Category Archives: Macroergonomics

Term of Service

Age of Consent

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The minimum age at which kids can legally be held to a Terms of Service agreement might be raised from 13 to 16 in Europe. Currently, companies have to ask parents’ permission for children under the 13. My Take This is an interesting policy question. Businesses want the age of consent to be as low as possible because that expands their market (on the assumption that children are more likely to accept the agreement than their parents are). This explains why Google, Facebook and Twitter…

man with hat

Black Hat Storytelling

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I came across this design case by Edward Wilson from Aymmetrica Labs and it got me thinking. He makes a convincing pitch about how to craft an engaging and convincing narrative around a product design. But the description is clearly of a deceptive approach, what seems to me like an example of black hat design.

In the past I spent far too long trying to sell people on excellent, but complicated, unintuitive, unfamiliar narratives. I competed with others who offered the same stuff I did but they dumbed it down, they made it less effective, but they made it easier to understand. The other guys always won. It took a while (15 years) but now I get it. My job is to take the excellent content I am working with and try to make it intuitive, obvious, and familiar. If I don’t make it intuitive, obvious, and familiar, I won’t have an audience.

facebook logo

The Ethics of Free

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The latest Facebook controversy surrounds their plan to offer a service called Free Basics that allows people with feature phones (in the developing world) to access online services without paying for data. The problem is that they can only access Facebook approved apps.

You can’t just surf over to anyplace on the web with Free Basics. Which raises the question: Is Free Basics an altruistic effort to connect the world’s financially strapped people to information and opportunities, or a neocolonial race to capitalize on those markets?

Two cats arguing

Agreeing to Disagree

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When two people or organizations can’t resolve a conflict, they often defer to the option of “agreeing to disagree.” This is not very satisfying to either side, but at least you can walk away from the negotiating table (or battle zone) with at least a temporary pause in active combat. I can’t convince you; you can’t convince me; so let’s just go our own ways and ignore the disagreement.

Controlling the channels of communication never prevents communication: it just makes stark the lack of permission and prompts creative attempts to subvert the authority. Opening up spaces to communicate and collaborate is a key aspect of eroding resistance and building a foundation for change.

My life in 10 years

Goal Setting

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In anticipation of all of your New Year’s Resolutions, I thought I would share with you some new ideas on setting goals.

The first example comes from Jeffrey Davis in the Creativity Post. He calls this a radical alternative, but I think his approach makes perfect sense. First, he warns against using a long time horizon for your goals. Not that long term thinking is bad – in fact it is best. But the problem is that long term goals are too easy to forget about or put off for later. And even easier for us to delude ourselves with false progress. Instead, he recommends using vision goals that add meaning instead of milestones. Imagine where you want to be in the long term, and then set a goal for what you can do right now to move yourself towards that vision.

Google Search bar

The Search Effect

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Throughout history, we have relied on other people to reduce our personal memory load, a phenomenon called transactive memory. If we know that someone else knows a particular piece of information, we don’t have to remember it ourselves. We just need to ask them. But there is a significant germane load to do this. We have to remember who knows what we need, find them, hope they are available, ask them, and process the answer. A similar germane load exists when we use reference sources. We have to remember what source has the information, go to the library (or our personal bookshelf), get the encyclopedia/dictionary/textbook, look up the information, and process it.

Transactive memory is a psychological hypothesis first proposed by Daniel Wegner in 1985 as a response to earlier theories of “group mind” such as groupthink.[1] A transactive memory system is a mechanism through which groups collectively encode, store, and retrieve knowledge.

group of people talking

Team Thinking Types

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There are many roles that we may serve on a work team. There is the team leader of course. This is often the only one formally assigned. There also might be the project manager who keeps track of schedules and action items. There also might be a team historian who is in charge of bringing up the past – what has worked, what has failed, what was decided, what was rejected, and so on.

We therefore propose that just as team members today have assigned doing roles, there should also be thinking roles. By knowing how other members of your team and organization think — and by others knowing how you think — everyone can be more energized, more engaged, more creative, and more productive.

2 Figurines Talking

Receptivity to False Profundity

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Many of you might have already seen this article making the rounds on social media. But unlike your typical sources, EID is dedicated to giving you the deeper truth about the world. So how can we resist a take on profundity, pseudo profundity, and utter bulls**t?

Although bulls**t is common in everyday life and has attracted attention from philosophers, its reception (critical or ingenuous) has not, to our knowledge, been subject to empirical investigation. Here we focus on pseudo-profound bulls**t, which consists of seemingly impressive assertions that are presented as true and meaningful but are actually vacuous.

Girl with a shopping bag

Customer Gratitude

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Many marketers define customer loyalty as repeated purchases (or other relevant kinds of transactions) by a customer with a company. But this is overstated and a poor conception for what drives customer loyalty. You might just be the cheapest provider or your store might just be the closest to their home. As soon as a better option comes around, you are left on the cutting room floor. That is not loyalty.

student sleeping

The Four Day School Week

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Many companies have experimented with their work schedules in an attempt to decrease costs, increase performance, or both. One common example is the four day/ten hour per day workweek. The workweek is still 40 hours, but compressed by a day. By moving to four days, the company can either close down the office for three days and save on maintenance and upkeep or they can rejigger shifts to have 4/day 3/day rotations that are easier to pair up than 5 day/ 2 day rotations would be. What about doing this in K-12 education?

How would you react if you were told that your local public school planned to change the schedule from the traditional Monday-through-Friday model to a schedule that contained four longer school days? Would you worry about long days for young children, their academic accomplishments and, of course, childcare?