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IA Summit 2008: “Presence, identity and attention in social web architecture”

Christian Crumlish hosted a panel on “Presence, identity, and attention in social web architecture” starring Andrew Hinton, Andrew Crow, Gene Smith and the crazy/incredible Christina Wodtke who’d had back surgery earlier in the week but was determined to make it to IA Summit.

The topic is very timely and each of the panelists had some really interesting things to say.

Lots and lots of Twitter notes below:

Christian Crumlish:

  • Using technology to communicate dates back to the telegraph. It’s only been a bandwidth improvement since then
  • “We got pretty good at using landlines. Then they took them away and it got all sucky again.”
  • Whatever etiquette was worked out for the phone suddenly went out the window because we had these new contexts to figure out
  • “When I call someone, I first ask if this is a good time for a call. If not, I call later. If yes, how long do they have?”
  • On the cell, it’s possible for me to be more present than the person on the other end (due to differing contexts)
  • “Obligatory venn diagram” Self, community, activities.
  • Presence: 1) online place, shingle, brand, 2) CV, blog, lifestream, 3) Availability, online stat, 4) Mindfulness, paying attention
  • Aspects of online communication: flirting, stalking, cybersex, etc..
  • “If system is poorly designed, it automatically creates social awkwardness”
  • As designers of social spaces we can use the social space to do our testing
  • Ongoing conversations in the social space breed new ideas and improvement of the social spaces we use
  • Social space is a place to voice grievances, but it’s naturally public so who’s listening? Are the right people listening?

Gene Smith:

  • “How many of you have ‘fanned’ someone on CrowdVine? How many of you have been ‘fanned’? How many of you think this is weird?”
  • Presence, relationships, reputation, groups, conversations, sharing… all circle around identity
  • Hawthorne Effect: people’s productivity improves simply by being observed
  • Social systems really just about having an audience. A lot of opinion in play with tagging, for instance
  • Good example, squaredcircle on Flickr
  • Popular tags for Kevin Federline, “I left justin for this” “should be working at wendys” “epic_fail” etc…
  • Gene gets lots of laughs by showing ridiculous photos that have high number of “people who found this helpful”
  • Do you even need identity, or does presence give us all we need?

Christina Wodtke:

  • Topic of the talk is “Please don’t make me look stupid in public”
  • Another hex: avatar, activity, groups, relationships, collections, people all surrounding identity
  • Recommends Clay Shirky’s “A Group is its Own Worst Enemy”
  • Avatars can affect the way people behave. Negative default avatars are motivating to upload your own (cro-magnon man)
  • Profile is context based. Facebook is personal. LinkedIn is professional. For example, can’t ask if you’re single on LinkedIn
  • Meanwhile PatientsLikeMe asks about your medical conditions which would be inappropriate elsewhere
  • Activity is being tracked, broadcasted (and you may forget to whom)
  • FriendFeed is one of the best examples of “you are what you do”
  • You are your stuff. Aspect of embarrassment can go with that. Del.icio.us lets you make bookmarks private
  • Relationships, who we associate with, forms a picture of what we’re all about. But it has to be managed

Check out the slides here:

Andrew Hinton:

  • LiveJournal is the Mesozoic Era of social networking
  • LiveJournal navigation is wonky because the people who are using it resist any attempt to change it
  • Did a search on LJ for knitting and returned thousands of profiles. Users input their interests in their profiles.
  • “Someone made a mundane decision about how search returns results that has an impact on how presence plays a role on the site”
  • He found the Harry Potter Knitting community, which has 1660 members and 8-10 posts a day. It’s all about niche
  • On LJ, interests are a folksonomy that’s automatically generated, but many of them are misspelled. Other commonality there?
  • “LJ has the most advanced friends filtering system of any social networking site I’ve seen” however, they’re all still public
  • On LJ icons are additional expression of mood. You can stick one in each post. There’s a whole cottage industry of icon making
  • Conclusion: Little decisions in the design make a huge impact in the social use of the site

Andrew Crow:

  • Topic: What can we do now?
  • Developing standards: How do we define our status, presence in a way that everyone can understand? And that’s reusable.
  • [name] [context/status message] [communication preference] Peter’s at the movies. SMS is okay; Leah is in a meeting. Do not disturb
  • Designing for ambient intimacy: 1-Be aware of privacy 2-Give users control 3-Afford levels of publicity
  • Flexible structures: can’t put up so many barriers that it’s an obstacle for people to participate
  • Presence settings should be easy to set. Uses example of Dodgeball
  • No presence setting on the iPhone.
  • Proactive vs. Reactive status messaging. Proactive: AIM. Reactive: SMS.

Note: When more slide decks are posted, I’ll embed them here.

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