The Challenge of Scale

It has been quite some time since I referred a TED video in the THPL blog, I have still been watching the videos and enjoying them.  Yes, while they have mostly been interesting I have not found enough of a compelling or different point of view worthy of highlight in the blog.  Today, though, I watched a new TED video (well new to the website) that was given at the annual conference in March.  This post definitely touches the “Learning” attribute in the THPL mantra.  There are interesting problems on the planet, one’s that just require different thinking. Some of them relate to discovery (invention), some environmental (social) and then there are some that bring the challenge of scale (yes, there are many other big problems). 

Scale is interesting because it is the sheer notion of massive volume, that changes how you think about a problem and how you solve it.  Scale breaks the paradigm of linear thinking and requires attention to factors that might not even exist of be constraints in a typical environment.  In the TED video, Margaret Gould Stewart, Facebook’s director of product design, outlines three rules for design that are required when you build for massive scale.  In the instance of Facebook, a seemingly simple application, even the tiniest of changes can cause global outrage.  And on the flip side the subtlest of improvements can positively impact the lives of billions.  To get a sense of what scale sounds like, think about this - Facebook’s “like” and “share” buttons are seen 22 billion times a day, making them some of the most-viewed design elements ever created.  So, if you are ever offered the opportunity to work on a project of “scale”, raise your hand and say yes – you cannot help but learn a lot about how to solve really hard problems and one’s that are of “real” life.

Here is the video – short enough and insightful enough to want to watch

Loving life and another TED video