A tweet yesterday from Dion Hinchcliffe on whether social adds complexity or removes it got me thinking again about the confusion we often have between complicated and complex. Complicated tends to mean difficult whereas complex needn’t. You can have complex systems that are easy to understand and operate in whereas this is never true of complicated systems.
Equally, simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy. Writing a blog post is simple but for many it feels really hard. It requires thought, commitment, even bravery. Also what happens after you save your blog post isn’t complicated but the effects are complex and rich. The ongoing conversations, comment threads, tweets and so on that can be triggered by a good blog post are wonderful in their complexity but the process is simple rather than complicated.
This is for me the biggest difference between truly social tools and many of the enterprise tools that go under that name. Tools that work are simple to use, but have complex and rich effects and require an investment of thought and effort to make them truly effective. Tools that don’t work are complicated, difficult to work out but make it easy to write inconsequential flotsam.