"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." - William Morris

Six Degrees of Lovin’

Posted: May 3rd, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Inspiration | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Andrew Weinreich, creator of SixDegrees and so one of the forefathers of social networking, is blogging about his latest startup meetMoi. MeetMoi is a mobile dating service that wants to get you an instantaneous hookup when you’re out and about in town. Now whether this service will replace turning up to any bar and getting drunk enough till someone near to you becomes dateable is the big challenge Andrew faces and good luck to him, but in the meantime his posts give great insight into the process of starting a business. For example you can read about how he initiated sixDegrees at the start of his entrepreneurial life.

Web 2.0 Release Forms

Posted: February 20th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Social Media | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

This month’s Radar magazine has an article about the ‘Prisoners of youTube‘ – all those poor folk who suddenly became famous because someone posted an embarassing video of them online. Since most of these clips are of the ‘Funniest Home Videos’ variety the people involved are generally pretty upset, since they had no idea they were being filmed and that other people would see. This does raise the question of release forms and how they are handled (or not) in a Web 2.0 world. Most online video sites say to ‘check this box if you have rights to upload this video’ but the truth is that none of them check this, it would totally destroy their models if they did. YouTube seems to be surviving a pile of lawsuits, either through taking down the content or creating partnership deals with the content owners, but that’s mainly for the big players, TV studios and the like.

So what of the individuals whose lives have been destroyed by this unwanted fame? Either they have to spend a fortune getting a lawyer together to get a cease and desist order, and to try and get financial reparation, or they can try themselves directly – but the damage has been done. The video is out. People laugh at them on the street. And even if one video service has pulled the video, someone will be uploading their copy of it somewhere else right now. Should they ignore it and hope it goes away? Or is this the time for a new Web 2.0 rights movement that protects the rights of people to mess up without being embarassed to death without their consent?

Truth is, as long as we find this stuff funny someone will find a way to get it out there. Especially if you can start to make money on it as youTube is now promising. It will be interesting to see where this goes next.

Social Flow

Posted: February 20th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Inspiration, Interaction Design | Tags: , , | No Comments »

I’ve been re-reading the excellent Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience again and I highly recommend you all do too. In it, author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes his research into how people get into ‘flow’ states, that is states of enjoyable activity where you immerse yourself completely in what you are doing and stay deeply focussed. We’ve all done it at some point, missed our train stop when reading a book, sat down to do something then looked up and it’s the middle of the night and we forgot to eat and so on.

Mihaly argues that modern western society is full of flow destroying activities ripe with passive pleasure, such as television, rather than engaged enjoyment, for example knitting. These activities, while fun at first, lead to a longer term malaise as they do not involve us actively setting our own goals and following them through, which is core to the flow experience. Sports on the other hand are rife with flow, as they exist in their own world with strongly defined goals and excellent feedback to tell you that you’re there and getting better. Experts in the art and music world start to look for more complex experiences, moving from rock bands to classical or jazz, and then setting their own goals to analyse the music and deeply immerse themselves into that world.

What’s amazing about this concept is it works on a many different levels, you can even feel good about your day simply by writing a list of small tasks that need doing (goals) and ticking them off (feedback). Longer lasting, sustainable flow happiness comes from creating more complex experiences within overall goals, for example when you start taking photos you’re proud to create something that’s in focus, but as you spend more time immersed in the subject that is no longer sufficient – more complex internal goals must be met such as composition, lighting and the story being told.

So let’s look at something like mySpace in this light; you can start by signing up (most likely because your friends are there), you fill in your profile and you’re ready to go. This is a simple goal, easily achieved, and now you can start finding your friends – another simple goal. As you look around you realise that your page s pretty dull, so you go away and learn how to customize your page to make it your own (or steal someone else’s page you like). Eventually you have your ideal web home, and are confident to tweak it when you like. Now your personality is represented, you and your friends can comment/message each other as much as you like, and you can work out whether or not to go on a date with that kid with the cool but weird photos who messaged you (my advice is no, unless one of your meat-space friends knows them well and they’re cool). So almost all of mySpace’s activities allow you to set your own goals, or choose from social goals already set, and get rapid feedback from your friends and yourself on how you’re doing – a great flow experience. No wonder everyone spends so much time on there.

My next personal goal: how to engender flow into the next site I build. Sounds like an interesting challenge, with plenty of good feedback.