Christian Crumlish (xian) Sat 7 Nov 09 10:40
I'm at SFO, about to board a plane for Narita airport in Tokyo, so I'll try one more quick answer and then will have to check in something like 12 or so hours from now, by which time it will be something 6pm Sunday afternoon for me and something more like 2am for those on the west coast. One big thing Jon has touched on is how the terms "social" and "community" are used (incorrectly) interchangeably. Things can be social without there being a community there. Not sure the other way around is possible. There is a lot of focus on actions. Some of that is the fault of the western enlightenment approach to dissection, cataloguing, information architecture, etc., where there is a virtue seen in breaking things down to atomic parts, positing some combinatory or syntax rules, and seeing what that gets you. But it can sometimes blind you to things happening on other orders or other bases. One thing I like to mention about our third pattern bucket (at different times we've called it Connections, Relationships, Community, and Contexts and none quite get it right, which may mean it still needs re-factoring) is that community gets a vote like another being. A community has interests that are different from the sum of the interests of each individual. This is tricky for people. Think about how confused people are by the proper use of the term "comprise." It's just tough for people to accept that a group can comprise a bunch of individuals. It's more comfortable to use the correct alternative that a group can be composed of a bunch of individuals, or even the incorrect alternative, that a group can be comprised of a bunch of individuals because we *get* that individual people are actors but we have much more trouble with collective actors. Heck, the British treats group nouns as plurals and the USians treat group nouns as singulars.
Christian Crumlish (xian) Sat 7 Nov 09 10:43
As for Yahoo Groups, back when I first ran into it (after the eGroups acquisition) when there was a folksonomy of categories and some light integration with profiles and interests (the technique LJ used to tag people - or rather have people tag themselves), it was a proto-social network system. It still is, and is in a latent sense, perhaps still the biggest SNS. As for what Groups should do or could do, this treads into areas that I'm privy to but not responsible for so let me just say that you raise some interesting questions about what could or should be done with the existing groups infrastructure and incumbent communities in terms of appealing to "today's new" online-group-forming people.
Questionable people (robertflink) Sat 7 Nov 09 15:14
Sitting in and reading the comments, I have been reflecting on several Socrates Cafes, some of which I've started. Briefly, these open groups chose a question to discuss with no preparation and with no interest in getting to answers or consensus. People tend to question the question and share their thinking on the various ideas that spin out of the process. I have been surprised by the pleasure members seem to get out of this process and we hardly ever get into debates or rancor. I've been wondering if such a process could go on on line (e.g. The Well) and appreciate the discussion from that perspective.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 7 Nov 09 17:53
Robert, I've seen Socrates Cafe work in other forums - don't know why it wouldn't work on the WELL. Suggest you start a topic in the Virtual Community conference here, which I cohost. Christian, can you say a bit about activity streams and the Yahoo concept of vitality? Aggregates of status and activity are all the rage, especially the Twitter/FriendFeed/Facebook axis. Also wondering about identity/data portability as we evolve the noosphere. What patterns could emerge from a theoretical (though probably unlikely) move to a much stronger individual assertion of ownership, where I'm presumed to own all the bits of data associated with my identity and my online activity? What are the chances we'll have standard interoperable patterns and methods for handling identity and elements of the social graph?
Hugh Watkins (hughw1936uk) Sun 8 Nov 09 06:58
yahoo groups have one severe defect if the group owner dies there is no way a new inheritor may be appointed if he was not a shared group owner already rootsweb.com has a structure which enables administrative appointment of volunteer replacement group owners / administrators
Christian Crumlish (xian) Sun 8 Nov 09 14:56
more great questions! it's morning in Tokyo and I have a full day at the Yahoo! Japan office ahead of me but will try to find time to talk about vitality/activity streams and data portability (robust individual ownership of data). One interesting tidbit I picked up while reviewing Farmer and Glass's Building Web Reputation Systems is that the first time Yahoo! exposed a vitality stream was in the ill-fated 360 project. The idea didn't really catch on until the Facebook newsfeed feature. Briefly on the data-portability side, I'm sanguine that open standards are emerging and that infrastructures (such as the Open Web Foundation) are coming together to enable consensus on such standards and format. I think there will always be a market for services that "just work" where the user doesn't need to fully become "master of their domain" in order to participate in the social web, but I also suspect there will be an escalation path for people who care to become more in command of their own data, their own presence "footprint," their own identity reflections online.
Gail Williams (gail) Sun 8 Nov 09 15:18
The questions of sometimes literally "inheriting" powers in a forum or group environment are tough. Historically the staff/owner of sites with multiple groups might make choices, but the modern more libertarian structures give a founder powers that are often tough to transfer. (On The WELL I sometimes wonder when we'll get Private Conference or Independent Conference co-hosts who get into a "custody battle" dispute, each wanting to kick the other out and be sole host. I don't have a firm policy in place, only some ideas, but so far it hasn't happened, thankfully.)
Gail Williams (gail) Sun 8 Nov 09 20:23
(The above post was in response to Hugh's comment about when the leader of a group dies, in case that context is unclear) Interesting history of the "vitality stream," Christian. Did your group learn anything from the demise of Yahoo 360, by any chance?
Gail (gail) Tue 10 Nov 09 17:57
While Christian catches up (from Japan!) I was wondering what other folks thought about the anti-patterns. One of them is something we are guilty of at The WELL in our web interface. Gulp! As we developed a Web version of an older toolset, we wanted a customizable list of the user's conferences (usually known elseweb as Forums) to be front and center. The page we created says MY LIST at the top. Now, the anti-patterns in this book say that that is a mistake. True, the words put up by the system and staff do not exactly belong to the user, even if the page is meant for customized content. By that rule, the page should say "Your List." I appreciate the logic, but one reason we went with this is that if you imagine a support conversation, it seems better to me to have the member say "It's on My List" or "It's on the page that says My List" and to have the staff say "It's on your List, there on that page that says 'My List' on the top." The other option puts the contorted language in the mouth of the customer, who would have to say "I'm having trouble figuring out how to take something off my "Your List" page." Seemed to us at the time that the staff should have to use the more contorted syntax in those conversations. I also think that error messages are better in a neutral third person form. "You goofed" or "I can't understand what you're trying to do" are both weird. Something like "puffball is not a member of darkness.pri" or "Page not found" seems cleaner to me. Perhaps "My List" should be in the third person too -- "Confidential, Customizable Conference List," or "Selected Places" Anybody have thoughts about that?
Christian Crumlish (xian) Tue 10 Nov 09 18:32
Let me just pop in to say that I don't think "Your vs. My" is a totally settled issue, and in fact that page at <http://www.designingsocialinterfaces.com/patterns.wiki/index.php?title=Your_vs ._My> contains some contrarian views and links to some very thoughtful blog essays by Chris Fahey on the subject, as well as Bill Scott's note that NetFlix employs the user's name ("Christian's list," that sort of thing, partly because several family members may share one account). I don't think email messages have to be goofy or chatty but I think they must lodge any blame squarely with the system and not with the user. OK, back to Web Directions East...
Brian Dear (brian) Tue 10 Nov 09 22:46
<scribbled by brian Wed 20 Mar 13 18:16>
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 11 Nov 09 06:19
This makes me think of the "talk like a person" pattern, which I think is critical. "Impersonal phrasing" seems anti that pattern, no?
Gai (gail) Wed 11 Nov 09 10:24
For "impersonal phrasing," I'm thinking declarative statements, in the third-person. That's still something you can say "like a person," yourself, right? For example, the "person" of the site says in an error message: "We moved that page into it's final resting area." What an odd person. If you are a copyeditor or even if you just got that spelling/grammar message successfully hammered in, the "it's" makes the message jarring or uncouth. Can you respect that "person"? If not, the "We" may seem most alarming or awkward, authoritarian or mysterious. (From the user's perspective, that "We" becomes a "They" with shady powers.) Or perhaps neither of those choices rankle. (After all, it probably was literally a "they" - a team - that designed and developed the place you're using, and maybe you are spelling-oblivious). There's still the "final resting area." Misuse of an idiom - "final resting place" - by a non-native speaker? Weird choice for a designation that you could look up -- something actually called the Final Resting Area on that site? Hmm. Just what kind of person is this?
Gail (gail) Wed 11 Nov 09 10:25
So I think sites talk "like people" whether they want to or not. Sometimes they talk like awkward, inconsistent or bossy people, unintentionally. Getting your site to talk like a person your users will respect and like in a variety of contests is the bottom line. (This is evident when you read the "talk like a person" pattern description in the book, of course.) So far as impersonal or third person statements go, a real person may and often probably should say them, and still be "like a person." "The bridge on River Road is out." Or even with more implied personality, but still declarative: "The bridge on River Road is, like, completely wiped out!" as opposed to "I have learned that the bridge on River Road is out" or "You need to know that the bridge on River Road is out." All are like a person, but the third-person declarations seem less encumbered with the relationship of the speaker to the reader then the "you" or "I" formulations. Cleanly impersonal. When it's automated display of language, and the emotional context could be anything, the simple statement seems like a smarter choice to me. It's a matter of style, of course. Personality, even.
Michael C. Berch (mcb) Wed 11 Nov 09 11:27
With respect to "My" vs. "Your", I submit that "My" is sort of a special case, in that it has gained a specific meaning in the Web industry -- MySitename (where "Sitename" is the name of the site or service) is a link to a customizable portal for the site's services, with "dashboard"-like views of relevant services, status/state, or configuration information. To me, that usage is pretty much locked in now and overrides any other considerations of the you/us/we/me paradigm. Not sure who was the first to use this (MyEbay?) but it's so common now that any attempt to do something different risks thoroughly confusing the user.
Jef Poskanzer (jef) Wed 11 Nov 09 12:06
I think both My and Your are incorrect choices. Just leave them off. Instead of "Your Photostream" vs. "My Photostream", just "Photostream" works fine. And as a bonus it's not obnoxious.
Christian Crumlish (xian) Wed 11 Nov 09 16:10
ok, sure but then there is no distinction between viewing one's own stuff vs. someone else's - so there can be a context problem, analogous to the one in, say, facebook where you can't always tell if you're looking at a profile view (of your own stuff) showing what other people see or a dashboard view showing you the things you're curating. maybe this isn't a big deal, though? (about to start my full-day workshop in tokyo...)
Gail Williams (gail) Wed 11 Nov 09 19:51
Christian & Jon, thank you so much for spending 2 weeks with us in discussing this book. I want to recommend it to people with a strong interest in online social dynamics even if they are not designers. It illuminates a lot and raises a lot of good questions. The next conversation has started right next door at http://tinyurl.com/369plato where Brian Dear is laying out the story of PLATO and other collaborative adventures, so we are continuing in the same vein, more or less. Of course you are welcome to stay and talk here for as long as you like, or to drop back by with pointers, links and comments at any time. <xian>'s totally worthwhile blog is here: http://xianlandia.com/ and it has an wonderful picture of the cover of the book on it. Any <wildlife.> regulars know what the bird on the cover is? Gorgeous.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Wed 11 Nov 09 20:45
bill braasch (bbraasch) Wed 11 Nov 09 21:25
yes, thanks for taking this on while jetting off to Japan. a bad interface can totally change the nature of a relationship. thanks for mixing down the patterns for us.
Christian Crumlish (xian) Thu 12 Nov 09 01:09
i had great fun, and may stick around a bit to sweep up loose ends, but i'll also be sure to check out Brian's Plato interview here in the Inkwell! oh, and my blog's primary url is now http://mediajunkie.com/ (xianlandia.com redirects there, so no worries - it will take a while to tell the web i've moved: too many profiles out there with the old address) ...and it's a king bird of paradise!
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 12 Nov 09 22:11
Thanks, <xian>, and everyone else who was part of the conversation!
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