The Law of Human Relevancy

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Information becomes more relevant with the help of the right people.

You might say information gets by with a little help from your friends.

Yesterday, Ed Jezierski helped me word a “law” that I use for important decisions and that I see show up quite a bit in a number of places. 

It’s the law of human relevancy.

It goes like this:

No matter how relevant the information is, it’s more relevant with the help of the right people.

Humans Can Teach, Tailor, and Translate Information

All this law really means is that no matter how well you organize and display information, at some point, there’s a glass ceiling on how much easier you can make it for somebody to find what they need. 

There’s always a place for a human to take information to the next level.

A human that can teach, tailor, and translate the information can make it more relevant, more insightful, more actionable, and more useful.

Usage / Examples

  • The obvious example is the Web 2.0 movement — where people are the shepherds of the read/write Web.  There’s lots of needles in the world wide haystack and I’m glad there’s people, voices, blogs there to help.
  • I like the pattern on the Web where sites have a live chat to use a human to help you match their info to your needs, in real time.
  • I like how Second Life provides the ability to “invoke a human” over just self-help and forums. (I proposed some models for “human help” in Visual Studio and as a general platform some time back I need to revisit)
  • There’s lots of implications for an Enterprise 2.0 world, but I’ll save that for another day.

Create Tools for Smart People

In a world of auto-magic tools, it’s good to keep this law in mind.

It’s easy to create more harm than help when spitting out a bunch of automated information.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is create a tool to help leverage the user’s own relevancy engine and pattern-matching ability over auto-magic guesswork. 

Or to put it another way, sometimes it’s best to create a tool to help smart people, rather than a “smart” tool that gets in the way.

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