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My Experience is Everybody’s?

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Llima

I start this post with (a) an unsure direction where it is going and (b) I am 100% guilty of what I am about to describe.

As we perhaps begin to unravel the implications of living in a networked world of connections through technology, devices, networks, there is no escaping the reality that we still access that through the singular focus of our own eyes, views, experiences.

I observe, and see myself doing this thing of extrapolating my own singular experiences to some projection on others. Often this is expressed online as “_________ SUCKS!”.

I;ve seen this in my work on the 50 Web 2.0 Ways to Tell a Story — I included tools I was able to use and create with, some better than others. A few that did not work for me ended up in the cutting room floor. Yet, I’ve had colleagues look at and try some of the tools, and have different experience- be it temporary site fluke, or just a miscue, or just luck of the bad draw, but the tool does not work for them the way it did for me- so the summary is “Tool XXXX Sucks”.

Recently I had troubles myself recently using iTunes, Nike+, etc sites where the results are some level of frustration with the experience, and the natural inclination is to say, ‘iTunes sucks” “Nike is the worse designed web site ever” (I think my twitter message mentioned :”designed by drunk squirrels”.

How often do we extend our own experiences as universal statements for all? Can we really extract our own experiences to others?

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Marina Cast.

A one time event driven venting is easily recognized, but in our roles as educational technologists in trying to be able to recommend technologies, I wonder how often we recognize that our singular experiences (good or bad) may not be a virtue (or failure) or a product, but just what was a specific experience?

That’s where the value (or mine field) is of aggregating experiences- like in product reviews, but then again, that grows dizzying as you see how wide the experiences can range. What do you make of reviews in an iPhone app that vary like (click for full view):

2 opinions

Which person concludes and tells other that “this app sucks”?

Here is the end of the post, and still not clear of where it was going. I’d like to suggest, and out into my own practice, some more consideration that my positive/negative experience likely does not map to everyone else’s- it’s a complex world out there.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by cmaccubbin

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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as


  1. Indeed. As always, “YMMV” is a good motto.

    Your point is about recognizing our own limited point of view, right? Very, very important and really, really hard to do. 🙂

  2. Important questions. If we can’t usefully generalize our own experiences onto others’, we’ve got nothing to talk about but personal preferences. But on the other hand, if we generalize too freely, or with such absolute statements that (as Liz notes) we don’t acknowledge even the possibility that YMMV, then we’ve fallen off the elephant on the other side.

    As with many things in our shared lives (how’s that for attempting to generalize from my own experience?), it’s an endless balancing act full of case-by-case judgments emerging from shared principles that are nevertheless always the subject of conversation and refinement. Doesn’t mean there is no truth, but it does mean it’s good to be humble in our struggle to get those successive approximations moving in a good direction!

    Some deep connections here to the idea of life-long learning, as well.

  3. If it was ‘our experience’ it would be sorta Star Trek TNG nemesis-ish.

    I don’t really see the trouble with the conveyance of me-centric experience anecdotes, even when the experience stories sit at the extreme end of the scale. The trouble is in the mass of folks with an over eagerness to accept someone else’s experience anecdote as gospel.

    Once you can set up your filters to easily separate the BS that doesn’t apply in this context (or any other context), reading even the most emotional conveyance of experience is valuable if it contains even a grain of related context.

    I’m going to keep on generalizing from my own experience, I’d be a boring human-sheep if I didn’t. YMMV.

  4. I think it depends how you do it.

    A twitter-style post saying X sucks… will probably just start a war. But a more rational, longer, thought out post that explains WHY you think X sucks, that’s better.

    Listening to developers talk about browsers, or mac-heads talk about browsers pretty much fits this rule. There are a lot of people that say “X sucks” and in my mind they’re easily ignored. People saying “I prefer X to Y” are not necessarily RIGHT of course – their needs and desires in a browser may well be different to mine – but at least I have a basis for understanding why.

    If you try a Web 2.0 app one and claim “it sucks” because you couldn’t get a connection once – get lost. If you’ve tried it two, three times well enough separated to give them a chance to fix it and it’s still inaccessible, then “it sucks” becomes more reasonable. Without some qualification though, I’ll disbelieve your generalisations and go try for myself.

  5. I think this is the responsibility of the reader, not the writer.

    Try as he or she may, the writer cannot capture the experience of all possible users, or even to generalize on them in a useful way.

    Readers need to recognize this. That’s why it’s important to read from a variety of perspectives, to take into account the writes (for example, their experience, preferences, prejudices, etc), and to take it into account those factors that are important.

  6. Point taken Alan, but given we can ask for other people’s experiences and see if it is more than ‘just me’, maybe our posts could be phrased more as X sucks for me, this is why, what is your experience?

  7. I don’t think that writing ones view, however forcefully, necessarily implies that it’s a universally held view.

    Surely in reading any one person’s writing, it should be assumed that the person is stating their own viewpoint. There is no “objective” writing. If I say “Windows sucks”, then any reader would assume that’s been my own experience, or that I’ve bought into someone else’s experience. And if you know my work, you’d know which was more likely. If you figure I adopted someone else’s view, and that a lot of people do that, you’d assume that aggregation would just increase the echo effect and not be helpful.

    In terms of recommending technologies, I go through reviews from folks I trust generally, and check for certain features rather than the reviewer’s enthusiasm (or lack thereof). Even if *you* say a technology sucks, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to check it out. 😉

  8. I am blessed if I get more than five comments to a post (victory dance) yet I am seeing that the point I thought I had did not come out in words. I should not have used the simplified “____ sucks”.

    It’s not about generalizing opinions or judging whether something written (or read) is an opinion. It’s more like this….

    I try out a new technology, say, CoolIris, and get very excited about it. Make some neat stuff. Tweet and blog about it, share my experience, which is very positive. I write “This is GREAT for teachers to use….”

    Person X, a highly respected colleague, and no technical slouch, reads this and gives it a try. She has trouble getting it installed, cannot get it to display videos like I said it should, and it crashes her web computer, making her lose an important file she was working on. To her, she tells people, “This thing is terrible for teachers, buggy as all hell, hard to use. Don’t use it”

    These are both validated experiences in isolation, but can each of us conclude we are “right”? Who do we influence? Of course they are both opinions- and what we write can be seen as opinions, but we draw and share our conclusions.

    I am not advocating we do not write opinions. I am not advocating anything really. I am trying to appreciate this pace where we might forgot that our experiences may not transcend to all, and thatw e recognize that at some level.

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