Gavin Bell Data Portability For Whom Xtech08


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A talk I gave at XTech08 looking at the psychology behind technology adoption, looking particularly at OpenID and OAuth using RSS as a guide. This is a slightly revised version of the original talk.

How relevant is the data portability of social networks to those who don’t knowingly have an OpenID already? Millions of OpenIDs are deployed but how many are actually used? What about microformats, ever tried explaining why the hCard is a good idea? It makes a smart demo if you have the right plugins installed, but the holy grail of browser adoption may never come for many people.

Defining the problem is the real issue; yes, solving it is hard, but we need to assess whether we are solving the right problems or just satisfying our own curiosity. The psychology of why non-geeks need data portability etc is murky. However understanding the needs of the rest of usHH them will mean these innovations take root.

We live in a small tight circle of people who care about a new beta of Firefox. We are more prone to criticise a website for not being fully buzzword compliant than on its actual merits as a project. We don’t make sites to show off new technologies, we build them for people to use to do something relevant to their lives.

How can we ensure that we include their needs and expectations along side the buzzword tick list? We are no longer building software components which are aimed at other developers, this is no CSS or XHTML. The last mainstream new web technology aimed at the general population was RSS. OpenID, OAuth and their kind are much more social in their impact, we expect people to use their OpenIDs in multiple places, we expect them to allow OAuth to enable access to their data.

Happily, there is already plenty of research into how people understand and process information. It is called psychology. I’ll give an overview of cognitive psychology and how the learning from this subject are can be applied to the kinds of systems we are developing. How people form models of the world, how they handle change. How people setup expectations and what happens when we break these. Come, find out about how the people you are developing for function as individuals and as a group.

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Gavin Bell Data Portability For Whom Xtech08

  1. 1. Data Portability for whom? Some psychology behind the technology Gavin Bell 8th May, XTech 2008 1 Three topics - exploring who are we building things for? Technology adoption Psychology Identity and social network portability Basically this is me getting to the bottom of something that keeps bugging me Some comments and reviews of the talk - Simon Wardley!s generous review - Jeremy Keith!s review of my talk as given I!ve revised the talk a bit and given more context in the notes so that this stands up on its own Ian Forrester videoed the talk if you want to see the original
  2. 2. 2 A bunch of clever technologies aimed at making the web a better and more manageable place All good things, but we are starting to build a common infrastructure for the web with these tools and the integration is not yet clean. How has an OpenID Who has used OAuth (outside Flickr!s similar system) Who has implemented OAuth? (most people had, making the point that the technical audience of a web conference is quite different to the average person on the internet. Brad Fitzpatrick had similar thoughts last year.
  3. 3. Desktop access to web data via OAuth with OpenID Desktop Application Web Browser OAuth OpenID NO Requesting data Sign in on OpenID Is user signed into from website provider website YES View request from Approve access to desktop relying party application Confirm request and set options When user clicks Website grants on confirmation request to link, access token application is saved Application has access to external data or media Relying party Identity provider The important aspect of this is the second jump to another website, a 3rd party is involved in access to data via OAuth if OpenID is used, this is a potentially confusing user experience. 3 An example of the kind of thing that I find troublesome This is the “better than the other options” version of authenticating a website from the desktop Two things about this are odd, the jump from the OAuth data provider to the OpenID identity provider. Secondly the requirement on the part of the person to request the access token with a second click on the application, we are making the individual request the both aspects of the token based authentication.
  4. 4. The chasm 4 We are making products, collectively on the internet, Defining a common feature set for the new web The chasm shows the process that technologies generally go through to become adopted. Too much focus on the other side of the chasm can result in ill thought out technology. Or premature ideas of adoption rates I!m not saying that OpenID or OAuth are like this, but allow me to give a different example. Slide borrowed from Tara Hunt
  5. 5. RSS adoption 5 1999 things started with RSS, but it took until 2006 to become “evenly distributed” and embedded Why is this significant, RSS was the first major change to web browsing behaviour. Technology adoption takes a long time. See for detailed research on web adoption and demographics. the alpha geek crowd were making RSS by hand in 1999 and following the bitter arguments over the specification process Yet there are many people even now who have no idea what RSS is, but they can understand a web feed in GReader, or netvibes or a macosx widget.
  6. 6. Cognitive surplus 6 Other people are thinking and working in this space too, Kathy Sierra and Clay Shirky Clay gave a great talk about the Cognitive Surplus Which the web is unlocking as we escape TV... And adjust to our free time (society takes time to adapt, a theme I!ll return to) The things we can do with the web, given time and encouragement, many of these will be about collaborative content creation. We are planning the services and systems which will manage this collaboration, identity and content management. I!m an optimist, these other people are not stupid, they just have their energies invested in other places than making the internet happen. So if we are to encourage them to discover the internet as we feel it will become, then we need to enter with a respectful manner. So how is this cognitive surplus arranged and managed in our heads. So how do people process information.
  7. 7. Psychology 7 Cognitive = thinking, Psychology = study of the mind The process of understanding and processing information internal mental processes such as problem solving, memory, and language The field is 40 years old, same age as AI, 1956 We are all systems of human behaviour we make decisions based on the information we extract from the radiation bouncing around this room we understand other people on the basis of this processing, we form social relations on the basis of these decisions Cognitive Psychology: A Student's Handbook (5th Edition): A Student's Handbook (Paperback) by Michael W. Eysenck (Author), Mark T. Keane (Author)
  8. 8. Schema Congruence Adaption 8 A schema is a model of understanding of the world It helps us manage expectations of the world eg a restaurant schema cutlery plates waiters menu food however some restaurants serve different types of food so we have some ability to vary chopsticks rather than knife and fork still works as everything else is present Congruence is the degree of fit between the external world and our schema that it meets our expectations The email update with no content Eg x updated, click here to read. (too many social web apps do this) Flash websites and no bookmarkable urls barlett schema and correction we can ignore the things which don!t fit in to a degree teddy bear with missing leg is still a teddy bear But a teddy bear head, is that still a teddy bear? Also a take away is not a restaurant or if we went to a restaurant and they didn!t serve food - we might decide it wasn!t a restaurant maybe that is a bar or a coffee shop We can deal with change, this is termed adaption in schema theory
  9. 9. 9 Expanding on adaption schemas are not set in stone, they adapt according to experience We are all now comfortable with the idea that we can browse the web on a phone, yet three years ago it was uncommon Older phones on the left it was hard to use the web The iPhone makes it easier, Imagine Apple had launched the iPhone three years earlier, it would have had a slower adoption rate I think People felt the phone was for making calls. We can take gradual changes in our schemas, too fast or too big a change will feel incongruent. society takes time to adapt too, jet packs might take a while to fit into our lives. See Fusion man
  10. 10. Stability 10 what does schema theory tell us about how we approach web development two things ONE Firstly offer some stability Gradual change is better as it lets our users adapt their schemas to fit the new world iterative development, not large scale changes to site structure, navigation or layout. TWO Bridge the gap Schemas come into our world as mental models, Secondly we need to design our products to support existing mental models we have of the everyday world so we get shopping cart and filing systems and message boards, the “desktop metaphor” Completely new will not fly very well, except amongst the geek crowd
  11. 11. Notice board 11 Social software is a good example of schema change the church notice board or newsagents window is a long way from punBB, but the underlying traits are still there the concept of a bulletin board is based on these notices in the window we have added to the concept with replies etc yet we still know what is happening Even our language has shifting to the more modern usage over the past 15 years bulletin board for most people no longer means the physical board Also the language changes that Simon Batistoni spoke of earlier, surfing and surfing. See Flickr!s very successful blending of video is a great example of how to do it well And how passionate communities can react to change. (but that is another talk) Now on to a few more slides of psychology
  12. 12. Consistent or Coherent 12 Slightly change in topic now A good debate can be had about the relative merits of one vs the other. I would argue it is impossible to be both coherent and always consistent consistency is rule following, we!ve always done it that way coherency values context more and through following this you may end up breaking consistency people often debate this and strict usability people often push a hard line consistency line, where as a coherent choice can be more appropriate. Consistency is not wrong, just over rated. Be consistent, but decide when to be coherent Another viewpoint on these issues is simplicity vs complexity Many things can be simple, some things are complex, if you give a simple interface to a complex issue, then you give up control where it maybe required John Meada!s book Simplicity is a good one to read. In terms of identity, most people think email = identity, with OpenID we are changing this The change is coherent in our minds, is my website, but not consistent with their schema, I!ll return to this later.
  13. 13. Affordances J.J Gibson The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception 13 A useful way of relating to simple physical objects and the environment Gibson, J. J. (1979). The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception From gibson.gif He defined affordances as all quot;action possibilitiesquot; latent in the environment, objectively measurable and independent of the individual's ability to recognize them, they are perceived relationships, so not quite the same as schemas a door affords an opening, a glass holding wine, a chair sitting. computers in general only offer perceived affordance, though the iPhone is changing that slightly useful in terms of visual metaphor use common conventions, we have a history of usage with these items, cf a basket and a bin similar function, different representations however they are contextually bound the basket vs bin metaphor see later words and images are better than images alone, the words confirm and strengthen the message be coherent in their usage, people should be able to take something learned in one place an reuse it elsewhere on your site.quot; eg the plus symbol adds it to a shopping basket, Then don!t use the same metaphor to mean “give me a bigger image” Our moves towards gestural and touch based computing make this much more important Identity for most people is about email Urls are places you go to read something.
  14. 14. Operant Conditioning BF Skinner 14 Slight diversion, but relevant to the discussion of social software, normal programming continues in a couple of slides. BF Skinner ran a series of experiments rats and bars to press for food. comparing always giving a pellet of food in exchange for pressing a bar vs giving it on a regular schedule, say evey 5 presses vs Give them food randomly In the random condition they will press the bar a lot more than often during the training once the training is over in the random condition they press the bar for much longer this is about expectation, the rat is never sure if the next press of the bar will produce a pellet of food Pigeon video remind you of anything? the web, email and RSS all exhibit intermittent reinforcement Where is the new information? we never know when there is an update so we keep checking and checking.
  15. 15. Social Software 15 checking facebook or flickr or twitter to see who has updated usually there is some sort of update, but is it new content from others or content directed at us. We get a stronger reward from the content aimed at us most of us have broken Dunbar!s 150 limit, the predicted maximum number of people we can socialise with comfortably based on the size of our brains.'s_number However some of the updates are less satisfying, as they come from people we are less close to, or those we feel “obligated” to follow friends vs contacts as on Flickr, gating the amount of information we receive we even provide lossy updates, the deniability of not receiving every update is important, it aides social relationships and stops us drowning in information. Deniability as Adam Green said in Everywhere So we are very prone to wanting more from these kinds of systems, so we need to factor this addiction into our designs so that we do not create an unsatisfactory experience for them, unsatisfied desire is not healthy
  16. 16. Experience vs features 16 Or features vs service as Simon Wardley mentioned - Being feature led is a poor idea. There is much to learn from the ideas behind experience design and service design approaches. Imagine your app as a small part of someone!s overall interaction with other people and the world. Your app is not the centre of the world CF the iPod, focus on the one thing it needs to do well and ignore the rest, then iterate.
  17. 17. 17 Anne Asensio, then Head of Design at Renault.énic - it wins design awards – The judges praised the Scenic's quot;thoroughness and thoughtfulness of interior designquot; and the quot;orgy of surprise-and-delight featuresquot;. According to Ged Bulmer, editor of Wheels Magazine, quot;The Scenic possessed innovation, visual impact and appeal, detail design, control location and clarity”. Keyless entry - Automatic handbrake, level open tailgate / boot for sheltering from the rain --- In the move from experience to feature list to copycats something gets lost along the way. There is a strong aspect of this which is the “right feeling”, an experience. However it needs to be one for the people who!ll use the product, not one for the people who are making it. The hard part is to be able to continue to improve the experience so that you can continue to sell products. Staying still is fatal, you need new product ideas / product design. To return to the iPod five years ago it was a music player, now it is a web access device, camera and phone. Still no radio, voice recorder, dozen preset buttons and the rest of the 2003 MP3 player noisy feature list.
  18. 18. The beta addiction 18 We live in a small tight circle of people who care about a new beta of Firefox. How many have you signed up to, how many have do you think the general person on the internet has joined. Have you lost count? Do you think they have ?
  19. 19. Install this and then... 19 Anytime you need to say, firefox only, install this plugin then you!ve lost people, many people. Our ways of thinking are different, we experiment, we hack about with things. Other people just want the web to work, the web has a different schema for them, it is a place to find information and utility, for us it is a place to play and explore. Like satellite TV or a mobile phone, it is something they use.
  20. 20. Itches & Artisans 20 The scratching an itch is a core driver for open source software Or there is the more artisanal design approach, build something you like and others might like it too Do distributed efforts like open source do UX well? Atom and AtomPub are marvels of technology, but they are back end technology OpenID and OAuth are placed directly in front of a non-technical audience, plugins are hard to get people to install Flash and Quicktime etc, but with considerable effort and widespread content for their usage. How many stock Firefox installs are there (the majority?) We are changing the model of how people use the web, making the term browser redundant perhaps, certainly encouraging a more active role for them How do we get these tools taken on board? Not focusing on the technology helps
  21. 21. Get Satisfaction 21 Lovely interface from Leslie Chicoine No technology is mentioned on the page, no mention of hCard or identity transfer, just simple language describing the process and items in terms that people coming to the site will understand
  22. 22. Anti patterns 22 This is UX on a distributed scale, we!ll try many approaches and some of them will suck badly. Eg the password anti-pattern Signups where you give you account details for another third party site to create your signup. Not nice.
  23. 23. Deployment 23 OpenID - hundreds of millions of deployed accounts, mostly latent Mainstream consumers / relying partners, scarce on the ground Oauth, some great examples, but they are all in our bubble. What about the rest of the web? Technology takes a long time to get deployed and then uptake is slow too.
  24. 24. The h’internet 24 Mean joke I know. There is another web out there, These are the people who will never own a domain name They share email addresses, because they can!t make XP do a second user account. They don!t have webmail, they are not small in number but they are invisible. They might be your parents or your friends, it is not just an age differential They use things like hotmail or photobucket, snapfish. They can!t write html or buy domain names They don!t want to, nor should they.
  25. 25. Web of people 25 We are already partly online, there are lots of bits of me all over the internet from the various places I put things. So some questions Who here ego-surfs Are you number one for your name (yes for about 5 years) We are highly visible and represented on the web This is coming for other people and it is a shock when it does, eg the scientists on Nature Network, or the please take me off google twitter FAQ What about for the rest of them, how does the internet work for them?
  26. 26. Delegation • <link rel=quot;openid.serverquot; href=quot;http://; /> • <link rel=quot;openid.delegatequot; href=quot;http://; /> 26 OpenID delegation Who can do this? Who has done this? Do you think the people on the previous h!internet slide can do it I doubt it So we are heading for a two tier web. The new age of identity provision is upon us, The first was the yahoomail / gmail / hotmail here is your identity phase. Now we are offering OpenIDs (note the numbers of providers vs relying parties) So if you cannot delegate, then you cannot migrate from one identity provider to another
  27. 27. Portability 27 So if I exist on the internet which bits of me are being moved about. Identity, content meta data What is portable, My data? What about the context, too much focus on the data, example follows
  28. 28. 28 I can move this picture, but I can!t recreate the context of him being born. I can!t move the 30 odd comments about his birth to another system. I don!t own them and I can!t make these people move. (side point from Q&A - I can do this with my own blogging software, but not services which host identity, you need an account on Flickr to comment, the comments belong to the commenter) Also I don!t think the general internet population think this would even be possible. There is a regular pattern which danah boyd identifier of people ditching old identities and moving nothing over. This is present in the teenage market at the minute. How will this behaviour carry forward into professional life?
  29. 29. Domain centric 29 A lot of our tools are domain centric, there is an expectation that you!ll want to own a domain. This would be a simple model, everyone with their own domain, email, openid etc, but I hope you have gathered that the world is not like that There is a second aspect to this. They!d never think of buying a domain name, they use the internet, they don!t make the internet. Like having a phone or a tv, it is a service. Sure they might have a myspace or facebook page, but a hosting account no They have a different schema for the web to us.
  30. 30. http:// 30 Following on from domains, urls are anther tricky issue. People are getting better about URLs, they can remember domain names, they don!t need the http://www bit anymore However our precious hackable memorable, lovely urls are foreign to them The idea that you can use the url as a command line is alien to them, well outside their schema for how the web works. Many people hide the location bar. Portability in terms of urls is odd too. We can get our data back, but no service I know of will create redirects from one service to another. Eg blogger to typepad to wordpress? ( will map across to archive if they go out of business) So data portability breaks our precious urls and the general internet population find them hard to deal with.
  31. 31. Larry Tesler Law of the Conservation of Complexity 31 Larry Tesler came up with this Law of the Conservation of Complexity to explain the need for the MacOS toolkit in 1984. It was to explain to Apple senior management. It encapsulated the File, Edit, Print services into a single Apple provided set of tools. I think we need a toolkit for our distributed web ambitions.
  32. 32. Complexity 32 I think we owe it to the people who use our sites to give them a common experience. More than that I!d argue that we need a common web experience. We now have years of experience of developing web applications, latterly we have experience in developing web applications that represent people on our sites. Essentially on the third iteration We can make the web We can make money from the web Now making the web something that people inhabit. Given the mixed level of current applications how can we create a common experience when we have tens of thousands of providers. Oauth and OpenID are important aspects of this development. Yahoo design patterns and patterns in general are a good approach to this There is a need for healthy competition and no Apple like company which can set a single standard. for the back end to this, see Matt Biddulph, Kellan Elliot-McCrea and Blaine Cook talks on asynchronous messaging passing message passing via Rest and AtomPub & Oauth will help to break these monoliths down Polling rss vs XMPP message passing (less human checking too would help with the CPA) new patterns of development which are still a good fit for the current schema in web users heads
  33. 33. Tailored 33 there are a range of small single purpose apps which are very focused The 37 signals apps, twitter, blinksale etc this new breed of app tends to do one thing well and stays focused on it Often they *are* framework based apps coming from small companies, but they stay small they exhibit good behaviours in being small and remixable The schema for these apps is easier to relate to However why can!t I integrate these web apps into my desktop based work flow. (should I care if my workflow is desktop or web based, if I!m offline perhaps)
  34. 34. I should be able to use highrise to manage contacts synced to my macosx address book and then raise invoices on blink sale via highrise on the basis of a complete task in basecamp 34 I should be able to use highrise to manage contacts synced to my macosx address book and then raise invoices on blink sale via highrise on the basis of a complete task in basecamp If these were desktop apps I could do this, So as the web bleeds further into our computers, I think we are setting these expectations up with our audiences
  35. 35. Blurring 35 What we are making and what the web is becoming is blurring Desktop web applications can offer better perceived affordances than running a web app in the browser Eg the unread mail count on MailPlane, the bouncing from Pyro etc Ajax and AIR muddy the water, then add in widgets, embedded webkit or prism, fluid or weave and it isn!t clear what is being made other than something that can render information from the internet on a screen Marsedit and blogging apps - which bits are on the web MacosX widgets - delivery status Devices that measure power consumption and put it on the web Initiaitives like Fluid show this desire for a clear and simple approach to making the web easier to use It changes the experience to one of not using the “web”, I!m reading my email or reading campfire - the task changes and focus returns A version of Fluid holding basecamp has become essential for me. What the web comprises is changing, we are moving back to the internet and the web as part of this. I!m really excited to see what will come from RubyCocoa, but I!d expect many people to have to look that up on google.
  36. 36. Brokerage 36 I think that brokerage services are going to become a large part of how the web operates in the future. OpenID is one of these Services like Fire Eagle too are part of this shift, location management as social software, but without the social network. It plugs into other services.
  37. 37. Science author disambiguation 37 To give an example from the science world, where I work at Nature. There are identifiers for papers commonly available, they come from Publishers, often as a DOI, or a pubmed id However there are no such services for people. Such a service would be very useful for finding collaborators etc Arguably Linkedin performs this kind of service but not widely in the science sphere, nor tied to the publications.
  38. 38. Identity brokers 38 Which leads me to an idea to throw out to you all. Do I know you services Last year I proposed, then ran out of time to actually build it. However friendfeed, socialthing etc have appeared and the Google Social API So this year. Services that consume and rank those myriad invites you get. We already do this for one another - can you introduce me to... One of the reasons Tim O!Reilly holds foocamp is to do the introductions. Probably an email based service in the first instance. Later an API
  39. 39. A walk through 39 Assesses the person requesting a relationship. Already a friend on other services => make friend relationship Friend of a friend on other services => score for later approval For none friends there are a range of metrics to look at and then rank Not a friend, but included an akismet approved message Not a friend, but included a domain name (query domain name) Not a friend, no message, but real looking name Not a friend and user=real name Send a once a day / week summary and action email
  40. 40. A distributed future 40 We are making a smarter more complex web. Less monoliths, more small parts. People are starting to live amongst the data. Projects like Diso from Chris Messina and Steve Ivy are interesting experiments in what it might look like Intelligence on the web Connected selves But we do not own this playpark, it is the web for everyone. So learning from the RSS and plugin experiences how can we make the coming transitions better. Sharing best practice as much as possible is vital. Making sure the best patterns thrive and the anti patterns die out.
  41. 41. Making sense of the web for them 41 We need to make sure that we are making a web that non-technical people can inhabit. If you need to write code to make it happen then it is outside the general schema and it will not happen. That is not to say that we need to make things for stupid people. They will use more than one openid, once they get the idea. They will take to OAuth, but we need to hide away the technology and work on the transitions between states. A lot of this is about the details. Kellan Elliot McCrea mentioned passing the name of the person and their permissions back as a parameter to the clients. So that you can have the Thanks Kellan, you can upload pictures to Flickr now welcome. This kind of step by step reassurance makes things trustworthy. It is our responsibility to make this work well.
  42. 42. Good common User Experiences 42 We are starting to hide away the OpenID branding You and I both know that several of these options are openids, but no-one else needs to know that. It is just their LiveJournal id. The address book import tools which are now available from nearly all the main companies. There is no competitive advantage to be gained in having a more clever authentication or authorisation system, when the base systems are now distributed. Adding / denying / inviting contacts could be a good one to standardise next? There are others I!m sure, but these may be more subject area dependent.
  43. 43. Sharing content, not making friends 43 A further shift in the web is the move from making friends on the web To sharing data, Dopplr (the new web poster child) does this most explicitly Twitter does it less explicitly. This might seem like language changes for the sake of it, but there is depth to these ideas. They work particularly well for the more focused single social object sites. Once could imagine a reworking of flickr as sharing photos, not making friends. (not that I!m suggesting this is necessary) The change being to have private photos and non-private photos which you choose to share with certain groups of people. More like the Pownce approach to people management, which they borrowed deliberately from how email works. Essentially we are social creatures and we share different things with different people. So we should design our newer apps around the objects, not the friends lists.
  44. 44. Gradual change, scaffolding 44 Scaffolding is another psychological concept and the last one to leave you with, as a concept for the future. It comes from developmental psychology and is the process we use to learn hard things. Two apples and three apples makes how many apples. Remember that, well that is a scaffold, 2+3= I!ve just taken away the scaffold. We need to some how take the general internet population to this place, so that the ideas that identity is email based move to a resource based future. Remember people still share email addresses and have difficulty with any url more than To get them to where we are headed will take years
  45. 45. Building Social Web Applications New book for O’Reilly 45 I’m writing a book for O’Reilly Media Inc entitled Building Social Web Applications.
  46. 46. Thanks me at 46