Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Kathy Sierra's Creating Passionate Users blog is one of a handful of blogs that I follow. Though her subject is software development, what she says has general applicability. In a recent entry, she discusses creating user passion by helping users learn. She makes the point that we appreciate things more when we know more about them. I bring this up because I think this is true not only of music, art and consumer products, but also of cities and towns, places. The more people know about their city--its history, its institutions, etc., the more interest they take in it. It's just like anything else; if you know something about architectural styles, you can see a building in an entirely different light than somebody who can only describe a building as old or new, ugly or pretty; if you can look at a meadow and call plants by name, your appreciation of what's there will be far greater than somebody who looks out and sees nameless grass and "weeds."

E.C. Alft is an Elginite I greatly admire. I think what Mr. Aflt has done for Elgin is to fire passion in its people by instilling a sense of pride that comes only from a knowledge of history. When you've read about the city's past, when you've seen the pictures of days gone by, it changes the way that you perceive the city. You appreciate it more. You care about it more. You feel like you know it. In knowing it you build the basis for a relationship with it.

History is but one kind of information that can stoke passion. There are others: news, workings of our civic institutions and local government. Whatever the information, we should always be on the lookout for ways to make it more accessible to everybody in our city. We should be on the lookout for ways to create a passionate citizenry.


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