I was a nose picker. When I felt as though there was an obstruction, I went after it with gusto. I was not proud of this habit, but I didn’t know what else to do. I thought for a while that I might have an overly active snot producer. It got so bad once that I had a scab under my nose for about a month in 3rd grade. The teacher would stop class occasionally to comment on it when my finger was hovering close. It was bad.
The problem, I realized later, was that no one had really taught me how to use a kleenex. Or more accurately, they didn’t tell me that there was more than one way to use one. I was under the impression that the only thing to be done with a tissue was to hold it up to your nose and blow. While this takes care of things when you have a cold, there are a great many reasons why a tissue is manipulable into other configurations.
It wasn’t until I was older that I realized a kleenex could be tightly wrapped and shoved up your nose to stop a nose bleed. I didn’t know that you could cover your fingers with it and then work at what had to be removed. I had no idea that closing off one nostril and blowing increased the efficiency of each blow. I didn’t know because I was under the impression that the cartoon version of blowing your nose was all that could exist.
I talk about unconventional uses and hacking everyday objects to bring new things to light, but what I am referring to here is just a simple lack of understanding for appropriate and acceptable use. I made assumptions about the acceptable uses of a kleenex and was then bound by those assumptions. I was ridiculed for merely guessing at the boundaries and failing miserably.
I feel as though the acceptable use policies for technology can be the same way. The faults are two fold. By not reading what is possible and truly understanding it, we are missing out on a great deal of what we can do. By not having good acceptable use policies we are doing an even greater disservice. If we only prescribe a single use for a technology, we are denying all other uses. By saying that collaborative documents are for notes we are denying all of the other uses of those documents. By writing out best practice, we may be denying all other practice.
Acceptable use should be expansive and open ended. It should look at static tools and see them as emblematic of the needs of users. A kleenex is for cleaning away nearly anything. Prescribing a single use for it is ludicrous. So is it with a phone or a blog or an email. Our acceptable uses should hint at possible future iterations. They should pay attention to power users and write uses that are not for everyone. Things should not be left to those who “figure them out.” They should be available to anyone with the interest.
If someone would have shown me how to use a kleenex in all of the different ways that it is possible, I wouldn’t have been a nose picker. While I would have missed out on this particularly strong character building exercise, I would have been eternally grateful for that AUP.