Michael Francis Booth posts an interesting take on the privacy/security debate surrounding social networking sites like Facebook. It’s called Stop Designing out the Fun, and it makes the excellent point that social networking software exists because people enjoy managing their web of relationships. Recent attempts by Google and Facebook to automagically update your network of friends are annoying not merely because they violate our current digital definitions of privacy and security, but because they do something by machine that humans prefer to do by hand.
Think about that for a moment: There are menial tasks requiring micromanagement that humans actually love. We get a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction from them, despite the fact that they consume a great deal of time and effort. From a process reengineering point of view, these are chores ripe for delegation, outsourcing, or elimination. Yet from a psychological point of view, removing those sorts of activities can be counterproductive.
Michael illustrates his point with a quote from Jakob Nielson regarding video game design. Games have a lot to teach us about this principle. Many games require intense concentration and focus, yet people love them. Some even get addicted to them, despite the fact that they often have menial, repetitive elements. In fact, if you asked a casino manager, he’d probably tell you that it’s the repetitive elements that keep the customers coming back for another throw of the dice or a pull on the lever.
Imagine a slot machine that didn’t require you to do anything – you feed 100 bucks into the slot, and then it says:
“Sorry! you lost.”
If we’re to bring social software inside the enterprise, our yardstick can’t be efficiency alone. We also have to figure out what tasks employees enjoy and build on those tasks. Doing so will boost productivity, because people are good at the tasks they enjoy.
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