Information Architecture of Social Experience Design: ASIS&T Bulletin

Submitted by Sam Moore on Sat, 08/15/2009 - 00:26

ASIS&T_local.png
The American Society for Information Science and Technology has an in-depth look at user experience in social applications. While probably no one will agree with every point here, they certainly do raise some good questions. At least they've articulated many of the issues.

Their article promises "Five Principles, Five Anti-Patterns and 96 Patterns (in Three Buckets)". It's a long read, but worth it for anyone who has responsibility for - or advocates for - better UX in social media applications.
Here's the first bit - the principles:

Five Principles

Of the myriad principles we've unearthed so far, five cut across the entire experience:

  • Pave the Cowpaths
  • Talk Like a Person
  • Play Well with Others
  • Learn from Games
  • Respect the Ethical Dimension

Here's some detail on the "Pave the Cowpaths" principle, in this case touching on something I've butted heads against myself:

The second application of Pave the Cowpaths comes later in the lifecycle of your site, when you’ve got a user base and they start doing things you never anticipated. Often the impulse is to stamp out these rogue behaviors and enforce draconian rules requiring only the behaviors you had planned for. This course of action really only makes sense if the behaviors you are trying to stamp out are truly destructive or evil. There are many anecdotes about thriving social sites that killed themselves off by legislating against fun and forcing their users into exile to find the activities they had been improvising “incorrectly” in the site they had to leave.

A better plan is to support the behaviors your users are engaged in. Let your users tell you what the best and highest use of your interface may turn out to be. Don’t be so arrogant as to assume you know everything about how the social dynamics you’ve unleashed need to evolve.



I have this same beef with the owners of an educational site I'm part of - though the issues are better articulated here than in my rants on the subject.

Basically, they insisted on obscuring the ways in which their students could download their video content and watch it while offline, slow it down (it's a music education site), take it on the train, etc. The owners went so far as to delete posts offering tips to other users, and reprimand the posters.

My contention is that you're never going to stop people from doing this (hint: Video Download Helper for Firefox is your friend) - you're just going to make it more difficult for the people who are less technically adept.

Instead of fighting your user base, why not learn from them? Maybe they really are smarter about what you're building than you are - there are certainly more of them, and they use your application more than the owners typically do.

When your customers are coloring outside the lines you have two choices - yell at them for being messy and not following the rules, or re-think where your lines are.

Or, as the quote above says, "Don't be so arrogant."

Full article

Tweetmeme

Submitted by Sam Moore on Thu, 08/13/2009 - 00:05

Picture 2.pngGuy Kawasaki's blog on American Express had a piece a few days ago, about TweetMeme.

TweetMeme not only tracks popular tweets (here's Alltop's TweetMeme aggregate), it also tracks how many times a post is re-tweeted. Here's why that's interesting:

The Tweetmeme retweet button is more useful than Digg as an indicator of the quality of a link because Digg is about a small number of selected people getting stories onto the Digg home page. The assumption with Tweetmeme is that if you retweet a link, you are telling your followers that it leads to a good site, and you are putting your reputation on the line. If you digg something, you are not risking your reputation nearly as much—if at all.

Retweet_buttonI plan on adding the TweetMeme button (sample shown here) to my blog tomorrow.

Why? Well, now that I'm using Gigya Socialize for Drupal to push my blog posts out to both Twitter and Facebook, TweetMeme should help me keep track of where they go - at least on Twitter, which I frankly care more about anyway.
Guy's post

UPDATE: as I might have known, as with many things in Drupal - "There's a module for that!".

In this case, the TweetMeme module (surprise!).

Right now, all it does is add the TweetMeme badge to your posts. But it's smart enough to know the Blog posts's URL, as disctinct from the main page URL, so that's handy. You can see it in action at the top right of this post, if you're reading this on the web site.

Later, I'll dig through the project's issues etc. to see if there's plans to add the button to the RSS feed.

Seth Godin on The CPM gap, or - where to spend money online?

Submitted by Sam Moore on Mon, 08/10/2009 - 13:56

seth.jpg

Here's an insight from the always-worthwhile Seth Godin's Blog.

Consider that conference attendees lavish attention on the marketers & products they've come to see, whereas when we see advertising for those products in other contexts we probably just ignore it - or actively loathe it.

Which of those environments is better for reaching your customers? One where they've made a great effort and perhaps spent some money to come see you, or one where they're actually trying to do something else and you're in their way?

Here's a quote from Seth:

...advertisers treat prospects online as targets, as victims, as people to subject to interruption. Conferences treat attendees as royalty, as paying customers who invested time and money to be there.

And that's the difference. As long as your site is about something else and the ads are a distraction, you'll see CPM rates drop. As soon as you (or the advertisers) figure out that creating online communities aligned with the advertising, where attendance is a choice by the consumer, then you're creating genuine value.

Seth's post

So in building online communications - should we plan on interrupting the audience with ever-more-stupid ads, or should we create an environment they'll be eager to participate in?

Seems to me the proper use of social media for business is to create an attractive gathering place for your customers - one that's aligned with their operational needs, interests, etc - and become part of the conversation. You will then be a host rather than a salesperson.

Or you could just keep pummeling your visitors with banners. How's that working so far?

CIOs are starting to take notice of Drupal | Dries Buytaert

Submitted by Sam Moore on Tue, 08/04/2009 - 21:59

CD5F7E92-265E-4BAC-8C44-C4C14545BE11.jpg


Drupal founder Dries Buytaert has a piece on his personal blog about ways in which Drupal is overcoming the hesitation of CIOs to abandon big expensive "enterpise" content management platforms, in favor of OSS solutions like Drupal. You know - the ones they spent, oh, say, $500K on the first year...?

Here's a list of reasons for picking Drupal, from the use case:

The decision for IMO to use Drupal came after an unsuccessful attempt to build out In-Fisherman.com with another CMS. The deciding factors for selecting Drupal were:

  • Scalability - Drupal was perceived as the most scalable and extensible open source option.
  • Cost - No licensing fees.
  • Multi-site / multi-database architecture - Drupal’s flexible multi-site configuration would allow IMO to store content and user data in multiple databases for a single site. Multiple databases would keep distinct areas of the site operational in the event of database failure from server load. The user data is stored in its own database and the gear/angler/www sites are set-up to seamlessly pull user data from that separate database.
  • Hosting - The expected traffic for the site demanded a low-cost enterprise level hosting environment. Drupal and the LAMP stack were a natural fit.
  • Flexibility - IMO's previous CMS was inflexible, making it difficult to implement new and innovative features. Drupal’s modular framework, API and theme override capabilities made it the top choice.
  • Theme customization - Drupal’s separation of presentation and business logic through the theme layer allowed the In-Fisherman.com UI to undergo significant revisions during and after development.
  • Active development community - A fragile economy encouraged open source software vs. a proprietary vendor solution. IMO was looking for a community with solid leadership and momentum. In addition, the Mediacurrent offices were local to the project stakeholders and allowed for enhanced interaction.

Here's an end-user quote:

...it was important for us to implement a content management system that enables us to continually improve our sites without the constraint of vendor roadmaps and proprietary code. The transparency of Drupal’s source code and engaged developer community ensures that any deficiencies in the code are quickly discovered and remedied, new features can be developed as necessary, and we will always retain the flexibility to keep our sites on the cutting-edge.

Use case from Drupal.org

Dries' article

Social Media Reality Check for CEOs, CFOs, and CMOs - B.L. Ochman's What's Next Blog

Submitted by Sam Moore on Tue, 08/04/2009 - 21:08

Picture 1.png

B. L. Ochman's "What's Next" blog always has insightful commentary on corporate life and communications in the internet era.

Here's a piece on a favorite topic of mine - the dysfunctional nature of the modern corporation; specifically how sprinkling "magic social dust" on your organization won't get you better customer relations, or higher sales numbers.

This is because - surprise - most companies aren't any good at communicating.

From the article:

Dear big companies: If you want to try using social media - start inside. Create a wiki, internal blogs, company-wide IM, a help line where any employee has access to any other employee's knowledge at any time.


Full article

8 social media sins to avoid - iMediaConnection.com

Submitted by Sam Moore on Mon, 08/03/2009 - 16:04

F196245E-BF94-4B14-A277-41CB33CEC428.jpg


And of course, a counter-list to the previous list (fewer items, but I guess since they're "sins" they each weigh more...?)

Here's a taste:

Social is PR

Social media is too big for one department. By defining social media in a purely public relations or communications capacity, it limits the scope of your campaign. Keep in mind that in employing social media, there are functionalities and benefits to other departments (e.g. product development, service and support, research), so include those departments as ways to deepen and continue your engagement with consumers. Your audience wants to know more about you than just what you're selling; they want to know about what you do, who does it, and how you do it.

One way to ensure you avoid the pitfall of operating social media in a silo is to ask yourself who else in the organization should participate, and how else can you leverage your social presence beyond just product launches and news events?

Takeaway: PR is great for news and launches, but social media creates the ongoing and sustained interest between news and launches.

Hard to see what the "sin" here is - looks to me like simple short-sightedness, something which everyone who's ever done business with a corporation of any size ought to recognize.

But I guess "Sin" in a headline sells better than "boo-boo", eh?

Full article

25 Ways to Make Friends, Fans, and Followers - ClickZ

Submitted by Sam Moore on Mon, 08/03/2009 - 15:36

7B522173-DA26-45A5-A1E4-6DDF2D4262B6.jpg


ClickZ has this brief list of suggestions for building a following for your company on social networks.

Here's a favorite (fits in with the "Get slightly famous" strategy):

Let go of your secrets. Sharing your knowledge with other people breaks down barriers of engagement. Don't sell a success package for $19.99; instead start a blog. (For example...this article!)

While we all love lists, how do we know this one's any good? Other than appeals to authority (ClickZ is fairly well-known) I guess we don't. We're all figuring this out as we go along, aren't we?


Full Article

Twitterhawk - Target Marketing on Twitter

Submitted by Sam Moore on Thu, 05/28/2009 - 14:11

92E2DA55-119C-4B25-BFB9-3DE1EA68108E.jpg

Twitterhawk is a service that flags tweets based on your keywords, and allows you to auto-respond - or respond later, by hand - with your marketing message.
From the home page:

TwitterHawk is a real time targeted marketing engine that will find people talking on twitter now by your chosen topic and location, allowing you to really hit your target mid conversation with ease.

It will periodically search twitter for you and either auto-reply or generate a list of matches for you to respond to or reject from your twitterhawk account.

Seems the best thing to send in your tweet would be a link to your site or service.

Here's a use case from their website:

Let's say you just opened a new coffee store in Queens and wanted to let people know about it. As part of your advertising efforts, you could setup TwitterHawk to search for things like "coffee near:Queens within:8mi" (of course you could simply search world wide if you are global).

We would then periodically (at a frequency determined by you) find twitter posts that mentioned coffee by users that are actually located within 8 miles of Queens such as
'@cracksh0t Oh I could really go for a coffee right now' or
'@loxly Coffee... my one true love'

Depending on how you set your search up, the system will then either send the response automatically right then, or it will add it to your matches list for you to check over and confirm.

Should there be a match for coffee on something like '@coffeeh8r I cannot stand coffee!!!' you can simply remove this from your matches list.

Twitterhawk can track how many links you send and how many of those result in click-throughs - sort of a CPC model for tweet-marketing.

So - is this spam? Or smart context-sensitive communication?

Twitterhawk's services page

AdLab: Sunblock Ad Changes Color When Exposed to Sun

Submitted by Sam Moore on Wed, 05/27/2009 - 20:35

028B8151-4C61-40A9-A958-61F349B6D131.jpg

The excellent MIT Advertising Lab blog has this example of Photochromic ink used in a DM piece:

Another example of the message being built into the medium -- a print ad for Sundown sunblock, one half of which changes color when exposed to the sun (see full creative here). If you know how they might have achieved the effect, could you please leave a comment?

Why, don't mind if I do:

Photochromic ink is a technology that I saw paraded around once a year or so when I was in Print Production. The related Thermochromic (heat-sensitive) inks are a little better known, being used in things from kids' snow boots to coffee mugs and beer cans, but photochromic has never really gotten going.
It's not cheap, especially for a DM piece that I imagine had a budget of under $1 a piece (just a WAG, but you know...).

Nice to see someone got a project out the door with this, anyway.


Adverlab article

Here's a manufacturer's page.

Resonetrics

Submitted by Sam Moore on Wed, 05/27/2009 - 20:34

resonetrics_logo.jpg

Well!

I've certainly been gone for a while.
After a great bloodletting at the agency I was working for, I'm now out on my own - and spending most of my time trying to get a new business going.
While it's still not really ready for public viewing, a small site is up - and I've committed to get back in here and post some more cool stuff for marketers.