Friday, January 09, 2009

What is Social Webdesign ? Is it dangerous?

In my post yesterday I briefly mentioned a potential danger of social webdesign. But what exactly is social webdesign?

Social webdesign is not about website builders building websites for social networks. Well, not entirely. Social Webdesign is more than putting together a social network, making a site design and putting bits of code into the website. Social Webdesign is about the features on these websites that create communities and addiction.

It's actually about psychologists designing mechanisms that get you hooked, that pull you in hook, line and sinker untill you can't get out anymore.

From a graphical design point of view you could argue that the Facebook design is rather boring, maybe even unattractive. From a technical design point of view you may fuzz about their ecosystem and from an Interaction Design point of view you may freckle over the layout of the interface, but looking at it from a Social Webdesign point of view, it's a different ball park. Social Webdesign is about what makes Facebook work, about the widgets, the features that have attracted millions of users almost overnight.

Let's go S.O.C.I.A.L.

Social webdesign works around several key principles, which we at Sogeti have neatly called S.O.C.I.A.L;

  • Socialness: The measure in which a platform stimulates social interaction and gives social incentives.
  • Organicness: The ability of a platform of self organising communities.
  • Collaborative Intelligence: Mechanisms to make talents explicit and converge
  • Aliveness: Necessary signs of live, buzzcreators and talk of the town to create a vibrant community to which people can easily connect.
  • Linkedness: ‘no social platform is an island’…

These principles are the foundations to our Teampark experiments, an enterprise solution to utilise the power of the community inside corporations. Social Webdesign can benefit companies to leverage the creative forces inside.

The hidden danger to Social Webdesign

There's a side to social webdesign though. Yesterday I blogged a little on how Authority based filtering for example can bring about the danger of creating an elite, a dominant opinion in which new and refreshing ideas are taken out of the equasion.

First class social webdesign can have the power to play the masses. It can ignite emergent behaviour and lead groups of people into doing things they would normally not do individually (or are even strongly opposed to). It may well bring about the tools to mass manipulate.

Further reading tip:

One site you might want to check out is Joshua Porter's blog called Bokardo. It is a blog about interface design for social web sites and applications, about recommendation systems, identity, ratings, privacy, comments, profiles, tags, reputation, sharing, as well as the social psychology underlying our motivation to use (or not use) these things.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Friday, October 03, 2008

Vectorform to redesign Second Life

This monday, september 29, Linden Lab CEO Mark Kingdon wrote a little blogpost on the official Second Life blog, looking back on his first 4 months at the head of Linden Lab, but what's more important, he's also looking forward to what's next. An interesting tidbit was his remark on a possible fullscale redesign of the Second Life interface.

"First Hour Experience: Shortly after I started, we kicked off a project to reinvent what we call the “first hour experience” (our web experience, the viewer, and the way we acclimate and acculturate users inworld) for new users. We’ve made great progress and will be working with an award-winning interactive design firm to help us complete the reinvention and bring it to life. Yes, we are creating a viewer that is new user friendly! Stay tuned for updates."

To most Second Life newbies and critics the userinterfacing and crude navigation has always been high on the list of Second Life mishaps. So this redesign should be very much welcomed.

On the forums or other official newswire there is no additional information to who this 'award winning design firm' is, but popular pick is it will be a prolonged teaming with Vectorform with whom Linden Lab partnered up back in April to redesign Landmarks and Navigation.

Especially if one looks at the jobvacancies at the Vectorform website, you'll see they're looking for much more experience than is needed to redo Landmarks and Navigation , besides that beta project is pretty much finished. Dusan Writer says:

"Now, that doesn’t sound to me like the kind of list that you’d need for their work on revamping the landmarks part of the viewer, about which Prokofy has comments and which will be included in a new release candidate that’s expected soon, according to Benjamin Linden.

What IS encouraging about the job posting is that it sounds like Vectorform takes usability analysis seriously - and have some serious process and innovation to back them up."

(Read full article)

Over at Massively Tateru Nino reported that Vectorform submitted the beta version for revamping Landmarks and Navigation.

"The project adds a new user-interface element to the screen that applies Web-style browsing semantics (forward/back/location) to virtual environment positions. Vectorform say that they recently submitted a beta of the modification to Linden Lab and are awaiting QA (Quality Assurance) feedback."

What I read here is dat Vectorform just submitted their ideas for QA review. Massively shows an image of the new design which comes from a powerpoint presentation which actually dates back to July and can be found at Second Life's Jira. What I think, in combination with Mark Kingdon's remarks is that the QA review has been completed, Linden Lab is satisfied and have decided to continue their partnership with Vectorform in order to revamp the entire interface.

I can't say with certainty the QA review has been completed, at least one is: Prokofy Neva has reviewed the new Landmark and Navigation extensively in her blogpost Destroying User Content to Make SL "Like the Web"

"Jacek is just splitting hairs, and it's not interesting to debate. But what he does say in refuting M Linden is that the Lindens' "Landmarks & Navigation" project may be what they *do* insert into the viewer. Alarm bells went off for me, because I remember seeing something about this on the God-awful wiki some time ago, and thinking "I better to something about this" but it was one of many things. I remember seeing that a group of graduate students were being hired by SL to work on tagging and such; but this seems to be an actual firm now hired by LL as an outsourced viewer-fixer."

It actually is fun to read the full extend of Proky's ranting. As Second Life's resident full-time critic she does have a point at a few issues. It may well be worth to read these remarks from a user point of view, and not only look at things from a design or technical point of view. That should be the core of interaction design. I know we IT guys screw up often enough in that area, creating marvellous things that work, but can't be handled.

Tag 'em & Bag 'em I'd say.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, September 08, 2008

Football Manager 2009 Preview

Football (or Soccer to some) is big business. So are football games. Millions worldwide play football games, or (more my taste) football management games. The new season has just started, so it's time for a new release as well.

One of my favorite games to play is the si-games "Football Manager" and september 3rd they gave away some details on the 2009 edition. One of the biggest changes is they've added some 3D gameplay, of which I'm not sure is a good thing. The Fifa Manager (by EA Games) already has this, but I'm not sure how it would work in the FM. What I've noticed is that EA has a whole different architecture which makes Fifa Manager a lot faster than the FM which has one big player database. Perhaps (and hopefully), database improvements are implemented as well in the 2009 edition, as this was my biggest problem with the 2007 and 2008 versions.

Announcement Video 1

Announcement Video 2

So why should you choose Sega / Sports Interactive's Football Manager over EA Games' Fifa Manager?

Fifa has a few plusses: It's faster, it's more graphical, you can do more with your stadium, create a personal life as a coach, but it has one big issue: It's interface is sloppy. What I mean is this: In Fifa I have a hard time finding all player stats, finding suitable new players, compare them etcetera, all the things that are the very essence of a football management game. So, even though Football Manager is less graphical, it's interaction design is a lot better.

Looking forward to the release on November 14th!

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, January 25, 2008

Dazzling View?

Allthough Virtual Worlds have really taken a flight in the past year, there still is a lot of skepsis towards social worlds. Often heard complaints are:

  • The graphics suck (gaming worlds usually have much better graphics)
  • The interface sucks

Linden Lab seems to take note of this. Early 2007 they have acquired Windward Mark Interactive LLC which resulted in a first windlight client in may 2007 with improved athmosperic rendering. After a shortlived testing period, Windlight was withdrawn from the standard viewer, but it's back again and being implemented in the standard client soon.

The client never changed though and other's gave it a try. Probably the best effort was the socalled Nicholas viewer, but with all the updates Linden Lab pushes it's hard to keep the viewer up to date. Pretty much the same goes for the OnRez Viewer, built by the Electric Sheep Company. While the OnRez viewer certainly looked a lot "fresher" and more up to date, it never really took off.

Now, Linden Lab has been working on updating the look and feel of their client for some time now, codenamed Dazzle. The first screenshots are promising. The client looks fresh:

It will take more than a visual facelift to take away complaints on the usability of the viewer. It will need reorganisation of functions. There should be more interaction design and usability testing to determine the best ways of accessing the inventory, or juggle IM screens.

We're not there yet, but every step is a step forward.

Labels: , , , , , , ,