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People Are the Real Killer App
1997, May-Jun (November 20, 2008)
By Michael Uhl

Editor's Warning: This article contains some "geek speak" that everyone may not be familiar with. For example, IMNSHO stands for "in my not so humble opinion" (did you think Mike was humble?).

Do you know what a "killer app" is? It's the holy grail of computer programmers: it's the program that becomes invaluable and ubiquitous; and hopefully, it makes the programmer rich, famous, or both. Netscape is, or was, a killer app.

Of course, one person's killer app can be another person's kluge. Dykki Settle, Chief Technology Officer at Ventana Communications Group, a computer book publisher, knows what the ultimate the killer app is: us. People are the real killer app.

Dykki, definitely one the coolest speakers we've ever had, IMNSHO, stimulated our imaginations and pumped up our enthusiasm for the technical communication profession at the March 13 chapter meeting. He described Ventana's push in the evolution of the "book." Books aren't going away?they're changing, big time. You know those computer books with the CD in the back, a CD full of, as Dykki said, "freeware, shareware, and shovelware?" Ventana has plans for that CD... revolutionary plans.

Here's what Dykki had to tell us: the ultimate value of technology is in improving the human condition. Technology for technology's sake is a waste. The ultimate value of the Internet is its ability to bring people together, its building of virtual communities. Creating virtual micro-communities is what Ventana hopes to do with those CDs in the back of the computer books.

The CD will contain a custom Internet browser tool, built with Macromedia Director. The interface will be heavy on "user friendly" at the expense of some speed. This browser will guide you through an online registration process, which will, with your permission, admit you into a specific community.

For example, if you buy an Adobe Photoshop book, you will enter into a community of people who bought the same book and will probably have a lot in common with you, in your work at least. The CD will contain most of the static and larger data elements needed to make the system work, such as images and the browser elements. The browser will automatically download dynamic information from the Ventana server as needed.

Ventana's books will open the Internet to many people who currently cannot or choose not to connect. I mentioned my "mother-in-law technology test" during the meeting. Dykki told us my idea is similar to one at Microsoft: Brad's mother test.

If Brad's mom — Brad's a VP — is willing to try a product, it must be user friendly. My mother-in-law saw no need to connect to the Internet until I introduced her to a gardening listserver. At 150 messages a day, it's an active community, the kind of community my mother-in-law wants to be part of. With the technology that Ventana Communication Group is about to release, these virtual communities are about to make a growth leap. Now Dykki, about that bandwidth...

The Ventana Press Web site is at http://www.vmedia.com. Look for information about their Data Engine. That's what Dykki talked about. End of article.

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