Dear Tech, You Suck at Delight
Sara Wachter-Boettcher
2.7K204

People design for the scenarios they encounter often, that are based on their own experience and that they like to think about. Nobody likes to think about the experience of being raped, it’s not entirely clear to males on the first thought why women might prefer to ride in women-only subway cars in Mumbai or Tokyo, or that there might be a market for period-tracking mobile apps — or, for that matter, that pretty interactive mobile apps might make no sense when data is expensive and networks are slow — or whether their apps are at all usable by people with visual,hearing and dexterity differences. The age, gender, economic demographics of people who make these products are what they are. Hopefully the effort to create an even playing field via various diversity efforts will help and so will increasing awareness of the need to actively understand and emphathize with other people’s experiences. But the phenomena and biases that result in the failings that you describe are inherently human and ubiquitous — not just among techie dudes. Your writing about these things and drawing attention to them is extremely important and really the only way we make progress on them. But please don’t be angry. You have a right to of course — but it’s as likely to aggravate the problem as it is to help address it. The solution is for people who make products to emphathize with a broader set of people — because they themselves represent a broader set of people but also thanks to the empathy that they acquire by learning about experiences of people different from them. That doesn’t happen when they feel that their personal character, integrity and intentions are being challenged: they go on the defensive and dismiss your experiences as invalid. This is not to protect their delicate feelings or to imply that their feeling threatened deserves more sympathy than the far more frequent and intense assaults that women or minorities suffer every day — or that it’s the responsibility of the subjects of the aggression to make the aggressors understand. It’s just that this is often the most direct and effective way to actually make change happen.

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