Thought / Twenty things Sagmeister has learned so far

  1. Helping other people helps me
  2. Having guts always works out for me
  3. Thinking that life will be better in the future is stupid. I have to live now
  4. Organizing a charity group is surprisingly easy
  5. Being not truthful always works against me
  6. Everything I do always comes back to me
  7. Assuming is stifling
  8. Drugs feel great in the beginning and become a drag later on
  9. Over time I get used to everything and start taking for granted
  10. Money does not make me happy
  11. My dreams have no meaning
  12. Keeping a diary supports personal development
  13. Trying to look good limits my life
  14. Material luxuries are best enjoyed in small doses
  15. Worrying solves nothing
  16. Complaining is silly. Either act or forget
  17. Everybody thinks they are right
  18. If I want to explore a new direction professionally, it is helpful to try it out for myself first
  19. Low expectations are a good strategy
  20. Everybody who is honest is interesting

I guess it is a good place from where to start, stealing other people’s methods and implement them religiously. Eventually I’l find my own, like painters trained by copying the masters, or Jamal Wallace copying that first two paragraphs to then continue with his own words.

Thought / Mediated content (Part 3)

Fred Oliveira, from webreakstuff, suggested in this article to stop reading your rss feeds. An intriguing idea that I’ve been forced to follow for the last 6+ months, I replied:

Afraid of the increasing number of unread posts, I have been postponing catching up with RSS for so long, it is 6+ months already, so there it goes.

One not-so-obvious reason is that RSS feeds forces us to read all the articles on a writer’s mind, while twitter and other social networks mediate by decanting and broadcasting the best articles, so you just get la crème de la crème. It is similar to getting CDs, which force you to have all the songs, compared to just buying the songs you like from iTunes.

Next step would be to delete RSS links from our blogs.

Thought / Simple vs. complex interfaces (Part 1)

In order to psychologically approach interfaces, one might always need to contextualise them, as cognitive processes are affected by the environment they’re immerse into.

Some complex systems require complex interfaces and steep learning curves for users to acquire an adequate state of mind (air controllers, train controllers and operators, jet pilots), and simplifying them might “seduce users into shallow cognitive behaviours,” but this might not be the case at all levels, where sometimes there’s no need for any learning and fulfilling an activity might suffice.

So for example, the process of sending an email might be enhanced by a step by step wizard experience (reminding the user to select a sender, write a message, append an attachment, etc.) while the driving of a train or an airplane might benefit from a steep learning curve that assures and enhances the attention and modal cognitive approach of the user, as train operators and air controllers can prove.

Learning an interface is a process affected and mediated by context, and so is any cognitive approach, I would argue.

Thought / Mediated content (Part 2)

In an interesting article (some time ago) Leisa Reichelt talked about trends in Gardening tools for Social Networks.

If you have the time to go through it (it is a lenghty article) it might do for an interesting read. Main points seem to be:

  • Social Networks have very few or no tool to trim your contacts
  • Statistics can help you visualise your use of the network and thus educate your decisions on its optimising
  • Tools for building your contact network tend to be a kind of switch behaviour. Either they’re in or out, end of choice
  • That choice, oftentimes, is made in a particular moment which can affect the choice itself (busy vs free time)
  • Once commited to a choice, it is difficult or irrelevant for you to revisit it
  • Categorising or tagging people might help, but people are not very good at that

I’ve been thinking much about this issue, and I also see the necessity of categorising network assets (contacts, messages, applications, notifications), but I keep finding myself more into the automated side of it.

Lacking of a better word, I have called it ‘mediation’, being it the process of intelligently filtering these channels of communication. It goes much into ‘Smart Agents’ as it might be the system that decides on how to make this filtering for you, educated by some preferred methods or variables by you.

It might sound unrealistic, and perhaps in a near future it might be more convincing. I think some of these networks and the intrinsic statistical-aware condition of the internet can help making those categorising decisions.

The way I see it the system is nurtured by information in the form of your friend’s feeds: photos, music, blogs, you-name-it. All that information then is passed through custom filters, which are nothing else than your own friends. Filtered information then arrives to you.

It is simple: you know your friends, so you know Dave knows the movies you like, and Sarah’s music taste just matches yours so well. So you filter movies by Dave’s Netflix profile, and music by Sarah’s Last.fm selections. Movie suggestions then are matched with Dave’s watched/wishlist/rated movies. Likewise music suggestions are matched against Sarah’s favorited music, or even suggest you new music Sarah has recently liked or added to her profile.

At the end you get only the ones that make it through. You could even add a level of serendipity to your system by filtering “new music suggestions” both by Sarah and Chris, or by adding a metafilter such as Peter’s blog feed, since Peter sometimes blogs about music.

Or better: you create one metafilter that just sends you all the music all Dave, Sarah, Chris and Matt like, and another that is only Dave’s five-starred music, and combine them. I can imagine as much fun here as you can have with playlist creation on iTunes. The upside here is you know your friends, so they do all the work for you. Sweet.

Easier than tagging people or categorising friends of friends, I’d say. Who wants to give it a try?

Thought / Broadcast yourself ™

We seem to still be in the broadcast yourself phase of the internet.

Blogs, twitter, feeds, gmail, digg, you name it: think of any of the customary ruling trendy growing online services/apps, they (mostly) all seem to have one thing in common: broadcast information.

Email was (and probably still is, beside social networks) the online killer application. Its method was simple: send a message to someone, or to many. Then there was the blog, which was one message to many, commented, in time. Then twitter, a short message to as many subscribers, with multiple channels. Then we got facebook, publish to one, publish to a group, publish to many, publish to all. Then friendfeed, which summarises all the stuff your friends are broadcasting. Then a million mash-ups and hacks to mix them all and have, well, more information per square pixel.

So now that we know how to broadcast our stuff, why don’t we start focussing on filtering it? Mediating it?

It might be the time to build a live filtering system that allows you to get only the information that is relevant: per channel or per situation or per location or per genre or per several other reasons and situations. Systems are robust enough to support the load, and there’s enough computing force to make for intelligent systems of processing.

Or simpler: we just need to use our peers as filtering profiles: “please just suggest me the posts of this blog that have either been read by my friend john or have been read by most of my network,” or “please suggest me movies seem by most of my network, but don’t send me movies that anna and peter have liked.” Simple. Perhaps not, but certainly not impossible.

Not so long ago, 50 years ago or so we were already talking about smart agents and mediation. I guess this is the moment to start shaping those words in to reality.

Or die under the weight of thousands of friends’ and foes’ tweets, feeds, posts, photos, books, music, radio recommendations, and emails.