A session at Bar Camp on Ajax UI best practices veered into a discussion of UI for community reputation. We were there with the designer of Yahoo Finance, who has a truly thorny problem, where UI is the smaller bit of the problem.
In smaller communities, where people go by their real names and misbehavior has serious informal and formal consequences, like a wiki in a company, misbehavior is minimal. Many larger communities have mostly good people, with a few bad actors trying to spoil it for the rest of everyone. These communities develop specialized mechanisms for fending off trolls and crimiinals — Ebay, Craigs List, Slashdot and Wikipedia (for much of its content) fall into this pattern. Slashdot has tools for making the nuisances inaudible, WIkipedia has tools for banning them, Ebay and Craigs List have processes for getting them locked up.
But with Yahoo Finance, a large population of the most active users are day traders. Their intent is to pump up the stocks they want to buy and trash the stocks they want to sell. There seems to be less of a core of “good community” than there is of bad actors.
One thought – is there a way to utilize explicit social networks, like investement clubs, plus “friend of friend” features in order to protect the good folk, and to create reputation that expandss the circle of known good folk?
And the perennial takaway – the tools you use to foster community online are dependent and interdependent with the nature of the community.
State Assemblyman Ira Ruskin had a series of town hall meetings this weekend. Menlo Park was emergency preparedness, Palo Alto was campaign finance, Los Gatos was renewable energy. It’s pretty cool to have one’s state rep be out advocating global warming and public campaign finance legislation, among a sympathetic crowd.
I went to the event at Palo Alto city hall because it was nearby and the time was convenient. That program wound up strange because the Assemblyman was not allowed to talk about Prop. 89, the ballot initiative. Instead, he spent his time talking about AB253 (I think), a state bill for public financing that he favored, but that didn’t pass. After the event, outside city hall, a few proponents of prop89 handed out literature and explained the differences — prop. 89 is apparently a mildly weaker version of public financing, that is supported by the powerful Nurses Union which had opposed the assembly bill.
The event was surprisingly low-tech. Palo Alto city hall doesn’t have wifi, which would have made it easier to fact-check questions live. When an audience member asked a question the assemblyman and his staff couldn’t answer, he offered to send out the answer in his monthly newsletter, instead of, say, posting to the blog later that day. I was pretty interested in the renewable energy event; it would have been cool to podcast.
Volunteer opportunity #253, podcasting 101 for state reps.
It’s geek tourism day — just cycled to downtown Mountain View to check out the Google wifi service. It’s linked up to your google account — when I fired up firefox, I got this message: “Welcome to Google WiFi. Welcome back, Adina. Before using Google WiFi, we need to know a little more about you. Please enter the additional information below.” — but clicking though just took me to a portal page with some info about downtown Mountain View. There wasn’t signal a few blocks away, when I missed the Moffett/Castro turnoff, crossed the highway, and realized I wasn’t quite in the right place. So I took out the handy paper bike map and turned around.
p.s. just looked up directions to another store on Google Maps. Thank goodness it doesn’t say “you are here”.
p.p.s. sitting on the plaza benches catty corner from the starbucks by 650 Castro. There are flowering trees planted in a trough below sidewalk level, and there are working power outlets in the well by each tree. Wifi is fine.
Kathy Sierra’s question about digital camera usersstuck in pre-programmed “P” mode was answered by Kodak a century ago in its pioneering advertising. Before Kodak cameras, there was no such thing as “home photography”. In order to sell people on the new-fangled cameras, Kodak needed to introduce the idea of memorializing life cycle events and sentimental occasions. Kodak’s advertising started early with “how to” use a camera — its earliest ads focused on ease of use, but its landmark ads tought people why to use a camera.
Today, everyone takes the snapshot for granted. Now, a large number want to use newly affordable digital cameras to learn how to take better photos. Flickr is encouraging broader appreciation of the nuances of better photography. The techniques known to professional and skilled amateur photographers are now coveted by a larger number of people. The training that the Digital Camera class attendess is not in how to use the camera’s features, but in how a given feature is used for esthetic effect.
It takes a higher level of skill to take visually nuanced photographs than to take a snapshot of a kid blowing out birthday candles. Users need technical training in light, filters, focal lengths. In Kathy’s comments, a number of readers suggest that Canon isn’t responsible for technical training. Geoff Moore in his classic Crossing the Chasm series on high-tech marketing explans how to bridge that gap. Complicated products like software and cars develop a large “aftermarket” in the training and additional products needed to get users the “whole product” they are looking for — not just accounting software, but the skills to keep books; not just an automobile, but the services to keep it fueled and clean. Canon might not want to take on the very different business of providing training in popular art photography, but could cultivate a network of providers of photography classes, contests, clubs, and other services and incentives for people to learn how to make better pictures.
This one designed for cycling, and this one is nominally for running, but is just lovely for road routes — double click at each turn and it counts the miles.
At least not on this flight from Edinburgh to Newark. If you didn’t have a receipt from the airport, into the looting pile it went. Sheesh. This is sheer gibbering idiocy from shampoo bottle to crappy novel.
A propose of not much, I finally put my finger on why the “media justice” meme strikes me as going in the wrong direction. In political vocabulary, “justice” is a a buzzword and a code word. It implies a strategy of pursuiing redress of grievances, speaking truth to power, protest.
The lightbulb came on when I was reading an article in the Nation about the need for environmental and progressive groups to rebuild a grass roots base, that quoted Peggy Shepard of West Harlem Environmental Action. That group was born out of street protests to call attention to a sewage plant that had been making people sick for years. The group organized a demonstration that held up traffic at 7 a.m. on the West Side Highway in front of the North River plant on Martin Luther King Day, eventually filed a lawsuit, and catalyzed a $55 million repair operation by the city.
When pollution is making people sick, protest politics make sense. Polluters can get away with it as long as the harm is kept quiet and it’s easier for the polluter to continue than to stop. Protest politics raise awareness and make it less convenient for the polluter.
The “justice” metaphor and strategy makes a lot less sense to me when applied to media. When there’s a polluting sewage treatment plant or chemical plant in your neighborhood, you don’t have a lot of power on your own. You can’t shut it down or move it. You rely on recalcitrant business people and politicians to help you. In classic form, you need to organize and and petition those that have the power for redress of greivances.
With media, though, a community group or an individual can easily get a voice and become part of the media. By easy I don’t mean trivial, it takes work and information-gathering and networking. But it is within the power of an individual or group of people, unlike, say, shutting down a polluting chemical plant. So, a large part of the focus to get “justice” in media coverage is DIY and entrepreneurial. Don’t ask somebody to do it for you, just do it, and then reach out to get the story amplified. There are tremendous opportunities for business and civic entrepreneurship here. Don’t ask, do.
There are some aspects of media where political activism is needed, where the rules are overly influenced by folks with concentrated power. In order to get open spectrum, organizers need to wrest it back from the claws of the incumbent oligopoly. In order to get net neutrality, organizers need to win the battle with the incumbent oligopoly – or, harder but better, break the oligopoly. Even then, the rhetoric of petition isn’t nearly enough to win the war, since this speaks to a fraction of the supporters. Allies in that battle include the tech entrepreneurs who want to ensure space for a competitive market. They don’t see themselves as the powerless asking from help from the powerful — they want market forces to work, and concentrated oligopoly works against the competitive market.
So, environmental justice is a powerful strategy for a set of problems. “Media justice” plays a much narrower role, motivating a particular constituency on a particular subset of a set of issues where other strategies are a larger part of the solution.