Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Expert Culture vs. Ease of Use

There is a phenomenon I call an "expert culture" where things that are hard to understand and use become popular precisely because they are hard to use. Once you figure out how to use something complicated, you become an "expert", and it feels good to be an expert. You help other people because it makes you feel smart, and then they learn, and then they are an expert too.

Conversely, products that are easy to use and have few unnecessary features are often dismissed as trivial or underpowered.

This is a fascinating and bizarre contrast, and it is very counter-intuitive. We are all led to believe that things that are Easy to Use get adopted, and complicated things are eschewed. There are many counterexamples to this, although Apple products are perhaps an existence proof that at least somebody buys Ease of Use.

This occurred to me as I was deleting some early posts on Google Plus that were open questions, trying to figure out how Google+ worked. Valid points, I felt, and reflective of a "newbie" experience on a new platform. I was deleting them because I felt foolish for having posted them, and I realized that Google Plus is an Expert culture, and facebook is "for the rest of us".

Circles alone, in Google+, are really complicated, even once you know how they work. Consider this graphic representation of the rules for who can see your post on Google+. If that's not an expert culture, I don't know what is. At least half the posts I have seen go by on Google+ are in fact about how to use Google+. That tells you something too.

[I started posting this on Blogger because it's essentially a blog post, and I may finish it there too. But I wanted to see if this medium could replace blogging completely. I don't think so, not quite yet. I don't have enough control, can't set a title, and I can't embed links and things like that. Maybe I'm just used to those things, and blogging shouldn't rely on them. We'll see.]

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