Tagging captures the variety and commonalities in thinking about an object. When many people tag a url, it turns out that some of the tags are common, while some are unique. A lot of people, making decisions independently act in an intelligent fashion, and provide value for everyone. Del.icio.us manages to balance the individual’s selfish motivations, and the group good, in a manner I have not seen many social systems do. It’s a delicate balance, but del.icio.us maintains it very well. Let us look into how it maintains that balance, and why I think that the Lazy sheep bookmarklet disturbs it.
Cognitively speaking – just what is happening at the individual level when you tag a url? I encounter an article I would like to bookmark. Semantic networks related to the article are already active in my brain. When I press “post to del.icio.us” it’s not much more work to note down some of the more important associations.
I spent the first few years of my life in Calcutta. It’s a big, crowded city, a paradise for people watching – for those who enjoy that. We lived in a small street that overlooked a bigger one, and one of my early memories is sitting at the front window, watching the world go by. It was aimless and yet so enjoyable. I could do that for hours. Its the feeling you get sitting in a sidewalk cafe in New York or another big city. You observe people go by. Ever so often, someone seems more interesting, and your eyes follow that person longer. But soon you return to watching the people go by.
Lately, I have experienced that feeling again. When I have some idle time, I go to the front page of del.icio.us and look at what’s passing through. I refresh to see new bookmarks replace the old ones. A few times, I have even seen something I wrote pass by. More often, I recognize a bookmark that’s the talk of the day. I might be curious enough to take a peek at the article. But I return quickly. Because this is not about finding interesting content, ego-surfing, or what my friends have bookmarked. It’s mostly about seeing content float by. It was interesting to someone, somewhere. So for a brief, ephemeral moment it’s there at the top of del.icio.us, and it has my attention. And then it’s instantly displaced.
It’s simply about watching the web go by, one bookmark at a time.
Never change the frontpage of del.icio.us, Joshua.
In his most recent column in the New York Times, economist Hal Varian writes about how technology enables small companies (even really small fry) to go international. One of the two small-fry companies he mentions, is my company Uzanto and our experiences with setting up and running an office in New Delhi.
He calls such small companies “micro-multinationals“, and says: “Both of these micro-multinational companies work pretty much the same way, using e-mail, Web pages, voice-over-Internet phone services and other Internet technology to coordinate their far-flung operations.“
In my opinion, the biggest enabler of having an international office has been an Instant Messenger with voice. I do not exaggerate when I say that I live my life on Skype. Which is why I periodically wax forth about Skype on this blog, and recommend it to everyone I know.
I spent most of this weekend at BarCamp. Met a lot of interesting people, ate too much crap (I have a weakness for chocolate!), and generally had a good time. BarCamp was in SocialText offices. While talking to Ross Mayfield, I realized that the whole premise behind SocialText is a easier to use wiki – one which you can get many people in an enterprise to use. Ross mentioned how he has been receiving feedback from some customers about usabiity, and one of the demands is a WYSIWYG interface. This morning, he unveiled Wikiwyg: a WYSIWYG method for editing wikis. Apparently one of the problems has been discoverability – many users did not even realize that wikis were editable.
Next week I will be participating in the second open source usability sprint. It’s my second, and I am glad to do what I can, to promote usability in open source software. It’s also a welcome break from regular consulting work. This time, Eugene, Gunner and Katrin (from Aspiration Tech) are shooting for extreme usability. I am not quite sure what that will end up meaning in practice, but it should be interesting working that out. Thats partly what I enjoy about these sprints – going in without any preconceptions and collaboratively working out how someone with HCI skills can best contribute to open source software.
If this topic interests you, you might be interested in my writeup of the previous sprint.
I was just looking up something on Technorati and realized just how distracting I find the cute visual design – especially, the images to the left the search bar. Every time I go to that page, I find that my eyes go to those cartoonish figures. They are cute, but I am there to find something, not for the cute visual design.
And what’s with such a busy page? Seems like every possible option (Technorati Blog, Get Indexed, Personalize, Tour, Developer Center) has a place on the main page. Developer Center? Surely that does not need a link on the front page. It’s a search, not a browse page. I counted: there are more than 35 links on that front page.
Reminds me of something recounted by Marissa Mayer (from Google) at a BayCHI talk. They used to receive an email from a user once in a while. And everytime it would just have a number. Sometimes, the number would be high, and this user would express his displeasure. Later they realized that the number was the number of letters on the Google Home Page.
One key takeaway from the Web 2.0 panel was that data, interface and metadata no longer need to go hand in hand. When working on an application/website, one thinks of the overall picture including the data, the metadata, and the interface. With Web 2.0 apps, the data might be from one place, the metadata from another, and the interface from a third party or a remix. The diagram below shows the move towards Web 2.0 along with examples.