ARCHIVE: August, 2007

What if YouTube was simply lucky?

The post I wrote yesterday YouTube, Lazy Sunday, and Elephant Math is still bothering me.

This is why: the insane growth of YouTube had a definite starting point…the release of Lazy Sunday. I knew that Lazy Sunday was a factor in their growth, but I didn’t realize how big a deal it was until I graphed it out on Alexa. (not that Alexa is the end-word, by any means, but even if it is somewhat accurate the graph it would still show Lazy Sunday as the starting point).

Lazy Sunday

What if it was Simply Luck?

What if the viral growth of YouTube was luck? What if, for example, someone had uploaded Lazy Sunday to some other video service? Would that service have taken off and become #1 instead of YouTube? Was YouTube just the product of serendipity?

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YouTube, Lazy Sunday, and Elephant Math

Read an amazing statistic today about YouTube.

It involves Lazy Sunday, the hilarious Saturday Night Live skit performed by Andy Samberg & Chris Parnell which exploded on the Web in January 2006, generating over 5 million views and generally signaled the power of the viral growth of video. (read more about Lazy Sunday here)

The stat: in the weeks following Lazy Sunday, YouTube’s traffic grew 83%. 1

Lazy Sunday

At the time YouTube was growing, but Lazy Sunday was, in today’s vernacular, the “tipping point” which shot YouTube to stratospheric mind share. After Lazy Sunday, there was no question as to who the #1 video site in the world was. (YouTube was purchased in November 2006 for 1.65 billion)

This tipping point is even more startling when you look at the growth curve of YouTube…and notice that it started really growing in the December/January 2006 time frame. Wow.

Continue Reading: YouTube, Lazy Sunday, and Elephant Math

Sermo a sign of a larger trend toward specialized social networks

Jessica Vascellario has written an interesting piece at the Wall Street Journal: Social Networking Goes Professional. It describes a professional social network for doctors called Sermo.com, where doctors share information on treatments, diagnoses, and other medical topics.

sermo

The Sermo demo video (worth watching) asks “Why consult one colleague when you could consult thousands?”. Of course, to ask this is to assume that all of those thousands of colleagues actually know what they’re doing: they’re not fraudulent doctors who make stuff up. The way Sermo solves this is by verifying every doctor who signs up against a database of licensed physicians…so it is open to anybody, as long as you’re a real doctor. This will help to keep the system at some basic level of professionalism.

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16 Core Observations of Social Design

Here’s a quick list of 16 observations about life that have serious effects on social design. Note that none of these are how people interact with interfaces, per se, but how we interact with other people. Interfaces are an intermediary, an arbiter of exchange between people on either end, and are therefore crucial to how we communicate.

  1. Humans are complex social animals.
  2. Technology doesn’t change us very fast.
  3. Humans constantly search out ways to communicate more efficiently.
  4. The primary use of the Internet is communication.
  5. People play different roles in different parts of their life.
  6. People tend to connect to those people they are similar to.
  7. Who we are similar to depends upon our situation and goals.
  8. Over-similarity can lead to group-think.
  9. Unpredictable behavior emerges within groups over time.
  10. People act differently in groups than they do individually.
  11. The people we know greatly influence how we act.
  12. People usually compare themselves to those in their social group, not society at large.
  13. Humans aren’t always rational, but are usually self-interested.
  14. When humans are uncertain, we rely on social connections to help us out.
  15. We have biases that we aren’t conscious of.
  16. Because life in not deterministic, we cannot always predict human behavior.

Continue Reading: 16 Core Observations of Social Design

Announcing the Publishing 2.0 Redesign

It’s not everyday that you get to redesign one of your favorites sites, so I’m very happy to announce that Bokardo Design’s first release is the redesign of Publishing 2.0. I’ve long been a reader of Scott Karp’s blog about the massive changes in publishing, advertising, and social media. It’s one of the blogs that kind of sits at the fringe of what I do, not directly about design but surely about the topics that are important to designers of new media. Scott’s handle on the big picture of forces in and around publishing have been incredibly insightful for me over the past year as newspapers have come under immense pressure from blogs and other disruptive media.

(We actually released it live last week, but I was away giving a talk on Social Design at UXWeek and couldn’t squeeze in the time to write it up until now)

Publishing 2.0

Publishing2 was a great project for Bokardo Design because it dealt with a load of social features (being a blog and all). This was both a blessing and a curse, as getting the social features into the site was fun but also difficult because of dealing with so many Wordpress plugins working at once. We tried hard to get lots of useful features without cluttering up the interface. We consciously fought feature creep and tried to keep the site as personally valuable as possible. One way we did this was to use a plugin that allows folks to follow the comment stream of a blog post whether or not they actually comment on it themselves. Scott’s audience tends to comment in-depth, and they often provide serious insight in the comments. (I hope to add this feature to Bokardo in the near future)

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Psychology of Social Design Talk

Last wednesday I gave a 45 minute talk at UXWeek 2007 (photos) called The Psychology of Social Design. Here are the slides:

Download PDF of The Psychology of Social Design

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Friday Rant: Are people self-interested?

Nick Carr picks up on an article called The cold, cold heart of Web 2.0 by William Davies in which Davies builds upon the economic theory of Gary Becker:

“Along with many colleagues at the legendary Chicago School of Economics, Becker’s achievement was to see that economics needn’t confine itself to studying markets. Economics, for Becker, was simply a particular way of understanding any social behaviour. What distinguished it from other social sciences was not its domain of study, but its guiding assumption that individuals will always act rationally to maximise their own satisfaction.

The implications of this are stark. All altruistic, moral, cultural or emotional behaviour becomes reconceived as the outcome of individual calculation. It is no longer just businessmen and traders whose behaviour can be understood in terms of rational self-interest, but that of politicians, parents and neighbours.

This is a novel and unsettling way of viewing society.”

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Why I started Bokardo Design

While I’m hurriedly working on building out a corporate site for Bokardo Design, I thought I would take a minute and share a little background which led me to starting the company and what services I’m offering.

Many of you know that I worked at User Interface Engineering for 5 years. It was definitely the best and most exciting job I’ve ever had; Jared and the team are fantastic. While I am super excited about what I’m doing now, I am sorry to leave such a unique and wonderful place. Even so, I won’t be leaving UIE completely…we’re still collaborating on several projects and will continue to do so where appropriate.

When I was at UIE I did a mix of usability consulting and web design. Usability consulting for UIE clients and in-house web design and development for UIE itself. So I basically alternated between consulting and designing. In hindsight this afforded me an excellent opportunity to understand the design problem from both sides of the fence: from the view of an objective 3rd party consultant as well as from the standpoint of an in-the-trenches designer. These worlds are incredibly different, and both are unique in their own way.

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Putting the Del.icio.us Lesson into Practice, Part II: Feature Creep

4 Reasons why feature creep happens and why it’s an even tougher problem when designing social web applications.

(This is part II of a series on Putting the Del.icio.us Lesson into Practice. Part I dealt with the Cold-Start Problem)

Feature creep affects almost all design projects. We’re all familiar with the bazillion features in Microsoft Word, the countless buttons on our remote control, and the acute difficulty of setting an alarm clock.

When building social web applications, feature creep is especially difficult because there are so many possibilities for social features! We’re always captivated by the potential social value of what we’re building. If we add tags here then people will be able to do that there! …etc. When we begin to imagine the possible social features it becomes doubly tough to focus on personal value, as The Del.icio.us Lesson would suggest.

Less than the Sum of its Parts

So what is feature creep? Feature creep is the process of slowly adding features to a product or interface over time. The result is a design that is less than the sum of its parts. The features may have added functionality, but the overall effect is negative. The complexity brought on by the features has, instead of adding value, made the design undesirable and a pain to use. Simply put:

Feature creep happens when the design team underestimates the burden each additional feature puts on the person using it.

To prevent feature creep from happening, it is useful to explore why it happens in the first place. By looking at the reasons why it happens, we can get a better idea of how to avoid it happening to us.

Continue Reading: Putting the Del.icio.us Lesson into Practice, Part II: Feature Creep

Comic: Are you adding enough user-generated content?

User-generated Content

Continue Reading: Comic: Are you adding enough user-generated content?

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