This is the best blog post I’ve read from someone leaving Google:
The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus.
Technically I suppose Google has always been an advertising company, but for the better part of the last three years, it didn’t feel like one. Google was an ad company only in the sense that a good TV show is an ad company: having great content attracts advertisers.
Path is a monument to Path. It is no place to scribble in. I wish it longevity so that it might find shabbiness.
Read the whole post. It perfectly sums up why Path feels wrong to me. It’s too much flash, too much polish. It’s too nice.
(And it made me think about why I’ve stuck with Twitter for almost five years now while so many other social networks have come and gone. I don’t really have a clear answer to that. It might be a mixture of people I wish I could be more like, funny tweets I wish I had thought of and pointers to the best and most interesting parts of the vast masses of content spread out over the internet.)
It puzzles me how many people still believe ‘friendship’ or at least bonhomie conducted in cyberspace isn’t a valuable form of social contact, but, say, being thrown together at an NCT group, or in halls of residence, or because your desks at work face on to each other, is. Or that anodyne small talk with a neighbour is ‘genuine social stimulation,’ whereas chatting over Twitter with someone 6,000 miles away who loves Top Gun and Jefferson Airplane as much as you do is just lonely, dysfunctional nerds clashing in cyberspace. This, to my mind, is idiotic. It’s time for us all to come out of the closet about our secret internet chums.
James Shelley has been writing some incredibly clever stuff recently:
Most fruits of human ingenuity exist to add connectivity to our lives — roads, steel bridges, steam engines, telegrams, printing presses and telephones — but ultimately our inventions do not add greater human connectivity as much as they adapt the way, shape and scope of this connection.
This might be the best thing I’ve read in a long time:
Our view differs radically from that of the firm as a bundle of contracts that serves to allocate efficiently property rights. In contrast to the contract approach to understanding organizations, the assumption of the selfish motives of individuals resulting in shirking or dishonesty is not a necessary premise in our argument. Rather, we suggest that organizations are social communities in which individual and social expertise is transformed into economically useful products and services by the application of a set of higher-order organizing principles. Firms exist because they provide a social community of voluntaristic action structured by organizing principles that are not reduceable to individuals.”
The whole article can be found on the internets. Or so I’ve heard.
Thursday last week, Kristoffer and I attended our final exam at BA(im) where we presented and discussed our bachelor project on Digital Patina with our supervisor and a censor.
It went very well, and we both received the highest grades possible in the Danish school system: 12.
We set out on a mission to define what Digital Patina is. Initially we had the idea that we wanted to see if the physical idea of “wearing out” could be applied to the user interface of a test website for a generic vacuum cleaner. We created three websites that were identical in content, but offered three different patina scenarios:
Changing the size of the font from 1em to 2em
Degrading the color from black to white
Intensifying a shade of orange
The prograss was made in 10 steps, but we set up the site so we could mimick the effect of previous users already altering the size/color of the links, to see if our test users would pick up these signs as showing previous activity.
We figured that most of the users would recognize the effect, but the test showed us that only one user actually said “Somebody’s been here before me” and only one other user noticed any changes (but was too afraid to say it at first because she thought it was just her mind fooling around).
Basically, the test failed and applying the physical definition of patina as something being worn out doesn’t resonate with what the users expect when they enter a digital setting.
After a bit of hard thinking, we came up with what the essentials behind the wearing is: Signs of human activity. The research question reads: “How can user behaviour be shaped by digital patina?“, but instead it would have been more fitting to ask how user behaviour can be shaped by the activity of previous users, as this is essentially what we found out was the core concept behind both physical and digital interactions based on previous use.
As the paper states, the best example of an online web service shaping their users behaviour based on other users’ is Amazon’s “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” as it helps me navigate towards items that I might find relevant based on what others have done.
The next best example is Last.fm’s recommendations. Because I listen to Mike Sheridan, Mikael Simpson and Melk, the web service recommends Rumpistol and is thereby shaping my behaviour.
I don’t like Intel’s idea of Digital Patina being physical objects with RFID-tags that have some sort of data harvested through interaction with the object, as it is merely adding a digital layer to an object that already “stores” a lot of information about the people who has interacted with it. The data we know from the digital settings – in our example, a computer with a browser displaying a website – is basically dumb and objective, and we can only ever show the interaction with the data as a metaphorical representation. Our user test was conducted to see if digital patina = interface patina, but we found that the GUI is still a magical element in may people’s lives that they have learned to live with, so the patination of data needs to be more than “smudging” the interface. It works in some ways, but the user has to understand why it happens on the screen.
By giving useful metadata to the data created as a result of the interaction with it, we have reached what should define digital patina: The result of my interaction can aid future users to find what is relevant for them faster than now (or even find stuff they didn’t know they wanted until it was presented to them).
It’s long, it’s rambling, but I’ve promised a lot of people to write a bit about our paper and put it online for everybody to see, so here it is:
Fred Stutzman, the creater of Freedom, a Mac app that turns off internet access for a preset timeframe, has just released “Anti-Social”.
In using Freedom, Fred Stutzman found that he often wanted to look up something on the internet while reading a paper etc. The only way around this was to reboot the computer or write it down on a piece of paper and look it up later. With Anti-Social, he’s made an app that closes off Twitter, Facebook, Bebo etc., but still gives access to searching on Google.
What I like in partiuclar is where Fred writes how you can get around the block (before it’s run out, that is):
When Anti-Social is running, the only way to get around the block is by rebooting your computer. As you will feel a deep sense of shame for rebooting just to waste time on Twitter, you’re unlikely to cheat.
Leroy Stick, the man behind the fantastic @BPGlobalPR:
“So what is the point of all this? The point is, FORGET YOUR BRAND. You don’t own it because it is literally nothing. You can spend all sorts of time and money trying to manufacture public opinion, but ultimately, that’s up to the public, now isn’t it?
You know the best way to get the public to respect your brand? Have a respectable brand. ”