August 23, 2011
August 22, 2011
Social Design Strategy
May 3, 2011
Great products and services depend on their users having great experiences. But it’s not about what users do or how they do it, but rather why. Why they do what they do, why they keep coming back and why they tell their friends. Social Design explains the why behind these great experiences.
I’ll tell you a quick story. Strand Book Store in NYC is apparently very famous, but I had never heard of it (and I’m from the New York area, too) until earlier this year when I was walking around with a friend and she pointed it out to me. She apparently goes all the time and told me I’d like it. And I did. I even bought a new book from an author I like.
With technology today, we can get answers to anything factual right away. I could have looked up on my phone for bookstores in New York just as I could have looked up how to get to the store and if they carry books by this author. But the value of social is when I don’t even know I’m looking for anything at all.
In these cases and when we are faced with more subjective questions such as, “Where’s a good Italian restaurant?” or “What movie should I see?” or “Where’s a great museum nearby?” we turn to a community of people to help us out. These decisions are emotional, and who better to understand than other people?
Communities can be very useful, almost like a buffer between us and the world. In the wild, they’re an evolutionary defense mechanism against danger: a larger group is more powerful than an individual and the individual can look to the group for social cues on what to do. For us as people, having a community is more of an emotional attachment: we define it by the close people we surround ourselves with—our friends and family. We know them, we like them, they know us and they like us. We share thoughts, feelings, experiences and we turn to them for love and support throughout our lives because we trust them.
And though we have all kinds of relationships in our lives—with coworkers, neighbors or brands, long-lasting or short-lived, formal or intimate—it’s with our strongest ties that our trust lies. And this is the foundation of why Social Design works—because of this trust.
So when my close friend in New York tells me about a place I should visit, I trust her opinion and that she knows me well. And when our experience matches recommendations we get—that is, when we actually enjoy ourselves and learn something new—we not only feel special and thankful for the experience, but we also feel prompted to talk about it and tell our friends about it as well. We do this because we’re expressing ourselves by sharing the things we like and we want our communities to hear.
Trust is built through these conversations and everyday, hundreds of millions of people are having these interactions on Facebook and other social platforms, sharing thoughts, feelings, places they’ve visited, articles they’ve read, movies they’ve watched, and on and on. Social Design aims to harness this conversation, enhance it and build more of these serendipitous and valuable social experiences for everyone.
The Three Elements of Social Design
If we break Social Design down into tactical core elements, we see clearly how it’s comprised of three very distinct components: identity, conversation and community. Put another way: ourselves, other people and the conversations we have with them.
I like to diagram this using concentric circles, with identity in the center, conversation in the middle and community on the outside. The reason for this is because conversation really serves as the glue between identity and community. Conversation is how we express our identities to a community and how we receive feedback from it.
If we were to design a social product with this in mind, one idea might be to start from the center and work our way out. That is, allow people to create an identity, let them talk about it and build a community over time. This isn’t a bad idea at all – in fact, it’s how Facebook and a number of other social networks began.
When Facebook emerged in 2004, it was a simple site allowing college students to create and edit profiles of themselves. The editing was addictive; people kept logging in to see what had changed in friends’ profiles and to change things themselves. And, over time, this became a conversation—a timeline of life—and people built a strong identity and community of friends and family from it.
But now that this is in place – and used heavily by hundreds of millions of people everyday – it makes much more strategic (even practical) sense for social design to take the reverse approach and work from the outside in. That is, to utilize the existing community, define new kinds of conversation and let people continue to build their identities further.
Facebook profiles have become people’s identities. They’ve spent countless hours curating them – adding friends, posting pictures, commenting on friends’ updates. This is their de facto representation of themselves, and they don’t want to recreate it from scratch every time they start a new product or service.
So rather than create an experience that starts with building a new identity, we should utilize what we can from what’s already on Facebook and build on top of it. Connect users to their friends when they sign up to a new service. Social apps aren’t social without other people and bringing a user’s friends automatically brings the established trust in a community. Use profile information to recommend content – people already know what they like and that’s why it’s on their profiles.
Get the baseline in place so all that needs attention is the conversation – what they talk about and how they do so.
Conversation builds trust. In fact, any real-time interactions associated with emotion build these strong bonds. It could be anything from sitting together and talking to dancing, protesting, jumping out of a plane, etc. Conversation is simply a generic term I’m using to describe the interactions between the self and the community and the stronger the associated emotion, the stronger the bond.
This is inherently a back-and-forth and therefore is comprised of two different experiences that play off each other. Generically, we can describe these as listening and speaking.
A listening experience is hypothetically if you were go to a restaurant you’ve never been to before and choose what to eat based on the recommendation of others. You’re essentially listening to the community’s thoughts and previous actions and using these to inform your decisions.
We already see this in many places online. People on Yelp, for example, can make comments on restaurants such as, “Try the hot chocolate.” And on YouTube, you can see ratings for each video that help you determine which ones to watch, since you probably don’t want to watch the bad ones. They say, “Watch this one; others liked it.” On many e-commerce sites such as Amazon, we see the same thing: reviews from people to help our decision-making.
But there’s a big problem here: we don’t always know these people. And they don’t know us. So how do they know what we like? How can we trust them to give a good rating? We can’t. There’s no established trust.
So what Facebook has done is remodel this same paradigm but scope it around your friends. Social plugins, for example, let people “like” things all over the Internet and then surface this activity to their friends. And because you see what your friends and trusted circle like, you’re more likely to care.
Again, because the value of “social” is when we don’t know what we want and we’re not really looking, showing activity spread throughout the experience constantly inundates us with potential conversation points and things of interest. We learn by watching others. It’s social encouragement and a form of mimicry if anything: if we see someone else we trust doing something, we’re likely to do the same.
The other half of the conversation—and perhaps the most important part—is the speaking and the sharing. People have to engage in the first place, and will do so when they have the right motivation. The good news is that if people are sharing with people they trust, they are more likely to share more often and be open and honest.
Facebook has a number of ways for users to engage, including a number of options in the publisher (status, links, photos, etc.) and multiple ways to provide input and feedback (likes, comments, answers to questions, wall posts, etc.). And all of this activity is surfaced to users’ friends constantly through various distribution channels. We can’t help but listen.
The more contributions that are made to the system, the more activity exists to listen to and engage with. And likewise, the more activity there is to engage with, the more contributions can be made to the system. And this creates a positive feedback loop—a “virtuous cycle of sharing” as we call it—that grows exponentially. This is really the sweet spot: conversation fueling more conversation.
To summarize, a great social experience depends on conversation between the community and the self. And this is based tactically in three main elements:
1. Utilizing personal information and connections to build a personalized experience
2. Showing conversations, social context and activity everywhere
3. Making it really easy to talk, share, give feedback and engage
The beauty of Social Design is that it plays to the most powerful form of motivation: the self, the identity. We share and interact with others because we want to, because we learn more about ourselves and because we feel better when we feel heard.
Social Design is actually central to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, I believe. After our physiological needs of food and water, and after our basic safety needs, we have a very interesting duality between needing love and belonging and our own sense of self-esteem. It stands to reason, given the diagram, that we base much of our own self-esteem in how the community sees us and how accepted we are. In other words, the community helps drive our identity. And it’s when we have that feeling of belonging and love that we can build our self-esteem and reach our full potential.
The experiences I mention already exist in the real world today; we’re not really trying to invent anything “new” here. But the Internet is becoming part of the real world and a reflection of it, a means by which we can communicate with one another more efficiently. With people at the center of the Web, more and more experiences that naturally happen in the real world are starting to happen online. With this in mind, as we design, we should take into account existing social truths, thinking carefully about the identities and respective communities we affect and building the best conversation tools for them.
Ultimately the value of social is bigger than anything material. It’s a way for us to close the gap between the self and the community, just as we’ve closed the gap between our other needs. We don’t have have to worry about food nor spend our lives hunting like other animals. Our ability to trust each other and work together as a species has built a safer environment in which to live. But individually, we do still worry about our futures, finding love, feeling heard, and knowing ourselves. Social Design starts us along this path.
August 21, 2011
MONDO BIZARRO/MONDO FREUDO
Mondo Bizarro Full Trailer (UNBELIEVABLE!) http://whatgetsmehot.posterous.com/mondo-bizarromondo-freudo#
Now here is a double feature disc that REALLY lives up to the "Something Weird" label!! Following the worldwide success of MONDO CANE in 1963 (the theme song "More" was even nominated for an Oscar), more and more "mondo" movies, filled with strange rituals, sickening practices, and generally oddball scenes from around the world appeared. And of course if "Mondo" meant money, U.S. exploiteers were on it like white on rice! Sadistic producer Bob Cresse, known for his nudie cuties such as HOUSE ON BARE MOUNTAIN, produced these two completely faked mondo flicks before unleashing his dark side with disturbing flicks like THE SCAVENGERS and HOT SPUR! And even if you've seen every other mondo movie out there, you ain't seen nothin' like these two!
To be perfectly honest, it's impossible to tell the two films apart. The one difference: MONDO BIZARRO has the cheesy fake globe on a string!! To transition between scenes, a Boris Karloff imitation narrator points out the country to be spotlighted next...and the camera zeroes in on the horribly done paper mache world! It's hard to review mondo films, so I'll just give a blow-by-blow list of the more interesting faked sequences: a voodoo sequence reportedly shot in the "Bahamas" (one is held every Thursday night!), which is too dark to see; a hilarious black-and-white "hidden camera" sequence of an American businessman expecting sex from a Japanese masseur; a look at the well-mechanized machine that is Frederick's of Hollywood; sleazy-looking Jack Schwartz, who lies on beds of nails without bleeding and pushes them through his cheek and arm to the horror of live audience members; a man in a restaurant eats a glass bottle (obviously sugar glass); a spastic bearded artist shoots photographs of a topless go-go dancing model in a leopard-skin bikini bottom; fascinating real testimonies from "today's kids," griping about cops breaking up their fun during Easter week at the beach; and a pretty sadistic German play where a blonde-haired blue-eyed Jewish girl (I know, it didn't make sense to me, either) is beaten and whipped by Nazi soldiers. The Lebanese slave trade sequence was shot in Bronson Canyon, a famous location for many 50s and 60s sci-fi films (including ROBOT MONSTER), and goes on way too long; the fake British cameraman's narration is funny, though. Several sequences have red scratches over the eyes of women who "wish to remain unidentified." Nice gimmick! There is excellent library music throughout, including a bitchin' rock tune played twice in the film and highlighted on the disc's menu.
MONDO FREUDO is really much more of the same, which equals more entertainment: interesting real voyeuristic footage of people on the beach; Miss Baby Bubbles, a top-heavy tart who isn't allowed to touch her body while stripping (see more of her in Frost and Cresse's HOLLYWOOD'S WORLD OF FLESH); a British strip club requires all strippers to cover 15% of their bodies (?!); slutty women advertise their sex and modeling services on billboards in London (!); Tijuana women sell themselves to make ends meet; an artist paints naked female bodies and presses them against his canvas (the same scene was in MONDO CANE, played underneath "More"); a devil's mass takes place in New York City; Bob Cresse interviews British prostitutes and American streetwalkers; an Asian stage show has a masked man beating the shit out of a Japanese stripper; and two female mudwrestlers performing for an audience in Germany.
If anyone really believes that the international footage was shot abroad, you could probably sell them the Brooklyn Bridge, too! But that's part of the fun of MONDO BIZARRO and MONDO FREUDO. You never know what shameless exploitation the filmmakers are going to throw at you next! The two films flow together almost flawlessly, scenes from one could safely appear in the other, and fans of mondo flicks will dig the eye-popping goings-on. Even the most painfully obvious staged sequences are fun because of their attempt to convince the audience of their authenticity. Now, if mondo movies aren't your cup of tea, you probably won't dig either one of these. They're fake, but the documentary nature of the films might bore those with a low attention span.
Eye-popping shenanigans warrant eye-popping transfers, and Something Weird delivers in this department! The colors of both films are simply stunning; reds are a little loud, but there aren't many to be worried about. Dirt appears at the opening credits and maybe at a handful of reel changes, and there are some lines during stock footage but overall there is absolutely nothing to complain about here. The audio is surprisingly good, with narration and music sounding full and acceptable.
To compliment the incredible entertainment value of these outrageous fakumentaries, Johnny Legend and Eric Caiden, the two men who made MONDO MOD and THE HIPPIE REVOLT bearable with their history lesson audio commentaries, have been called upon once again to cover these two flicks. Both men are heroes of mine, so the fact that they have nothing to do with either film makes no difference. Legend and Caiden have worked very hard at preserving the history of celluloid, be it exploitation or Hollywood, and always have fascinating stories to tell over the on-screen proceedings.
One of Johnny Legend's more interesting stories is of him planning an Eggercise video with Edith Massey before her death?!?!
They also discuss Bob Cresse discuss Bob Cresse (who they claim is in hiding, but in fact died of a heart attack 5 years ago), the psychedelic rock group Love, friends who ate glass (!), Mick Jagger autographing every page of a Rolling Stone magazine, make multiple cracks, and provide enough entertaining anecdotes to warrant multiple listens. Unfortunately, Legend sounds farther away from the mic than Caiden, so you'll have to crank the volume to hear them.
Now that you've watched each movie twice (or maybe more!), time to visit the trailer vault. Plenty of mondo madness on hand here. In addition to the MONDO BIZARRO and MONDO FREUDO trailers (the BIZARRO trailer is well over 6 minutes!), you get a mix of real and faked mondo flicks. ECCO (partially narrated by George Sanders and featuring Chubby Checker's "Let's Twist Again"), MALAMONDO, MONDO BALORDO (partially narrated by Boris Karloff), and SADISMO are all real mondo's. See a rampage of reindeer in Lapland, a French Grand Guignol stage show, a muscleman contest, a woman bending steel with her teeth, female wrestlers, tribal dances, blindfolded fencing, drag queens, re-enactments of torture in a dungeon, a gigantic dildo, monkey brains eaten direct from the source, and a bear being skinned alive! IT'S A SICK, SICK, SICK WORLD, MONDO OSCENITA, and MONDO TEENO are all fake mondo's. See plenty of "today's generation" smoking pot, belly-dancing, prostituting themselves, stripping in funny costumes, women beating each other with shoes, footage from the OLGA films depicting torture and humiliation, lesbianism, and teen mating rituals of the swinging 60s! All of these would be welcome candidates for Something Weird to restore onto DVD (MONDO BALORDO has already been paired with PRIMITIVE LOVE), but especially ECCO with its ideal co-feature SWEDEN: HEAVEN AND HELL!
If all that wasn't enough Mondo for you, SWV has also included a short mail-order featurette that must be seen to be believed! Short pervert Jack Little gets tired of his neighbors having loud makeout parties in the middle of the night, and when he goes knocking on their door, finds himself mocked and humiliated. He falls asleep and dreams of making mincemeat of them in his private dungeon, tying them to stretch racks and whipping them! A gallery of fun mondo movie exploitation art is really incredible viewing, including wonderful radio spots. And an Easter Egg on the Extras Menu presents a trailer for FREUDIAN THING, an obscure sexy mondo flick.
Maybe this is more ammunition for people who think that RSS is dead.
Since its early days, Tumblr has offered a useful import feed feature to help you bring content from other sites – like Flickr, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Blogger, etc. – into your main Tumblr blog. Technically, you could import content from just about any external site into Tumblr as long as there was an RSS feed available.
Unfortunately, as @Shripriya first noticed, Tumblr has quietly dropped support for importing RSS feeds into their system. Tumblr’s support site still has a page on how to use Import feed but the feature itself has been removed, thus denying you the ability to use Tumblr has a lifestreaming service.
The last auto-fetch request into my Tumblr blog was made during the first week of June and that may be the date when they dropped support for RSS imports (you can still export your Tumblr blog as an RSS feed though).
I am little surprised at Tumblr’s approach here but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring your external content into Tumblr – they do offer a simple API that can write anything, including RSS feeds, to a Tumblr blog but you’ll have to take the help of a developer to get that thing working for your blog.
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Amazon emailed me last week. A product manager for S3 wanted to talk about our use of their services. (Amazon S3 provides the storage for all the images and video on Posterous). It seemed like a great opportunity to talk to someone within Amazon about issues we've been having, and features we'd like to see.
Once we got on the phone, it was clear that this person didn't want to help us at all. He just wanted to pick our brains to get ideas on how to increase sales and keep customers. I have no desire to give my time or my thoughts to Amazon so they can grow their business. And I told this directly to the person on the phone.
Why not? Because they don't have great support. Amazon doesn't care about me, so I don't care about them. They have a good product, so they have me as a user. They don't have good support, so they don't have me as a fan.
When we have issues, they don't want to help us. They force us to pay for support, which costs $500 per month, or 20% of your bill, whichever is greater. As we grow it becomes prohibitive to pay this. Instead of taking care of its largest customers, Amazon penalizes them. We're incentivized to leave.
I told the person on the phone that what Amazon needs to do to keep Posterous as a customer is offer better support. We need better developer tools to analyze our usage. We need better tools to stop abuse. We need a direct contact within Amazon for when we see issues. The Amazon rep didn't seem to care, he was too focused on pricing.
The other vendor we use to run Posterous is Rackspace. They take the opposite approach, and offer the best customer support imaginable. They go out of their way to make us happy. Because of their great support, I am a fan of theirs. I intro YC companies to Rackspace all the time. If Rackspace needs my help, I'm there for them. I wish there was more I could do to help them, because they are awesome.
There are plenty of companies that I would fight for. Costco, American Express, Rackspace, and many other companies I recommend endlessly, even though I don't get a penny from them. I do it because I love these companies, because they take care of me. They offer great customer service. And I am a fan.
To build a successful company, you need more than just a lot of users. You need fans who genuinely want you to succeed. And to do that, you need to give them a great product and great support.