TAG: Google

Why I’m excited about the Google Social Graph API

The Google Social Graph API is a new programming API that allows developers to expose social relationships embedded in web sites. What does this mean for regular folks like you and me? Read on.

Do you ever feel like your personal information is spread across the web in a whole bunch of separate places? An account here, a profile there? A friends list here and a friends list there? All your information, but in all different places all incomplete at the same time?

Google Social Graph API

The Social Graph API helps solve this “silos of information” problem by allowing people to write software that understands who your friends are. It does this by reading your web site or blog and making connections between the social profiles you have across the web.

For example, imagine you have a blog, which is your home on the web. You also have an Amazon profile, a Twitter profile, and a Facebook profile. So you have four profiles spread across the web, seemingly unconnected. Amazon has no idea who your friends on Facebook or Twitter are, and vice-versa, and this is a good thing from a privacy standpoint. These sites shouldn’t be able to find out everything about you with you giving them permission.

But what if you wanted these sites to know a bit about each other? What if you want to combine your Amazon book history with your friends lists at Facebook so that you can see what your friends are reading and let Amazon give you recommendations based on your similarity with them? Or, perhaps you just joined Twitter and want to know which of your Facebook friends are already there so you don’t have to go hunting for them? (see video) Here we see real-world examples of how cross-pollinating your personal information between these sites can not only be efficient, but desirable…

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Facebook, Lifelets, and Designer Responsibility

If you’re a regular reader of Bokardo then you know I think issues like the Facebook Beacon incident, the Facebook News Feed incident, and the Digg gaming incident(s) are big deals. (I’ve written about all three here on Bokardo)

The reason why I think they’re big deals is because they’re canaries in a coal mine of privacy, so to speak. What Facebook and Digg are doing (or trying to do) is exactly what everyone else will be trying to do (or having to deal with) in the near future. Why are Facebook and Digg able to do it now? Two reasons: they have flexible platforms which allow them to make changes relatively quickly and have big, savvy audiences who grew up with tech. Other social apps aren’t dealing with the same issues yet because they’re simply not innovating as fast as these two. But they will have to deal with them, and soon.

I was chatting with another designer the other day and we were surprised at how little we hear other designers talking about these issues. Why not?

It’s an interesting question.

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Do Canonical Web Designs Exist?

Armin Vit at Speak Up asks: Where are the canonical web designs?

“Milton Glaser’s Dylan poster. Paul Rand’s IBM logo. Paula Scher’s Public Theater posters. Massimo Vignelli’s New York subway map. Kyle Cooper’s Seven opening titles. These are only a few landmark projects of our profession. Design solutions that, in their consistent use as exemplary cases of execution, concept and process, don’t even need to be shown anymore and that, for better or worse, (almost) everyone acknowledges as being seminal works that reflect the goals that graphic design strives for: A visual solution that not only enables, but also transcends, the message to become memorable in the eyes and minds of viewers. Whether these projects are indeed as amazing, relevant and enviable as we have built them up to be is cause for a separate discussion but it’s safe to say that, as far as designs recognized around the profession, there are a certain few that invariably make the list, usually without question. Myself, I could list projects in every category from logos, to annual reports, to magazine covers, to packaging, to typefaces, to opening titles that could be considered landmark projects… But when it comes to web sites, I can’t think of a single www that could be comparable — in gravitas, praise, or memorability — as any of the few projects I just mentioned. Could this be?”

Armin then goes and mentions the obvious answer: Google.

But this is not an acceptable answer for him, because…wait for it…the logo sucks.

To talk about Google in terms of its logo has long been a pastime for people who care about logos. For years I’ve heard the same argument from people who want nothing more than to get rid of the “Mickey Mouse” logo, as it is often described.

Armin’s point is that while Google seems to be better than Yahoo, it is still plagued with a bad logo. He’s not “moved or inspired” by the design. Therefore, he reasons, it is not canonical design. Canonical design, in his mind, is one that practitioners of the medium look to as exemplary.

But, frankly, I think Armin has missed his own point…

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Google’s Social Design Best Practices

Tucked away as part of the new Open Social initiative launched last week, Google engineers offered an interesting best practices document of social design dos and don’ts.

Social Design Best Practices

The list of best practices are as follows:

  1. Engage Quickly – (my interpretation: provide value within 30 seconds)
  2. Mimic Look and Feel – (make your widget look like the page it is in)
  3. Enable Self Expression – (let people personalize their widgets)
  4. Make it Dynamic – (keep showing new stuff)
  5. Expose Friend Activity – (show what friends are doing)
  6. Browse the Graph – (let people explore their friends and friends of friends)
  7. Drive Communication – (provide commenting features)
  8. Build Communities – (expose different axes of similarity)
  9. Solve Real World Tasks – (leverage people’s social connections to solve real problems)

This list is interesting for several reasons…

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

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

In the last several years we’ve seen the rise and fall of many social web applications. While most of our attention gets paid to the hugely successful ones like YouTube and Facebook, we can also learn a lot from those that have failed. Here are some of the common pitfalls that lead to failure when building social web applications.

1) Underestimating The Cold Start Problem

If you build and release your social web site and nobody uses it, you have the cold start problem. This problem affects most social sites, and directly results from designing for the network. The effect of the network is that nodes on the network (web sites) have attention momentum. We pay attention to certain nodes (sites) already, and so if you’re trying to add one to the network then you have to build your own attention momentum over time. This is not easy.

Too often, though, this hurdle is underestimated. The first step is to admit there’s a problem. Say “This is not working. Our early users are not using the site how we want them to”. You would be surprised at how often this doesn’t happen. Instead, what often happens is that more money is pushed into features or marketing, which is precisely the wrong move…

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Google and the Trust Issue

Can we trust Google long-term with our data?

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How to Prevent Valueless Design in Social Web Sites

How an over-focus on technology and visual design can hide the real value of social software.

In a fascinating piece on the amazing growth of the photo-sharing site Fotolog, Jason Kottke clearly articulates a growing problem in design:

Fotolog…relative to Flickr…has changed little in the past couple of years. Fotolog has groups and message boards, but they’re not done as well as Flickr’s and there’s no tags, no APIs, no JavaScript widgets, no “embed this photo on your blog/MySpace”, and no helpful Ajax design elements, all supposedly required elements for a successful site in the Web 2.0 era. Even now, Fotolog’s feature set and design remains planted firmly in Web 1.0 territory.”

How do sites with sub-optimal visual design and technology grow so big and become so successful?

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Does SPAM force us to switch messaging technologies?

There’s an interesting discussion going on over at Danah Boyd’s site about social network fatigue, or why people switch messaging technologies (in particular social networks) over time. One view is that SPAM eventually overrides every technology, forcing people to move to something else. A commenter, JD, suggested that SPAM killed Usenet, Email, and IM, and […]

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Why Scale Matters in Tagging Systems

Why and how scale in social tagging systems can leverage the Wisdom of Crowds (much like Google does with links) to make the incorrect tags less influential than certain Aristotelians would have us believe. Ok, so I got into hot water for my Thoughts on the Impending Death of Information Architecture post… But I’m completely […]

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