I've mentioned Jan Chipchase's Future Perfect weblog many times before, but for those of you that still haven't made it a regular read here's a short interview with Jan from BBC News.
As principal researcher for Nokia Jan is tasked with answering a seemingly simple question: how do people use their mobile phones? Along the way, however, his weblog provides an eye-opening education in the power of observation and insight, as well as a deep appreciation of the cultural nuances a global brand like Nokia must navigate.
To uncover the "secret stuff" that drives human motivation, Jan leaves no stone unturned: from interface design, language and user experience to parking lots, restaurants and comic books, it's all part of one fascinating process. I don't know much about research, but isn't this the perfect kind of research?
"I specialise in human behavioural research. It often starts with a very simple question like 'what do people carry?'.
"This is interesting to Nokia because we want to put things in people's pockets - something of value.
"If you can understand one element of that value then you can understand people's motivation."
Mr Chipchase takes a team - designers, psychologists - into different countries around the world, to look at people's lives in different contexts.
"I want to understand what people do and why, and pretty much in every context. We want to know the secret stuff as well."
One of my favourite agencies has just launched a lovely group weblog: houseofnaked.com cleverly aggregates posts, photos, presence updates and whatever else fits from the smart Naked staff in New York. I think they might be called nudists, but I could be wrong.
The Jaiku-like life-stream on the right sidebar is very cool, perfect for a group project like this. Love it!
I love this quote from Charles Eames, via Swiss Miss.
"Here is one of the few effective keys to the design problem — the ability of the designer to recognize as many of the constraints as possible — his willingness and enthusiasm for working within these constraints. Constraints of price, of size, of strength, of balance, of surface, of time and so forth."
- Charles Eames
Creativite expression, in all varieties, is framed by margins. How rules are negotiated and resolved has everything to do with the quality of the work produced, which is often a solution to a problem.
I spent a weekend messing around with a lot of the new Facebook applications, and I'm even more convinced that this is a stroke of genius, and it all has to do with the news feed and the social flow of information.
The News Feed has always been the most important feature of Facebook, but until the applications were introduced last week, the most exciting thing in the feed was new photos or new group affiliations. Moderately interesting, but it wasn't enough to sustain interest. Now, the news feed is constantly updating with much more relevant information (latest music played, new photo players, games, video, extended bio information, twitter and so on).
Without the news feed, the applications would just be widgets, neat things that sit on your profile and may be accidentally discovered by friends. But by placing them in the centre of the action, the news feed, the applications enhance the flow of information that powers social media. We've talked a bit in the past about flow and presence (a la Jaiku for instance), but with the huge Facebook network (particularly for us here in Toronto!), the flow of social information really takes on a whole new meaning (I only have a handful of friends on Jaiku or Twitter, compared to 300 or so on Facebook).
It's just brilliant of Facebook to have built a huge network, get the mechanics of social flow right (unlike MySpace, which got the first, but fumbled the second part) and then pull in applications to sit on top of all of this (even competing ones, like Twitter).
In order to be part of the action, brands and smart marketers need to be thinking hard about developing branded applications that serve the network, and hope they get adopted. The notion of "branded utility" rings a bell; it's exactly what is needed in the new platform that Facebook has created. Any brand can play in this space, Facebook isn't just a music community, or a dating community or a sports community. What will give them a chance to become the operating system of social media is that the network is broad enough to be something different for everyone.
Now, when is the IPO? (I do think that Facebook can be the next Google, and since I have that in writing now it will be easy to remind me of it in a year if I'm wrong).
The picture looks a little clearer now with respect to Facebook's future. Earlier this week the WSJ had reported that Facebook was about to build some kind of "reverse-API" that would effectively lock out third parties from making money off of services built within Facebook, but it turns out that this isn't the case.
At a Facebook pow-wow yesterday, the future of the social network utility was outlined, and it includes a lot of "MySpace" functionality with respect to widgets and customization, as well as the invitation for developers to make money by running ads or selling stuff.
Facebook wants to keep those faithful while turbocharging its growth by harnessing some of the magic of MySpace’s openness. It is also going one step further by allowing companies that contribute features to make money on Facebook through their own advertising or commissions on sales.
“You can build a real advertising business on Facebook,” Mr. Zuckerberg said on Thursday during his speech to more than 700 developers and journalists. “If you don’t want to run ads, you can sell something. We encourage you to do both.”.
Love it or hate it, the version of Facebook you see today will probably look nothing like the Facebook of the future. This is a huge gamble that can backfire. The ultimate goal of turning Facebook into a "social operating system" is very ambitious, but I don't see how they'll avoid many of the same problems that plague MySpace.
I wanted to post about Westin's Find Renewal earlier in the week, but better late than never.
The fine folks at Electric Artists have created an interactive website that is chock full of lifestyle/renewal tips from a panel of hand-picked experts. It looks very slick. The best part is the widget with daily tips. Good social media action. I do love my widgets.
This is a smart utility for Westin customers, and word is that in a few months they'll be launching an in-room television channel that will include lifestyle content and inspirational programming.