All stories are people stories

In writing about technology—especially seemingly arcane component-level technology—it’s easy to get lost in the details of how things work and to lose sight of why a certain technology exists in the first place.


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Technology products solve problems. They solve problems for people—and not just for the engineer whose job it is to install or use the product. Even the tiniest piece of technology within a larger product, device, or system serves a role and solves a problem. That boring coating inside your handheld device prevents damage and keeps the product working so you can keep sending important messages to friends or co-workers. And that tiny, not-so-special-looking sensor inside a piece of industrial equipment ensures that a subsystem doesn’t malfunction and stall the larger system, injuring (or merely frustrating) its human operator.

It’s easier to forget the people aspect of things when writing about component-level technology. But those component-level widgets exist to make gizmos run better. The gizmos, in turn, make up the bigger technology products (or “systems”) that people use or rely on. And those end products solve problems (big ones and tiny ones) by making life for someone better, safer, faster, or more efficient—whether in the professional realm or in the personal realm.

As you write, it’s always important to consider the people who are your audience. But the people whose lives are improved by a particular technology—well, they’re just as relevant. In fact, those people make your writing relevant and relatable. And writing that is relevant and relatable is writing that hits the mark with its audience.

When writing about a particular and seemingly small piece of technology, continue to ask “why?” and “so what?” and “why do you need that?” until you get to the most human aspect of the story. Then strive to blend that aspect into your writing. You might end up with a one-liner on personal safety, an anecdote that makes your article come alive, or a full-blown human profile that shows the deep importance of a technology.

And the same “all stories are people stories” mindset applies to more than technology stories. It applies to regulatory stories, political stories, transportation stories, financial stories, and so on. Pin down the “people problem” perspective, and you pin down the heart of the story.

Copyright © 2013 by L. Scott Tillett, All rights reserved.

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