Evaluating technology

  1. Is it shiny?
  2. Does it help you get laid or improve the odds of getting laid?
  3. Does it provide food, safety, security?
  4. What do your friends think?

Okay, it’s not really this simple. Designing products and experiences that people want is a difficult proposition. Rolf Skyberg is giving an interesting talk at OSCON 2007 titled Applying Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to Technology. The focus is on understanding WHY people want products, not the HOW of building products.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs provides a strong filter through which to view your projects and reveals some interesting results: major retailers sell hot-dogs because you can’t shop if you’re hungry; AJAX reduces the time and cognitive load on your users so they can spend more time being productive or enjoying themselves; and Linux still isn’t ready for the desktop if Grandma’s new digital camera doesn’t work out of the box.

Rolf’s Web2Expo talk was a fun. It was 496 slides. You can grab the PDF of Web 2.0++: Why we got here and What’s Next

This matches Maslow's of hierarchy of needs: survival supercedes security, security supercedes prosperity, and prosperity supercedes socialization. Enlightenment, esteem, and belonging are at the top of the pyramid. These priorities are innate to all humans and apply across offline & online ecosystems.
LukeW

What needs does your product satisfy? What assumptions about lower level needs are you making? How does your product make the web a tool to in our inability to store, process, retreive and transmit massive amounts of information with other humans not near each other?

9 thoughts on “Evaluating technology”

  1. <p>I'm suspicious of anyone using Maslow's Hierarchy to explain anything, given that it is so often false. People regularly sacrifice personal security for prosperity (take risky jobs for low pay); they also sacrifice survival for things as intangible as flags or their deceased mother's honor. In fact, I'd argue that the greatest forces for change in society arise precisely when people <strong>don't</strong> obey the rules that Maslow made up more or less out of whole cloth in the 1940s.</p>

  2. <p>I'm suspicious of anyone using Maslow's Hierarchy to explain anything, given that it is so often false. People regularly sacrifice personal security for prosperity (take risky jobs for low pay); they also sacrifice survival for things as intangible as flags or their deceased mother's honor. In fact, I'd argue that the greatest forces for change in society arise precisely when people <strong>don't</strong> obey the rules that Maslow made up more or less out of whole cloth in the 1940s.</p>

  3. <p>maslow's hierarchy & unfortunately a default in assessing human behaviour, irks me for many for many of the same reasons as greg listed. in addition.</p><br />
    <br />
    <p>it doesn't account for agency and empowerment in choice & hence we see sacrifice or reprioritization of needs to achieve a goal. this is usually paradoxical, fluid and can be radically different over the short/long term. </p><br />
    <br />
    <p>it doesn't account for morals, cultural values, social norms, there's an assumption that we all have the same goals and needs and means to achieve them. also, maslow formed his theories around 'healthy' people, excluding the 'unhealthy' as they would skew his results, and also discounting the affects of interactions and relationships between people and cultures. </p><br />
    <br />
    <p>and it emerged as a way to perpetuate/mediate a certain economic system and consumption patterns, to keep us all under it's thumb. production and consumption values have changed, and we need to find other perspectives and tools that will help us understand that change.</p>

  4. <p>maslow's hierarchy & unfortunately a default in assessing human behaviour, irks me for many for many of the same reasons as greg listed. in addition.</p><br />
    <br />
    <p>it doesn't account for agency and empowerment in choice & hence we see sacrifice or reprioritization of needs to achieve a goal. this is usually paradoxical, fluid and can be radically different over the short/long term. </p><br />
    <br />
    <p>it doesn't account for morals, cultural values, social norms, there's an assumption that we all have the same goals and needs and means to achieve them. also, maslow formed his theories around 'healthy' people, excluding the 'unhealthy' as they would skew his results, and also discounting the affects of interactions and relationships between people and cultures. </p><br />
    <br />
    <p>and it emerged as a way to perpetuate/mediate a certain economic system and consumption patterns, to keep us all under it's thumb. production and consumption values have changed, and we need to find other perspectives and tools that will help us understand that change.</p>

  5. <p>@Greg & Michele .. I would suggest that in todays culture, the concepts that Maslow intended when he spoke of physiological, and safety are so foreign to us that we may have forgotten. The valid issues you raise including security, prosperity, and choice, in the way you might mean, are all in the self-actualisation part of the pyramid, so its quite rational to re-prioritise there. </p><br />
    <br />
    <p>The decision to take a risky job vs a secure job is not a 'will I have a roof over my head decision'.</p>

  6. <p>@Greg & Michele .. I would suggest that in todays culture, the concepts that Maslow intended when he spoke of physiological, and safety are so foreign to us that we may have forgotten. The valid issues you raise including security, prosperity, and choice, in the way you might mean, are all in the self-actualisation part of the pyramid, so its quite rational to re-prioritise there. </p><br />
    <br />
    <p>The decision to take a risky job vs a secure job is not a 'will I have a roof over my head decision'.</p>

  7. I'm suspicious of anyone using Maslow's Hierarchy to explain anything, given that it is so often false. People regularly sacrifice personal security for prosperity (take risky jobs for low pay); they also sacrifice survival for things as intangible as flags or their deceased mother's honor. In fact, I'd argue that the greatest forces for change in society arise precisely when people don't obey the rules that Maslow made up more or less out of whole cloth in the 1940s.

  8. maslow's hierarchy & unfortunately a default in assessing human behaviour, irks me for many for many of the same reasons as greg listed. in addition.

    it doesn't account for agency and empowerment in choice & hence we see sacrifice or reprioritization of needs to achieve a goal. this is usually paradoxical, fluid and can be radically different over the short/long term.

    it doesn't account for morals, cultural values, social norms, there's an assumption that we all have the same goals and needs and means to achieve them. also, maslow formed his theories around 'healthy' people, excluding the 'unhealthy' as they would skew his results, and also discounting the affects of interactions and relationships between people and cultures.

    and it emerged as a way to perpetuate/mediate a certain economic system and consumption patterns, to keep us all under it's thumb. production and consumption values have changed, and we need to find other perspectives and tools that will help us understand that change.

  9. @Greg & Michele .. I would suggest that in todays culture, the concepts that Maslow intended when he spoke of physiological, and safety are so foreign to us that we may have forgotten. The valid issues you raise including security, prosperity, and choice, in the way you might mean, are all in the self-actualisation part of the pyramid, so its quite rational to re-prioritise there.

    The decision to take a risky job vs a secure job is not a 'will I have a roof over my head decision'.

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