At the risk of sounding like a snarky cat…
(I challenge because I care)
To me, as an ethnographer and Learning Experience Designer, this survey reveals more about the askers’ expectations than about MIDI users.
For one thing, the methodology affords a bit of a rethink if you want to use it to make decisions about what you can do with MIDI users
Though registering for the MIDI Association is free, association membership remains a self-selected sample which is extremely unlikely to be representative of the userbase. Chances are very high that the 44% of members who identified as “newbies” are much more experienced than the overwhelming majority of end users who are just casually aware of MIDI’s existence. There’s a reason the expression “MIDIot” has been used as a self-deprecating label by some users who’ve been using MIDI devices for years.
Then, there’s the connection between the survey questions and what you plan to do with the data. Athan Billias sent me this link after mentioning “end user research” as a justification for the overwhelming and constant emphasis on backwards-compatibility. No offense… I don’t perceive anything in these survey results which would support this notion. The interest in the new specs likely relates to a strong interest in new features (at least, most of what I hear about MIDI 2.0 is around that).
In fact, it’s quite interesting to me that webinars was the lowest rated content though they’ve become a very important part of the association’s strategy.
Obviously, I am biased towards Human-Centred Design. To me, the creation of the MIDI Association itself was part of something like a move to something more user-centric. It’s quite obvious that many end users do care about this one standard. Like any standard, it hinges upon what primary stakeholders do with it. Without MMA & AMEI members doing something with it, the standard might as well not exist.
Still, the success of MIDI 2.0 also
comes from user
adoption and that adoption has many factors. Well-known models for this come from Diffusion of Innovations (Everett Rogers)
and Disruptive Innovation (Clay Christensen)
. Long story short from both models (which are indeed related): a new tech won’t gain traction just because it’s better
. So far, so obvious. The correlate, though, is that you need to understand what people do with the tech. To be perfectly honest, I haven’t heard anything from M2WG which convinced me that this understanding is deep and robust.
I’ve been meaning to blog about MIDI 1.0 for a few years. (Well, I kinda did, but my main blogpost is still in my head.) I want to really celebrate it, describe how neat it is. It’s common for people to point out many things they consider as its flaws. It’s also common for others to “defend” the spec by pointing out that those flaws don’t come from MIDI itself. I’m more interested in the “recipe for its success”. It sounds like Karl Clarke is putting the very final touches on a dissertation about MIDI. I’m guessing it includes some cool stuff about the pattern of adoption and how that might inform future work.
I’m very interested in de facto
standards. With tech used by non-specialists, I find that those standards often work better than “de jure
” ones. A cool example is HTML5. Yes, it was eventually adopted by the W3C. But it was really developed in a very ad hoc
fashion. I’m sure there are people who dislike many aspects of it and claim it could have been way better if it had been designed by committee. We might agree that it’s a moot point given the fact that it has been widely adopted and has had a rather big impact on what people do with Web technologies.
I haven’t done research on MIDI history, yet (which is part of the reason my blogpost is in “headnotes draft mode”). I can be way off on any detail. The story goes that the DX7 was released before MIDI 1.0 was finalized and that it was missing some of the standard’s features. Thing is, it’s quite clear that the keyboard has done a lot to MIDI adoption. It’s impossible to test but my hypothesis would be that longterm adoption might have been way slower if Yamaha had waited for the spec to be finalized. In the “done is better than perfect” mindset, there’s a lot of value in Release Early, Release Often. And it’s soooo easy to do with software!
Even the MPE adoption story sounds more like that than the top-down approach. Sure, there are problems with half-baked implementations (as well as devs who use the term inappropriately to describe their products). It’s still pretty much a success. Despite the fact that ROLI
made the transition from high-end pro music tech to LUMI.
So… I hope there’s been some kind of Design Thinking
or User-Centred Design
process around MIDI 2.0 which really spent enough time on problem definition, identified a large number of solutions, selected the most appropriate ideas according to well-defined user needs, properly planned the steps in prototyping devices based the spec, and prepped for iterations to be based on user testing.
These survey results demonstrate a potential disconnect between the huge field of casual MIDI users and the relatively small number of people who make decisions about MIDI. Can we build bridges?