The Design of Mobile Social Applications


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An overview of 4 studies conducted in the Social Media Research Lab at Motorola. These studies investigated location and context sharing in mobile environments.

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The Design of Mobile Social Applications

  1. Frank Bentley Principal Staff Research Scientist Motorola Labs the design of mobile social applications: a case study from motorola
  2. designing for mobility…
  3. design problem How to use context to aid mobile communication and enhance existing social communities
  4. user-centered processes <ul><li>Begin with understanding of space (ethnographic studies) </li></ul><ul><li>Build out key concepts to understand usage/technology limitations in the world </li></ul><ul><li>Iteratively modify and test prototypes </li></ul><ul><li>Test final UI concepts </li></ul><ul><li>Build real product </li></ul>
  5. overview <ul><li>Ethnographic: Context Sharing in Phone Calls </li></ul><ul><li>Concept 1: Motion Presence </li></ul><ul><li>Concept 2: Music Presence </li></ul><ul><li>Concept 3: Photo Presence </li></ul><ul><li>Common findings/lessons for design </li></ul>
  6. study 1: context sharing in phone calls <ul><li>Research Questions: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>During communications with others, what location and activity information is provided? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How does context affect activity and location information disclosure? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What are the purposes of disclosing location/activity information? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How are disclosures of activity and location similar? </li></ul></ul>
  7. study 1: context sharing in phone calls <ul><li>Methods: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Recruited 7 diverse participants </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Recorded mobile phone calls for one week </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Coded instances of location or activity disclosure </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Analyzed qualitative data using grounded theory affinity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Analyzed quantitative data for correlations </li></ul></ul>
  8. study 1: context sharing in phone calls <ul><li>Findings: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>352 disclosures in 176 calls </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No significant correlations to location, recipient, requesting/offering and information disclosed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>8 main purposes for disclosure </li></ul></ul>
  9. study 1: context sharing in phone calls Social Awareness: Informing others of your current surroundings “ We’re just getting ready to go to Meijer’s and then pick [our daughter] up and then go get a Christmas tree.” (LA7) “ Now I’m on the train, I wasn’t before” (LA5) “ I’m in the cab right now” (LA7)
  10. study 1: context sharing in phone calls Availability: Deciding if someone is available for communication “ Do you have a couple of minutes right now?” (LA4) “ Are you on the road or still in the office?” (LA1) “ Did [your sister] get up?” (LA2)
  11. study 1: context sharing in phone calls Take aways: People share a LOT of context with each other Opportunities for availability awareness and for helping others Environmental cues create social presence
  12. study 2: motion presence How to help with social awareness and availability? (top two uses) Inspired by large amount of context sharing Problems of absolute location (technical and user) First a little bit on mobile location…
  13. mobile location <ul><li>Cell ID </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Available on all GSM phones </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Localization to zip-code level </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Requires translation to semantically meaningful location </li></ul></ul><ul><li>GPS </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Needs special hardware </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Not available indoors/in cities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Minutes to get first fix </li></ul></ul>
  14. cell id <ul><li>In GSM networks, all cells in the world have a globally unique ID made up of four numbers: cell id, lac, mnc, and mmc </li></ul><ul><li>Databases are being made that map cell IDs into locations </li></ul><ul><li>Cells can be manually mapped to semantic locations (e.g. Campus, Home, Downtown Boston, etc.) </li></ul>
  15. cell density <ul><li>Cell topology scales with population density </li></ul>
  16. gps <ul><li>30 satellites in earth orbit </li></ul><ul><li>6 satellites always in line of site of any place on earth </li></ul><ul><li>Receivers must find 4 or more satellites for a fix </li></ul><ul><li>First fix usually in 1.5 minutes </li></ul><ul><li>Typical phone can last for four hours with GPS turned on </li></ul><ul><li>Can get you accurate position within 10m with altitude </li></ul><ul><li>People in GPS coverage 4.5% of the day </li></ul>
  17. study 2: motion presence <ul><li>Augmented phone book </li></ul><ul><li>See when close friends and family are moving or in one place </li></ul><ul><li>Used GSM Cell ID transitions to determine when people transitioned between moving and at a place </li></ul><ul><li>Expected users to be able to infer location/activity/availability using previous contextual knowledge </li></ul>
  18. study 2: motion presence <ul><li>Methods: </li></ul><ul><li>Recruited 10 participants </li></ul><ul><ul><li>3 couples, 1 group of 4 friends </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Used application for two weeks </li></ul><ul><li>Left nightly voicemail diaries </li></ul><ul><li>Interview after one week and at end of study </li></ul>
  19. study 2: motion presence <ul><li>Participants inferred: </li></ul><ul><li>Location </li></ul><ul><li>Activity </li></ul><ul><li>Availability </li></ul><ul><li>Arrival Time </li></ul><ul><li>“ George, I knew he was going to work, but I wasn’t sure if he got there already and I saw that he was not moving for 12 minutes. So judging by that I’m getting that he was already at work so I didn’t bother calling him.” (Harold) </li></ul>
  20. study 2: motion presence <ul><li>Participants used the application to: </li></ul><ul><li>- Moderate availability </li></ul><ul><li>- Micro-coordinate </li></ul><ul><li>- Arrive at the same time </li></ul><ul><li>- Get more time at their current activity </li></ul><ul><li>- See people were following through on commitments </li></ul><ul><li>- Check on other’s safety </li></ul><ul><li>- Social awareness – know what’s going on with others </li></ul>
  21. study 2: motion presence <ul><li>“ If you knew someone was going to go pick you up or if someone was going to go someplace and you knew that and you know about what time, you could see if they were actually on their way or if they were running late. … Kind of lets you know when you should be ready or things like that. ” (James) </li></ul><ul><li>“ I could tell when he was leaving work by when he went off of ‘not moving.’ … It was like, ok, I saw that he was already on his way and we’d get there about the same time.” (Harold) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Oh, he’s not in class, he’s moving, he must be on his way home, I need milk!” (Beatriz) </li></ul>
  22. study 2: motion presence <ul><li>Feeling Connected </li></ul><ul><li>Learn more about patterns of friends and family </li></ul><ul><li>“ Check up” on others safety (e.g. still moving when they were on a long road trip, etc.) </li></ul><ul><li>Find out when friends were going out at night, even if they were not going to join them </li></ul><ul><li>Stay connected to home events while traveling (e.g. walking dog) </li></ul><ul><li>“ I’ve been working a lot and I’m not with Ebony, so I’ve been looking at it just to see the motion on the phone.” (Farisa) </li></ul>
  23. study 3: music presence <ul><li>Concept study to find usefulness of sharing music metadata with friends </li></ul><ul><li>Initial prototype: Home computers posting to, Mobile phones receive SMS of updates </li></ul><ul><li>Initial study: one group of 4 friends for two weeks </li></ul><ul><li>2 nd Prototype: Richer J2ME application to receive feed of updates, listen to 30 second clips, lightweight communication </li></ul><ul><li>Follow up study: 3 social groups </li></ul><ul><li>Technical issues limited data collection in 2 nd study </li></ul>
  24. study 3: music presence <ul><li>Findings: </li></ul><ul><li>Used music playing to infer other presence information (at home, bored, etc.) </li></ul><ul><li>Explicitly played music so that other people would notice (e.g. a song a friend had given) </li></ul><ul><li>“ I was looking at her [music updates] to see when she’d gotten back from going out.” </li></ul>
  25. study 3: music presence <ul><li>Times of use: </li></ul><ul><li>Glanced at presence in quick spurts throughout the day – continuous partial attention </li></ul><ul><li>Spent more time interacting at breaks, on public transport, etc. – digging into details of songs, artists, friends </li></ul>
  26. study 3: music presence <ul><li>Issues with study: </li></ul><ul><li>SMS based app useful as initial concept, but interfered with participants existing usage </li></ul><ul><li>J2ME application not always visible, no reminder on home screen that new data is available </li></ul><ul><li>J2ME application connectivity issues, open sockets are hard </li></ul>
  27. study 4: photo presence <ul><li>How can photos be used to share experiences? </li></ul><ul><li>“ Lightweight visual communication” (Garau et al) </li></ul><ul><li>J2ME application </li></ul><ul><li>- Feeds of updates from friends </li></ul><ul><li>- Lightweight messaging, comments, notifications </li></ul>
  28. study 4: photo presence <ul><li>Methods: </li></ul><ul><li>10 participants (2 groups of 3, one group of 4) </li></ul><ul><li>Three weeks using TileFile on their primary phone </li></ul><ul><li>Nightly voicemails (varied questions) </li></ul><ul><li>In-depth interviews at the end </li></ul>
  29. study 4: photo presence <ul><li>Telepresence </li></ul><ul><li>Being able to log on and see what she was doing, like when we were at work and couldn’t talk – B2 </li></ul><ul><li>When I’m out and on a trip it would be really cool to be able to show people what you’re doing. – C3 </li></ul><ul><li>There’s something kind of satisfying about the immediacy of right now in California my brother is doing this – B1 </li></ul><ul><li>Automatic </li></ul><ul><li>I like it cause I can just take pictures and I don’t have to fuss with it and it gets uploaded. –C3 </li></ul><ul><li>I was just walking around on the street and I just opened it up and looked at it. If I think of photos I just open TileFile – B3 </li></ul><ul><li>Communication </li></ul><ul><li>Looking at people’s tiles and looking at people’s comments on mine. It shows that they were interested in what I liked. Took enough time out of their day to make a comment. To some people that might make their day or brighten up their day – A2 </li></ul>
  30. common findings <ul><li>Micromoments - Small breaks throughout the day (~10 seconds) </li></ul><ul><li>Quick interactions just to check in, out of curiosity </li></ul><ul><li>Breaks in conversation – “we were just casually’s appropriate to check then” “I might be with people but not actively engaged in conversation, then I could like go through [the messages].” </li></ul><ul><li>Small breaks during work – “I’d constantly go to my purse and check my phone [to see the music that was being played].” “at work when I don’t feel like doing my actual work” </li></ul>
  31. common findings <ul><li>Boredom </li></ul><ul><li>Longer interactions with application </li></ul><ul><li>Something to do when bored </li></ul><ul><li>“ It was only when I was bored that I like went out of my way to see what they were listening to” </li></ul><ul><li>In transit, on trains, buses, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>When doing low-importance tasks, e.g. checking email </li></ul>
  32. common findings <ul><li>Inferences </li></ul><ul><li>Music -> Location, Activity, Availability </li></ul><ul><li>Motion -> Location, Activity, Availability, Destination, Time to Destination Photo -> Location, Activity, People </li></ul><ul><li>“ I was looking at her [music updates] to see when she’d gotten back from going out.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ If she didn’t leave yet, that means I can go do whatever I’m doing, like at work stay later.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I could tell when he was leaving work by when he want off of ‘not moving’.” </li></ul>
  33. implications for design <ul><li>Take advantage of the context people already know </li></ul><ul><li>Design technology to help people help each other </li></ul><ul><li>Availability is subjective and conditional </li></ul><ul><li>Allow people to experience bits of each others worlds – selective and richer than traditional “presence” </li></ul>
  34. principles for mobile testing… <ul><li>Lab testing will not get you social usage </li></ul><ul><li>Early field testing to validate use/concept </li></ul><ul><li>Reliability important – keep initial concept simple </li></ul><ul><li>Use participant’s own SIM whenever possible </li></ul><ul><li>Use existing social groups for social applications – small, diverse groups </li></ul><ul><li>Two weeks is generally enough time to start to overcome novelty, 3-4 ideal </li></ul><ul><li>Rapid analysis of qualitative data using affinity techniques </li></ul>
  35. questions…
  36. References… <ul><li>Practical Metropolitan-Scale Positioning for GSM Phones (Chen et al ’06) </li></ul><ul><li>Place-Its: A Study of Location-Based Reminders on Mobile Phones (Sohn et al ’05) </li></ul><ul><li>Mobility Detection Using Everyday GSM Traces (Sohn et al ’06) </li></ul><ul><li>Distant Closeness, Cameraphones and public image sharing (VanHouse ’06) </li></ul><ul><li>Sharing Motion Information with Close Family and Friends (Bentley and Metcalf ’07) </li></ul><ul><li>Location and Activity Sharing in Everyday Mobile Communication (Bentley and Metcalf ’08) (to appear) </li></ul><ul><li>TileFile </li></ul><ul><li>Speaking in Pictures: Visual Conversation Using Radar (Garau et al ’06) </li></ul><ul><li>MIT Class 21w.780 </li></ul>