Gail Williams (sometimes aka fotogail) (gail) Tue 27 Oct 09 16:58
For our next open Inkwell conversation, let's welcome Christian Crumlish and his recent work, "Designing Social Interfaces," written with Erin Malone, and inspired by the groundbreaking work Christian has been doing at Yahoo's design pattern library. This is a great topic because so many of us here have been using interactive tools together for decades, and are sometimes all too aware of the social implications of tool design. Christian Crumlish has been participating in, analyzing, designing, and drawing social interactive spaces online since 1994. These days he is the curator of Yahoo!s pattern library, a design evangelist with the Yahoo! Developer Network, and a member of Yahoo!s Design Council. He is the author of the bestselling "The Internet for Busy People," and "The Power of Many." He has spoken about social patterns at BarCamp Block, BayCHI, South by Southwest, the IA Summit, Ignite, and Web 2.0 Expo... and he's been a guest at Inkwell.vue previously. As <xian> he is a host of the <blog.> conference here at The WELL. (You'll find his blog at http://xianlandia.com/ ) Christian has a bachelors degree in philosophy from Princeton. He lives in Oakland with his wife Briggs, his cat Fraidy, and his electric ukulele, Evangeline. Leading the discussion is Jon Lebkowsky. A Social Web Strategies Founding Partner, Jon Lebkowsky is a culture and business strategist and thought leader focused on the Internet, the World Wide Web, and the social uses of digital technologies. An early host on The WELL, and a founder of Fringeware - one of the first Internet businesses - Jon has been a direct participant in the formative conversations that have generated our contemporary global digital society. Writing on digital culture, technology, media, and global sustainability, he was one of the webs first bloggers, and has blogged regularly since 2000. He is an acknowledged authority on the social web, online communities, web development, public wireless broadband, and e-democracy. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon_Lebkowsky) Thank you both for joining us, and taking us into such interesting territory!
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 28 Oct 09 05:19
Welcome, Christian, and thanks for joining us to discuss _Designing Social Interfaces_. You were inpired by Christopher Alexander's concept of "pattern language," which he applied in the field of architecture. How did you apply his thinking to the social web?
Christian Crumlish (xian) Wed 28 Oct 09 06:33
Well, to back it up a little, Alexander (et al.)'s concept of a pattern language, literally a sort of grammar and syntax of design, had been working its way through several disciplines, mutating along the way, before I showed up. The computer programmer / software developer crowd, as exemplified by Ward Cunningham and his seminal Portland Pattern Repository <http://c2.com/ppr/> or the so-called "Gang of Four" book <http://isbn.nu/0201633612>, embraced many of Alexander's ideas, coined the terms "design pattern" and "anti-pattern," debated whether patterns should be descriptive (capturing existing practices only) or generative (providing recipes), and firmly established patterns as a viable component of some software engineering projects. The HCI crowd picked up on patterns a bit later, with Jenifer Tidwell and Martijn van Welie some of the earliest collectors and documents of user interface patterns. The Yahoo! library that I curate today <http://design.yahoo.com/> did its part in helping to popularize the idea. Patterns have also made their way into program management, education, organizational change, and any number of other areas, adapting themselves and evolving with each new application. To get back to your specific question, in some ways I see the social (user experience) design patterns in our book and wiki as closing the loop and returning very close to Alexander's original ideas, as desiging for social experiences is similar to architecture in the sense that it is not so much about building completed, fully defined phenomena and experiences but rather creating "spaces" (in this case virtual spaces) or arenas or playing fields designed to be inhabited by human beings, to be completed and ramified by the population itself. You provide boundaries (walls, types of rooms) and rules (hallways, doors, windows with locks, etc.) but if you're successful the people who come and live in your social application and who relate to each other through your social space have an equal or even greater say in the ultimate design of the experience (interior design, art of living). Now, we didn't perform a systematic mapping of the Alexander patterns to social design. That would be a cool experiment. Various folks have taken individual patterns and applied them (examples: <http://www.socialtext.net/exchange/index.cgi?intimacy_gradient>, discusion of "Child Caves" and "Degrees of Publicness" in <http://www.alistapart.com/articles/theelementsofsocialarchitecture>, etc.) and I'd love to see more of that.
Christian Crumlish (xian) Wed 28 Oct 09 06:34
("documents" should be "documenters" above)
Christian Crumlish (xian) Wed 28 Oct 09 06:35
(and "discusion" should be "discussion" ... sigh)
Gail (gail) Wed 28 Oct 09 08:43
No worries, Christian. As you know, this odd WELL artifact of "when you post you are finished" can make for some typos, but it makes for a kind of cultural forgiveness since everybody remembers posting one in a while without doing a quick proofread, and some do it routinely. (One of my first friends around here was a professional journalist who is legendary for his creative typing, and I credit him for a willingness to plunge in and talk with a keyboard instead of polishing up a little composition of clean prose with each post.) It's the opposite of a wiki in that regard, but the expectation is less of composing a document toegether, and more of a conversation around a table, or when there is a lot of traffic to a Topic, like people sequentially getting access to the microphone at a town hall meeting, and having it transcribed or close-captioned, at times imperfectly. (At least that's how I experience it) Wow, just had a look at http://www.socialtext.net/exchange/index.cgi?intimacy_gradient (posted above)... > Alexander writes about an "intimacy gradient". There are some areas > in a house that are public -- the front porch; areas that are > indoors and public -- the living room; and areas that are indoors > and more private -- bedrooms and bathrooms. That is nicely expressed.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 28 Oct 09 09:23
Patterns are also related to standards, no? As you find best ways of doing specific things, you standardize on patterns that everyone will understand, especially as those patterns are repeated often. Hence the idea of a language - language requires shared understanding and standard expressions. One reference I think you missed was Doug Schuler's _Liberating Voices: A Pattern Language for Communication Revolution_. http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=11601 How do you distinguish an interface as "social" vs some other kind of interface? I generally understand, but I'm wondering where you set the boundaries?
Christian Crumlish (xian) Wed 28 Oct 09 09:35
Yes I omitted numerous important pattern language efforts. it's now a world unto itself. you could spend you life engaging with the greater pattern language community (or "movement"?). I'll punt on standards for a sec and answer your latter question. We view an interface as social if it facilitates interaction between or among two or more people. The contrast is with single-user interfaces such as, say, a typical check balancing application. of course many UIs originally designed primarily for individuals are, or can be, or are becoming social. There are gray areas. We tried not to get hung up on it. By analogy, I'd say a filing cabinet has a user interface but a telephone is a social interface.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 28 Oct 09 12:25
Can you give examples of a couple of typical patterns and how they would be addressed or incorporated in user experience design?
Brian Dear (brian) Wed 28 Oct 09 12:35
<scribbled by brian Wed 20 Mar 13 18:16>
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 28 Oct 09 12:52
That's an interesting bit of topic stretch, and an interesting question. I think I would ask it a little differently. Are there patterns that have obvious utility that should just be free? Thinking of email and other communication protocols - latest being Google Wave - as well as Twitter, which makes sense as a protocol but maybe not as a business.
Christian Crumlish (xian) Wed 28 Oct 09 13:02
replying out of order, Brian we did not address monetization design patterns. It's also been suggested to me recently that the Yahoo! pattern library should perhaps address advertising patterns, given how central they are to the information design and business model of so many web products. We do talk about principles and anti-patterns and the idea that instead of being black and white, they values are often in tension with each other and need to be balanced. We address ethics, for example, without so much trying to dictate good vs. evil behavior but to draw out the the business imperatives (grow the social graph, get more users, increase engagement) might at times be at odds with ethical standards or moral values. I think it's a good challenge, though, to look monetization square in the eye. The folks around Tim O'Reilly and the Web 2.0 meme have spent some time thinking about principles such as "create more value than you capture" and some of the generative, iterative ideas about software design apply to finding a sustainable business model as well. One meta- point about comprehensiveness: Erin and I did our best to capture a very wide range of ideas "abroad in the land" about social design, and to propose a framework that might help organize these ideas into a coherent landscape and assist in everyone's ability to discuss these ideas together, look for gaps, identify realms hungry for improvement, and so on... ...so it's great for me to hear suggestions about what we missed or left out, and I'm taking notes, and of course we have a wiki <http://designingsocialinterfaces.com/patterns.wiki> where we hope to continue evolving the pattern language in tandem with the larger designer, developer, and entrepreur communities. I'll get to Jon's question next, with some example, patterns, after my next meeting. p.s.: while I'm throwing out links, my blog is actually now at <http://mediajunkie.com/blog/>, a recent post there that includes an hour-long talk I gave at Web Direction South is here <http://mediajunkie.com/2009/designing-social-interfaces-at-web-directions-sout h-2009/>, and I'm extremely envious that JonL has a wikipedia entry, as I am still apparently not notable enough for my own. :D
Christian Crumlish (xian) Wed 28 Oct 09 13:04
But email is a business too! Plus I wouldn't call email or Wave patterns. I'd say that their implementations exhibit a number of patterns (and perhaps anti-patterns as well). We have a chapter on openness where we talk about patterns related to things like open source, open standards, open APIs, and so on. These aren't inherently anti-business or anti-monetization but they do relate in some ways to the sense of free that I think you (Jon) are getting at. OK, I'm late for my call now.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 28 Oct 09 13:48
You have a point, I've stepped us into confusion. You can build business around email protocols, but the protocols themselves are not directly monetized. There's no company set up to sell POP, IMAP, or SMTP. And I stepped from pattern to protocol in thinking about what is or isn't monetized. Can you think of any product that is a single pattern? And I agree with you that protocols, standards, open APIs, open source licensing are about free as in freedom, as Stallman says. And doesn't it make sense to say that these are all actually pro-business, pointing that the many business opportunities that emerge around them? You mention Erin - how did your collaboration with her work? (We should ask her to chime in - and anyone else who has a question or comment can do so, as well, via email to inkwell at well.com).
Christian Crumlish (xian) Wed 28 Oct 09 14:16
I can't think of any product that consists of one single pattern. There are certainly some products out there that fundamentally just add a single feature to an existing ecosystem (say something like Twitpic) but even they tend to employ a number of patterns, consciously or not. The collaboration with Erin was amazing. Co-authoring a book can be extremely challenging and we found that our shared passion for the material meant there was very little of the work that *neither* of us wanted to do, but at the same time we each had our preferences and were easily able to divvy things up. We have complementary skills in some ways. Erin is more scholarly than I am, tends to do more thorough research. I'm a bit more glib perhaps and have some aptitude for chasing down vivid metaphors and coming up with ways to explain things. We agreed on the approach of writing the book "in the open," on a wiki, and so we had a few other collaborators show up along the way as well. I will ask Erin to drop by. I've been meaning to - we're both pretty busy with our regular jobs and then the various speaking engagements, workshops, articles and so on that we're doing to spread the word. Remind me at some point to talk about the card game we designed to help people really explore the dynamics of the patterns and principles.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 28 Oct 09 21:39
No time like the present - unless you think there are prerequisites we need to cover before you get to the game? I'm also interested in hearing how the wiki collaboration went - what challenges did it present? How hard was it to integrate input from people who you didn't necessarily know would be involved until they showed up? Did you find that anyone was completely out of sync?
Christian Crumlish (xian) Thu 29 Oct 09 06:45
OK, so a ways back there you asked for some typical patterns. Let me point to a few from the book project that have made their way into the Yahoo! library I curate: First a few social ones: "Talk Like a Person" http://developer.yahoo.com/ypatterns/social/core/conversation.html "Your vs. My" <http://developer.yahoo.com/ypatterns/social/core/yourvmy.html> "User Card" <http://developer.yahoo.com/ypatterns/social/people/identity/usercard.html> "Competitive Spectrum" <http://developer.yahoo.com/ypatterns/social/people/reputation/competitive.html > "Vote to Promote" <http://developer.yahoo.com/ypatterns/social/objects/feedback/votetopromote.htm l> The first is a principle we identified ("Talk like a person") that helps foster a social environment by setting a humane, conversational tone and encouraging users to relate to the other human beings within and behind the software. The second ("Your vs. My") walks through the tradeoffs between labeling the user's stuff as "Your stuff" or "My stuff." We think the "Your" usage, in most cases, aligns better with social interfaces, and that the "My" usage lends itself better to solipsistic, single-person experiences. "User Card" is in the People category and addresses the problem of how to offer an overview of another person in the system in a context outside of a dedicated profile page. "Competitive Spectrum" is another People pattern in the Reputation subcategory. It counsels designers to figure out where the community they're trying to build or grow fits on a spectrum from nurturing to intensely competitive and then select reputation patterns that fit best with that atmosphere. "Vote to Promote" is an Object pattern in the Feedback subcategory and it described a method for enabling users to vote content up without giving equal weight to down votes. It's used at sites such as Digg, Reddit, and by Yahoo!'s own Buzz feature. Some of the non-social, more UI/affordance-oriented patterns in the library include such elements as "Accordion" <http://developer.yahoo.com/ypatterns/navigation/accordion.html> (a new beta pattern we just published) "Autocomplete" <http://developer.yahoo.com/ypatterns/selection/autocomplete.html> "Carousel" <http://developer.yahoo.com/ypatterns/selection/carousel.html> "Crossfade Transition" <http://developer.yahoo.com/ypatterns/richinteraction/transition/crossfade.html > "Drag and Drop Modules" <http://developer.yahoo.com/ypatterns/richinteraction/dragdrop/modules.html> and so on...
Christian Crumlish (xian) Thu 29 Oct 09 06:46
I'll answer the game and wiki questions a little later this morning, when I'll be riding in my vanpool down to Sunnyvale (hurry for mobile wifi!)
Gail (gail) Thu 29 Oct 09 11:47
I first learned about the social design patterns from Randy Farmer at Online Community Business Forum 2008 in Santa Fe, and started poring over them at the time... the UI patterns are almost as interesting as the Social patterns, and some of them make me wonder how they might influence social patterns too. If you use "accordian" - a good term to have for those little expandable areas - for example, in a social setting with info by and about people, you may make a significant choice about what is upfront and what is a click away. It all works together. Could you talk about the differences between the social impacts of "vote to promote" (thumbs up only, or Fave star as on Flickr, etc) versus thumbs up/thumbs down? How did you observe these effects?
Christian Crumlish (xian) Thu 29 Oct 09 13:41
Missed my vanpool and have been caught up in some Halloween shenanigans at work. (Example: <http://www.flickr.com/photos/basictheory/4056648964/>) I'm getting a bit of a backlog here. Need to talk about the wiki, the game, and the interplay between social patterns and "traditional" UI patterns.... In many ways, writing the book in public, on a wiki, functioned more as a gesture of openness than as a true, fully engaged collaborative workspace. We welcomed outside input and feedback but we didn't devote a lot of energy to drumming it up. Basically, we were too busy writing the book! It did offer us a way to share our thinking before killing the trees, and we did get a fair amount of feedback, some directly in the context of the wiki and some via other channels. One interesting thing was that the day we posted the tentative outline (the "taxonomy of patterns" as it were) we immediately started getting some traffic, some incoming links, and people blogging or telling us that the mere outline itself was valuable before we had even posted a single pattern. This told us that our curation effort and our plan of trying to describe a coherent landscape of social features was likely to be welcomed. Erin tended to post her chapters to the wiki after submitting them. After a while, though, I pretty much wrote my chapters directly on the wiki and then converted them for submission. This worked best for me and enabled me to get unstuck and work on other pages when I was bogged down on a particular pattern. We did get a number of people signed up to use the wiki, a few spammers whom we've blocked, and one or two who wrote entire patterns from whole cloth or made suggestions about content to add, or offered definitions, and so on. At least one of those people was invited to contribute an essay to the book. (We had one to three sidebars in most chapters from outside contributors - to broaden the range of voices and perspectives offered in the book.)
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 29 Oct 09 18:57
What was your process for creating the outline? I.e. how did you come up with a list of patterns that you felt was close enough to comprehensive?
Christian Crumlish (xian) Fri 30 Oct 09 13:00
The roots of the outline, or pattern taxonomy go back to public conversations online (mostly in blogs) about the nature of social software and to internal Yahoo! documents reflecting the ongoing efforts of designers and developers and product strategists to get a grip on the social design landscape. From inside Yahoo! I was able to draw on concept models for identity, platform diagrams for reputation, a "social media toolkit" largely put together by Matt Leacock, Bryce Glass, and other members of Erin Malone's old social platforms team, and a handful of internal patterns in some stage of development. As I got oriented in my new role as curator of the pattern library I decided I wanted to focus particularly on the social space and work on rationalizing what we were learning from acquisitions such as Flickr, Delicious, and MyBlogLog as well as from homegrown services such as Groups and Answers. There have been attempts to define and characterize social software going on in those public conversations I mentioned for at least the past 5 years. Much of our taxonomy stems back to a series of blog posts: Stewart Butterfield's <http://www.sylloge.com/personal/2003_03_01_s.html#91273866> from 2003 listed five key elements: Identity, Presence, Relationships, Conversations, and Groups Matt Webb's <http://interconnected.org/home/2004/04/28/on_social_software> year later added Reputation and Sharing to the list. Three years after that, Gene Smith collected those seven elements into a honeycomb diagram at <http://nform.ca/publications/social-software-building-block>. We looked at ongoing efforts to visualize these elements and their relationships, coming up with venn diagrams, trees, and other ideas along the way. At BarCamp Block in 2007 I invited people to help me brainstorm a giant taxonomy and what we came up with was posted to a wiki: <http://barcamp.org/BarCampBlockSocialMediaDesignPatterns>. (Here's a link to my slides from that event: <http://mediajunkie.com/2007/my-social-media-design-patterns-slides-from-barcam p-block/>) I kept massaging what came out of that and posted a third revision of it to my blog: <http://mediajunkie.com/2007/enumerating-social-media-patterns-a-work-in-progre ss/> with a downloadable PDF: <http://xianlandia.com/pix/SocialMediaDesignPatternsV3.pdf> Then I presented at BayCHI in early 2008 and continued mapping out these ideas further: <http://mediajunkie.com/2008/social-design-patterns-slides-from-baychi-last-wee k/> Then I covered some of the key social anti-patterns (anti-social patterns) in Grasping Social Patterns at Ignite SF a month or so later: <http://mediajunkie.com/2008/ignite-was-fun/> And finally, as the book deal came together we put the taxonomy up on the wiki. Writing a book is a forcing function so that made us settle on at least one snapshot of the hierarchy, which we now consider to be version 6 (I will post it to my blog later if people care to see the latest version). Meanwhile we've continued to post sketches and model concepts collected over time to Flickr: <http://www.flickr.com/photos/socialpatterns/sets/72157618641664322/> And Erin recently adapted a Nancy Duarte graphic from slide:ology to make our latest and greatest visualization thus far: <http://www.emdezine.com/deziningInteractions/2009/10/08/diagramming-the-social -ecosystem/> Too much info? Too many links?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 31 Oct 09 08:05
Can't get too much info - those links are very helpful in showing the evolution of thinking about social software, as well as the pathway to the pattern library and your book. I fondly remember the early 2000s and the conversations many of us were having about social software and how to optimize to support sharing, group-forming, and sustained relationship online. The conversation about optimal social patterns and structures is currently less pervasive, I think, than social media marketing conversations. At their best, those conversations align with cluetrain - not "how do you find an audience" but "how do you build relationships with your customers." Is there an understanding implicit in the patterns overall about how marketing and business should be conducted in the evolving online social context? Best practices for social media marketing? Was business use much of a consideration in pulling the patterns together?
Gail (gail) Sat 31 Oct 09 09:29
(A few housekeeping items -- if you want to tell friends about this conversation, or blog, tweet or post about it off-site, here's a link to the external view of this topic: <http://tinyurl.com/inkwell-crumlish> And as always, if you are reading along without being logged in you are welcome to join The WELL, but you can also email a question for posting - send it to email@example.com and put "social" in the subject line.)
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Sat 31 Oct 09 11:13
<key social anti-patterns> Not sure if this is related to "anti-social" communications patterns, but I am wondering, as these interactive media "go viral" in popularity, how much of the design is largely accidental to the eventual level of use. I'm thinking of YahooChat in the mid-'90s which allowed a participant to follow another participant, then as the medium expanded into primarily a hook-up site, the follow feature was eliminated, ostensibly, to stop unwanted on-line "stalking." A decade or so later, counterintuitively, Twitter, at its root is based overtly on "following" in order to gain "followers". Of course, the 140 character limit to posts is part of the formula, but how surprised were the designers of Twitter at the phenomenal level of utilization? Also, why can't Twitter monetize its system with paid banners, etc? And who determined its billion dollar valuation and how? (I'm just a tech layman here, not a Xian.)
Ari Davidow (ari) Sat 31 Oct 09 12:57
I was very surprised to see the wonderful "Design of Sites" (2nd ed in 2006?), Van Duyne, Landay, Hong, not referenced. It's a book that is far more general than ya'lls, but there were many times in comparing patterns in "Designing Social Interfaces" where I was reminded how I have come to avoid the clumsiness of many Yahoo! social interface patterns--and would then find a corresponding entry in the earlier book that explained the issues as they were perceived at the time (I have the 2002 edition) with incredible accessibility, clarity, and brevity. That's unfair--both books could have been excellent--there is so much un-thought-out or un-documented, that there is room for several excellent social design pattern books or web dp books. But what TDOS shows is that this is not a new problem--whereas DSI makes me think, "not bad for a first effort at documenting some of what we now about social interfaces. I suspect that ya'lls book has excellent patterns for many things that I wasn't going through, but in the couple of examples among those I work with daily, I was surprised. Here is a short example: sign-ups. In SDI, ya'll call this "Sign-up or Registration." You quite nicely talk about minimizing sign-up fields, and show a nice pattern where you just let something known to be unique - an email address - in place of a login ID. But, in the social sphere, filling in more information is how other people in the network find out about someone. There is reason to encourage filling in more information, but it isn't necessarily needed when someone is new - so, "Sign-up" should probably connect to some sort of personal information pattern (I gotta believe that one or more are detailed in the book, I just didn't find them in a quick glance.) which includes ways to make it easy for someone to fill in info later. (What info? Not sure that there is a general pattern there.) But, there is also a way to get desirable info right at the beginning that is used by folks who do fundraising: 1. require minimum--either email or email+name 2. Thank person for signing up, then tell them that it would be helpful if they give more info (branch here to the aforementioned, "ways to continue to make it obvious how to change/add personal info from anywhere" pattern) 3. If someone does give you more info, then ask if they want to tell friends about your system and provide ways to "share".... [In TDOS, they miss the minimization of info that SDI details a bit--but they do talk a lot about this being a "funnel" pattern, reference patterns for preventing bad info, etc.] This, of course, all serves to remind me that I =hate= Yahoo! sign-in. I encounter it almost exclusively when I am going back and forth between my work and personal Flickr accounts. This is a sore point because we have never figured out how to get the aliases we want to work with the work flickr accounts. Logging in confuses everyone. But for me personally, because I also have a personal account, switching is an ongoing bad itch. 1. Log out of Flickr by clicking "log out" 2. Get asked if I also want to log out of Yahoo! (!!!????). 3. Log out of Yahoo! 4. Now, I am no longer on the Flickr site--I have a Yahoo! sign-in screen to return, so I use a bookmark or manually type in http://flickr.com 5. I can log back in to flickr. Which leads me to my last point, which is the degree to which these patterns have been tested? Because some of the few I read--which I'll detail later--I believe to be blatantly wrong. So things, like the flickr logout I detailed above are simply inconsistent and don't connect to patterns, and others just feel incomplete--this is what we do--which isn't the same, with the exception of the anti-patterns--as saying, "we have good reason to believe that this is worth copying. Sorry to go on and on. I guess what I'm saying is that what I'm reading feels much more tentative and incomplete than I expected--although the anti-patterns are quite amusing and =those= seem true. I guess, when things go wrong spectacularly and consistently, that's easier to document than, "what it is we're trying to solve, how it fits in with everything else, and why this is the best, reasonably complete way to go about it"
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