ARCHIVE: May, 2007

Cult of the Pundit

When are we going to acknowledge that millions of people writing poorly (while slowly improving) is better than millions of people doing the alternative…not writing at all?

You hear the argument all the time: bloggers are poor writers who produce mountains of useless prose and very little quality work. The most recent case is Neil Henry’s The Decline of News, in which he makes the following insult to bloggers:

“Meantime, I can’t help but fear a future, increasingly barren of skilled journalists, in which Google “news” searches turn up not news, but the latest snarky rants from basement bloggers…”

Continue Reading: Cult of the Pundit

Extending the Circles of Relationships

Several folks pushed back on my circles of relationships post last week. Most people thought Schneiderman’s diagram just wasn’t complex enough in describing social networks, arguing that most relationships are too dynamic to be represented in this way.

Ben Schneiderman's Circles of Relationships

Bokardoan Alex Mather wrote a thoughtful post suggesting an altered version of the diagram, adding some interesting twists. The most notable twist is that he has included a “people like us” ring that we ascribe nearly as much weight to as friends, and that these two groups are in a “protected” area, more important than the other groups.

Alex Mather's Circles of Relationships

Continue Reading: Extending the Circles of Relationships

Facebook and Circles of Relationships

David Kirkpatrick’s has written a great piece on the new direction Facebook is going. His lead in says it all:

“Imagine that when you shopped online for a digital camera, you could see whether anyone you knew already owned it and ask them what they thought. Imagine that when you searched for a concert ticket you could learn if friends were headed to the same show. Or that you knew which sites – or what news stories – people you trust found useful and which they disliked. Or maybe you could find out where all your friends and relatives are, right now (at least those who want to be found).”

Notice how each one of the examples relates the person with what they’re trying to find out by way of Trust. In other words, information is important to people not just because of what it is, but because of what it means to the person and their future. Knowing what concerts are playing is nice…but knowing which one your friends are going to is what’s important.

Schneiderman’s Circles of Relationships

Ben Schneiderman came up with a nice graphic to illustrate this. He calls it the circles of relationships. It shows several concentric ovals (centering on the self) that illustrate how Trust dissipates outward. As we move away from people near to us, we trust them less.

Ben Schneiderman's Circles of Relationships

Continue Reading: Facebook and Circles of Relationships

Comic: Is it Useful?

Is it useful?

Continue Reading: Comic: Is it Useful?

How to Design for Word-of-Mouth

How designers can help spread the good word about a product or service.

The holy grail of design is to make something so wonderful and remarkable that people can’t imagine life without it. People are so happy with it that it sells itself. This idea was expounded on beautifully by Seth Godin in The Purple Cow, a new rendering of the age-old business ideas of differentiation and competitive advantage.

The big benefit of word-of-mouth is that your marketing budget goes toward zero, as your users become your marketers. If they’re so passionate about your design they’ll tell their friends about your service, and you won’t have to. And, most likely, what they say is more influential than what you can say anyway. Focusing on this value, and designing to enable it, is a big part of social design.

Word-of-mouth is complicated from a design standpoint because it’s not a monolithic activity. It’s several smaller steps that happen in order. On one hand this makes it harder to design for because there are many little problems to solve. On the other hand, it gives designers a clearer picture of what to focus and spend time on.

You can help enable word-of-mouth by designing your application to support it by giving your users tools to share their passion about your app or service. To actually make it work, however, you have to nail most of the following steps…

Continue Reading: How to Design for Word-of-Mouth

Comic: Jakob Who?

Jakob Who?

Continue Reading: Comic: Jakob Who?

Real world gamed?

Techmeme creator Gabe Rivera in an interview at Wired:

“The way I view it, Techmeme is gamed continuously because the real world is gamed continuously: Gamed in the sense that bloggers have always traded links and various other gestures of attention, sometimes through unspoken agreements, sometimes not. This was going on before my sites arrived, though these kinds of things can affect Techmeme. It’s hard to say how much.”

(my emphasis added)

Continue Reading: Real world gamed?

Comic: Hyperlinks and Hierarchy

Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy! Hierarchy subverts hyperlinks!

Continue Reading: Comic: Hyperlinks and Hierarchy

Why founders should be part of their community

Matt Haughey, founder of Metafilter, on the importance of participating in your own community:

“Be the best member of your site. Lead by example by participating as much as you can in your own community. This is a good way to attract other well-intentioned members of your site and also reminds everyone a real person is behind it all and building the best community they can for everyone. Speak honestly and be supportive of other members. When I think of all the communities I’m a part of, the ones I love are the ones I see the creators using everyday.”

This directly relates to the idea of Give people something to copy, as you’re showing your community a great role model for participation. It also highlights a growing problem I’ve seen with start-ups who are trying to build communities. In many cases the entrepreneur isn’t the type of person who belongs in the very community they’re building. Perhaps they’re an MBA who wants to start the next user-uploaded video site. If they don’t do video, they’re another degree of separation away from their audience.

Each degree of separation from your audience makes it harder to cope with designing for them…

Continue Reading: Why founders should be part of their community

Live by the Digg, Die by the Digg

On Wednesday, May 2, users of the site, a social news site, did something remarkable in the history of the Social Web. What they did was seize editorial control of the site: what content appeared on the home page of Digg, for the first time, was truly decided by its users.

If you aren’t familiar with the details, here is a quick recap. ReadWriteWeb also had a nice timeline of events.

There are two ways you can look at this incident whereby Diggers overwhelmed the site by repeatedly (up to two per second) digging stories containing an HD-DVD crack code.

One is as described by Mike Arrington of Techcrunch: Digg Surrenders to Mob. Simply using the word “Mob” makes for great press. We gravitate to mobs because we know they’re messing with the Man. They’re anti-authority, they’re doing what they’re not supposed to, they’re pissed and fighting for their rights. We think of the French or Russian or American Revolution, and we like it.

But maybe, just maybe, mobs aren’t that bad. Terry Heaton had an insightful observation: “What I find most fascinating here is the automatic assumption that chaos is evil. This is a purely modernist perspective, but life itself proves it to be false.” He argues that the so-called Mob was more like the site at its finest…that a Mob is nothing more than democracy at high speed. I tend to agree with this.

The other way to look at the situation is as I described it: Digg Surrenders to Community. The difference is in those two words: Mob and Community. Now, I wasn’t being as calculated as Mike was being, I’m sure, but when realizing the stark contrast afterward it occurred to me that you either acknowledge the voice of the people on Digg as a group, or you do not. You either view them as a passionate Community, or you view them as a anarchic Mob.

Continue Reading: Live by the Digg, Die by the Digg

« Previous Entries |