Category Archives: Humans

YEINU: Your Experience Is Not Universal

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard statements like the following.

Firefox crashes ten times a day for me.  I don’t understand how anyone can use it.

There’s a simple answer: for most people it doesn’t crash ten times a day. But the person making the statement hasn’t realized that what links the first sentence to the second is an assumption — that other people’s experiences are the same. This is despite the fact that browsers are immensely complex, highly configurable, and used in many different ways on an enormous range of inputs.

(BTW, in case it’s unclear: I don’t think it’s ok for Firefox to crash ten times a day for anyone.)

My mental rebuttal to this kind of thinking is YEINU, short for “your experience is not universal”. It’s something of a past-tense dual to the well-known YMMV (“your mileage may vary”).

Although I’ve mostly thought about this in the context of browser development, it’s not hard to see how it relates to many facets of life. In particular, just this morning I was thinking about it in relation to this question on Quora and the general notion of privilege. Out of curiosity, I googled the exact phrase (using quotes), and while I got several hits on software forums (such as this and this, the latter being on a Mozilla forum), three of the five highest-ranked hits were from posts on feminist blogs (#1, #4, and #5). Interesting!

So, next time you’re puzzled by someone’s reaction to something, it might be worth considering if YEINU.