Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Things You Don't Mind Breaking

As anyone who lives with kids well knows, they're a potent force of destruction. It's tempting to hide all the breakables and fill their lives with indestructible plastic objects. Of course this means you can't have nice things. Worse yet, your kid never learns how to treat things nicely.

Our strategy has been to fill Caitlyn's life with nice things, breakable and not, which are nonetheless relatively inexpensive and easy to replace. We don't want them broken, but it's not a big deal if they are, and it's a valuable learning experience for Caitlyn. If it's a plate, she helps clean it up, and we get another. If it's a toy, we try to fix it, and if we can't, that's how you lose your toys. These days she routinely handles heavy glass jars full of food, for instance, and rarely is there ever an incident.

It seems to me that this is a good principle in design as well. If you treat your users like idiots and constantly protect them from themselves, then they'll just keep getting dumber. If you give them nice things and help them learn when they break stuff, you're helping them grow, and they'll love you for it.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2012


I'm a pretty self-reliant guy, but somewhere along the line I have come to realize that too much self-reliance is a bad thing; it isolates you from other people. The advantage of "relying on the kindness of strangers" is you get to know people, and you build a web of social capital and debt. Being able to act independently is a powerful thing, but it doesn't beat being enmeshed in a strong social fabric.

So next time you think you can do it better on your own, think about what you might be missing by not letting someone else into your life.