Human Shepherds and the Law of Relevancy

Note: This article is updated at The Law of Human Relevancy.

Yesterday, Ed helped me word a "law" that I use for important decisions and that I see show up quite a bit in a number of places.  It's the law of human relevancy.

The Law of Relevancy
No matter how relevant the information is, it's more relevant with the help of the right people.

The Human Shepherd
All this law really means is that no matter how well you organize and display information, at some point, there's a glass ceiling on how much easier you can make it for somebody to find what they need.  There's always a place for the human shepherd.

Usage / Examples

  • The obvious example is the Web 2.0 movement -- where people are the shepherds of the read/write Web.  There's lots of needles in the world wide haystack and I'm glad there's people, voices, blogs there to help.
  • I like the pattern on the Web where sites have a live chat to use a human to help you match their info to your needs, in real time.
  • I like how Second Life provides the ability to "invoke a human" over just self-help and forums. (I proposed some models for "human help" in Visual Studio and as a general platform some time back I need to revisit)
  • There's lots of implications for an Enterprise 2.0 world, but I'll save that for another day.

A Story
In an early version of Practices Checker (a tool meant to verify your solutions against patterns & practices recommendations), we tried to figure out relevant guidance based on the type of project (Web, winForm ...), what technologies (ADO.NET, ASMX ...) you were using, ... etc.  We did this automatically and generated what I considered more harm than help (it missed things that were important and created a lot of noise.)  I applied the law of relevancy and argued that we'd be better off figuring out how to leverage the user's own relevancy engine and pattern-matching ability over auto-magic guesswork.  We then created a tool to help smart people, rather than a "smart" tool that gets in the way.

Comments (2)
  1. OAL says:

    Great Article and "Congradulations" on making the "front page news!" on Saturday November 10th, 2007!

    My wonder onto joining blogs.gotdotnet was exactly for blog information to build a blog.

    I must be used to a different style of instructions because every corner I turned searching just a regular provided MSN’s blog, i ran into what seemed nothing "relevant" to being farther ahead than seeing the search engine results…

    Here at this site I thought I might find something of a fill in the blank template in a place that is already going to have a blog.msn or type of url when completed.

    It may still.

    But even here, I have failed to progress any further than just finding a place to read about blog related information.

    I feel this may be the type of step any common person may try, especiallly if they wanted to get away from a  forum type page elswhere to just start there own blog with all the gadgets like RSS,  tags, etc.  


    I will wait awhile  to see if the comments on this blog thread continue, and post a link back describing this as a great place to get started.

    A sort of clumsy appeal, yet not as dummies; we need not think of ourselves to a grade as we may not yet found our areas of smartness, if it is that we still apply ourselves structured to learn, and to apply what we can find  to use for that wisdom.

    Phillipians I just read, 2 quotes,

    Chapter 1 verse 18: What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.

    21: For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

    … all in all a good story


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