebook mode, and always with a Wacom Sapphire attached, even when it's in tablet mode. That's because Toshiba commited the ultimate crime: their tablet pen is NOT Wacom technology!!!!! It's the worst pen I've used. Shame on them!!!!

Does this qualify as Wacom passion? I'm not sure. But I do love the Wacom. I just wish my screen pen were a Wacom.

Blue skies

Posted by: Roy Blumenthal | Mar 28, 2006 1:43:33 PM

do you want a passionate entomologist?
I am very active in the Entomological Society of America, and have been pushing for the society to be more proactive in promoting environmental education.
My user name and email alone should tell you what an insect freak I am :)

(And I didn't even mention the tattoos......)

Posted by: bug_girl | Mar 28, 2006 1:53:22 PM

I have been using Backpack by 37signals for about four months for my implementation of GTD and it now contains my life. If that's not passion, I don't know what is.


Posted by: Mike | Mar 28, 2006 1:53:41 PM

Playaway digital audio books. check out their website. http://www.playawaydigital.com/index_flash.aspx

We bought one for our library and will begin circulating it on March 29.

Posted by: Vicky Chase | Mar 28, 2006 1:54:20 PM

I'm totally passionate about Gentoo Linux. I learned more about how my computer and GNU/Linux work by installing Gentoo on my home box than I ever did under Windows, Fedora Core, or Mac OSX. (http://www.gentoo.org/doc/en/handbook/) I have to admit that in addition to great documentation, a very welcoming and helpful community keeps me coming back. The tools make it 'easy to do the right thing' and 'don't get in your way' when you want to do more. At first I just wanted a simple media center, but I've sinced learned a lot more about it, and am continuously learning more as it is as extensible and configurable as a non-programmer could ask for in a computer.

I've recently become active in editing the unofficial Wiki (http://www.gentoo-wiki.com) for it, and plan to help others as much as I can. I think it's great when people can take control of the things they own.

Posted by: Robert Pitkin | Mar 28, 2006 2:07:22 PM

Not sure if this is what you are looking for, but my daughter is pretty passionate about the Wacom tablet. She would get very frustrated trying to use the mouse to draw with. Even more frustrating was trying to use a touchpad on a laptop because they would inadvertently click on buttons and cause here to lose work.

When I got the Wacom, I did it with her in mind. She is still in elementary school, but is avid about her arts and crafts. She'll draw up new pictures, each time experimenting with new brushes. She's always begging me to stop with the Flickr thing (my current vice), and let her create. A few of her creations are posted in my Flickr account.

Posted by: Berin Loritsch | Mar 28, 2006 2:09:46 PM

I'm passionate about deploying small database applications to non-profits. It started when I helped out at a food pantry recording client data and visits. I ported a very old Access application to Access 2000, then worked with it for about a year before I understood enough about the requirements to throw it away and implement something simpler and leaner in Access/VBA. I went on to implement a donor and volunteer application in Access/VBA for a community farm.

About a year ago, I tried and failed to learn PHP / MySQL in order to implement a multi-user application for a "Christmas Castle" (matching donors with kids at Christmas). I'm now learning Visual Basic and SQL Server and considering ASP .NET or perhaps Oracle in order to attack the same problem again. I'm intending to loop back through PHP / MySQL again when Head First ships its PHP / MySQL book.

I've also implemented an Access form to collect volunteer data for EDS (Emergency Data Services). This doesn't have any code behind it yet -- it's more learning about the requirements and training the users.

At the moment, I'm doing some training and support for four locations, and trying to figure out how to "sell" free software to a fifth.

One of my long-term goals is to abstract the data model enough to implement a more or less unified solution for client - donor - volunteer tracking. My long-term challenges include fitting into the deployment constraints of small non-profits (none of whom are really able to run their own web server) and simplifying UI development, either for web or Windows apps.

My other long-term goal is to develop training materials to make people more self-sufficent with respect to developing database queries and reports.

Any of which would be simpler if I could sign other people up for the same crusade!

Graeme Williams
Graeme underscore Williams at sign Yahoo dot Com

Posted by: Graeme Williams | Mar 28, 2006 2:13:41 PM

I'm passionate about Moodle - a free, open source Learning Management System, built upon social constructivist principles.
So much so that I loaded it onto my site www.celestespencer.com and have forums available for people to explore and create. http://www.moodle.org is also a good site to learn more.
I love it because it fosters a learning community where people can actually learn, interact, be challenged and challenge others and explore their learning (metacognition) in a safe and friendly environment.
I'm a trainer/instructional designer and I absolutely love this tool.
Celeste Spencer
Training Business Account Manager
Intel Corporation

Posted by: Celeste Spencer | Mar 28, 2006 2:16:48 PM

I'm passionate about the Opera Web Browser.

The configuration is amazing, the mouse gestures are second to none. There are many others, but this browser is mine. It fits me like a glove out of the box, and I've tailored it to it's bespoke finest!

I love researching topics on Opera- I can search any engine I want from the address bar.

I know I'm tied closely to this browser: I've had someone say to me one time "you know how in movies the people on computers can whip through screens and commands and get their answers in seconds? That's the feeling I just got watching you browse"

That really made my day.

Posted by: Eddie | Mar 28, 2006 3:04:32 PM

A couple of years ago I got quite enthused about the Akai MPC1000, a sample-based sequencer / drum machine. (Details at http://www.akaipro.com/prodMPC1000.php). While the functions it performs can also be performed by software on any computer, it has the advantages of speed and reliability: it's solidly built, stable in operation, and starts up in under 10 seconds. The MPC range has a solid following in the Hip Hop scene, where it's been a top studio favourite since the '80s, and the MPC1000 was the lowest-cost model to date.

I wrote a review of it and got involved on an internet forum, and after a couple of months answering questions I wrote a FAQ on it. Its low cost compared to previous MPC models brought in new users, who had to learn how to work with it, rather than the "big screen" they might be used to on a PC or Mac. Using it effectively requires knowledge of other music technology principles, especially MIDI.

To be honest, at least part of the appeal to me was the way it brought out the Teacher in me! I have a pedantic streak a mile wide, and it's been rewarding to help people make the most of their new purchase. There have of course been times when I found myself asking "why did you buy this, if you don't know what you want to do with it"..!

Posted by: brian thomson | Mar 28, 2006 3:06:25 PM

Hi Kathy,
Like many people, I am totally passionate about PhotoShop. I don't even have the newest version yet (although I'm trying to be a *very* good girl so it will appear at Christmas this year), but I'm constantly being blown away by what can be done with PS. I can't imagine ever coming to the end and saying, "well, that's it ~ there's no more new stuff to do."

Several ways it has revolutionized doing art for me:
Try out new things without ruining my rare materials on a failed idea. Make good quality prints of my work, even the layered multi-media stuff. Turn my photos into something worth hanging. Mess around with colors, shapes, and proportions without having to create mock-ups. Transfer vintage images to my work without destroying the original. Try out ideas for series.

I listed all those things without even stopping for air. I am sure that I'll kick myself for forgetting something just as soon as I post this. But that's kind of the point: with Photoshop, there will always be something new to try, some completely new application, some "why the heck didn't I think of that before?" kind of thing.

I love it love it love it love it...and I really want the new version :-)

Cyndi L

Posted by: Cyndi L | Mar 28, 2006 3:10:28 PM

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