Stone Age brains and the social web

I just listened to a brilliant "All In The Mind" podcast on "Stone Age brains in 21st century skulls" while jogging around Highgate Woods:
Front up to your shrink, and you bring a menagerie of hunter gatherers, anteaters and reptiles from your ancestral past with you. Or so Professor Daniel Wilson and Dr Gary Galambos believe. Both clinical psychiatrists, they provocatively challenge their profession to look to the Darwinian roots of human neuroses, and the evolutionary battleground that is our stone-age brain.
The podcast confirmed my thoughts on the importance of intimate social context in our lives—specifically, social intimacy appears to limit the extent to which the dynamics between manic/dominant and depressive/submissive personalities become excessively polarised within groups.

Such polarisation of social dynamics is an adaptive behaviour that is deeply rooted in the reptilian brain: assertion of leadership by the few within a small community allows the community to function without constant fighting. 

However, the exploded social contexts we live within in the modern world can distort assertion and submission into manic/psychotic and depressive behaviours respectively. Fascinatingly, we're told that all four of the major leaders in WWII (Churchill, Hitler, Roosevelt and Tojo) had manic personality disorders of one kind or another.

Given all the above, how might we build social software that helps us rediscover intimacy of social context in an exploded society? Sounds like it's a fairly urgent mission.

Stone Age brains and the social web

I just listened to a brilliant "All In The Mind" podcast on "Stone Age brains in 21st century skulls" while jogging around Highgate Woods:
Front up to your shrink, and you bring a menagerie of hunter gatherers, anteaters and reptiles from your ancestral past with you. Or so Professor Daniel Wilson and Dr Gary Galambos believe. Both clinical psychiatrists, they provocatively challenge their profession to look to the Darwinian roots of human neuroses, and the evolutionary battleground that is our stone-age brain.
The podcast confirmed my thoughts on the importance of intimate social context in our lives—specifically, social intimacy appears to limit the extent to which the dynamics between manic/dominant and depressive/submissive personalities become excessively polarised within groups.

Such polarisation of social dynamics is an adaptive behaviour that is deeply rooted in the reptilian brain: assertion of leadership by the few within a small community allows the community to function without constant fighting. 

However, the exploded social contexts we live within in the modern world can distort assertion and submission into manic/psychotic and depressive behaviours respectively. Fascinatingly, we're told that all four of the major leaders in WWII (Churchill, Hitler, Roosevelt and Tojo) had manic personality disorders of one kind or another.

Given all the above, how might we build social software that helps us rediscover intimacy of social context in an exploded society? Sounds like it's a fairly urgent mission.

LinkedIn’s promise

LinkedIn logoPretty much all my business friends are on LinkedIn. According to Read Write Web, LinkedIn has around 20 million members and around 6.6 million monthly active users. They are the clear global market leaders in the business networking space—Centre Networks report that Xing, their closest competitor, had 5 million members in January 2008.

So just what is it that LinkedIn is doing so right? And could it be doing that thing even better?

The LinkedIn promise

The heart of what makes a service or product successful is the power of the aspirations it evokes. Once we identify the core "promise" that the service holds out to us, we can then look at how effectively the its functionalities, workflows and UI amplify, filter and channel that promise into a rewarding and effective, tangible user experience (UX).

So what is LinkedIn's promise to its users?

First up, LinkedIn's self-avowed mission: "to help you be more effective in your daily work and open doors to opportunities using the relationships you already have". Hmm, not exactly snappy, eh? We're going to have to read between the lines and read the subtle cues here...

I would sum up my actual experience of using LinkedIn feels something more like this: "LinkedIn promises to bring my business card to life." LinkedIn seems to say to me: "we will extend your carefully-constructed business card and CV across your network for you, bringing you a wealth of serendipitous professional insights and opportunities."

So what, specifically, gives me this impression?

Visual branding—"corporate" and "creative" in counterpoint

LinkedIn's visual branding is deceptively subtle. At first glance, you might think it minimal and conservative. Lots of greyspace and whitespace around clean-edged boxes and tidy little icons; tightly controlled areas of colour.

But look more closely.

Within this conservative visual framework, there is actually a wealth of variety of gradient effects, block colour shades, corner shapes, button and border styles, list layouts. I can feel that the LinkedIn designers have had fun with this UI!

To illustrate my point, here's a collage of fragments from the LinkedIn UI. (See if you can find them on the site itself—a treasure hunt!):

LinkedIn screenshot collage

But so what? What does the subtleties of graphic design have to do with LinkedIn's core UX?

Well, the "corporate yet fun" visual branding perfectly expresses the "double promise" of LinkedIn that I suggested above: that you can both keep firm control of how people perceive your identity while also benefiting in serendipitous and unexpected ways by expressing that identity. In my experience, those two attributes tap into fairly universal human needs, so it's no surprise that LinkedIn is so successful.

Genteel gameplay

If LinkedIn was a game, it would be one that you couldn't easily lose at.

As you build up the various aspects your profile, a little "profile completeness" status bar creeps up towards 100%. But there are no wrong moves or puzzling challenges in the profile building game—just the gentle incentive of that status bar and the hope that your contacts will view your professional identity in a better light and opportunities will flow.

By way of illustration, I found this image by blogger Stephanie Booth (though note also the somewhat disgruntled comment exchange under the original image!):



The status bar is classic LinkedIn. It says: "take your time, stay in control, just follow the instructions - but maybe, just maybe, this could lead on to unsuspected opportunities." That's a potent double promise.

Cherry picking the social web

It didn't escape observers' attention that the latest iteration of the LinkedIn site drew on key features of Facebook for inspiration - the Newsfeed on the Home page and the Questions and Answers features being two of the most conspicuous examples.

But even when cherry picking the "bleeding edge" of the social web, LinkedIn keeps its brand promise. The content of the Newsfeed is just interesting enough to attract a curious glance from time to time (e.g. "[Your contact's name] added [someone else] as a contact"), but never strays into embarassing or awkward territory.

I will never read a message like "[Your contact name] just got the sack and is now unemployed" on LinkedIn. Engaging and potentially useful to observers as that message would be, it would LinkedIn's implied promise to help you maintain a positive professional image.

LinkedIn sucks, but it shouldn't care

When I asked my social media maven friends to tell me how well LinkedIn worked for them, their reaction was mixed.

Here are a few of their twittered gripes:

"I find it takes too many clicks to see someone's connections. Also, interface isn't consistent." - Jof Arnold

"Always struck me as kind of thing that should be useful, but just not yet. Loathe to bail in case it's useful after I've gone." - Tim Duckett

"[J]ust an address-neutral repository of people I know, and an occasional source of annoying recruiters." - Alan Patrick

"LinkedIn would be cool if it had some decent apps..." - Steve Lawson

"It seems like it should be much more useful & effective than it is." - Pete Goold

So LinkedIn clearly isn't serving the early adopter crowd optimally, and I would imagine that must be impacting negatively on the amount of "buzz PR" they are getting on blogs, twitter, podcasts and so on.

But then again, why should LinkedIn care too much?

As I said at the beginning of this post, pretty much all my professional friends are on LinkedIn—despite their reservations about its utility. For early adopters, the bottom line is that LinkedIn works for them as a rolodex. And for those early adopters who aren't already maxed out with gainful employment, there is an additional hope (not necessarily expectation) that being on LinkedIn could generate new opportunities.

If LinkedIn jumped to the tune of every fleeting, outré social web trend in an effort to excite us early adopters, they would be breaking their brand promise of keeping the user in control of a dependable and familiar environment. They would risk alienating their mass market of late adopters.

And Reid Hoffman is far too clever to do that.

A message runs through it

If you've ever had the dubious privilege of eating a stick of Brighton Rock, you'll know that there's some message or other written pink or green into the white sugar, and that message goes through the length of the sweet.

Great brands are like that. Everything they do communicates their brand promise.

Of course, I could only touch on small areas and aspects of LinkedIn's web (and indeed mobile) presence in this post. But it seems to me that wherever I turn on LinkedIn, I encounter the same double promise of safety and opportunity.

It's a great lesson in business focus.

Acknowledgements

My thanks to all my friends who helped me to clarify my thoughts on LinkedIn by sharing their own. While we're on the subject, why not check out their LinkedIn profiles, via my own (requires LinkedIn signin)? Maybe, just maybe, it could lead to professional opportunities for you...

[UPDATE: Special thanks to Chris Osborne for pointing out an error in my LinkedIn statistics references—now corrected]

LinkedIn’s promise

LinkedIn logoPretty much all my business friends are on LinkedIn. According to Read Write Web, LinkedIn has around 20 million members and around 6.6 million monthly active users. They are the clear global market leaders in the business networking space—Centre Networks report that Xing, their closest competitor, had 5 million members in January 2008.

So just what is it that LinkedIn is doing so right? And could it be doing that thing even better?

The LinkedIn promise

The heart of what makes a service or product successful is the power of the aspirations it evokes. Once we identify the core "promise" that the service holds out to us, we can then look at how effectively the its functionalities, workflows and UI amplify, filter and channel that promise into a rewarding and effective, tangible user experience (UX).

So what is LinkedIn's promise to its users?

First up, LinkedIn's self-avowed mission: "to help you be more effective in your daily work and open doors to opportunities using the relationships you already have". Hmm, not exactly snappy, eh? We're going to have to read between the lines and read the subtle cues here...

I would sum up my actual experience of using LinkedIn feels something more like this: "LinkedIn promises to bring my business card to life." LinkedIn seems to say to me: "we will extend your carefully-constructed business card and CV across your network for you, bringing you a wealth of serendipitous professional insights and opportunities."

So what, specifically, gives me this impression?

Visual branding—"corporate" and "creative" in counterpoint

LinkedIn's visual branding is deceptively subtle. At first glance, you might think it minimal and conservative. Lots of greyspace and whitespace around clean-edged boxes and tidy little icons; tightly controlled areas of colour.

But look more closely.

Within this conservative visual framework, there is actually a wealth of variety of gradient effects, block colour shades, corner shapes, button and border styles, list layouts. I can feel that the LinkedIn designers have had fun with this UI!

To illustrate my point, here's a collage of fragments from the LinkedIn UI. (See if you can find them on the site itself—a treasure hunt!):

LinkedIn screenshot collage

But so what? What does the subtleties of graphic design have to do with LinkedIn's core UX?

Well, the "corporate yet fun" visual branding perfectly expresses the "double promise" of LinkedIn that I suggested above: that you can both keep firm control of how people perceive your identity while also benefiting in serendipitous and unexpected ways by expressing that identity. In my experience, those two attributes tap into fairly universal human needs, so it's no surprise that LinkedIn is so successful.

Genteel gameplay

If LinkedIn was a game, it would be one that you couldn't easily lose at.

As you build up the various aspects your profile, a little "profile completeness" status bar creeps up towards 100%. But there are no wrong moves or puzzling challenges in the profile building game—just the gentle incentive of that status bar and the hope that your contacts will view your professional identity in a better light and opportunities will flow.

By way of illustration, I found this image by blogger Stephanie Booth (though note also the somewhat disgruntled comment exchange under the original image!):



The status bar is classic LinkedIn. It says: "take your time, stay in control, just follow the instructions - but maybe, just maybe, this could lead on to unsuspected opportunities." That's a potent double promise.

Cherry picking the social web

It didn't escape observers' attention that the latest iteration of the LinkedIn site drew on key features of Facebook for inspiration - the Newsfeed on the Home page and the Questions and Answers features being two of the most conspicuous examples.

But even when cherry picking the "bleeding edge" of the social web, LinkedIn keeps its brand promise. The content of the Newsfeed is just interesting enough to attract a curious glance from time to time (e.g. "[Your contact's name] added [someone else] as a contact"), but never strays into embarassing or awkward territory.

I will never read a message like "[Your contact name] just got the sack and is now unemployed" on LinkedIn. Engaging and potentially useful to observers as that message would be, it would LinkedIn's implied promise to help you maintain a positive professional image.

LinkedIn sucks, but it shouldn't care

When I asked my social media maven friends to tell me how well LinkedIn worked for them, their reaction was mixed.

Here are a few of their twittered gripes:

"I find it takes too many clicks to see someone's connections. Also, interface isn't consistent." - Jof Arnold

"Always struck me as kind of thing that should be useful, but just not yet. Loathe to bail in case it's useful after I've gone." - Tim Duckett

"[J]ust an address-neutral repository of people I know, and an occasional source of annoying recruiters." - Alan Patrick

"LinkedIn would be cool if it had some decent apps..." - Steve Lawson

"It seems like it should be much more useful & effective than it is." - Pete Goold

So LinkedIn clearly isn't serving the early adopter crowd optimally, and I would imagine that must be impacting negatively on the amount of "buzz PR" they are getting on blogs, twitter, podcasts and so on.

But then again, why should LinkedIn care too much?

As I said at the beginning of this post, pretty much all my professional friends are on LinkedIn—despite their reservations about its utility. For early adopters, the bottom line is that LinkedIn works for them as a rolodex. And for those early adopters who aren't already maxed out with gainful employment, there is an additional hope (not necessarily expectation) that being on LinkedIn could generate new opportunities.

If LinkedIn jumped to the tune of every fleeting, outré social web trend in an effort to excite us early adopters, they would be breaking their brand promise of keeping the user in control of a dependable and familiar environment. They would risk alienating their mass market of late adopters.

And Reid Hoffman is far too clever to do that.

A message runs through it

If you've ever had the dubious privilege of eating a stick of Brighton Rock, you'll know that there's some message or other written pink or green into the white sugar, and that message goes through the length of the sweet.

Great brands are like that. Everything they do communicates their brand promise.

Of course, I could only touch on small areas and aspects of LinkedIn's web (and indeed mobile) presence in this post. But it seems to me that wherever I turn on LinkedIn, I encounter the same double promise of safety and opportunity.

It's a great lesson in business focus.

Acknowledgements

My thanks to all my friends who helped me to clarify my thoughts on LinkedIn by sharing their own. While we're on the subject, why not check out their LinkedIn profiles, via my own (requires LinkedIn signin)? Maybe, just maybe, it could lead to professional opportunities for you...

[UPDATE: Special thanks to Chris Osborne for pointing out an error in my LinkedIn statistics references—now corrected]

User Experience made better

Weaverluke provides world-leading User Experience strategic consultancy and research, design and testing solutions.(Social Design, User Centred Design, Information Architecture and Interaction Design—and consultancy, research and testing for the same—are other useful ways to describe what we do.)

We can help your company deliver a compellingly simple, intuitive and powerful user experience with your digital service offerings.

Beyond the sheer quality of our work as a whole, Weaverluke stands out from our competition in three specific areas:
  1. we are recognised experts in the social aspects of digitally-enabled services;
  2. we orchestrate an in-depth understanding of business, brand, technology, psychology and design to provide User Experience consultancy and solutions that reflect the whole of your business;
  3. we are not afraid to apply our proven skills as creative User Experience innovators when your business goals require it.

Our clients

Our recent projects include:

• providing Vodafone with User Experience strategic consultancy and research, a User Experience design solution and skills training, helping them to evolve their Betavine.net mobile app developer community hub;

• working with social fashion trading platform Fashionspace.com to re-architect their service's Information Architecture and User Experience (a site relaunch is forthcoming; Weaverluke's work is not visible on the live site), transforming their ability to deliver on their business goals.

• leading the design and testing of interactive prototypes, over a three month period, of a world-leading news agency's social network for financial services professionals, on behalf of Flow Interactive.

Strategic benefits of investment in User Experience

User Experience is rooted across diverse areas of your business, including business and brand strategy, technology, design and even marketing. For this reason, the direct ROI on investment in User Experience proves challenging to quantify precisely.

Nevertheless, from a strategic perspective, investment in User Experience clearly makes excellent sense:
  1. By properly researching, planning and designing services that meet your business goals by delivering compelling value to your users and customers, you reduce the risk of project failure.
  2. In today's hyper-competitive market, every useability barrier is a costly lost opportunity. By the same token, improving your services' User Experience can boost your top line significantly, driving increased sales and avoiding unecessary service support costs (eg, helpline provision).

What we offer

Weaverluke can help you to realise the two-fold strategic benefits of improving your services' User Experience described above, by taking any or all of the following steps with your company:
  • Facilitating your development of a User Experience strategy that enables you to deliver on your business goals
  • Conducting an expert review and competitive analysis of your existing service offering
  • Undertaking anthropological research, user needs analysis and task analysis
  • Identifying key user personas and use cases
  • Creating interactive service prototypes
  • Prototype and service testing and evaluation
  • Full or modular solution development (in partnership with web solutions agency Brain Bakery)

Market-leading innovation

As CEO and User Experience/UI design lead for i-together Ltd., Weaverluke Director Luke Razzell was responsible for the Blog Friends user experience and graphic design, along with taking joint responsibility for the company's brand and business strategy, viral marketing strategy and community and investor relations. Blog Friends was a social blog reading app on facebook that grew from zero to 27k users—including 13 of the world's Top 100 bloggers—in eight months.

Here is what some well-known industry commentators had to say about the service:

Blog Friends
Take a look at this two minute slideshow to find out just what it is about Blog Friends that people loved.

Contact us

If you think Weaverluke's User Experience consultancy, research, development or testing could be of benefit to your company, please do get in touch. It's never too soon to make your users' experience better!

Email: luke@weaverluke.com
Twitter and Skype: weaverluke
Mobile: 07985 119095

User Experience made better

Weaverluke provides world-leading User Experience strategic consultancy and research, design and testing solutions.(Social Design, User Centred Design, Information Architecture and Interaction Design—and consultancy, research and testing for the same—are other useful ways to describe what we do.)

We can help your company deliver a compellingly simple, intuitive and powerful user experience with your digital service offerings.

Beyond the sheer quality of our work as a whole, Weaverluke stands out from our competition in three specific areas:
  1. we are recognised experts in the social aspects of digitally-enabled services;
  2. we orchestrate an in-depth understanding of business, brand, technology, psychology and design to provide User Experience consultancy and solutions that reflect the whole of your business;
  3. we are not afraid to apply our proven skills as creative User Experience innovators when your business goals require it.

Our clients

Our recent projects include:

• providing Vodafone with User Experience strategic consultancy and research, a User Experience design solution and skills training, helping them to evolve their Betavine.net mobile app developer community hub;

• working with social fashion trading platform Fashionspace.com to re-architect their service's Information Architecture and User Experience (a site relaunch is forthcoming; Weaverluke's work is not visible on the live site), transforming their ability to deliver on their business goals.

• leading the design and testing of interactive prototypes, over a three month period, of a world-leading news agency's social network for financial services professionals, on behalf of Flow Interactive.

Strategic benefits of investment in User Experience

User Experience is rooted across diverse areas of your business, including business and brand strategy, technology, design and even marketing. For this reason, the direct ROI on investment in User Experience proves challenging to quantify precisely.

Nevertheless, from a strategic perspective, investment in User Experience clearly makes excellent sense:
  1. By properly researching, planning and designing services that meet your business goals by delivering compelling value to your users and customers, you reduce the risk of project failure.
  2. In today's hyper-competitive market, every useability barrier is a costly lost opportunity. By the same token, improving your services' User Experience can boost your top line significantly, driving increased sales and avoiding unecessary service support costs (eg, helpline provision).

What we offer

Weaverluke can help you to realise the two-fold strategic benefits of improving your services' User Experience described above, by taking any or all of the following steps with your company:
  • Facilitating your development of a User Experience strategy that enables you to deliver on your business goals
  • Conducting an expert review and competitive analysis of your existing service offering
  • Undertaking anthropological research, user needs analysis and task analysis
  • Identifying key user personas and use cases
  • Creating interactive service prototypes
  • Prototype and service testing and evaluation
  • Full or modular solution development (in partnership with web solutions agency Brain Bakery)

Market-leading innovation

As CEO and User Experience/UI design lead for i-together Ltd., Weaverluke Director Luke Razzell was responsible for the Blog Friends user experience and graphic design, along with taking joint responsibility for the company's brand and business strategy, viral marketing strategy and community and investor relations. Blog Friends was a social blog reading app on facebook that grew from zero to 27k users—including 13 of the world's Top 100 bloggers—in eight months.

Here is what some well-known industry commentators had to say about the service:

Blog Friends
Take a look at this two minute slideshow to find out just what it is about Blog Friends that people loved.

Contact us

If you think Weaverluke's User Experience consultancy, research, development or testing could be of benefit to your company, please do get in touch. It's never too soon to make your users' experience better!

Email: luke@weaverluke.com
Twitter and Skype: weaverluke
Mobile: 07985 119095

Hacking the nature of existence

Nic Brisbourne concludes a thoughtful post "On widgets, social networks and the nature of existence": "[W]e find ourselves in a situation where internet companies might not even need their own website. A kind of virtual, virtual company if you will…."

I completely agree with Nic's sentiment at a high level. This concept of a virtualised service was what lead i-together to deploy Blog Friends within Facebook in the first place. However, the tactical view from within an early-stage startup like Blog Friends turns out to look subtly different than I expected. I left a comment on Nic's post:
Your "web brand virtualisation via open social nets" point is well taken. As you say, Blog Friends within Facebook is an example of this trend.

However, we are now building a central presence for Blog Friends beyond 3rd-party sites. To start with, we plan to deploy some key new Blog Friends features exclusively at i-together.com, over the next month or so, keeping the main feedreader service within Facebook. Then we intend to comprehensively re-architect Blog Friends around a set of APIs, which will make it relatively trivial to deploy (or for others to deploy) Blog Friends on diverse platforms and devices. (Incidentally, we didn't start off with an API-based approach back in June 2007 because we knew we had to get Blog Friends out as soon as possible to catch the Facebook adoption wave—a decision we still regard as correct.)

But why do we not feel that spreading across multiple social nets alone is an optimum strategy?

Two reasons: firstly, having our own "place" on the web gives us an air of solid independence; it safeguards us against the varying fortunes of any given 3rd-party platform (witness Facebook's fall from grace amongst the In Crowd of late). Secondly, it is *so* much quicker to implement and test features when e.g. FBML and FBJS are not involved, and those features can be a lot richer and run much faster. With our tiny development resources (three of us!), and with competition breathing down our neck, we can't afford to waste even an ounce of effort.

Presence distribution is immensely valuable as a strategy, but the current state of the web and the tech that powers it, along with startup resource limitations can necessitate some toughly pragmatic tactical choices.

Hacking the nature of existence

Nic Brisbourne concludes a thoughtful post "On widgets, social networks and the nature of existence": "[W]e find ourselves in a situation where internet companies might not even need their own website. A kind of virtual, virtual company if you will…."

I completely agree with Nic's sentiment at a high level. This concept of a virtualised service was what lead i-together to deploy Blog Friends within Facebook in the first place. However, the tactical view from within an early-stage startup like Blog Friends turns out to look subtly different than I expected. I left a comment on Nic's post:
Your "web brand virtualisation via open social nets" point is well taken. As you say, Blog Friends within Facebook is an example of this trend.

However, we are now building a central presence for Blog Friends beyond 3rd-party sites. To start with, we plan to deploy some key new Blog Friends features exclusively at i-together.com, over the next month or so, keeping the main feedreader service within Facebook. Then we intend to comprehensively re-architect Blog Friends around a set of APIs, which will make it relatively trivial to deploy (or for others to deploy) Blog Friends on diverse platforms and devices. (Incidentally, we didn't start off with an API-based approach back in June 2007 because we knew we had to get Blog Friends out as soon as possible to catch the Facebook adoption wave—a decision we still regard as correct.)

But why do we not feel that spreading across multiple social nets alone is an optimum strategy?

Two reasons: firstly, having our own "place" on the web gives us an air of solid independence; it safeguards us against the varying fortunes of any given 3rd-party platform (witness Facebook's fall from grace amongst the In Crowd of late). Secondly, it is *so* much quicker to implement and test features when e.g. FBML and FBJS are not involved, and those features can be a lot richer and run much faster. With our tiny development resources (three of us!), and with competition breathing down our neck, we can't afford to waste even an ounce of effort.

Presence distribution is immensely valuable as a strategy, but the current state of the web and the tech that powers it, along with startup resource limitations can necessitate some toughly pragmatic tactical choices.

The social web is not a machine—it is (evolving into) us

Chris Brogan wonders if the social web could be understood as a machine that we can learn to "program".

After adding a couple of rather emotive comments that didn't respond fairly to Chris's whole post (I've learned to open my mouth before thinking too much these days—I rarely regret it in the long run!), I managed to say what I really meant:

@Chris- My point (clumsily made, for which apologies) is that the programming metaphor only goes so far in encapsulating our activity on the social web, because we are (hopefully) not just using the social web as a “machine” to achieve a particular, pre-planned outcome that we desire (a blog in the Technorati Top 100, a new consultancy contract etc.), but rather are embedded in a complex and quite mysterious world of cybernetically-extended human relationship.

It’s only when we give up “knowing” where we are going or need to go that we open ourselves up to truth, surely? And your positivistic programming metaphor doesn’t seem to me to foster this kind of Zen Mind state.

All that said, the social web *is* at a stage right now where we do need “programming” skills just to use the damn thing, motivations not-withstanding. So from that point of view, absolutely I agree with the utility of your metaphor.

Let’s just not forget the larger goal—of facilitating the evolution of the web such that it comes to be transparent to our time and space-shifted *human* communication. : )

Powerful metaphors need judicious useage.

The social web is not a machine—it is (evolving into) us

Chris Brogan wonders if the social web could be understood as a machine that we can learn to "program".

After adding a couple of rather emotive comments that didn't respond fairly to Chris's whole post (I've learned to open my mouth before thinking too much these days—I rarely regret it in the long run!), I managed to say what I really meant:

@Chris- My point (clumsily made, for which apologies) is that the programming metaphor only goes so far in encapsulating our activity on the social web, because we are (hopefully) not just using the social web as a “machine” to achieve a particular, pre-planned outcome that we desire (a blog in the Technorati Top 100, a new consultancy contract etc.), but rather are embedded in a complex and quite mysterious world of cybernetically-extended human relationship.

It’s only when we give up “knowing” where we are going or need to go that we open ourselves up to truth, surely? And your positivistic programming metaphor doesn’t seem to me to foster this kind of Zen Mind state.

All that said, the social web *is* at a stage right now where we do need “programming” skills just to use the damn thing, motivations not-withstanding. So from that point of view, absolutely I agree with the utility of your metaphor.

Let’s just not forget the larger goal—of facilitating the evolution of the web such that it comes to be transparent to our time and space-shifted *human* communication. : )

Powerful metaphors need judicious useage.

My hairstylist is a Blog Friends user

Well, I must say I was pretty chuffed today when my Brazilian hairstylist, Pedro, told me that not only had he taken up my invitation to sign up for Blog Friends, but also that he really likes it and has found some great posts, including one that I had also read and that we both loved—Scoble's "What I've learned in 2007".

How cool is that? : )

Clearly, the days when all hairdressers were interested in was where you were going on your holidays are long gone. Seriously though, Pedro is one of the most thoughtful and interesting people I've met in a while, so the fact he enjoys Blog Friends makes me happy.

My hairstylist is a Blog Friends user

Well, I must say I was pretty chuffed today when my Brazilian hairstylist, Pedro, told me that not only had he taken up my invitation to sign up for Blog Friends, but also that he really likes it and has found some great posts, including one that I had also read and that we both loved—Scoble's "What I've learned in 2007".

How cool is that? : )

Clearly, the days when all hairdressers were interested in was where you were going on your holidays are long gone. Seriously though, Pedro is one of the most thoughtful and interesting people I've met in a while, so the fact he enjoys Blog Friends makes me happy.

All of a Twitter

Twitter logoI'm really enjoying using Twitter wholeheartedly for the first time. It's a bit like tracking down an elusive party—a lot of my mates are hanging out there already. I'm also getting lots of inspiration for ideas for the integration of Blog Friends with Twitter (which is actually what prompted me to get Twittering). And you can now track my latest Tweets (should you really want to!) in the weaverluke sidebar.

But where's Twitter's business model? Fred Wilson, one of their investors, clearly feels that it would be a mistake to worry about that too soon, as it could distract them from growing their userbase as fast as possible. Nic Brisbourne agrees, but also points out that web entrepreneurs should at least have a "Plan A" for monetisation in their back pocket.

I suspect Jason Calacanis is right to point to mobile advertising as an attractive monetisation option for Twitter, but I'd go even further: maybe Twitter should get themselves acquired by a mobile telco who could pay for the SMS bills and integrate Tweets with mobile ads..?

All of a Twitter

Twitter logoI'm really enjoying using Twitter wholeheartedly for the first time. It's a bit like tracking down an elusive party—a lot of my mates are hanging out there already. I'm also getting lots of inspiration for ideas for the integration of Blog Friends with Twitter (which is actually what prompted me to get Twittering). And you can now track my latest Tweets (should you really want to!) in the weaverluke sidebar.

But where's Twitter's business model? Fred Wilson, one of their investors, clearly feels that it would be a mistake to worry about that too soon, as it could distract them from growing their userbase as fast as possible. Nic Brisbourne agrees, but also points out that web entrepreneurs should at least have a "Plan A" for monetisation in their back pocket.

I suspect Jason Calacanis is right to point to mobile advertising as an attractive monetisation option for Twitter, but I'd go even further: maybe Twitter should get themselves acquired by a mobile telco who could pay for the SMS bills and integrate Tweets with mobile ads..?

Advance Aid: a cause worth getting blogged up about

Aha, this is much better: a really heartfelt description of why That charitable cause is worth getting excited about, from an email to me from one of its Directors, David Dickie:
It really is a good concept and one that can engender a culture of trade not aid on the continent of Africa. Our basic mission is simple: sending aid to Africa does not work; the only solution is to create real and sustainable employment there which will create lasting sustainability. The first project we have been involved is the opening of a plastics factory in Kenya which will create 300 jobs in Nairobi on day one. Believe me, this is a big deal out there and will lift lots and lots of families from the poverty trap.

We are really ready to spread the word now and need to use the cheapest and most efficient media for doing this. If there is a way in which you could help us get the word out there, that would be great.

Check out www.advanceaid.org for some more info.
I wish Advance Aid all the best for 2008—it sounds like they are indeed doing very valuable work. I can't help but feel, though, that they could do very well to blog (etc.) about it from the rooftops themselves and leverage social web tools to spread the word. I would certainly favourite them in Blog Friends if they joined, as I'd love to track and share with friends how they get on. : )

Advance Aid: a cause worth getting blogged up about

Aha, this is much better: a really heartfelt description of why That charitable cause is worth getting excited about, from an email to me from one of its Directors, David Dickie:
It really is a good concept and one that can engender a culture of trade not aid on the continent of Africa. Our basic mission is simple: sending aid to Africa does not work; the only solution is to create real and sustainable employment there which will create lasting sustainability. The first project we have been involved is the opening of a plastics factory in Kenya which will create 300 jobs in Nairobi on day one. Believe me, this is a big deal out there and will lift lots and lots of families from the poverty trap.

We are really ready to spread the word now and need to use the cheapest and most efficient media for doing this. If there is a way in which you could help us get the word out there, that would be great.

Check out www.advanceaid.org for some more info.
I wish Advance Aid all the best for 2008—it sounds like they are indeed doing very valuable work. I can't help but feel, though, that they could do very well to blog (etc.) about it from the rooftops themselves and leverage social web tools to spread the word. I would certainly favourite them in Blog Friends if they joined, as I'd love to track and share with friends how they get on. : )

Greetings of the (silly) Season

Received in an email from Fernando Barrio:
Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the Northern hemisphere’s winter solstice holiday, practised within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or the choice to not practice secular or religious traditions at all…and a
fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2008, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contribution to society have helped made our country great (not to imply that our country is necessarily greater than any other), and without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform or sexual orientation of the wishee.

By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration of the original greeting. It implies no promise from the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her/himself or others, and it is void where prohibited by law and it is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher.

This wish is expected to perform as expected within the usual application of good tiding for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish a sole discretion of the wisher.
LOL.

Greetings of the (silly) Season

Received in an email from Fernando Barrio:
Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the Northern hemisphere’s winter solstice holiday, practised within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or the choice to not practice secular or religious traditions at all…and a
fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2008, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contribution to society have helped made our country great (not to imply that our country is necessarily greater than any other), and without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform or sexual orientation of the wishee.

By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration of the original greeting. It implies no promise from the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her/himself or others, and it is void where prohibited by law and it is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher.

This wish is expected to perform as expected within the usual application of good tiding for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish a sole discretion of the wisher.
LOL.