aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Talking out his @#$%!
I turned on the TV and there was Mark Smith, author of Disrobed: The New Battle Plan to Break the Left’s Stranglehold on the Courts, talking on C-SPAN 2’s Book TV:
I say it’s time that we use litmus tests, too, as opposed to just running around with phrases like “respecting the rule of law,” “respecting the constitution” which I think, those are too ambiguous and too vague to give any meaning to what we’re looking for in judges.
I might balk at the notion that we have a stranglehold if I wasn’t so flummoxed by the clear implication that this baby-faced author sees no need to respect the law or abide by the constitution.
James Surowiecki introduces his New Yorker piece on feature creep by noting that “at least half of returned products have nothing wrong with them. Consumers just couldn’t figure out how to use them.” What gives?
[While] consumers find overloaded gadgets unmanageable, they also find them attractive. It turns out that when we look at a new product in a store we tend to think that the more features there are, the better. It’s only once we get the product home and try to use it that we realize the virtues of simplicity. A recent study by a trio of marketing academics-Debora Viana Thompson, Rebecca W. Hamilton, and Roland T. Rust-found that when consumers were given a choice of three models, of varying complexity, of a digital device, more than sixty per cent chose the one with the most features. Then, when the subjects were given the chance to customize their product, choosing from twenty-five features, they behaved like kids in a candy store. (Twenty features was the average.) But, when they were asked to use the digital device, so-called “feature fatigue” set in. They became frustrated with the plethora of options they had created, and ended up happier with a simpler product.
It seems odd that we don’t anticipate feature fatigue and thus avoid it. But, as numerous studies have shown, people are not, in general, good at predicting what will make them happy in the future. As a result, we will pay more for more features because we systematically overestimate how often we’ll use them. We also overestimate our ability to figure out how a complicated product works. A new study by Katherine A. Burson, a marketing professor at the University of Michigan, shows that, when we buy things like golf balls and digital cameras, we generally do a poor job of evaluating our skills, and so get stuck with unsuitable products. We’re also willing to pay for extra options because we feel shortchanged if we don’t have them. But, once we actually have a product, our patience with all those features runs out very quickly. Elke den Ouden found, for instance, that Americans who returned a product that was too complicated for them had spent, on average, just twenty minutes with it before giving up.
Interesting to contemplate how this plays out in politics and democratic governance.