12 August 2007



"We've spoken with a health-care specialist who believes that the intensity of your research efforts is unhealthy."

OK, so Sharkrunners has issued me with a health warning, and I was up until 3am last night scrabbing in Facebook with Australians. In my defence, I was deliberately staying up late to get a good view of the Perseids meteor shower. And, anyway, neither Sharkrunners nor Facebook Scrabble can be played with any real intensity. In Scrabble, you're kept in check by the turn-taking (why do all of my opponents take so bloody long to make a move?) and in Sharkrunners you're waiting to be alerted to an encounter. According to area/code, the developers of Sharkrunners, ships in the game move in real-time towards sharks that are representations of real-world white sharks with GPS units attached to their fins.

So it's intermittent play and in that sense reminds me of Twitchr, Matt's mobile play prototype. In Twitchr, digital birds visit your mobile phone and you have a short, intense moment in which to snap them. I like these playful interruptions.

In other (non)news, I also like Wii bowling. Because I win.


No chance of overplaying that one, my arms couldn't take it.

Posted at 05:09 PM in Games, Nonsense, Play, Presence, Slowness, Social software, Toys | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

02 February 2006

LIFT06: Stefana Broadbent, 'SMS is to tell you I miss you'

Stefana leads the User Observatory at Swisscom. She presented findings from her team's ethnographic research into different communication channels. It was a great talk - and probably useful to many - so I'm posting my rapidly-jotted notes...

People are extremely sophisticated in their communication choices, and usually choose the best channel for each situation.

Fixed phone - collective channel
Mobile voice - micro coordination channel
SMS - intimate channel
Email - administrative channel
IM (and, increasingly, VOIP) - continuous channel with a few people
Blogging - networking channel

Fixed phone - collective channel
Most fixed phone conversations are done in public - 75% from public space in home, only 25% from bedroom or study. The exchanges that are done on fixed phones have relevance for all members of the household. It's economical to be overheard, so not so much about privacy.

Mobile voice - personal, micro coordination channel
80% of exchanges are with just 4 people. Regular communication with the most intimate sphere of friends and family. Content analysis - micro coordination accounts for more than 50% of exchanges.

SMS - intimate channel
Emotion, efficiency. Only the most intimate sphere of friends and family. 'Grooming' messages - thank you, endearments... - keep relationships alive. A form of communication that has found its realisation in SMS. Over 50% of grooming communications happen through SMS.

Email - administrative channel
(Studied residential usage, not business.) Support to online activities - travel and shopping preparation. Coordination with extended social group (clubs, friends, services). Main channel for sending content (attachments) - mostly pictures and jokes - within close social network. Collective communication - sending message to multiple recipients. People are mostly communicating with acquaintances and service providers. Impersonal relationships are maintained with email.

IM (and, increasingly, VOIP) - continuous channel with a few people
Open a communication channel for the day and then just step in and out of a conversation. IM allows people to keep an open channel in the background while they do other activities (multi-tasking). People aren't talking with everyone on Skype. And not just because their social network isn't on Skype but because it supports certain kinds of communications, very similar to instant messaging. Completely different from short and instantaneous type of communication in other channels.

Blogging - networking channel
Focus on users of Myspace and cyworld, rather than blogs. Here, people have one-to-many conversations. Form of communication that allows (mostly young) people to hugely extend the number of communication partners. People use it as a hub of communication. Movement away from email and towards these blogs because they provide a space to chat that doesn't have the admin characteristics of email.

Important to note that new forms - SMS, IM, VOIP, blogging - not substitutional. There is a constant evolution. Each new channel that appears slowly redefines the uses of older media. IM redefines use of SMS, blogging redefines the use of email, VOIP changes some uses of fixed phones. Maybe the longer conversations that fixed phone has been for will go on VOIP channel.

A pattern of communication emerges slowly, stabilises for a period and then changes again when new communication channels are introduced.

Need to stress how sophisticated people are in their choices and how subtle these things are. Find exactly the strengths and limitations of each channel. E.g. SMS character limitation - so you use it with people you know very well. When I finish this talk I'll send my husband a message ('went well') and he will know the context. That's what makes it such an intimate space.

Responses to questions:
- Not all about cost, that's just one factor. People using mobile phones at home, for example.
- Main users of fixed phones are women, because they're the ones who mostly handle social organisational activities.

Map position of technology in home.
Record timelines and schedules (TV, PC, Judo, etc).
Communication diaries - annotate every exchange they have, e.g. voice call, email (who, where, content).
Relatively small, ethnographic study but validated by others. (100 people kept a diary for 4-5 days, 3,000 interactions.)

Posted at 05:27 PM in Social software | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

23 January 2006

Skype status on YubNub

YubNub is a little piece of social software that allows people to create and share web service commands. Install one of the many YubNub plugins (e.g. for Firefox or Quicksilver) or download the Dashboard widget, and you have a handy command line interface to the web.

Some of the most used commands are google search, wiki search, currency conversion, current time and Flickr photo search...

It all seemed very straightforward when I was playing with it again this weekend, so I decided to create a command: Skype status search.

SkypeWeb is a new (beta) feature of Skype that allows people to display their Skype status via a webpage, blog, email signature, or any other Internet-enabled application.

To query someone's status, simply type their Skype Name.

Example: skype foeromeo

You'll see a Skype button with their status: Skype Me!, I'm awaaaay, I'm online, Do not disturb...

N.b. The web status will only be returned for people who have chosen to share it via their privacy options in Skype. (SkypeWeb is still in beta so the option to enable web status is limited to testers right now.)





I'm not quite sure if/how this is useful yet. It might be nice to access from your mobile phone when you want to know if it's too early/late to call someone.

Update: Matt tried this out on his mobile and it looks pretty good once you get past the operator's child content controls. (It seems that Vodaphone classifies Skype as unmoderated chat.)


Update II: Someone's created another YubNub command for Skype. 'sky' uses the Skype call link to launch Skype and make a call. E.g. You type 'sky foeromeo' to call me in Skype.

Posted at 11:08 AM in Social software | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

24 August 2005

Presence update: Back in London, working at Skype

I'm back in London and working at Skype. Today's announcement is one of the reasons I'm excited to be here. Skype will be opening its platform to anyone who wants to integrate Skype's presence and instant messaging into their website or application. Think blogs, communities, online gaming, social media...

Posted at 10:15 AM in Social software | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

30 July 2005

Level 60 del.icio.us player

I might not be that hot in AIM Fight terms, but I'm no. 175 of the 'Top 500 Taggers' at Collaborative Rank. This is a nice follow up to my inclusion in HubLog's Gatherers of the Month. I must, like Matt suggested last night, be a 'level 60 del.icio.us player'.

Collaborative Rank (via Smart Mobs) is a del.icio.us search engine:

Users on del.icio.us who give meaningful tags to helpful/timely URLs (as evidenced by others subsequently doing the same) will be rewarded with higher CollaborativeRank, which means that their tagging will have greater influence on this search engine's rankings.

Along with 'socialsoftware', 'games', 'puzzles', 'rss' and 'women', one of my key areas of expertise is 'toread'...

See also: A draft paper by the developer, Amir Michail of the University of New South Wales, CollaborativeRank -- Motivating People to Give Helpful and Timely Ranking Suggestions (pdf).

Posted at 12:06 PM in Collecting, Games, Social software | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

21 July 2005

AIM Fight

It's interesting to see AIM getting in on the popularity game being played with their software elsewhere (e.g. at BuddyZoo).


Why Fight?
What can fighting really prove? Using a complicated algorithm, AIM Fight crawls through the depths of the Internet to answer the all-important question that plagues us all: How popular am I right this second?

How do I win?
Your score is the sum of the current number of people online who have you listed as a buddy, out to three degrees. This means the score is constantly changing, and the winner of the battle will constantly change with it.

How can I increase my score?
You can’t! You need to get people to add you to their Buddy List window, and have more people add those people to their Buddy List windows, and have even more people add those people to their Buddy List windows. Your own Buddy List window doesn’t matter in the score.

What’s AIM Rank?
If your score happens to be in the top 5% of all AIM users online, we’ll show you where you rank in comparison to the others in the top 5%.

If you don’t see your rank, it means you’re not in the top 5%. Remember, not ranking doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It just means that people who have you listed as a buddy might not be online.

(Via Waxy links, aka 'infocombot'.)

They've done a good job of making something fun without entering the murkily obsessive world of IMChaos and IMWatching. And it's smart that the outcome is in constant flux.

See also: Friendster Pachinko

Update: According to this article in the Washington Post, AOL just increased the number of people allowed to be on a user's buddy list from 200 to 450. This all ties together very nicely for them.

Posted at 10:31 AM in Games, Play, Social software | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

18 July 2005

Girlguiding as a serious game

While researching around playful knowledge networks for teens, I discovered that Girlguiding describes itself as a serious game these days:

What is Guiding?

Guiding is a game - with a purpose. It provides opportunities for girls and young women to be challenged by new adventures and experiences and achieve a sense of pride in accomplishment and teaches them to understand and learn about the world, its people and cultures.

Makes sense. There are lots of basic game design patterns evident in Girlguiding: from learning by doing, to levelling up, trading, socialising, and collecting...


Pictures pilfered from here.

Girlguiding UK is also piloting a piece of safer social software: a moderated discussion forum carefully limited to Girl Guides and Girlguiding staff.

It can't be long before they get into alternative reality gaming - it's a perfect fit. (Ditto for the Scouts and Duke of Edinburgh Award.)

Posted at 03:03 PM in Children and teens, Collecting, Games, Social software | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

28 June 2005

IM and the future of language

Handy notes from Pasta & Vinegar on IM and the future of language:

Adolescents have long been a source of linguistic and behavioral novelty. Teens often use spoken language to express small-group identity. It is hardly surprising to find many of them experimenting with a new linguistic medium (such as IM) to complement the identity construction they achieve through speech, clothing, or hair style. (…) Our research suggests that IM conversations serve largely pragmatic information-sharing and social-communication functions rather than providing contexts for establishing or maintaining group identity. Moreover, college students often eschew brevity. Our data contains few abbreviations or acronyms (…) IM conversations are not always instant. (…) The most important effect of IM on language turns out to be not stylized vocabulary or grammar but the control seasoned users feel they have over their communication networks.

Full paper by Naomi Baron, Viewpoint: Instant messaging and the future of language, Communications of the ACM, Volume 48 ,  Issue 7  (July 2005).

Posted at 11:10 AM in Children and teens, Social software | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

06 June 2005

Speed tagging


Recommended tags seems to cross reference popular tags for that URL with tags you've used previously. Suggested tags is predictive typing based on tags you've used previously.

Just click to add.

I've been too busy to tag lately but this should make it much faster.


Posted at 10:35 AM in Social software | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

01 May 2005

The first social bookmarks service: Post-It Notes

Thanks to their material simplicity, they seem more closely related to workplace antiquities like the stapler and the hole-punch than integrated chips. Instead, they’re an exemplary product of their time. Foreshadowing the web, they offered an easy way to link one piece of information to another in a precisely contextual way. Foreshadowing email, they made informal, asynchronous communication with your co-workers a major part of modern office life...

Indeed, as workers tried to keep pace with all the new technologies invading offices in the early 1980s... Post-it Notes were a useful tool to manage such information overload. Not only could you highlight the material that was most important, you could also document, via a quick little note to yourself, why you thought it was worth highlighting...

But the Post-it Note was more than just a practical tool—it was also a psychological one. Compared to the clunky machines of the 1980s that generated all those documents, it was a vision of high-tech minimalism. Its edges were sharp and square, with no ugly binding, no perforations, no metal rings. Its color, a subtle but attention-getting yellow, was somehow like the color of thought itself, a lightbulb going off in your head. Devoid of any other graphic elements, it had the effect of a clean, calming, blank screen. And, yet, for all its streamlined efficiency, it was playful and user-friendly, a simple embodiment of the same values that would inform the development of Apple’s Macintosh...

Post-it Notes... were dynamic, customizable, business casual. They inspired spontaneity, rapid ideation, free association. You could link one seemingly unrelated idea to another without worrying about any logical cohesion of ideas; that’s what the glue was for.

Greg Beato's Twenty-Five Years of Post-it Notes, in The Rake (via Kottke), is a fascinating tale of product development. It even foreshadows the insidiousness of comment and trackback spam:

Over time, these devious ads have remained consistently effective. In 2004, a pair of university researchers conducted a series of “Letter from J.” mailings, then wrote about their experiment in the Journal of Consumer Psychology. Amongst their findings: “Attaching the Post-it Note resulted in 5.6 percent of the people asking for a free sample, whereas only three percent asked for a sample when they received the ad without the attached Post-it Note.”

Posted at 11:28 AM in Social software | Permalink