The problem with the women in tech reports, i’ve decided, is the questionnaires they make you fill out. Horrible.
Archive for the ‘web2.0’ Category
Last month, Carole invited me to come in, lecture and help her graduating MA Textile Futures students understand the value of building an online presence of their own. I ended up putting together a few presentations to explain the value of what the internet was about, how it could help them in their career, etc. I learnt a lot and observed a lot along the way. Some of it shocked me, some of it are service ideas that are just screaming to happen and I thought I’d share. Feel free to reap the benefits :)
It’s 2010. The golden age of technology right? Well, managing an online presence, understanding what it’s all for when you’re not a web designer or involved in web design or “social media”, turns out to be more obscure than in 2005. Let me explain.
In 2003, I took a Flash class in my product design course. Horrible, obscure stuff where the end result was a Flash website. Need I say more? In 2005, half way through my master’s in IDII, I learnt how to code my own website (thanks to the many hours I spent with Didier who had the patience to teach me HTML & CSS). The year after that Yaniv made it compulsory to use WordPress to communicate our progress in our thesis work. I still find PHP a horrible thing to understand, but the hours spent paid off eventually. I moved on to being Karola’s sysadmin and web designer (I get jewellery in return you see) which keeps me coding once in a while. So all in all, that’s 5 years worth of investment that unless you’re in a “media” course of some sort, you’ll never encounter. This is a problem.
1. The internet’s ultimate designer package.
Most students will access the internet to have access to particular social communities (FB, Twitter, etc), do google searches for images and check email. They have no real understanding about the value of having their own URL (nevermind that they don’t know what URL means) until you ask them to Google themselves. Then they get it. If there’s a business idea here, its a packaged “registration, hosting and wordpress/tumblr/whatever installation” package. Having that will compete and just eat up horrible sites like indexhibit.org (i don’t even want to link to them) to stop taking advantage of creative people who just want a “box” to put images and captions in. Designers want to worry about the right things, want some degree of personalisation and want to get on with the business of designing quickly.
2. Ignorance is not bliss.
Reliance on “IT support” is strong in the creative industries. This means the IT sector takes the piss and doesn’t educate designers. There is no knowledge exchange, there are only service providers who make designers totally dependant. Explaining to a designer what FTP is, getting them to write their first index.html page and upload it and see it there, means they can then understand what happens behind the curtain and can have a creative discussion about it. Again, not talking about anyone involved in the “new media” sector but everyone else, photographers, textile designers, product designers, etc. Some of the women I spoke to about this (was an all-women course) were amazed and happy to build a vocabulary that made that world of acronyms make more sense.
3. Portfolio communities are horrible.
One of the missconceptions of design graduates, is that shoving their work into online communities for other designers will help them build a voice online. Looking at my own experience, when I graduated from product design school, core77 and if you were a bit cool, Computer Love or if you were really cool K10K were the places to go. What changed soon after that, was that your best friend online became Google and the blogs that linked to the work ( think WMMNA, Cool Hunting, Swissmiss or Mocoloco). In 2010, well it’s partially about Twitter love, but still very much about Google, not about walled gardens but about rich networks of relationships.
4. Flickr’s golden opportunity.
I just spent the day with Karola rethinking her website, and in the end, we found that it was easier to ask her to update Flickr and for her website to just link to slideshows of work. She understands HTML because I bullied her into it ;) , but she’s obviously now much more active and at ease thinking about Flickr, managing an image around her work, and thinking about the power of imagery. So we redesigned her website to basically end up being a “wrapper” around Flickr sets. It’s not Flickr, so she feels its her own space. If you Google her, you’ll get her website first, which is what she wants, but all the assets end up living elsewhere, in a space she’s happy to manage and where customer support is easy to handle through commenting. If Flickr was interested in monetizing at all, this I think would be a nice way to do it.
In the end, I was happy to come and talk to the students about this, because noone had really bothered to give me such an introduction when I was a student. I’m not sure to what extent this shouldn’t become a compulsory module for design course “Online identity management” as so much of our work as professionals relies on promoting our work as much as possible, and this isn’t only through publications in magazines anymore. With the recent cuts in education, I doubt this idea will have any traction, but hey, that’s my 10 cents.
I don’t consider myself an early adopter by any stretch of the imagination, mostly because I can afford to be as my close friends are. By proxy, I get to hear about how cool the coolest things are and make a purchasing decision several months or years down the line if ever (in the case of second hand tech). In the case of Foursquare, I’d been hearing about it and Dodgeball for _years_ so when I started using it on my trusty BB in March, I thought this was all old hat and was, as usual sceptical. I have to say it’s changed my opinion of a few things but also makes me think about others.
If you’ve never used Foursquare, it’s easy: you “check-in” in places and get points according to how often you check-in in a day, how far each check-in is made from the last and how often you check-in to each location. This leads to all sorts of things like you become “mayor” if you go there often enough and depending on how popular the place. I became mayor of 5 places in less than 2 months of “playing”. Some of these places, it was simply awarded after having gone there twice. Others took more work. I hadn’t played a “game” in years and I found that I looked forward to seeing how many points I’d won. There didn’t need to be an arch or grand narrative of why I was getting all these points, and I hardly visited the online infoviz bit. The points were enough to keep me entertained and that was good enough.
PRESENCE vs _PRESENCE_
All in all, probably about 3 to 4 of my friends used Foursquare regularly and they’re really good friends. I found myself however, mistaking the fact that I could see where they went with real contact. I had coffee with them less, talked to them about what they did less and generally was less social during that time. Strange, it’s like feeling awake from looking at the picture of a cup of coffee. Do we emulate the sense of social presence through these games, online services and communities, without any action needed on our part and just a passive action on the part of the other.
WOMEN vs MEN
I like print on weekends. So when the Guardian had a massive double spread article called “Is Foursquare the New Twitter” (funnily enough the title in print is “Is Friend-stalking the new Twitter”) I was intrigued of course. Much to my surprise, they managed to squeeze in this piece of terrible pseudo-science:
There is, according to Dunbar’s research, a marked gender difference in the way that we use social media. It is, in this respect, not surprising that the early take-up of the geo-location sites is weighted toward men. “To avoid relationship decay among friends, men have to do stuff together, for women it is enough to chat.” The real-world slant of Foursquare and Gowalla make them natural vehicles for male bonding. Added to that is the opportunity for peacocking with their mobile phones, which have, to the evolutionary biologist, become a substitute for sexual display (men will always put their phone on the table and fiddle with it, women tend to keep theirs in their bag…).
I’m not even going to start ranting about the bits of this that I don’t like. All I can say is by these standards, I’ve turned into a man. Ridiculous.
So all in all, it was an interesting experiment. I’ve stopped using it for about a week now and I the only thing I regret is the knowledge that I’ve lost the mayorship of my favorite lunch place to some of my friends who work in the same area. Made me wish for an automated system that just checked in on my behalf and played the game without my intervention. Just keeping my kingdom alive for me, letting me get on with the social things in life.
Read one of Wired Uk’s 20 ideas worth considering for 2010 and one of them caught my eye. Clive Thomson reported on ideas from the author of Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age and I can’t help but think that we have naturally adapted to what we so often call “information overload” in a way that doesn’t require us to design for forgetting.
One of my theories is that we’ve built up the internet as a way of finding rather than as a way of remembering, naturally allowing us to forget most of it. Digital stacks of papers and bookshelves. We’ve built up the equivalent behavior of “oh I’m sure it’s in that pile”. Digital synapses dying every day.
Just as an example, here are some things I do now as ways of forgetting:
- Use Delicious to store rather than as a reference point. I rarely look at my own bookmarks.
- Not actually remembering where a link came from, but who tweeted it instead.
- Check RSS feeds in a “watching TV”-like trance: I just click through the channels and stop on the stuff that visually catches my eye. I open my RSS reader once a week at best, and the stuff that’s at the top gets read, the rest kindof gets ignored.
We have more ways of archiving than ever but that doesn’t mean we’re interested in that archive. I was a guest lecturer last month in a design school and was shocked to find that most of the research students were pulling out was from the past 3 years at most.
Archiving doesn’t have the same qualities as a library quite yet. Maybe that’s a design opportunity, or maybe the FluidData metaphor needs to be reexamined.
In any case, I think we’re better at forgetting now than we used to and that has raised the profile of “knowledge” and “opinion” over “information” (also probably explains why blogging is not quite a dead art). The people who take the time to remember will rule us all. The rest of us, will rely on our “devices” and Google.
So after 5 months of vacation I’ve decided to take up tweeting on my private account again. But this will be different…
- I’ve removed anyone who is too closely associated with work
- I’ve removed anyone who I wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing a drunken conversation with
and basically kept anyone who I know wouldn’t mind me being me. I realised that my online presence, other than my Flickr stream is very much about my professional life and I’d quite like some down time and normality somewhere on the internet. Yes, yes that’s what Live Journal is about, but I don’t necessarily have the attention span for that…140 characters of bitching is quite enough :)
There are things about this type of criticism that makes me cringe. Things about this, that makes me feel like I’m not included in the city experience in the same way as my more testosterone-driven peers and that the entire point made in this article was obstructed by one simple statement:
“The next day I received an email from my, far more organised, girlfriend”.
Seems to me people help people go through stuff, life and things. Technology and infrastructures are not the only tool we have and social interactions count more in my opinion. When technology fails, you’ll still have to ask for directions whether you like it or not :) and whether you think your laptop is user-friendly or not is absolutely not related to your gender.
There. I feel better.
A friend was telling me about the desert, so I googled it. never expected to see this.
Makes me want to travel. Now.
Nothing like a lazy sunday afternoon to cleanup and backup one’s blog which means I’m back on Google index. Thank god for WordPress.
In order to force myself in taking a vacation, (the last time was 2003 which involved a trip backpacking in Spain with my best friend at the time. Unfortunately our friendship never recovered but that’s another story.) I’ve been wasting time trying to find the good places to enjoy significantly fantastic food in the UK. So I’ve essentially been hand-Googling the references from a weekend special edition of the Independant that I simply can’t find online. My intention is to mash it up with the Guardian’s special on Summer Pubs that was published that same weekend. Funnily enough none of this is actually linked or geo-located. I’m pretty sure there’s a much geekier and efficient way of doing this, but it kills the time in the nicest of ways…
View Les carnets d’Alexandra: UK foodie & drink guide in a larger map
Just because I really can’t help writing, I’ve started a personal blog on life “south of the river” called Yes this really is in Brixton
Disclaimer: this one has nothing to do with work, design or otherwise and will probably only make sense if you’re a friend and live or know or are curious about London. Enjoy!