“Real Artists Ship”

Colin Johnson’s blog


Human in the Loop (1)

Places with a pretension to being high-end often put a human in the loop in the belief that it makes it a better service. This is particularly the case in countries where basic labour costs are cheap. The idea, presumably, is that you can ask for exactly what you want, and get it, rather than muddling through understanding the system yourself. But, this can sometimes make for a worse service, by putting a social barrier in the loop. For example, I have just gone to a coffee machine at a conference, where there was someone standing by it waiting to operate it. As a result, I got a worse outcome than if I had been able to operate it myself. Firstly, I was too socially embarrassed to ask for what I would have done myself—press the espresso button twice— because that seems like an “odd” thing to do. Secondly, I got some side-eye from the server when I didn’t take the saucer; as a northerner I don’t really believe in them. So, by trying to make this more of a “service” culture, the outcome was worse for me, both socially and in terms of the product that I received.

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