“Activation energy” is a very useful concept. Related is the concept of the right “unit of discourse.”
- When designing interaction, an important question to ask is, “what is the right level of activation energy required?” For example, the activation energies for the following sites are in increasing order: reddit, quora, stackexchange. For well-thought-out Q & A you want stackexchange, but for quick first-thing-comes-to-mind feedback you want reddit.
- Often the activation energy is too high or the default “unit of discourse” is too large. See for example Tim Gowers on mathematical collaboration: basically the research paper was not the right unit of interaction for mathematical collaboration (in the pre-formal stage), and blog posts/responses are better.
- Adults, unlike children, tend to think that something is not worth showing until it reaches a certain level of effort/perfection/completion, and this can hinder any effort where it’s valuable to try lots of things. (See the Freakonomics book/podcast on thinking like a child.)