[Air-L] Internet User Research

John Stephen Veitch john.s.veitch at gmail.com
Sun Jun 28 18:20:21 PDT 2009

Hello Everyone

It's a long time since I've contributed here.
Six years ago I visited the homes of 14 randomly selected people and took
notes as they used the Internet. (I don't recommend that you try that.)

Several important things seemed to come out of that.
The most startling for me was the poor level of knowledge and the LACK of
Also that Internet use was private, and that people felt uncomfortable using
the Internet while being watched, and I felt uncomfortable being there.
That report is here.

At the time members of this forum disbelieved my results. The sample is too
small! Well yes it was, nobody can argue against that. However, as I think I
now show, six years ago I was on the correct track. I should have followed
that more vigorously. The summary says:

"My research suggests that it will be many years before people understand
how the internet can make a real difference in their lives. They use it in a
manner that ensures that little difference is made. Most people would
struggle to use it for more than 2 hours a week, including email.

Most people have just enough knowledge to send an email and to search for
and find a web site. People are not joining listservs, and for the most
part, they do not buy things on the Internet. An internet connected computer
is much more complex than a VCR machine. We know that most people can't
programme their VCR's, so in a nutshell that's the problem."

Six weeks ago I asked several local people to do something online that I
thought was simple and that most people would do easily. No response,
nothing. That got me thinking about the 2003 work, again.

I prepared a list of about 30 Internet behaviours, and asked people to check
their machines when the need to do so, and to count the number of times
these behaviours occurred. People had time to prepare their replies. I only
collected NUMBERS from them, relevant numbers that they had chosen. I found
most people were very keen to help, and worked hard to give me sensible

The results were reported back by telephone. That conversation often
revealed more information about why this person used the Internet in the way
they did.

It's important to note that the homes in which this work was done were
selected randomly.  However, the people who did the survey in each house
were really volunteers. My request to them was that the "person who was most
active on the Internet" should be the respondent.So the results should be
heavily biased towards active use and towards the behaviour of the most
knowledgeable users. It's therefore, very disappointing for me to see how
little use is made of the technology.

In particular, the feedback process, the self publishing possibilities of
Web 2.0 technologies, seem to be used hardly at all. The failure of people
to embrace social networks and social media surprises me.


John Stephen Veitch

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