Archive for November, 2007

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Web As Industrial Design: Painting with Code

Juicer Prototype

 If you happen to be passing through Terminal 3 of the San Francisco Airport any time soon, check out: Prototype to Product: 33 Projects from the Bay Area Design Community. Rushing through the Terminal to my gate, I didn’t have enough time to spend with each of the pieces. The exhibit features preliminary sketches, detailed illustrations, models, prototypes and the finished product. Every time I see this kind of approach to design I think that Web design should be done in the same way.

Designers of Web sites need to take the materials, the DOM, the semantic HTML, the CSS, the javascript, the images and links into account when they design something for a person to use for a particular purpose. Industrial designers need to know and understand their materials. Will there be a new generation of Web artists and designers who can paint in code?

Hypertargeting and the Panopticon of Social Networks


The rebellion against hyper-targeting continues. Doc Searls weighs in, as does Jason Calacanis. Targeted marketing always worked with fairly crude tools, and because of this it was tolerable. Marketers looked at demographics and psychographics, made educated guesses about the audiences of particular radio or television programs, and did the best they could. It was more art than science. The direct marketers were the most statistically driven. Marketers dreamed of knowing enough to target perfectly. Now with Facebook and other social networks, they’re starting to get their wish. The user inhabits a panopticon, and the data generated belongs to the system to be rented to the highest bidder.

Will the inmates rebel and demand the authority to selectively release data to the system? Will they be able release none of their data and still participate in the system? Can they withdraw their data, move it and use it to their advantage in another system? When a customer uses her data to her advantage in a system, the system benefits as well.The coarse targeting of marketing has required high frequency bombardment. We’re entering the age of smart bombs, but the frequency seems to be just as high. Shouldn’t smart marketing just be the thing I want, when I’ve indicated I actually want it? Advertising frequency goes down, but the number of transactions probably increases.

Digg, Mixx and Viral Negativity in a Social Network

Arrington writes that some of Digg’s unpaid editors are moving over to Mixx. Since they aren’t compensated for their work, switching costs amount to getting some of their friends to switch too. This is an interesting case study in the value of social networks. If the creators of the “user generated content” decide that the environment has become poisoned with negativity, they may decide to pull up stakes and migrate to another more friendly environment.

One Digg user makes the claim, in Arrington’s article, that:

I think Mixx has a real chance for success…Mixx has a much more positive audience than Digg. It always amazes me that even the most popular and highest quality articles can get so many negative and unnecessarily degrading comments on Digg. So far the users of Mixx have proven to be quite a bit more pleasant, something that I know will be welcomed by most users.?

Negativity can quickly become viral in a social network, especially where some kind of voting takes place. Competitive strategies can overtake collaborative strategies and then the community’s overall output starts to become skewed. To combat the negativity, the owners of the site make rules to curb some forms of competition, and before you know it– it’s not that fun anymore.

It’s interesting to watch the figures of game theory play out before your eyes. Should part of the valuation of a business that depends on social networking and voting be dependent on its ability to enforce and maintain a friendly environment? See Craig Newmark for a lesson in how this can be done.

Kindle: Network Connectivity included in purchase price

Connectivity to the network included in the purchase price of the Kindle. This is the most revolutionary part of the Kindle. It’s a product, a hunk of plastic and electronics that comes in a box with a recharger. The price is a little high for an e-reader, the special sauce is the built in complimentary network connectivity. There’s no meter running.

It’s EVDO, Amazon calls it WhisperNet– but it doesn’t really matter what the technology is or what it’s called. The consumer doesn’t need to think about it. It’s what enables shopping for books and periodicals, and what allows delivery. It will only be noticeable when it’s slow or not working.

I’m not sure how the economics of this work, but if the cost of the network is built in to the cost of the reader and the purchased content, the issue of the price of the network disappears. And with that, a big usability problem and a big uptake issue goes away. The network is assumed. With some mass production, economies of scale and a little time we may get the price down to what a DVD player costs.

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