The casual expert

The NYT has a story about self-selecting airport security lines.

…a black diamond line for expert travelers, defined as those who fly more than twice a month and are skilled at security procedures, always ready with items removed; a blue square for casual travelers, who are familiar with the screening process; and a green circle for families and those needing assistance or more time.

I think this is an exciting idea, although it doesn’t appear to be working perfectly. It seems that people are overestimating their own expert-ness (or perhaps fudging their self-analysis in favor of a perceived “express line”) although families feel relief from the pressure of other travelers.

This seems like a classic web design problem, with different types of users (who have very different abilities, needs, and expectations) coming in the same front door. And when there’s a choice, people will obviously act in their own perceived self-interest.

I think separating “normal” from “expert” is going to be a tough thing to figure out in any situation; unless “expert” carries with it an intimidation factor, I suspect most people will escalate their capability. Otherwise “normal” starts shifting to “stupid.”

Again, an interesting approach to a problem, and as with most prototyping efforts, lots of learning about how the proposed solution is and isn’t working, yet.


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