Personas are fictional users sometimes used in the Interaction Design or User Experience communities to help shape thinking about around a product. Designing for the Digital Age presents them as something that would emerge out of a research process, each persona representing a cluster of user characteristics gleaned from the data. I don’t think we can afford to go quite that formal with it, but I do think that even without the research data, it could be helpful for us to use proto personas as a way to help us remember the key question: who are we designing for?


  • Name: we want to think of personas as real people (the idea is to hijack the empathetic bits our brains that reason around people), so no silly made-up sounding names. No Alice or Bob either.
  • Backstory/Goals: nothing irrelevant, just stuff that adds a bit more context to what people are trying to do, and helps make it clear that you can’t really boil down what people are trying to do to a set of dry tasks. What are they really after.
  • Multidimensionality: the search space is huge; it’s not just about skill level, but things like repo size, etc. We want personas to act as beacons in this space, people that represent interesting combinations


What would be interesting dimensions to cover?

  • skill level
  • setting (corporate, open source home hacking, pet projects)
  • repo size
  • platform
  • role (repo maintainer, committer, bystander)

Some attempts

Remember that these are crude not-really-personas. Not here that in my first attempt, I’ve only really stuck to the one dimension of skill level. We should probably flesh this out

Other dimensions we could cover: operating system (!), setting (corporate, open source home user, etc), loads more…

  • Emily : power user (has specific ideas how she wants to use things)
  • Darrel : power user [Perl hacker extraordinaire, Gentoo user [wouldn’t Darrel just be using Git anyway?]]
  • Tina : “naive” user (not reading the docs, not following the news)
  • Stephan : “naive” user [potential backstory: professor of Bioinformatics? managing hackerly PhD students, commits occasional bits of code, but not really a coder]
  • Angela : “naive” user
  • Brett : innocent bystander, not a Darcs user


(These scenarios I’d kicked around as thinking behind the patch index UI. We could maybe generalise them out of this. I guess we’ll have to come up with scenarios for each task we want?)

The reason each scenario here has a little story behind it to help us think about the context behind what users are doing. For example, in the fifth case, the point really isn’t “darcs get –lazy”; the point is the wider context of (A) people want fast (B) stale instructions will appear on the Internet and take a long time to go away (if we ever decide to deprecate lazy, it’ll take ages for it to fade). Look at the big picture.

  1. Space is precious: Emily has limited disk space and really doesn’t have much use or patience for something like the patch index. On the other hand, she does have to run the occasional annotate and those tend to be rather slow…

  2. Space is precious 2: Darrel wants to use the patch index feature in his normal work, but he also has “backup” repositories on the company server that he only ever pushes patches to without much other interaction.

  3. Midstream upgrade: Tina is currently using Darcs 2.8 (pre patch-index) on the 8 kilopatch (kp?) repository on her laptop. She also mirrors it on Darcsden which will be on Darcs 2.8 for a while. She saw a tweet saying that Darcs 2.10 was supposed to be faster and figured she might as well grab a binary and see what happpens.

  4. Mismatched Darcsen: Stephan and Angela have been work on together on the same research codebase. They share a group repo on their department’s NFS shared drive, but Stephan being the sort of eager guy he is has already upgraded to Darcs 2.10 and Angela is still on Darcs 2.5.

  5. darcs get –lazy: Brett needs to grab the latest Darcs version of the functional-mugs package will probably want to send a patch to fix its build dependencies. The website says “darcs get –lazy” so Brett dutifully complies.