People keep asking me why i don’t build my own YASNS. Usually, it comes in a sarcastic statement like “if you’re so smart, why don’t you do it?” The short answer is that i’m an academic, not an entrepreneur, but it’s more complicated than that.
First, as an academic, i’m interested in what people do, why and how. I’m not interested in capitalizing on them; this doesn’t motivate me. This is also why i’m far more aligned with the geeks than the entrepreneurs. Geeks, by and large, want to build something cool that people use. I get that and this sometimes motivates me too. This goal is about tapping into the motivations of the population, not trying to pervert them. I also want to tap into the human psyche. Unfortunately, right now, i think that my current goals require me to restrain from building and focus on analyzing.
Fast moving and highly complex spaces likes YASNS and social software require iteration. No one project is going to completely “get it.” Lessons will be learned, features stabilized across different applications. I certainly have ideas for the next iteration, but to develop them means to stop paying attention to the larger picture and work on just building that next level. Furthermore, to make a living doing it requires jumping into the entrepreneur space, which is something that i detest.
There’s another problem… In the case of YASNS, i don’t really care to make a working tool. Effectively, i want to experiment on people. I want to create technologies that bring out human traits in order to understand human behavior at a higher level. This is the kind of thing that makes any human subjects board FREAK. Highly not acceptable. And right now, i need to play nice with human subjects.
For those outside of academia, there didn’t used to be a subjects board. But then a bunch of psychologists (ahem, Milgram) started running studies on human behavior that sent many subjects (a.k.a. his grad students) into post traumatic stress. Human subjects boards were developed to protect subjects from those experimenting on them. Lots of 1960s research could never have been done under the current restrictions. You would never have heard of Milgram if there was a subjects board back then. But they’re here now and us academics must play nice with them.
That said… while i’m restricted in experimenting on people, entrepreneurs and entertainers aren’t. Thus, just as i rely on Jamie Kennedy to push human nature to its boundaries and provide me with a text to study, i count on technologists to create perfect fodder for my curiosity. My public critiques are not my academic output; they are intended to be my feedback to the domain whose creations i’m studying. They are channeled feedback from users, suggestions based on learned lessons and ideas for public discussion. In effect, they are publicly presented usability material without any pressure to listen to me whatsoever.
I do not think that i have all of the answers. That said, i do think that i’m asking a different set of questions than the creators of these technologies. And i believe that those questions are valid and valuable. For that reason, i offer some of the results publicly so that they can be part of the greater discourse. My apologies to those who don’t think that’s good enough. Perhaps one day i will go back to development, but not right now. Right now, i’m having fun.