We’re all creatures of habit. Ritual invades every part of our being. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the conventions that help us manage our day-to-day tasks. We write our to-do lists to it. Success is measured by metrics instilled in us by society; habits that highly effective people take as gospel. Habits live in every nook and cranny of our routines. For example, I know of some people that can’t leave their homes until certain items are packed in particular pockets in their bags. Or how about that perennial urban legend where Mr. Sportsman sticks to the no-sex rule because of superstition. Where superstition is ruled by habit, of course. Habit sits all around us, helping us make sense of the world.
Moving to this to the online world, user experience design is the art of creating an environment that users feel comfortable in. A place they would like to inhabit. Sex appeal is often lauded as the great invisible ingredient in good user experience design. Habit trumps sex appeal every time. Do you subscribe to RSS feeds? I’ll bet you have a well-defined habit in place regarding the order you read them in.
JP wrote a great post on how Twitter is enabling capillary conversations. These exchanges, he continued, enable the use of conversational shorthand between kindred contacts. But why? Habit, pure and simple. It’s not just laziness, rather habitual users of Twitter like to use the service at light-speed. The web has a certain gift of helping to divorce manners (and/or our social graces) from action. Strip out the niceties and general conversation, what’s left but social habits of clustered niches?
So, if the way we communicate online is moving toward following our habits, our instincts, how does this change the cohesiveness of our online communities? Are we to pulled apart by these shorthand tribes or be brought together? And does this make a difference in the grand scheme of things?