The irrationality of preference

Having posted about Google desktop and Netvibes it made me consider why Netvibes is my preferred personal portal. There are many others available and while I could come up with a justification for Netvibes over Pageflakes, say, it would all be a bit post hoc. In a recent survey on VLE use in universities the OECD pointed out that

"there was little to choose between different systems. The past seven years of intensive LMS development and adoption in tertiary education have seen considerable system convergence…. Some respondents asserted that a particular system was the “only genuine” enterprise LMS, or “by far the easiest” to use, but it was difficult to evidence such claims. "

I think in some ways we choose software on a much less rational basis than we might like to admit, and rather like our choice of football team (or religion if you prefer), this very irrationality of selection makes us defend our choice more vigorously. Having made a selection free from logic, we are then able to indulge it at an emotional level. I have often been struck by how emotionally attached people are to particular software packages. When deciding on a particular piece of software to use for a project or course I have found myself in very heated debates, which pretend to be about functionality, or database compatibility, but are in fact about personal identity, emotional attachment, love even. Within particular functions we tend to be monoamorous, so you only love one browser/operating system, etc. We can be happily be polyamorous across different functions ie you can love an operating system and a browser.

The analogy with football is too tempting (and obvious) for me to pass up. You have to be monoamorous supporting a team at one level (any football fan that tells you they support Arsenal and Chelsea say is by definition, not a football fan and deserves your contempt). But you can be polyamorous across different levels, e.g. you can support one national team, one main team and maybe your local non-league team also. I’m being slightly flippant here, but there does seem to be a similar process in operation – it may be an evolutionary tick, the process for promoting monogamy to secure the succession of your genes latching on to other aspects in life also.

And then you have to produce a 20 page business case for a committee that incorporates your software choice in an objective manner…

Leave a Reply

css.php