Posted 19 May, 2012 by Susannah Vila

Connecting Evolving Technologies With Target Users

This week, we were excited to have the opportunity to convene users and technologists for a training of trainers on a well-regarded advocacy tool that’s about to embark on a redesign. We’d been wanting to hear more about Martus, an open source platform for encrypted collection of reports of human rights abuses, so we roped in interested friends and colleagues and help them put together a 10 person training. The training gave us an opportunity to learn more about the tool, and gave Martus the opportunity to get direct feedback from tech-savvy trainers on where Martus could and should go next with their product.

And this feedback – the conversation between potential users, trainers, and toolbuilders – ended up being the biggest output of the 2 day training. It’s not every day that a group of highly committed, relatively tech savvy users/activists get to sit down with the makers of a tool for human rights advocacy and surface what is working, what’s not working as well, and what should be improved. Too often, people building new technologies create things that aren’t as user friendly as they could or should be, and are less than amenable to discussing it and acting on feature requests. In contrast, Martus’ team of trainers not only understand but seem very interested in capitalizing on the benefits of incorporating needs and interests of users. Usability is critical to impact.

It’s great that Martus opened up the floor for conversations of this sort, and engaged with a diverse set of trainers. Especially since the platform, which still acts as the standard tool for secure data collection by NGOs,  is poised for a much needed update. The Martus team is working on a next generation version of the tool that will take into account the feature and usability requests of the type we shared this week.

How can we make this type of feedback from active trainers more systematic – and track their uptake by toolmakers? Ideas were raised to create an online space to support the type of dialogue we took part in this week. Here’s to hoping that we can (as a community) continue creating better lines of communication between trainers, users, and technologists.

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