Do People Want to Tweak?

I believe that people want the ability to control their digital experiences – not just setting backgrounds or uploading photos, but the ability to completely change any aspect of any product or website they use and reconfigure them at will. In other words, I believe that people fundamentally want to tweak their computers and the web sites they visit to make them work better or look better or just be different from what everyone else has.

When I talk about the idea that people want to personalize their digital experiences, I often get blank looks. "Not everyone wants that," goes one line of reply. "Most people want things to just work – like a TV: you turn it on and leave it alone." It’s epitomized by this post on Macs vs. PCs.

Alan Kay is credited with the quote, "Simple things should be simple. Complex things should be possible." Einstein with the quote that "Everything should be as simple as possible, but not simpler."

The idea I have for enabling people to control their digital experiences -- to create truly personal experiences that they can share or not at will -- is one that seems to give a lot of people a hard time. They assume control = complexity. I don't know that it does. I think you can have both.

So what are some examples of simplicity+control that I can learn from?