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To borg or not to borg - individual vs collective, Gavin Bell fowa08


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A talk I gave at the London Future of Web Apps 2008, looking at other approaches alongside UCD for developing social web applications

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To borg or not to borg - individual vs collective, Gavin Bell fowa08

  1. 1. To borg or not to borg Individual vs Collective Gavin Bell FOWA, London 2008 hi
  2. 2. About user interfaces 2! about user interfaces and human interaction in small groups
  3. 3. Not about the borg 3 Not really here to talk about Star Trek
  4. 4. Machine interfaces 4 We’ve been developing interfaces to computers for a long time And have come a long way from machine level interactions on a bit panel
  5. 5. Man machine interfaces 5 We migrated to terminals and “man machine interfaces” which then gave way to
  6. 6. Human machine interfaces 6 Human machine interfaces, now we are thinking about the person in front of the keyboard rather than the internal processes of the machine
  7. 7. No longer just individuals 7 We’ve ended up with powerful tools which help us to do amazing things from Games to photoshop to presentations to desktop publishing and a myriad of other things Now with the range of web and social web applications we are creating I think we are moving beyond health care / word processing / spreadsheets Beyond using computers as tools for an individual to do tasks for themselves
  8. 8. Nor audiences 8 I don’t mean million plus audiences either There is a lot of research into mass audiences in advertising or television It is not that useful for software design, If you cater to everyone you end up with every feature they want A problem that Microsoft have in spades with Word or with Windows Each feature has hundreds of people with vested interests in it staying Audiences are also anonymous
  9. 9. About friends 9 The social web is about people, relatively small groups of people, A few hundred for the most part These are my friends You don’t know them, but that is ok, they are my friends There are hundreds of web apps that understand I have social relationships Should the means of creating these apps be the same that create single user software like a word processor?
  10. 10. Beyond messaging 10 You might be thinking that email or im are quite social but they are task focused tools around having a conversation Quite goal orientated, they generally have a recognisable end point for each task
  11. 11. Tools 11 What common tools do we use to figure out what the interface should be?
  12. 12. UCD 12 User centred design is popular, well established
  13. 13. Effective 13 UCD draws heavily on task and goal directed thinking, focusing on the individual Cognitive models from psychology where the foundation of the approach Analyse the user, determine their needs, build a system which satisfies the needs / goals they have Use personas to ensure designer bias is removed. There is good evidence to support this.
  14. 14. Well-defined 14 Excellent for many problems Well defined tools, good documentation and good case studies But if done thoroughly it can be time consuming Fits less well with an agile development style Also very focused on the individual
  15. 15. Persona of Borg? 15 (fair use) But when confronted with the vastness of the social web, I feel it gets out of its own depth The pretext of individual goals and tasks runs out of steam, On many sites there is a well defined goal, but on social sites it is less concrete For example - dopplr, flickr and twitter are less goal driven. I feel UCD has led us astray with its focus on personal activities We focus on what the individual should be doing, what are their short term goals. We can miss out on the social interactions, those things that happen between two people We can also miss out on individual character too, if we treat the world as represented by 2/3 personas
  16. 16. Add as friend? 16 I’m going to look at one aspect of social networks Do we really join social networks to make or add friends? Friend is an unhelpful term. I might care about your activity, but friend is not the right term. It leads to unhelpful distinctions between friend / family and contact It is the activity we are interested in, not stating and restating personal relationship. I want to see your pictures
  17. 17. Collect them all? 17 It takes some people down very unhelpful paths
  18. 18. Anti patterns 18 Evils like the anti pattern exist because of this perceived need for friending, which from the developer pov brings in more users. This one comes around again and again Loopt, E, Spokeo, Plaxo My name is E (above) took this a stage further and used the login details for twitter to post content on behalf of the person, without their knowledge. After a storm of protest they dropped the feature. Oauth solves this technically, but we still have the restating of friendships
  19. 19. Privacy 19 Privacy is hard to do well, I regard it as an unsolved problem One to one privacy is straight forward. Selective privacy is harder The public group works for well for shared resources eg a Flickr group Pownce is a good example for more selective sharing
  20. 20. 2nd wave HCI 20 I’m not suggesting we throw out UCD entirely, just that we need tools which take social interaction into account Human Computer Interaction is a broad discipline of which interaction design, information architecture and usability form part. In the mid 80s a new set of research methods came to the fore Information architecture was extended by UCD over the last few years
  21. 21. ok 21 UCD serves us well, But largely focused on the individual and personal goals.
  22. 22. cancel 22 Time for something new?
  23. 23. Russian Revolution 23 1917, Russia is in revolution
  24. 24. Karl Marx 24 Karl Marx’s economic theories are changing a country
  25. 25. Lev Vygotsky 25 And Lev Vygotsky is throwing out the bourgeois psychology of Freud et al Activity theory is the area he defined and a lot of childhood development ideas he added socially meaningful activity to the models of consciousness current at the time He saw this kind of activity as the generator of consciousness. Stimulus response and psychoanalytic models were popular at the time Essentially all human activity is social in nature and by engaging in this activity we are changed by it An activity is composed of a subject, and an object, mediated by a tool, (counting, writing, signage) Cognitive approaches focus on the person, Activity theory focuses on the activity
  26. 26. Aleksei Leontiev 26 His colleague Aleksei Leontiev extends his work ... Adding in ideas around heirarchical nature of work (driving becomes automatic over time) Adding in a third level capturing motive. Activity --> motives | Action --> goal | Operation --> conditions Separating individual actions from collective actions The canonical example is the beater on a hunt, Individually they are hitting bushes, collectively they are taking part in a hunt. Q which bit of flickr is individual and which collective
  27. 27. ISBN - 0-262-11298-1 Activity theory 27 60 seconds on activity theory Diquot; ers from activity centred design, not low level tasks Theory driven Respectful of context Expects iteration People are social, Little we do is not social in nature consciousness is defined by activity We are changed by this activity This is a complex theory, but I’m very excited by it and its potential for the social web The book is recommended reading excerpt available from
  28. 28. Verbs 28 How might activity theory help Makes you think about the high level tasks people are doing in the real world and their social consequences. Dopplr - sharing trips - sharing listening A lot of these work as they are passive activities Verbs acting on objects, very rest like in nature
  29. 29. Hinternet 29 Now that you are all reeling in the bolshevik nostalgia, lets look at another group worthy of our attention The I don’t have broadband crowd, the hinternet, don’t worry there is a point to this diversion Danny O’Brian’s phrase so I discovered.
  30. 30. Dialup 30 25% of AOL revenue comes from Service charges in 2007/8 People still on dialup! People in developing world too
  31. 31. 31 They are the people who help make the number one page on the internet They share email addresses, they are not avid users of the web There are a lot of them
  32. 32. 32 They are hamstrung by operating systems and email programs The idea of having multiple accounts on the same machine or even multiple accounts for their email is not in their world view For them the machine has an email address, they don’t feel they have an identity on the web
  33. 33. Not geeks 33 They are definitely not geeks, I’m not knocking these people at all This is a strength for them, they care about the internet as a service. It is like the phone network or TV, they care not how it works, just that it works. We do, but we pay 400 quid to come and listen to people like me. We write code, plan applications, buy domain names
  34. 34. Reconcilable? 34 Are these two worlds reconcilable? The geeks and the rest of them I think they need to be, that other group of people are parents, sons and friends, it is more than an age thing. should they be shut out of our digital lives?
  35. 35. So what is going on here? 35 Design evolves, as shown earlier UCD can be very useful, Activity Theory shows a diquot; erent approach, one more in tune with social interaction We do have diquot; erent worlds to cater for, the ultra-connected geek and everyone else. Addressing this means rethinking how we make applications. In fact it is a social story of technology adoption
  36. 36. RSS Adoption 36 RSS is a good example, In !99 RSS was tech hot, 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. 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. This is a good thing See for detailed research on web adoption and demographics.
  37. 37. Time 37 RSS has also given us a bad habit. We care about the most recent 15 items, something that happened last week is old news We even have an expression “internet time” How can we gain value from the endless stream of data What should an activity feed look like from six months ago I’d argue that it is not the same as the one for today. Reduce to the significant actions and interactions. Take a long now perspective on data. What does a person look like aggregated over time. (read Stuart Brand’s Clock of the long now, if you haven’t yet)
  38. 38. Identifiers 38 Identifiers for people - openid Places - geotagging and fire eagle Isbn, music tags all help in passively building a digital picture of the world We routinely embed this kind of data in web pages, urls and feeds However it works best as a passive process. I would not have actively told about the 10,000 tracks I’ve listened to Context is important, the verb, listen, in is implicit Similarly for fire eagle These identifiers turn the stuquot; in our lives into social objects.
  39. 39. Blurring 39 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 isnquot;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”, Iquot;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.
  40. 40. Humans not servers 40 We are starting to build the world in terms of people Rel=me microformats help Moving from machines and rss to social objects and verb-based interactions
  41. 41. Social objects 41 Some recent things and events in my life, we could have a conversation around each one of them There was a goal in mind for each of these, but is there a goal in the ongoing social interaction? The coincidentiality of these objects can be worth a lot, we need to think in terms of the social life of each object, prior and post action. There can also be multiple actions eg recommendation, purchase, listen, lend Jyri Engeström - social objects Matt Jones - coincidentiality Dan Hill - social life of a broadcast
  42. 42. Design for the individual 42 Do support the individual, people need a useful service / activity to attract them to your product
  43. 43. Support the social 43 Think hard about the potential interactions around your social objects, what are the verbs that draw / bind people together Activity theory will help you survey this space
  44. 44. Scaffolding Scaffolding is a useful 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= Iquot;ve just taken away the scaffold. In terms of technology adoption we need to scaffold the rest of the non-geek population to get them into our world of social objects. Flickr guest pass is a good example of this.
  45. 45. Look beyond UCD Interactions between people People as composites Three suggestions 45 Look beyond designing for individuals What are the motives for people using your site, what connects them to other people Our profiles online are starting to connect together, there are many data points about someone who comes to you, Google Social API tells you a lot about someone.
  46. 46. Flickr credits 46
  47. 47. More? Questions? Thanks 47