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Humans are incredibly good... a reminder. :)

Years ago, in a book whose name now escapes me and I can't find even with my favorite search engine, I remember reading that there were essentially two buckets of how societies thought about organizing themselves and their rules:
  • Bucket 1: societies and religions that believed most people are basically weak or bad - and that rules are needed to protect them from their base instincts and from each other.
  • Bucket 2: those that believed that most people are basically good - and that that rules exist to guide them, help them, and protect them from errors and temptation.
Both often ended up with surprisingly similar rules, but there's always a difference in tone, attitude and treatment. As people that build products, its shockingly easy to fall in the first bucket in spite of where you may start.

You always first think of serving and delighting the user who needs you (closer to Bucket 2) - but there are plenty of forces pulling you into the depths of Bucket 1.

Years ago, I remember talking to a gaming company about a partnership. Most of the product discussion centered around how they were worried their users would try to break and steal their game assets or abuse the system in some way and how we could protect against that (..and their users finally did.)
Now working on payments, a large part of our time, quite rightly, is spent protecting against fraud and bad users. I've found surprisingly many product designers and managers are conditioned and have the the incentives to think about "minimizing user errors" vs. "maximizing user delight." For most products, the negative feedback is heard more often than the positive feedback. So if you're not careful, its easy to get stuck in a world believing people are mostly error-prone or bad or just always need your help, and that part of your job is to either protect either them from each other or yourself from them.

But then once in a while you see the incredible kindness of a huge number of people, and you are reminded that Bucket 2 is quite real.

Over the weekend, I ended up working with a bunch of Googlers to help put up the donations on the Crisis Response for Japan page. For a while, before we had the right support process set up, I ended up reading and responding to a lot of donor customer support questions. (Its amazing how well Google Translate works to understand people from all over the world, but that's another post.)

I was blown away; not just by the sheer volume of support for the people in Japan, but by the incredible kindness of the people donating from all over the world.
  • People writing in to ensure their funds were indeed received
  • People wishing they could give more if only they had the means.
  • People just writing in to say they cared.... even that they wish that they could be there to help.
  • People praying for a country they had a loose bond with, or simply because they felt a new connection.
People, a lot of them, essentially being incredibly kind and good; being... human;
really reminding you (and even a part-time, practicing cynic like me) that Bucket 2 was very, very real.


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