in Projects, Programming, Technology

Why it’s so hard to get stuff done online

I recently asked my social media and blog related email lists:

What is one technical challenge you faced in your online work this week?

I got an incredible 150 replies naming 163 pain points. I was blown away by the passion of writing and variety of responses. It was a steaming heap of frustration, here’s a word cloud from the problems people wrote about.

I do this to make sure I’m solving the right problems with the software I’m building. This time, it struck me these problems should be organized into pyramid.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs proposes that our psychological well-being is predicated on physiological well being. For example, you can’t have creativity and problem solving without sufficient food, health, and love. As I combed through my email responses, I recognized a similar hierarchy of technological needs.

Here is an un-scientific summary of the problems people are facing, organized from the bottom up.

You need a working device before you can even start.

  • mobile battery, network
  • old computer

I put this before software, because so much of the software we use is online.

  • Internet connection and speed
  • domains, ddos attack

We need our software to work before we can connect to others.

  • Facebook UX (creating events, notified of page posts, tagging photos, editing posts)
  • WordPress plugins and errors
  • enterprise systems, efficiency and training
  • Email delivery and performance
  • Video conferencing
  • Website mobile compatibility
  • OS or browser inconsistencies (inconsistent delete key, cursor disappearing, mouse freezing)

We’ve come to depend on a working social layer, but it is still broken and problematic in many ways.

  • communicating directly with fans on Facebook
  • counting clicks
  • managing lists of people, scoring leads
  • insufficient advertisement, engagement, and click through reporting
  • too much inbound email

Getting things done
Assuming layers 1-4 are humming along, this is where we get to work our magic. No doubt there are many problems at this layer, but we are blessed to have them. High functioning info-navigators solve these problems on a daily basis.

  • lack of time
  • promoting (webinars and web sites)
  • communicating with web designers
  • creating engaging content
  • timing and auto-posting content
  • posting to or connecting different sites
  • parsing data formats
  • giving & receiving customer support

As online professionals, we are blessed to work at a very creative and high level most of the time. Assuming our computer isn’t 9 years old. And we’ve got a good network connection. And Facebook is working like we expect it to.

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  1. Adam –

    Thanks for the insightful post! I’d add to the “Loving’s Hierarchy of Needs” a corollary: it’s awfully hard to Get Stuff Done if you haven’t identified the 1-3 things you need to get done today; and tested to see if the stuff you’ve done lately is resonating with your audience. Whether that means monitoring your stats or just asking your customers, pick a metric, measure it, and manage by it.

  2. Refreshing to know that I am not the only one with frustrations as I work on-line. Describing the levels of tech problems in the hierarchy is brilliant.

    Greg, I agree. I don’t get very far at all without identifying and prioritizing exactly what I need to do – today.

    Let’s turn the question around now and ask “What’s one solution you found to solve a pesky technical problem this week?” and see what folks have to offer.

    One possible solution you sent to “unsubscribing” and cleaning out my email is working well. I like it- Thank you!