I’m used to thinking of silos as great assemblies of storage, sticking out of the ground holding corn or wheat. Alternately, nuclear missiles.
There’s a lot of gyp given to the iPad and iPhone and similar devices for being in “silo” settings. Essentially, this should mean that anything contained in a given application on one of these devices is inaccessible to any of the other applications.
It makes a certain amount of sense – but it’s a limited view of what the term could mean, not just for computing, but for collaborative theory, user interface design, and all kinds of other human operations.
In short, it’s all about:
Single Information Leverage Option
Offering once choice in a given setting, or reducing decisions to Do or Do Not, often yields some of the best results for businesses. We’re all familiar with decision paralysis brought on by many slightly varied options. Siloing your information can actually help people make decisions and give your actions traceability. The fall-back for this is, of course, that you’ll polarize people. But at the end of the day, if you’re catering to people who either cannot decide, will not decide, or don’t align with the way you can best serve them – how effective is anything you do going to be? Diluted options lead to diminished returns.
Social Imperative, Limited Observation
Controlling the number of people who have access to information is powerful. Being in on a secret often gives us a sense that we’re both privileged, and responsible for how this information affects the world. This is a good thing, isn’t it? Yes. But it’s also a dangerous thing.
Creating any kind of social imperative – whether the onus is based on sharing or keeping a secret – builds a weakness based on opposing action. Building a movement in public is vulnerable to squelching – though that’s getting far more difficult these days. Building a reputation in secret, or through limited, in-crowd involvement creates vulnerability through that one person in the inner circle who just can’t hold their tongue.
Stream In, Leak Out
This is the real Chuck Norris secret of information control; With any SILO theory, total control if information is not necessary; what’s important is rate of control. Think about what silos are for in farming – gathering resources to controllable spaces for intentional distribution. The strength isn’t in being an end-point, it’s in being a way-station.
If you think you’re effectively siloing your content, your users, or your pretty containers never let them leave, think again. You’re not a SILO in the intentional, controlled sense; you’re a cul de sac.
No one wants to be a cul de sac; we need to start re-thinking SILO theory in design, content and communication. How are you handling your privileged position as a director of information?
Photo by eirikref