TAG: notes

An Event Worth Choosing

At UIE we recently released the web site for our annual User Interface Conference, a one-of-a-kind event focused on giving web designers and developers a chance to learn from the world’s best.

As part of this year’s great speaker lineup, we are lucky enough to have Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice, give the plenary!

I mentioned Barry in my talk Web 2.0: Leveraging the Network. Barry really understands and articulately explains the problem of having too much to choose, and I’m psyched that he’ll be speaking this year.

In addition, we’ve also got several guys who will be talking about topics right up my alley.

Luke Wroblewski from Functioning Form (and Yahoo) is giving a full-day presentation on communicating successfully with visual design, which I’m anxious to attend. What I like about Luke is that he’s not your usual “artist wannabe” designer. He understands that design really has nothing to do with the designer, and all about communicating ideas directly to the people using the site.

Also, I’m anxious to see David Heller give his full-day session about creating powerful web apps with Ajax. This is currently a white-hot topic in web design, and as I use Ajax more in my own projects I’m seeing how great it can be when used judiciously. What I like about David is that he’s got a common sense view of things, and doesn’t let buzzwords get in the way of a good experience.

Finally, we have Jeff Patton talking about Bringing User-centered design practices into Agile Development projects. I’m new to Agile Development myself, so I’m excited to learn why frameworks like Ruby on Rails and Cake are really embracing these ideas and implementing them.

But those are only 3 of the 8 full-day sessions. Check out the conference web site for all the details.

On Browse

Derek Powazek in The Wisdom of Browse:

“As the web matures, and we get better at developing member-driven media sites like Digg, we have to look beyond simplistic majority-rule popularity contests if we ever want to take on traditional editor-driven media. People are complicated, and we’re going to need complicated systems to really draw the wisdom out of the crowd.”

This follows hot on the heels of my recent post The One Crucial Idea of Web 2.0 as well as Ajit’s insight into collective intelligence, where he recast Web 2.0 principles underneath the umbrella of the Wisdom of Crowds. (collective intelligence) Alex has a nice writeup on this, too.

I’m confident that we’re seeing another insight from networked life here. The insight is that we can aggregate the wisdom of crowds, but only under certain circumstances and perhaps only for so long without evolving our systems. The recent Digg.com blowup is evidence that our systems need to adapt as their users adapt.

For those not familiar with the Wisdom of Crowds…

On Mediation

Noah Brier in Everything’s Filtered:

“This is the great thing about the web. It can make people understand that everything is mediated. Damn straight you shouldn’t just trust your personalized homepage to give you all the information you might need, but you also shouldn’t trust your newspaper……The big problem jumps out when people believe they are seeing the whole picture.


My current 2 week hiatus from blogging is the longest time that I haven’t blogged in years. But I’ve got a good reason why. Her name is Tessa:


On Second Coming

Adam Green’s The second coming of the Web, a satire:

“When Tim Berners-Lee first gave mankind the Web, he made a tragic mistake. He granted us free will to use less than perfect HTML. His tools, and the tools of those to follow him, allowed users to develop sinful habits based on ignorance and sloth. The result was a Web of corrupt data, in which misformed tags abounded. This great fall from grace by the users of the Web prevented it from ever attaining the state of perfection desired by all computer scientists, a completely machine readable database.”

On Congenial

From Newsweek’s The New Wisdom of the Web (print version, simply kill the print popup):

‘”It’s clear that the Web is structurally congenial to the wisdom of crowds,” says James Surowiecki, author of a book (“The Wisdom of Crowds,” naturally) that argues that your average bunch of people can guess the weight of a cow or predict an Oscar winner better than an expert can. That’s why some people believe that an army of bloggers can provide an alternative to even the smartest journalists, and that if millions of eyes monitor encyclopedia entries that anyone can write and rewrite (namely, the Wikipedia), the result will take on Britannica.’

20 Important Tools

Forbes has a nice writeup on The 20 Most Important Tools Ever. Their list is fascinating, including:

  • knife, abacus, compass, pencil, harness
  • scythe, rifle, sword, eyeglasses, saw
  • watch, lathe, needle, candle, scale
  • pot, telescope, level, fishhook, chisel

In Forbes’s words, “these are the tools that have most impacted human civilization and helped move the course of history.”. Notice how simple the tools are, how they perfectly represent the GMC slogan “do one thing, do it well”.

Don’t look too hard at the list, however, because the methodology by which they chose these items is a little frustrating. They purposefully left out a huge number of tools, including social tools like language, simple machines like pulleys, sophisticated tools like computers, and for some reason the printing press. They make the case that the axe is not included in the list because it is simply a wedge, and then they don’t include the wedge but do include a chisel, which is also a wedge. But, as they say, the list is meant to be a idea-generator, not an end-all be-all list.

What I find interesting is how this list compares to software. Are there any tools that we can use software to replace or make better? Surely we use software to write, so we are replacing the pencil in a sense. Also, we use software maps to find our way, although that’s slightly different than using a compass because it’s still hard to use software to tell where we are in relation to north. But we do use GPS software for that…We share images with software, images that could have been taken with telescopes, or stood in for the need of one. And, of course, we use computers for telling time and for counting…does anybody use an abacus anymore?

On Growing

This is an obvious analogy, but here goes:

In the network, we grow things. We seed them with a DNA of sorts (the framework of how they work) and then we unleash them in the wild. Wind, rain, sun…we get all those things in the form of trolls, criticism, and fans. We need those things…they each help us grow in different ways. Become hardier.

For example, Digg has grown despite the myriad of attempts of mean-spirited people who try to game the system (some are just curious, too). But in combatting those people, Digg is emerging stronger than they were. I for one really like Digg’s Apple feed.

In the network, we don’t build things fully-formed. We don’t plant huge trees and watch them gain another 10% of their final size. We watch them grow a thousand-fold instead. We can’t predict which way the branches will go, but that’s OK. They’re growing up.

So, while the original ideas are important (the seed), the way you care for the tree and shelter it from the elements might be more so. This might explain why some projects which are just as good as others (like the open source clone of Del.icio.us – De.lirio.us) don’t catch on like the original. They were there first, of course, but they also had someone watering it daily.

Where is your money?

It is widely agreed that the number one way to produce a successful web site is to provide compelling content.

Similarly, the number one way to produce a successful web application is to provide compelling tools for use.

Is this where your priorities are?

I don’t mean the priorities in your head. I mean are you continually investing in compelling content and tools. Not advertising, not graphic design, not marketing, not promotion.

Compelling content and tools. Is that where your money is?

On Individual Wisdom

Kathy Sierra talks about how she misinterpreted the Wisdom of Crowds idea. Great read. I had a similar AHA moment about it myself recently, which is why I still consider it the most crucial idea of Web 2.0.

The Wisdom of Crowds is not about group decision making. It’s about aggregating individual decisions.

Big difference.

« Previous Entries | Next Entries »