ARCHIVE: June, 2007

You can’t be social by yourself

Found a great explanation of social design from Crysta Metcalf of Motorola, who is currently involved in an ethnographic research project to find out how people communicate through technology: (via experientia)

‘When we talk about the “user experience” the main emphasis is often on an individual’s experience with a particular technology. Even with a purported social technology, for example a social networking site, we still tend to create for the individual’s interaction with the site (how does someone find their friend, how do they access this site easily from a mobile device).

However, designing for sociability means thinking about how people experience each other through the technological medium, not just thinking about how they experience the technology. The emphasis is on the human-to-human relationship, not the human-to-technology relationship. This is a crucial difference in design focus. It means designing for an experience between people.

Continue Reading: You can’t be social by yourself

Social Classes on Networking Sites

Danah Boyd, who routinely interviews folks who use MySpace and Facebook, says there is a class divide between the services, with Facebook garnering a higher socio-economic class than MySpace.

Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace

As Danah admits, it’s difficult talking about class. I’m always uncomfortable with it because it’s always a spectrum…there is no clear distinction between this class and that class. Even the “cool” kids class had some people who could cross into the “skater” kids class when I was in high school. Also, talking about class can only reinforce it. To that end I wonder what sorts of things we’re going to learn from this distinction…does talking about class make us any smarter, or simply make us more likely to make class distinctions? (to her credit: Danah makes it clear that she’s having a hard time discussing this).

One way that I think would be interesting to cut up the populations would be activity. Are the people using MySpace for different reasons than Facebook? Are the two services equivalent from a tool standpoint? What about people who use both? It seems that Danah is talking about them equivalently, although in this case that’s not the focus of her piece so I don’t know for sure.

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The Opaque Value Problem (or, Why do people use Twitter?)

John Dvorak, the famous Mac linkbaiter, who let everyone in on his linkbaiting strategy a while back, can’t understand why anyone would care a whit about Twitter:

“I cannot understand why anyone would want to do this, or why anyone would want to read these posts.

In the past, I would just go off on the subject, as I did with blogging and podcasting when they first appeared. Since then, I’ve become a blogger and a podcaster and have been rebuked for my earlier opinions. On the Internet, they never forget.

So I’m thinking that I should be more analytical in a positive way. I say this even though this is one fad I cannot imagine wasting my time on.

At the risk of linking to Dvorak’s piece, this is actually a widely-held view of not only Twitter, but of much of social software in general. It is difficult to understand why others would use social apps…what value is all that chattering?

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Design vs. Art Quotes

From the your-audience-knows-best department…

Last week I posted Design is not Art, Redux, another discussion about one of the principles I design by. The post ended up being the smartest thing I’ve posted in a long while, and it wasn’t because anything I said. My readers, Bokardoans, as I like to call them, shared some seriously deep insight into the issue. I’m reposting some of my favorite responses here…but the whole thread is interesting.

Mark Rodriguez asks:

“I think the conversation boils down to that design and art are totally judged by two different measurements of value. The purposes are different. Is the purpose of design to ‘touch the soul’ as most art aspires to do?”

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Common Pitfalls of Building Social Web Applications and How to Avoid Them, Part 2

This is part II of a series on Common Pitfalls of Building Social Web Applications. Read Part I

5) Not Appointing a Full-time Community Manager

No matter how prescient your designers and how well thought out your design strategy, there is no way to design a perfect social web site that doesn’t need ongoing management. Yet, some social start-ups fail to recognize this and launch their app without a designated caretaker. The result is a slow failure…the worst kind of failure because it’s not immediately apparent that it’s happening.

In any decent social app, use and users are always changing, always adapting and pushing the limits of your software. So as Matt Haughey, founder of Metafilter, says in his excellent Community Tips for 2007, “Moderation is a full-time job”.

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Comic: Et tu, Brute?

Et tu, Brute? No, I'm not really Brutus. That's just my avatar.

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Design is Not Art, Redux

Leeanne Lowe pushes back hard on my claim that “design is not art”, one of the five principles I design by. She says:

“I have often thought that people who say ‘design is not art’ have no real idea what design is. If a designer were to say it to me I would seriously have to say that this person is not a designer at all, simply someone who is concerned with production and sees what they do as a job.”

Well, I don’t…

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Can Design Change the World?

That’s the question being asked (and answered) at, a pro-bono site built by smashLAB, a Vancouver-based design firm. (via gong szeto)

Design Can Change

There’s a lot to like at this site. Not only do they provide excellent visuals that explain the concepts of climate change, but they also candidly address the impact that design has on the world. They also gives tips on how to take action.

Beautiful, inspired work.

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It’s Just People Talking

Was reading Kevin Marks’ thoughts on the Cult of the Amateur Pundit and found this gem from Hitchiker’s Guide author Douglas Adams in How to Stop Worrying and Love the Internet

“Because the Internet is so new we still don’t really understand what it is. We mistake it for a type of publishing or broadcasting, because that’s what we’re used to. So people complain that there’s a lot of rubbish online, or that it’s dominated by Americans, or that you can’t necessarily trust what you read on the web. Imagine trying to apply any of those criticisms to what you hear on the telephone. Of course you can’t ‘trust’ what people tell you on the web anymore than you can ‘trust’ what people tell you on megaphones, postcards or in restaurants. Working out the social politics of who you can trust and why is, quite literally, what a very large part of our brain has evolved to do. For some batty reason we turn off this natural scepticism when we see things in any medium which require a lot of work or resources to work in, or in which we can’t easily answer back – like newspapers, television or granite. Hence ‘carved in stone.’ What should concern us is not that we can’t take what we read on the internet on trust – of course you can’t, it’s just people talking – but that we ever got into the dangerous habit of believing what we read in the newspapers or saw on the TV – a mistake that no one who has met an actual journalist would ever make. One of the most important things you learn from the internet is that there is no ‘them’ out there. It’s just an awful lot of ‘us’.”

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Two Great Videos in Plain English

Lee Lefever over at Common Craft has posted two nice videos about how and why to use new technology. Lee, who is also using the term “social design”, is obviously aware that not everybody is on the social media bandwagon yet. These videos are a great primer for folks who want an explanation of what RSS and Wikis actually are. They’re fun, too.

RSS in Plain English

Continue Reading: Two Great Videos in Plain English

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