“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.” - Steve Jobs

Facebook and Google (well specifically Google +) psst! Over here … Port 343 … Shhh!

[In the spirt of Jon Stewarts refrain of the NJ Accented advice counselor that always invites wayward media and political people to camera 3, I offer this …]

Ok, we get it. There is a huge challenge facing the people using social networks like your applications today. Totally get it. 5-1 social networks, inifinite connected applications referencing those networks all of which have a different sub-set of my total social graph, GET IT! It’s a complex problem for sure. And as an interaction designer (and professor on the topic) I realize that there are no easy answers and i totally applaud your efforts in tackling these fairly wicked problems. As a critic, I even be so bold as to offer precise design alternatives, as I will never has as deep an understanding of the problem set as that which your team is so deeply immersed in.

What I would like to offer are some principles that I feel would be useful. But before I offer these principles let me express why I’m even bothering.

Facebook, you first, mainly because today is the day you REALLY pissed me off. Let me start by saying you have me locked in, like you have almost everyone I know. You don’t need to panic nearly as much as you seem to be with what appears to many to be fairly rash design deployments. The straw that broke this camel’s back was the release of smart lists and subscriptions. At first blush I was grateful for a way to self organize my many friends and family. This was the positive hype that came from G+ with their circles. Then, you went too far. WAY! too far. You started making decisions without me. THIS is the main issue with all y’all social networks. You dare to think that you have enough intelligence to understand not just the complexity of my social graph, but more importantly my unique individal manner of engaging the social graph. For example you auto-loaded my mom into Family an NOT my wife. WT? That alone either demonstrates idiocy, or some sort of warped brilliance. Then it is clear that your own method for auto adding is based on how much I communicate with someone, which has absolutely NOTHING to do with how I group them into my personal lens of my social graph. Heck, if I wasn’t a professor/designer of this stuff I wouldn’t even know that I had a lens to my social graph.

Now it’s G+’s turn. I think the concept of circles is interesting, but barely innovative. Why? Because a year ago I could create user groups in Facebook and filter my newsfeed by these groups. All you did was iterate on the concept and way improve & present on to designate how my content is being published. But the failure (something any a critic) beyond myself have discussed in the past is that you presumed that the same groupings should be used for both filtering my stream and how I want to publish. It was clear that this differentiation was not well understood at all. Again there was a definite presumption that you thought you understood how anyone engages their social graph.

So here is my one social interaction design principle I would offer you …

In your attempts to change the service to simplify my life, all you’ve one was complicate it. So you need to reduce the complications.av Think of it this way. How many people do you know who ever enter the equalizer of their iPod, or heck own one otherwise? very few, indeed. But that is exactly what you are telling your end users to do. You are telling them to equalize their social graph where many of them who would even need to have such controls would be looking at hundreds of data points to control. ste

So my principle is this …

“Give people the tools to manage their own social graph, but do not auto-mate any part of the process until you have a year’s worth of data points of their manual use, even if this means you have to find other less dramatic places to demonstrate your technical prowess for innovation.”

Simply put, “You know far less about people than you think you do so create systems that allow you to learn AND take time to let the data flow.”

Thank you for listening.

You can find me at
@daveixd (yes, twitter, listen up!)

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  • Jon Steiner

    I liked this. Even if Facebook might not pay attention to that. :)


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