The UX of Information Camouflage

By | May 24, 2010

There is a great way of hiding the fact that you have no idea what you are talking about.  Bury the listener in a mountain of details.  I have seen this many times and it’s depressing each and every time.

In government, the initiatives, bills, proposals, etc are presented in a way that makes it impossible to understand what the thing actually is.  You can bury some pretty awful stuff inside a 200 page law.  In Angler (A book about Dick Cheney) and The Power Broker (about Robert Moses) the authors describe how this technique was used to swing the pendulum of policy and power in local and national governments.

In product management, I’ve seen competitive reports on 200 companies without acknowledging that they have no idea who the true competition is.  Thousands of feature requests obscure the fact that they don’t know what problem they are solving.  If you study the world enough, you can support any hypothesis.  Just bury the listening in reams of details and then summarize with whatever you want.

People can’t parse through all of your supporting documentation.  They have no choice but to trust you.  The problem is that you are not trust worthy.  No one is.  Clarity is trustworthy.

If you can’t simplify your message and explain it on a Kindergarten level, then you are just obscuring your lack of truth.  If something is clear, it can be designed and built.  If it’s obfuscated then you will spin your wheels in multiple directions because people won’t know what they are trying to do.

In Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, the last scene says it all.  Something really important may be in there, but the best way to hide it is to bury it in tons of other bland boxes.

3 thoughts on “The UX of Information Camouflage

  1. Jörn Zaefferer

    And I thought the point of that last was “not only will we hide the lost ark in here, but we also hide tons of other stuff that will never see the day”.

    Reply
    1. Glen Lipka Post author

      Its a very interesting moment, that I imagine could have multiple interpretations. I think that if everything in the warehouse was ultra secret and valuable then the security would need to be better, like Fort Knox. However, if it was just a bunch of surplus junk and paperwork, then no one would ever bother looking in there. It’s like hiding it in a landfill of garbage.

      Reply
  2. Jörn Zaefferer

    Yeah, that makes sense, too. I just always assumed thats an Area 51 warehouse, where you’ll get shot before get even in sighting distance.

    Reply

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