Short on Cars

Riding a train short in cars turns everyone into a sardine. People are forced to squeeze together, touching elbows and pant legs, holding bags on their lap.   

Like a social network, when you constrain comfort for usability people get frustrated.  Everything becomes an annoyance:  the ubiquitous ads on the train’s walls, the $250 monthly train pass, the sounds of the train collector’s ticket punching, and the sporadic passenger conversations left and right.    

People hate noise and clutter.  That’s why so many users left MySpace for Facebook.  Myspace was a wasteland where page personalization, banners, and widgets created design disorder and chaotic functionality.  Facebook provided a clean, standardized experience, a closed environment where Facebook’s design control benefited the user experience.     

Fast forward to today, however, and Facebook is becoming more like the old Myspace.  Realizing that real-time conversation is what really drives ad dollars, Facebook is desperate to emulate the openness of Twitter.  Over the last couple weeks, Facebook has welcomed hashtags and image uploads within comments.  

Openness goes against Facebook’s roots as a private social network.  By cramping the platform with more open communication layers it’s severely limiting the user experience. 

People want clean space.  People want to be in their own world.  People want sufficient space so they can sit next to open seats and relax.  

Sometimes constriction is a force of creativity; sometimes it forces unnecessary angst.  You don’t want your passengers and users hating each other, hating the platform, hating the employees who work on it, and getting off to a bad start or end to their day.  

Keep it clean, keep it sleek.  Let people breathe.  

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By Wells Baum

Wells Baum is a daily blogger who writes about Life & Arts. He's also the author of and four books.