FOWA: Putting Users First (Thomas Vander Wal) [en]

*Here are my live notes of this [Future of Web Apps (FOWA)](http://www.futureofwebapps.com/) session. They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. [Suw also blogged this one](http://strange.corante.com/archives/2007/10/04/fowa07b_thomas_vander_wal.php).*

FOWA 2007 109

Throw out the “user”: used to be a good term to help us think of the people using our system… but somewhere along the line, the user became the annoying person for the developers, lost its empathy.

Focus on people. Real people doing real things. Me. All the stuff that has to do with my life, connecting all the bits. My information.

Real people… means we have to start thinking about their desires, wants, needs. This is really important for people who are building, designing, developing… even using these systems.

If we don’t think about their wants and needs, that’s when they start sending nasty e-mails or complaining on their blogs or facebook.

Real people includes the 95% of people who don’t live their life on the web. (Not us in the room, that is.) Think outside of the alpha/beta users. People need the information in their real life, out of the browser. Real needs there.

Tech pains:

– syncing (no comment)
– refindability: remember that time where you were trying to find something you knew was there?
– taste: better agree with the editor of Mahalo on what a “cake” is
– identity: “I gave the internet my details, why do I have to do it again?”
– easy of use
– portability
– privacy: smart privacy
– attention: we only have so much attention… we’re going the same stupid things over and over again (sorting junk out of the mail)

Lots of problems that tools today can address. What we should be doing is easing tech pain.

Tagging and other features.

FOWA 2007 111

Work contributing vs. derived value.

Tagging takes a bit of work but it puts your world of information in your context. Ratings require roughly as much work but don’t derive as much value.

Tagging brings up the “F” word: “Folksonomy”. Coined by Thomas in 2004: looking at Flickr and del.icio.us. It’s not a taxonomy… it’s regular people calling things the way they usually call them.

Folksonomy solves the problem of retrieval. I tagged it, so I can refind it. It’s also usually done in a social environment, so that opens it to others. Personal and shared folksonomies. **The act of tagging is done by the person who is actually consuming the information.** I put something of my identity in my tags.

Three bits: object being tagged, metadata or tag, person doing the tagging.

FOWA 2007 112

Identity linked to object by interest. Identity linked to metadata by vocabulary. Object to metadata by definition. A community of those using the same term to tag the same object emerges. Community linked to metadata by terminology. Community linked to object by culture.

This allows us to find more objects. Find somebody else who has tagged stuff “audi”, subtract what I’ve tagged “audi” from their stuff tagged “audi”, and that gives me five new things! Smart system.

Social bookmarking gets (more) social. Ma.gnolia has groups. Nice feature: giving thanks. Just a click to say thanks for something nice you found through somebody else.

Private groups; top tags; recent bookmarks; discussions; members.

Sharing and being social is how humans have got out of caves, and how we advance as a society.

Getting to real relationships: lots of tools have a “broadmind friend” concept of relationships (“you’re my friend, therefore I’m interested in everything you are.”)

Spheres of Sociality: personal, selective (many), collective (all people on the service), mob. *steph-note: I got a “mob” feeling when I tracked “FOWA” on Flickr.*

Directional sociality: real relationships are not equal. They can be unidirectional. Unequal access. People might have access to read our blog, read and comment, read and also read private feeds.

FOWA 2007 113

*steph-note: this is exactly what I mean when I say we need a way to **structure** our social networks*

We don’t want to be listening to everything from everybody. And we need to be able to do something with the information. Frustration with Facebook and also, to a lesser extent, with Twitter.

Ease of use: needs to be as simple as ripping off a phone number from an ad stuck on a lamp post. The information is portable. Our web services need to be this easy. Good example: Stikkit. Identifies that this thing I’m saving is a date/calendar thing. *steph-note: like Tumblr recognises that I’m posting a quote*

Test early, test often, and test with real people. We’re not necessarily our own best audience.

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