users and johns


Does anyone out there know who was the origin of the insight that the software industry and the illegal drug trade both call their customers users? Brian Marick was the person I stole it from but as far as I know he doesn’t claim it.


Anyway, it’s an interesting insight. There are so many sweet terms we could use for those creatures who so consistently pay our salary and mortgages. My favorite is client. It has such a nice professional, mysterious ring to it. But perhaps we are in good company with the drug dealers. We get the user addicted to our functionality to the point that they overlook its downside and they come gagging for another fix (uh, version, don’t forget to plug the rush-hole!).


I suppose we should be pleased that it stopped with ‘user’. I, for one, would quit this industry if we start calling them ‘johns’. Being associated with the drug dealers is one thing, but pimps? That’s where I draw the line.

Comments (4)
  1. Ianceicys says:

    Very funny article.

    I sure hope MSDN documentation doesn’t take up the terms of "johns" and maybe it should stop using "users"… but I’m all for Apple being innovative and using the terms. 😉

  2. leecopeland says:

    The "insight" that the software industry and the illegal drug trade both call their customers "users" is no insight at all — merely a coincidence. Many other areas also have "users". A quick Google search yields the "Manhattan Users Guide", the "Patent Information Users Group", the "American Highway Users Alliance", the "NOAA KLM User’s Guide", the "International LEGO Users Group Network", the "Timeshare Users Group", the "Weather Research and Forecasting Model Users Group",the "Energy User News"  and a host of others.

    It’s time to toss this comparison into the dust bin.

  3. Jim Moore [MSFT] says:

    Forget "Users" and "Johns".  Have we learned nothing from TRON!?!  

    Greetings Programs!!! 🙂

  4. MSDN Archive says:

    Sorry Lee, I disagree. User groups are differnt. Lego builders don’t call themselves Lego Users. I doubt too that the Lego company calls them that either.

    One counter example in support of you though is that Analysts call the people they sell reports to users. On second thought, I don’t think that improves the company much either…

    But since I like you so much, I promise I’ll not to belabor this. We’ve been in the field for a while my friend, what is tired to us is fresh to many.

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