ARCHIVE: October, 2006

Is social all about cool? (Or why teens switch from MySpace)

A recent Washington Post story titled In Teens’ Web World, MySpace Is So Last Year would have us believe that MySpace is a passing fad because of the group mentality of chasing cool. The story itself, however, then proves otherwise. There are concrete reasons why teens change their mind, and it’s not always about being […]

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Re-inventing HTML

Tim Berners-Lee in Re-inventing HTML:

“Some things are clearer with hindsight of several years. It is necessary to evolve HTML incrementally. The attempt to get the world to switch to XML, including quotes around attribute values and slashes in empty tags and namespaces all at once didn’t work. The large HTML-generating public did not move, largely because the browsers didn’t complain. Some large communities did shift and are enjoying the fruits of well-formed systems, but not all. It is important to maintain HTML incrementally, as well as continuing a transition to well-formed world, and developing more power in that world.”

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On the Record, by Default

Bruce Schneier, in his piece: Casual Conversation, R.I.P, suggests that, as a result of the recorded nature of online interactions, the very foundation of casual conversation is beginning to change:

“Everyday conversation used to be ephemeral. Whether face-to-face or by phone, we could be reasonably sure that what we said disappeared as soon as we said it. Of course, organized crime bosses worried about phone taps and room bugs, but that was the exception. Privacy was the default assumption.”

Indeed, we do take that privacy for granted. What we said behind someone’s back wouldn’t reach them unless the person we confided in told them directly. There was nobody taking notes, nobody recording this conversation on the record. What we said was contained securely in the moment: no future action could recreate it.

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The Paradox of Choice: What’s Easiest

In his plenary at UI11, Barry Schwartz, the author of The Paradox of Choice, made an interesting remark about how people make choices:

“People choose not on the basis of what’s most important, but on what’s easiest to evaluate”.

In other words, many times we don’t choose what’s best for us, we take the easy way out. This behavior is often called laziness, but I think it’s more than that. As Schwartz pointed out, we simply don’t have time for diligent research on all the choices we make. Most of the time, however, we imagine people making informed decisions. We imagine that if the information is there, then they’ll take advantage of it, consider it, and choose wisely.

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Paying People for Voted-on Content: What’s the Right Model?

Derek Powazek, in Will Post for Money, describes how he thinks the model for paying content submitters is wrong-headed: ( is very similar to, where people submit stories to be voted on. The big difference between Netscape and Digg is that Netscape is paying people to submit stories…Digg isn’t).

“The secret to success with consumer-generated media is that the community has to feel wanted, important, engaged, and a little in love. For it to work, participants have to feel ownership. And you generally don’t feel ownership of something that pays you. When you get paid, you’re the one getting owned.

I think it’s different for JPG and Threadless because we’re not paying you for participation, we’re paying you for letting us make real products from your work. The difference is subtle, but important, because the participation is still rewarded by all those great humanistic rewards that are more important than money.

The bottom line is, when you found a relationship on getting paid, it never goes farther than that. And the moment the money runs out, it’s over. You knew what this was.”

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Different Context, Different Design

In The Most Frustrating Thing, Matt Mullenweg, who helped create the Wordpress software that runs this site, is frustrated about our geeky fascination with technology and design. So frustrated, in fact, that he claims they don’t matter…

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YouTube and the Importance of Top-of-Mind

Top-of-mind was just sold for $1.65 Billion dollars. That’s the amount Google paid for the social video site YouTube, which owns the top-of-mind space for the word “video” in the minds of the populace.

When I think of the word “video”, I immediately think of Youtube. When people want to upload “video”, they immediately think of YouTube. When people talk about where they saw the latest episode of the Daily Show, they talk about YouTube. When advertisers think of “video”, it’s all YouTube.

YouTube is what people think about when they think of the word “video”…

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Paul Rand on Design

Paul Rand on Design:

“To design is much more than simply to assemble, to order, or even to edit; it is to add value and meaning, to illuminate, to simplify, to clarify, to modify, to dignify, to dramatize, to persuade, and perhaps even to amuse.”

Note how Rand goes way beyond the common notion of design, incorporating not only the editing of content, but the embellishment of it. I think we need that sort of broad view of Web design, a field that is far too focused on the technical aspect of publishing, and hardly, if ever, focused on the verbs Rand was occupied with…

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