Creative Privacy

Allowing users to tinker in private is essential to enabling creativity.

This is one of the many lessons from my TiddlyWiki days: Sprung from the mind of Jeremy Ruston, TiddlyWiki is a marvelously anomalous creature on the web in that, at its core, it’s just a local HTML file which can save itself. That’s useful in many ways, but perhaps most importantly, it affords users a sense of psychological safety:

Without being connected to a server, the latent (not necessarily conscious) feeling of potentially being observed vanishes as data never leaves the user’s machine. This has proven to be effective in encouraging experimentation without being afraid to make mistakes – also because recovering is as simple as restoring a previous file. (It’s really worth listening to Jeremy’s explanation there for a minute or two.)

I was recently reminded of this upon encountering a discussion on collaboration tools (via Blaine, who also happens to be an Osmonaut), where Geoffrey Litt used the term “creative privacy” – I hadn’t encountered that before.

Unfortunately, modern digital tools often disregard this aspect.