On Bit Literacy – part 2 – “Heavy Bits”

ath_ssm_librow_dumbell_row.jpgThere is a major point from the book Bit Literacy that I found some disagreement with.  The idea that “bits are heavy” is fundamental to Mark Hurst’s theory that when they accumulate, the create a burden a user’s life.

He’s right about that, but he’s missing the point that bits by themselves are meaningless.

This can be demonstrated by the fact that the heavy bits on your computer are only heavy for one person – you.  If I were to inherit your computer, the first thing I would do is to wipe it clean of all those bits that you have been working on because they are entirely useless to me.

In like manner, an accusing email from a loved one that is accidentally deleted before being read also has no weight.

Therefore, this statement at the core of Bit Literacy should perhaps be altered to say “Bits are heavy, but only because we make them so.”

Why is this distinction important?

In the first case, it puts the user back in control of their own experience.  The burden that is felt from having too much email is not caused by the email, but by the decisions made around each message, and the immediate decisions and actions taken.

For example, a White Belt will scan email and make mental note to follow up on each item, while leaving the item in their inbox.  Over time, the mental notes multiply and produce an increasing sense of stress every time the inbox is accessed.

To the White Belt, the problem is that the people in their life are sending them too much email.  Some respond by simply deleting all their email, as Bit Literacy notes, arguing that if any of them are important the person will contact them soon.

The Green Belt, however, will read an email once before removing it from the inbox forever.  The email inbox is therefore kept empty, or almost empty.  They know that the White Belt practices produce an increasing sense of stress, and have different habits to protect their peace of mind.

The power that comes from knowing that I am making the bits heavy, can give the user the impetus to go the next step and to devise a system that is built to support their particular commitments.

I can make bit heavy, but my managing them well, I can also lighten the load.