Scale in Community and Social Media: Bigger is not Always Better [en]

In his blog post Defriendization is the future of social networks, that I commented upon in Defriending, Keeping Connections Sustainable and Maybe Superficial, Laurent Haug mentions his previous article Openness is difficult to scale, about how the kind of community involvement that worked for Lift in the early days just did not scale once the conference became more successful. This is a rule we cannot get escape from. Scale changes things. Success is a double-edged sword, because it might bring you into a country where the very thing that made your success is not possible anymore.

Clive Thompson explains this very well when it comes to the number of followers on Twitter, for example, in his Wired piece In Praise of Obscurity. Even if as the person being followed, you don’t really care about the size of the community gathered around you, the people who are part of that community feel its size and their behaviour changes. Bigger is not always better. More people in a community does not make it a better or even more powerful community.

This is one of the reasons it annoys me immensely when people try to measure the value of something by measuring its size. More readers does not mean I’m a better blogger. More friends on Facebook does not mean I’m more popular. More followers on Twitter does not mean I’m more influential.

I think that this is one of the things that has happened to the blogging world (another topic I have simmering for one of these days). Eight-ten years ago, the community was smaller. Having a thousand or so readers a day already meant that you were a big fish. Now, being a big fish means that you’re TechCrunch or ReadWriteWeb, publications that for some reason people still insist on calling “blogs”, and we “normal bloggers” do not recognize ourselves anymore in these mega-publications. The “big fish” issue here is not so much that formerly-big-fish bloggers have had the spotlight stolen from them and they resent it (which can also be true, by the way), but more that the ecosystem has completely changed.

The “blog-reading community” has grown hugely in numbers. Ten years ago, one thousand people reading a blog felt special because they were out-of-the-mainstream, they could connect with the author of what they read, and maybe they also had their own little blog somewhere. Nowadays, one thousand people reading a blog are just one thousand people doing the mainstream thing online people do: reading blogs and the like. The sense of specialness has left the blogosphere.

If you want to keep on reading, I comment upon another of the links Laurent mentions in Log-Out Day: Victims of Technology, or a Chance to Grow?

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What Should I Blog About? Have Your Say [en]

[fr] Une expérience: faites des suggestions et votez sur les prochains sujets que vous aimeriez que j'aborde dans ce blog! Anglais et français, bien entendu. 🙂

This is an experiment, utterly and totally ripped off from what Scott Berkun is doing on his blog with his Reader’s Choice series.

As many of you know, my problem is not finding ideas to write about. My problem is that I have too many. I have a long list of blog post ideas in Evernote which I dip in every now and again when I feel like blogging and don’t have an immediate idea (which is not that often, to be honest — not the “feel like blogging” bit, the “don’t have an idea” one).

So, here’s the deal. I’ve opened a Slinkset site called What do you want to read about next on CTTS? — I’ve started populating it with my blog post ideas. I would like to invite you to vote on the topics and add your own suggestions. You don’t even have to sign up, it’s really easy!

A couple of times a month, I’ll make sure I blog about the most popular topic. I’m looking forward to seeing how this works 🙂

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Thanks! See You at LIFT08 :-) [en]

A heartfelt thanks to those of you who following [blogged about Going Solo](http://del.icio.us/steph/coverage+goingsolo) or voted for [my Open Stage presentation](http://www.liftconference.com/going-solo-being-freelancer-connected-world). I’m actually going to be the first Open Stage talk, [Thursday morning before the break](http://www.liftconference.com/lift08-program-thursday-friday). Exciting and scary!

[My workshop](http://www.liftconference.com/get-started-blogging) also got enough registrations to be provided with a room, which is nice. I can still accommodate a few more people (up to 15 as far as I’m concerned, but I’m trying to make sure the room is big enough). I’d like to insist again on the fact that this is a workshop for ***people who are not yet blogging*** — you’ll find it frighteningly basic if you’re already a blogger. Also, you will have to **bring your own laptop** as we do not have a computer lab. So, if you’re coming to LIFT08, aren’t blogging yet, but would like to get going, [sign up for the workshop](http://www.liftconference.com/get-started-blogging).

I’ve been asked by a couple of people if they could come to the workshop although they don’t have a ticket for LIFT. That is unfortunately impossible, as the workshops are reserved to LIFT attendees (you should [come to LIFT](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/01/25/come-to-lift08/), it’s really worth it). (The [Venture Night](http://www.liftconference.com/lift08-venture-night) and [Sustainable Development Sessions](http://www.liftconference.com/lift08-program-thursday-friday#wattwatt) are open to non-LIFT public, however.) For those who might be interested, I’m planning to organize similar [Get Started Blogging](http://stephanie-booth.com/fr/particuliers/cours/) workshops in Lausanne (or elsewhere if there is enough interest). The first should take place on Feb. 26th (details to follow), in French. Again, if enough English-speakers are interested (say 6 people minimum) then I can also organize a workshop in English.

My [discussion session on multilingualism online](http://www.liftconference.com/all-these-languages-localization-and-multilingualism-online) thankfully didn’t make the cut (remember I’ll also be live-blogging LIFT08!!), but I’ll set up an informal meeting for people who are interested in chatting about this.

See you at LIFT!

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Going Solo Venues, Open Stage, and Link Love [en]

[fr] Sur le site de Going Solo, vous trouverez le récit de mon après-midi passée à visiter des salles de conférences à Lausanne. Ma proposition d'Open Stage pour LIFT'08 semble avoir du succès mais a encore besoin de vos votes.

Je me pose ensuite des tas de question sur les raisons pour lesquelles Going Solo ne semble pas attirer plus l'attention des blogueurs. Est-ce trop tôt? Pas assez d'informations? Ai-je épuisé mon capital social? Est-ce que tout le monde pense que les autres s'en chargent?

Pour que des personnes en-dehors de mon réseau direct puissent entendre parler de Going Solo et s'y intéresser, j'ai besoin de votre aide. Voici la (modeste) collection de liens couvrant Going Solo. Julien a parlé plusieurs fois de Going Solo en français (merci!), mais je crois que c'est à peu près tout côté couverture francophone. Oui, la conférence est en anglais. Mais vos lecteurs francophones ne sont pas tous nécessairement anglophobes, ni les personnes qu'ils connaissent à leur tour.

Que ce soit clair: je ne veux forcer la main à personne. Si vous trouvez Going Solo inutile ou même bête, ne perdez pas votre temps à en parler (ou mieux, en fait, racontez pourquoi vous pensez ainsi, ça m'intéresse). Mais si vous désirez soutenir cette conférence et que ce n'est visible nulle part sur votre blog... Prenez un petit moment pour ça.

Et si vous avez un éclairage à offrir concernant ma difficulté permanent à "rallier" les gens autour des choses que je fais (pas les choses que je blogue, hein, celles que je fais), je suis toute ouïe. Merci d'avance.

Just a note to say I’ve published [a blog post on hunting for venues for Going Solo](http://going-solo.net/2008/01/21/venue-stories/) (yes, on the Going Solo blog — what? you haven’t subscribed yet? what are you waiting for?). If you have any thoughts on the points I raise there, go ahead.

In the good news departments, it seems [my open stage proposal about organizing a conference for freelancers](http://www.liftconference.com/going-solo-being-freelancer-connected-world) is attracting interest. It still needs votes though, so if you [want to help make sure I hit the big stage](http://www.liftconference.com/lift08-community-program-propositions#openstage) and you are going to attend LIFT, be sure to [vote](http://www.liftconference.com/going-solo-being-freelancer-connected-world). (Every vote counts. Thanks.)

*Prepare for slight digression.*

For some reason, I seem to always have trouble motivating people to “spread the word” about stuff I’m doing. There seems to be a disconnect between the picture people send back to me (“Oh, you have so much *traction*, you’re so influent, etc.”) and what actually happens when I try to get the word out about something.

I usually don’t have this problem when it’s somebody else’s stuff. If I sign up for your nice new shiny 2.0 service and like it, I’m going to convince dozens of people to sign up. Twitter. Dopplr. Seesmic. It’s even happening with offline stuff like [the neti pot](http://steph.wordpress.com/2008/01/19/morning-rituals/).

I guess one of the issues is that I’m not really comfortable promoting my own stuff. Some people seem to have no problem doing that — I always feel like I should shut up, and if what I’m doing is really worthwhile, other people will pick it up and blog about it. On the other hand, I am pretty comfortable [page-slapping](http://joi.ito.com/archives/2003/08/10/page_slapping.html) people with my own writings.

So, what is it? Do people underestimate the support I need from the community? Am I one of those annoying people who [ask for too much and don’t give enough](http://www.horsepigcow.com/2007/11/24/you-may-be-a-community-freeloader-if-you/)? Do I squander my social capital? Is the stuff I do so lame that nobody has any interest in talking about it? Am I simply just “missing” a little something somewhere that I still haven’t figured out? Am I just not active enough in self-promoting?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about my [technorati ranking](http://technorati.com/search/climbtothestars.org) or about the fact that some of my blog posts have already been around the world three times (my stuff on [MySQL encoding problems](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2004/07/18/converting-mysql-database-contents-to-utf-8/) and [multiple WordPress installations](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2004/09/02/scripts-for-a-wordpress-weblog-farm/) have remained popular for years — the latter with spammers, maybe, I’m afraid). It’s more about *stuff I do* as opposed to *stuff I write*.

Take [Going Solo](http://going-solo.net). I know I haven’t really started pushing it out there, because we don’t have branding yet and the price isn’t quite set. But still. When I [announced it here on CTTS](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/14/announcing-going-solo/) (and before that, when I [said I was starting a company](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/13/im-starting-a-company/)), a lot of people stopped by to leave an encouraging comment or send me a nice tweet. I really appreciated it.

Now, not trying to make anybody feel bad here, but here’s [the coverage of Going Solo](http://del.icio.us/steph/coverage+goingsolo) that I’ve been able to round up (or the [technorati cosmos](http://s.technorati.com/going-solo.net). I’m getting into the habit of bookmarking any “coverage” links, because they’re easy to find on the moment, but 6 months later you can forget about it.

Is it because I haven’t explicitly said “Going Solo needs your link love”? (If that’s it, I’m saying it now.) Is it because it’s “too early) — ie, people are waiting for the venue to be set, the full programme to be announced, sidebar badges to be available and the tickets to be on sale? I personally don’t think it’s necessary to wait that long. I’m convinced Going Solo is going to be a really useful event for many freelancers out there. I want to get the word out and create interest for it, also outside my immediate network. And for that, I need you. You’re the only people who can help me reach “outside my network”. Or maybe I’m being difficult, naive, or expecting too much?

I’d like to understand what’s happening. I’d like more people to talk about Going Solo and try to promote it to their networks, of course, but my main issue here is understanding. So any insight will be… more than welcome. If you think Going Solo is worthwhile, but you haven’t blogged about it, it would help me if you left a comment to tell me why you haven’t (yet, hopefully!) blogged about it. Again — I’m not asking for justifications, just insight from “the other side of the fence”.

This week-end, as I was hurrying to get [my LIFT workshop](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/01/19/lift08-workshop-get-started-with-blogging/) out of the door, I was astonished (in a disappointed sort of way) to see how few people had come up with proposals for LIFT. I know people wait until the last minute to do it, but I also realised that I hadn’t really blogged about LIFT this year. I guess I was thinking that it was so popular anyway, a blog post of mine wouldn’t really make much difference. “The others” were already blogging about it.

Then I took a step back and thought of [Going Solo](http://going-solo.net) — how my frustration that people weren’t talking about it more. So I wrote a blog post to tell people it was [the last minute to send a contribution to LIFT](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/01/20/very-last-moment-to-propose-a-contribution-for-lift08/). Did anybody make one because I blogged about it, I wonder?

So, done with the angst-ridden rambling. I welcome your comments. And Going Solo needs your link love.

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Two Successes! WPD2 and WoWiPAD1 [en]

[fr] Aussi bien le Website Pro Day 2 (WPD2) que le WoWiPAD1 (World Wide Paperwork and Administrivia Day, ou bien "Journée Paperasse" de son petit nom) ont rencontré un franc succès.

Du coup, on remet ça. WPD 3 (sur Lausanne, mais vous pouvez saisir la balle au bond et organiser des événements-frères ailleurs) le 16 janvier, et WoWiPAD2 dès que quelqu'un d'intéressé m'aura contacté pour fixer une date.

Je trouve aussi qu'une journée pour bloguer à 100% (finir les brouillons, écrire ces billets auxquels on pense depuis des lustres mais y'a toujours plus urgent à faire) serait pas mal, ainsi qu'un pour mettre à jour ses uploads de photos sur Flickr... (quoi? vous êtes à jour? zou!)

I’ll be brief, because I’m running around a bit like a headless chicken these days with tons of different things to do, and the blog gets neglected. So, here’s a short article, rather than no long article (because that’s what tends to happen).

Both [WPD2 and WoWiPAD1](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/26/wowipad1-and-wpd2-news/) were a great success. I really think that gathering people together towards a common goal on a given day is a really good idea — especially for people working from home, or freelancers.

The Lausanne branch of the Website Pro Day initiative have already decided that we needed a WPD3. The date that has been chosen is January 16th. Make a note of it now! I’ll create a Facebook event shortly.

WoWiPAD1 (that Suw wants to rename the “Administrivia Day” because she doesn’t like the ugly acronym… who can blame her?) saw participants joining us from all over the place, including [Ton and Elmine from the Netherlands](http://www.zylstra.org/blog/archives/2008/01/world_wide_pape.html) and even [Stowe Boyd from San Francisco](http://www.stoweboyd.com/message/2008/01/world-wide-pape.html). We posted updates to [the event wall](http://www.facebook.com/wall.php?id=7437407283), [Twitter](http://hashtags.org/tag/wowipad/) (most of them private, unfortunately), and [Seesmic](http://seesmic.com). I’ve collected [links to related Seesmic videos](http://www.facebook.com/posted.php?id=7437407283) in the event links.

Personally, I’m ready for WoWiPAD2. If you are too, ping me and we’ll choose a date (better to be at least two people to set a date).

I’m also ready for “Write All Those Blog Posts Already Day” (100% blogging, a chance to finish drafts and catch up on old post ideas!) as well as “Digging Through That Flickr Backlog Day” to upload those photos you took six months ago and still haven’t seen the light of day. Ping me if you’re interested, and we’ll make them happen!

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Hoosgot: The Lazyweb is Back! [en]

[fr] Hoosgot, réincarnation du lazyweb d'antan, est en ligne. Merci à Dave Sifry, fondateur de Technorati!

One of the great things about the internet is that it brings people and ideas closer. One of the ways I (and many others) use it is to find things, or make sure the great idea we just had hasn’t already been implemented somewhere before we start building it.

Many years ago, when trackbacks were young and the [the Internet Topic Exchange was hot](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2004/07/19/easier-topicexchange-trackbacks-for-wordpress/), some brave folks [put their heads and fingers together](http://www.lazyweb.org/about.html) to give birth to [The Lazyweb](http://www.lazyweb.org/archives/010257.html). If you had a request or a question, you would blog about it, send a trackback and a small prayer to the lazyweb, and maybe the lazyweb would answer with a solution. (As you’ve understood, the “lazyweb” is the community of people sending requests and keeping an eye on those from their brethren.)

I sent [a few requests](http://climbtothestars.org/tags/lazyweb) its way at the time.

Unfortunately,spam [killed](http://www.lazyweb.org/archives/010257.html) the lazyweb.

Yesterday, [Dave Sifry announced](http://www.sifry.com/alerts/archives/2007/12/announcing_hoos.html) the birth of [hoosgot](http://www.hoosgot.com/), reincarnation of the lazyweb.

So, [how do you send your requests](http://www.hoosgot.com/index.php/about/) over to hoosgot? Simply mention hoosgot in post or Twitter message, and it will appear [on the website](http://www.hoosgot.com/) and in the associated RSS feed — which you should definitely subscribe to and keep an eye on.

Thanks, Dave!

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Kathy Sierra: Keynote (Web2.0Expo, Berlin) [en]

[fr] Mes notes de la keynote de Kathy Sierra.

*Here are my notes of Kathy Sierra’s keynote, quite different from [yesterday’s workshop, which I also blogged](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/05/kathy-sierra-creating-passionate-users-web20expo-berlin/). My notes are probably incomplete in some spots and may contain mistakes.*

Finding Web 2.0 Opportunities (Kathy Sierra)

**1) reduce guilt and fear**

most of the time, people feel like they suck, like it’s their fault. Sometimes, making the product easier is not always the answer. We need to reduce that kind of feeling/face. How about using facial recognition to see when users are pulling a face? Or even simpler, have a WTF?! button.

Help, FAQ and user manuals do not solve WTF faces. People writing help and FAQ think you’re happy to use the softwa
re and a bit intellectually curious about using the software. Not true! Assume that most of the time, our users feel in WTF mode. Even if your software is easy to use, it might be they’re pulling that face because of what they’re *trying* to do with your tool.

FAQ/Help aren’t wrong, they’re written for the wrong place of the curve.

Recognise that people are miserable, feel they suck at what they’re trying to learn. Let people off the hook for feeling bad that it’s their fault. Books teaching something shouldn’t make people think they’re stupid.

“Appartments for rent: dog required.” In the US, so hard to find a place to live when you have a dog.

“Please walk on the grass, hug the trees, smell the roses.”

“What kind of genius? young, early, or late bloomer (Doc Searls).”

A lot of 2.0 stuff (like Twitter) increases the guilt, because you *have to keep up*. *steph-note: I realise I’ve been letting myself off the hook quite a lot regarding that.*

Being an expert is generally just a matter of focus, not a matter of natural talent.

How to write a bestseller? Choose a title that lets people off the hook. “The perfect mess” or “Everything bad is good for you.”

**2) Don’t “bait and switch” on the relationship**

Don’t start out all nice and interested and seductive, and in the end push away. How do you treat your ongoing users vs. the users you want to capture? The difference between how sales reps treat customers or prospects is often huge and the wrong way around. Documentation quality.

Web 2.0 Expo 3

Take the marketing budget and throw it into user learning. It’s not always a problem to not have a marketing budget: teach your users to kick ass.

Every time you think of something that you might do for marketing, think about what would happen if you applied that to user learning. Huge example: camera brochures and material. Glossy brochures that are all about taking great photos — which is the reason people buy cameras! — and afterwards, manuals that teach me to be a tool expert, which is not what I want!

Serendipity Curve. Introduce randomness. Excessive customisation and tailoring strips out the delight of discovering something unusual and unexpected. Encourage people to make connections between your stuff and seemingly unrelated things.

Roger von Oech’s “Creative Whack Pack” (*steph-note: looks really good!*)

**3) Make it real/Make it important**

Why are we here? We still need physical presence despite all our technology. A huge part of our brain is devoted to our hands and mouth.

Smell is really important **steph-note: shows cup of coffee on slide, it does something to our brain** but not just smell. Skin was meant to be used.

A real present trumps a virtual gift (not that the latter isn’t meaningful!!) Think about how you can give something in the real world to your users, related to your product. In the US, the UPS guy is a hero. He’s a sex-symbol. Physically impossible to not smile when you see the Amazon box on your doorstep.

Philosophy of Electric Rain:

– users should do something kick ass within 20 minutes
– the process of buying, downloading and installing feel like you’re getting a special present. E.g. a real human answers the tech support. We don’t expect that!

Unboxing! “geek unpacking porn” Look at pictures of other people unpacking their new geek toy. *steph-note: I almost did that with a Flickr photo of my new macbook and roomba.*

People are actually coming up with ways to make those pictures more seductive. These things matter!!

Even if you’re working in bits, and all “virtual”, find something you can send to your users offline. People always care about the t-shirts.

T-shirt First Development. ThinkGeek. It’s not enough to send it to them, give them a way to show that they’re wearing the t-shirt.

Don’t make this mistake:

Web 2.0 Expo 4

There are women or smaller men in your audience. They won’t feel like they kick ass in an XXL t-shirt. Yes, even if it’s not cost-effective.

Remember we’re not ready to leave our bodies behind just yet. “Real” sex still trumps the “virtual” kind…

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Kathy Sierra: Creating Passionate Users (Web2.0Expo, Berlin) [en]

[fr] Workshop de 3 heures animé par Kathy Sierra. Comment rendre ses utilisateurs passionnés.

*Disclaimer: theses are just my live notes of [Kathy Sierra](http://headrush.typepad.com/)’s workshop. Though I try to be accurate, they may contain mistakes or be incomplete. Please don’t hesitate to link to other notes, reviews, or relevant material in the comments.*

Not passion like being attached to your iPod, but more passion like how we invest energy into our hobbies.

Web 2.0 Expo, Kathy Sierra 2

There are techniques we can use to achieve that…

Kathy is going to draw techniques from many domains, who all have a piece of the puzzle:

– hollywood 🙂
– cognitive science
– neurobiology
– psychology
– learning theory
– design
– game design
– advertising

Web 2.0 Expo, Kathy Sierra 3

Passion: music, photography… that level of passion. Think of something that you have a passion for, or have had a passion for. Here’s how to tell if it was: you want to keep getting better, you want to learn more, practice more… that’s a real passion.

People with a passion:

– show off
– learn
– continuously improve
– spend time
– …

Reverse-engineering passion. Look at common attributes of things people have a passion about (e.g. people want to keep learning and getting better). How can we drive passion rather than wait for it to happen?

Where there is passion… there is a user kicking ass. Nobody really get a passion about something they suck at. Challenge: what to do in the period where users still suck.

One of the reasons people pursue passions is that it gives them a higher resolution experience. You see things differently when you’re passionate. You see more details, things that others don’t notice.

The Kick Ass Curve:

Web 2.0 Expo, Kathy Sierra 5

Between the first time and the suck threshold is the real challenge, because that’s where we’ll lose people. Strategies to keep pushing our users up that curve, and not just when they get past the point where they no longer suck. The faster you can get your users past the Suck Threshold, the more likely you are to have passionate users.

So, how fast can we do that, and how?

But… the problem is that people don’t want to be experts *at* a tool, but experts at what they can do *with* the tool. They use the tools to *do* something. That explains why documentation is all wrong, because it focuses on teaching the tool.

Good example: photography site which focuses on the results people want, the photos they want to be able to take, instead of on the camera.

Kathy, seeing slow-shutter speed photo of waterfall, understands why she needs to ditch her point-and-shoot, because she needs control on the shutter speed to be able to take those kind of pictures. And that’s what she wants to be able to do.

**We don’t want to be tool experts.**

Before our customers buy, we treat them well with glossy brochures, and as soon as they buy they get an unpalatable tech manual for their camera.

Web 2.0 Expo, Kathy Sierra 6

What if your product isn’t something people can use to do really cool things? (Showing a picture of Coldplay.) If we look, we can see what people might be able to use it for that they’ll get excited about. So, Chris Martin of Coldplay is very interested in fair trade. He helps people get involved in the cause. (Oxfam.) A band can help people become passionate about their work, their music.

Another example: Red Bull. Kathy likes Red Bull, but she doesn’t want to become an expert at what’s in it! So Red Bull are helping people become passionate about other stuff, not the drink — music, for example.

Bottom line: whatever you have, whatever your business is, you can have passionate users. They don’t have to be passionate about your product.

Imagine Nikon sets up a really cool site to teach people about photography. Learning is a drug for the brain, so this feel-good feeling is going to be linked to Nikon, who is behind the site. Passion spills back to the tool/brand. (That was a bit of psychology…)

**THE important question: what do (or can) you help your users kick ass at? (answers are not: the tool, the interface).** The stuff your tool allows to do.

What if you make trash bags? Well, you can sponsor a festival, do something completely unrelated. But you could have little films with creative use of trash bags, and then you create tutorials to teach people to make kick-ass films with those trash bags. *(steph-note: sounds way more lame when I write it than when Kathy says it.)*

**Big question: how do we actually make that happen?**

It all starts in the user’s head, and the user’s brain is not our friend.

Our brain has a little logic, and lots of emotion. Our brain thinks we’re still cavemen. Our brain has a big crap filter, and not much gets through. Your brain cares about that which you feel. Chemistry! Mind has one agenda, but brain has another. Imagine, trying to learn from a dry textbook even though committed to studies and the test… but the brain isn’t into it. Any moment though, something could wake the brain up (smell of pizza, cute guy).

What does the brain care about?

– things that are just a little weird, that are just out of expectations
– scary things
– sex
– little young helpless innocent things (baby, puppy)
– play, joy
– humour (bunny suicides…)
– faces
– things that are not quite resolved, some mystery, want to know the rest of the story (hand hiding face)

To keep people reading, you need to make sure their brain stays awake.

The brain doesn’t care about

– generic clichés (bride and groom kissing, no-no, whereas groom biting bride’s shoulder…)

Trick the brain!

Web 2.0 Expo, Kathy Sierra 7

**Conversational beats formal every time.** It can be subtle!! *steph-note: this what I try to explain to people about writing in “blog style”.*

Leading theory about that: the brain can’t tell the difference between a real conversation and something written in conversational tone. “God, a conversation, I have to keep up my end, pay attention.”

**Rule: talk to the brain, not to the mind.**

To read: “A mind of its own” by Cordelia Fine (How your Brain Distorts and Decieves)

Prepare the brain so that when people see this they think “ew, bad”:

Web 2.0 Expo, Kathy Sierra 8

Hey… all this was just about getting people’s attention! We still need to get past the Suck Threshold.

Where are my users on the suck / kick ass curve? If your tool is easy to learn, can they spend a lifetime getting better at what they do with it?

Who do snowboarders go back the second day? The first is so awful! Because there is this picture in their mind of what it’ll be like to kick ass at it. People persevere because they have an idea in their head of what it will be to be really good at it. Another reason is that they see a path, a series of steps to getting there.

People stick at something that’s stuff because there is:

– compelling picture
– clear path
– easy first step

How easy depends on how much value they perceive they’ll get. Sometimes just giving an e-mail address is too big a step.

Who is describing this “compelling picture” for your users?

Why? Who cares? So what? If people are to learn something, they have to keep turning the pages of the book. We need to get past the brain’s crap filter when we’re explaining.

It’s an exercise:

– My tool does X
– So what?
– Well, if you can do X, then it means you can do Y
– And so what?
– etc…

(when you feel like killing the other for being so thick, you’re getting close t the meaningful stuff: “you’ll never have sex again”, “you’ll lose your job”)

Keep asking why.

Now, we need to get users to *learn*.

Learning increases resolution.

“RTFM” expresses how we feel about our users. If you want them to RTFM, make a better FM!

All the money goes to enticing, sexy, motivating, advertising brochures. And after… when it’s time to learn, nothing left.

**Learning Theory**

Facts — information — understanding. Need more understanding. We tend to teach too many facts. *steph-note: cutlery noise from outside coming in through open door is really annoying me*

The more they understand, the less they need to memorize.

Because a choice is asked, our brain starts doing more processing.

Smackdown Model: throw two equally compelling, strong, arguments at somebody, and the brain is forced to start processing.

Words + pictures > words. Even drawing a picture on a napkin and taking a photograph of it.

Look for “oh crap!” and “oh cool” moments.

*steph-note: tiring*

“just in time” is more effective than “just in case” learning. But be careful, you don’t want to always prevent them from scraping their knees.

Who can help you help your users learn? Where are the resources? *steph-note: other users!* Kathy: “community” 😉

However, nothing of that matters unless you manage to keep your users engaged.

*steph-note: break-time, good!*

Should read the book “Flow, The Psychology of Optimal Experience”.

Web 2.0 Expo, Kathy Sierra 10

What is it like to be in the flow state? You don’t really notice that time is passing. If you have lost time, either you were abducted by aliens, or you were in the flow state. You *just keep going*. For people to be in the flow state, a very delicate balance needs to be achieved:

– knowledge and skill
– challenge

Web 2.0 Expo, Kathy Sierra 11

What turns the brain on?

– discovery
– challenge
– narrative
– self-expression
– social framework
– cognitive arousal
– thrill
– sensation
– triumph
– accomplishment
– fantasy
– fun (?)

Fun does not have to mean funny.

What breaks flow state, state of enchantment? Think of the user as under a spell. Suddenly realising that they’re using this tool to achieve what they’re doing. (Oh, crap, where’s that button?)

Web 2.0 Expo, Kathy Sierra 12

Don’t make me think about the wrong thing. Just make me think about the interesting stuff. Make it hard to do the wrong thing, and easy and natural to do the right thing.

Techniques to make the flow state happen and remain there. How do we keep them coming back?

Nobody does this better than game developers. Video games! Always trying to get to the next level.

User experience Spiral:

Web 2.0 Expo, Kathy Sierra 13

Motivational milestones. Make sure the users know where they’re going.

Differences between girls and boys and video games:

– boys: getting to the next level is the aim
– girls: getting to the next level, but what for?

Are there any new superpowers that I’ll get at the next level? If done right, the payoff gets bigger for each level. Gives you a chance to paint the next compelling picture of what they’ll be able to do.

Web 2.0 Expo, Kathy Sierra 14

Levels have to be small at the start.

What are levels for web development?
Online communities?
Flickr users?

What are your level superpowers?

Frequent rewards. Lots of small benefits. User as *hero*. Who/what is the helpful sidekick/mentor? How will the hero be changed?

The Tribe…

e.g. 37 signals: “getting real” — so people who are into 37 signals products identify with this “getting real” attitude. Mac: “think different”.

Music video, shot just in living-room and shows what all the money that could have gone into making it could be used for in the third world:

What part of your product is (or could be) part of a user’s identity? (meaning)

Site where people photograph their iPod in various settings. People holding one company’s book in various locations.

So, how can your users show that they belong to the tribe?

If you want them to talk… give them something to talk about. LOTR stuff in calendar OSX (*steph-note: dig around that*).

e.g. on cover of one of Kathy’s series books, same girl as on [this site](http://www.vagisil.com/teencenter.shtml)– lots of talk!

Figuring things out (insider info) is social currency (whuffie). Everyone loves to be the one to tell you about… X.

Find interesting stories. Give users treats. Things that they can talk about. Give them social currency that they can use elsewhere. Legends, stories, people. Where there is passion, there are people.

Once you get to a certain level, people start trying to figure out who will play you in the movies 😉

founder/creation stories, user-as-hero stories? You don’t want to make it about you… people are passionate about *themselves*. First thing to look at: testimonials. They should be about how great these users are as a result of using the products. People want to see themselves reflected in the testimonials.(Not about the product of the founders.) The more first person language in reviews (about a book, eg.), the better. What’s important is if something good happened to the user, not what they think about you.

**Community**

– forums?
– study groups?

at the least, a blog with comments…

Javaranch registration terms of service: “Be nice”. Users have to agree to that. If people aren’t nice, how do you get them to answer and ask questions? How quickly can you make it possible for people to ask and answer questions?

No dumb questions. Don’t allow people to say “that’s already been answered 50 times”. It’s OK to ask a question again. Never shun somebody for asking a question.

But the most important factor is actually **no dumb answers**. Try to get people to convert to answerers as fast as possible. Information on “how to answer questions”. When people answer a question, make sure they feel encouraged because they’ve done it.

Tutorials on how to make tutorials.

**How to know you’ve got passionate users**

When people stop criticising you, but criticise your users. A bit unsettling, but that means you have passionate users. “Cult?” “Sheep?”

Then, give your users some sort of defensive weapon.

If you try to satisfy everybody, you delight and inspire nobody.

**Tips and trouble on the road to passionate users**

Levelled products (iMovie is free, FinalCut isn’t — so you start with iMovie thinking you’ll never need more, and at some point you’ll outgrow it; problem though: big gap between the two from a usability point of view). Good strategy, however.

“Dignity is Deadly”

Web 2.0 Expo, Kathy Sierra 15

Startup: individuals
Corporate: consensus

Apes become smarter as they work together. Humans become dumber as they work together. (“Wisdom of Crowds”)

We tend to think our ideas are amazing, but our users think they’re tolerable.

Web 2.0 Expo, Kathy Sierra 16

Listening to users: what they say is not what they want.

Web 2.0 Expo, Kathy Sierra 17

User priorities

Web 2.0 Expo, Kathy Sierra 18

When you ask them to prioritize, and when you ask them to also explain, you get very different results.

The greatest cause of user pain:

Web 2.0 Expo, Kathy Sierra 19

Making things better can in fact make them worse. If a simple thing is nice and flow-inducing… No need to improve it by adding tons of features.

Web 2.0 Expo, Kathy Sierra 20

Web 2.0 Expo, Kathy Sierra 21

The Secret…

It doesn’t matter what they think about you… (It’s not about you, and it’s not about what you do). All that matters is how they feel about *themselves* as a result of their interaction with you, your product, your company… *steph-note: thinking that Lush testimonials are spot-on, they really have passionate users and I’m one of them.*

**The user must have an “I rule!” experience.**

Web 2.0 Expo, Kathy Sierra 22

Remember: your users are real people.

*Thank you, Kathy. It was great to have a chance to see you.*

Web 2.0 Expo, Kathy Sierra 23

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FOWA: We've Got This Community: Now What? (Heather Champ & Derek Powazek) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

*Here are my live notes of this [Future of Web Apps (FOWA)](http://www.futureofwebapps.com/) session with [Heather Champ](http://hchamp.com) and [Derek Powazek](http://powazek.com/). They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. Chances are I’ll be adding links to extra material later on, so don’t hesitate to come back and check. See [Derek’s post about this](http://powazek.com/posts/717), and [Suw’s notes of this session](http://strange.corante.com/archives/2007/10/03/fowa07b_heather_champ_derek_powazek.php).*

FOWA 2007 7

Telling stories.

**Chelm Sweet Chelm**

Angels, trying to distribute something (?), and one of the sacks ripped and the contents spread out in the valley, and that valley became the town of Chelm (idiots). *steph-note: sorry, very confused, wasn’t concentrated.*

So, lots of stories around that. When you run a community site, you sometimes feel like you are living in Chelm. How can you make the most of your life in Chelm?

Heather and Derek are going to tell us some Chelm stories.

Derek will tell the first one, because it’s embarrassing to Heather’s employer.

Yahoo including **photos tagged “wii”** in a page. But you don’t really tell anybody about it. Users revolt: start tagging all sorts of things “wii”:

FOWA 2007 15

Heather: being the mothership, you’re always held to **higher standards** by your community. Do the right thing, *beyond* the legal requirements. Yahoo had the right to do this, but that didn’t make it “right”.

Derek: provide copious opt-outs.

FOWA 2007 17

Heather: last year, Flickr realised they were going to have to take the DB down (it was bad). So they decided to [turn it into a contest](http://flickr.com/photos/tags/flickrcolourcontest) instead of just displaying the “massage” message. Something like 2000 different entries. People responded really well. Gave away something like 16 Pro accounts instead of the 1 they had planned.

Derek: when you fucked up, say you fucked up. Confess. **You can earn a lot of credibility like that.** [When you suck](http://blog.flickr.com/2005/07/21/sometimes-we-suck/), own up.

FOWA 2007 18

Other example: FOWA sending out marketing e-mail to the “wrong list”, the ones who had opted out. “We screwed up!”

**Don’t keep score.** Here are the top… can be a really excellent way to motivate people when you’re playing a game. But with most web apps, it’s not about playing a game, it’s about sharing your photographs, telling stories… Use these scoreboards *when* you want to play a game. Otherwise it can actually work *against* your community.

Heather: Flickr interestingness. This is the only place in the Flickrverse where people are ranked. It was pretty bad when they launched (500 most…). It created aggravation and angst. Now it’s a randomly loaded page.

Derek: the goal of interestingness is to see some interesting photos. The error was showing them in a ranked order. “Hey, look how many photos are more interesting than mine!” Gaming behaviour can lead to a negative experience. (e.g. people trying to get to the front page of digg.)

Use scores where they make sense.

Heather: important to put an **editorial layer** on the “stuff”. “Contribute a photo of your day”: 20’000 people in the group, 7000 contributed photos, and 122 selected to be in the book. One way of bringing people to the forefront and rewarding them in a more collaborative way than just ranking.

Derek: producing print stuff is often seen as a money-maker. But actually, **providing physical real-life things is actually a great motivator to encourage people to participate in your online community**. JPEG Mag. Great photographers online, but never seeing anything in print. Getting published in the book was enough to get people motivated to participate in the virtual community.

Rip that band-aid (Heather): the [old skool merge](http://www.flickr.com/help/forum/32687/) thing. Flickr knew at some point they would have to migrate everyone to Yahoo IDs. Waited 18 months, and at some point… it’ll be in 6 weeks. Significant change that’s difficult for the community: don’t wait 18 months. 6 weeks is a good time. Discuss about it, answer people, but then do it, hold firm. **Sometimes you have to do things that are unpopular.** If Flickr hadn’t waited 18 months… would probably not have been that painful.

Derek: **community, manage thyself**. Give people the tools they need so that they can be the community manager for you. Build tools to support that. In Flickr: I manage comments for my own photos. It’s my spot, so I’m my own community manager. Heather: it allows people to establish the guidelines for themselves.

**Community expectations:** Heather loves lawyers. Pages and pages of terms of service. Expectations of what your role is to be in that community. Flickr didn’t have community guidelines when it began. At some point, they understood they needed a way to put those expectations in human-readable format. “Don’t be creepy. You know the guy. Don’t be that guy.” 4-5 bullet points. Doesn’t supercede the TOS, but helps make expectations understood. Understand that nobody reads those legalese TOS.

Derek: **don’t create supervillains**. We usually have sites with free membership. Anybody can create an account. First community moderation tool: “boot member”. But the booted member can come back, create another free account, but this time he’s pissed. Booting people creates supervillains. Come up with clever ways to minimize their damage, contact them directly, person-to-person. Design community so one person can’t make too much damage. E.g. one site, if you get on their “bad list”, the site just gets slower and slower for you. That’s clever!

Heather: members of your community are passionate. Passionately good, and passionately… passionate.

Derek: **know your audience**. Eg. Tahoe thing: create your own ad. But actually, all you could do was actually add some text. So they went wild, of course. Be careful how tiny the box is you put people in. Here it was tiny, people rebelled. You couldn’t do much. Constraints are good, but if there are too many, people rebel. Also, their site was available to everybody on the internet, not just Tahoe owners.

Last and most important lesson: **embrace the chaos**. When you create something where people have a voice, they’ll do something you don’t expect.

Heather: small company which had 4 computers stolen, one of the laptops had PhotoBooth set up to upload automatically to Flickr. Some dude with astounding tattoos unwittingly uploaded PhotoBooth photos to the company’s Flickr stream. “OMG, this could be the guy who got our computer!” To cut a long story short, this guy was “known to the police”, and his lawyer saw a piece about this in the local paper, and told him to turn himself in… which he did.

Ex: person who used geolocating photos to spell “fuck” over Greenland. Lots of hard work there!

Incorporate these things as you go forward.

Derek: pet profiles on Friendster, which they wiped out in a week-end! Created a business opening for Dogster/Catster. When people misuse your site, they’re telling you there’s something to do there. **Sometimes the misuse is the most valuable input you can get**.

Q: how do you deal with requirements from the mother company regarding the way you manage your community?

A (Heather): not much has “come down”. Often, the answer is education. Talk to people — lots of misguided “requirements” come from the fact they don’t really understand your community.

Derek: **design for selfishness**.

Q: How do you balance community with commerce?

A (Derek): fable that community and commerce have to be separate, but that’s wrong. We talk about “commerce” a lot with our friends (products, etc). JPEG: been very upfront about “what we’re doing with your work”, “what you get out of it”. Set expectations well in the beginning.

Heather: two kinds of Flickr accounts. Pro, you don’t see ads. Is it worth the money for user X? Running a community costs money. Somebody has to pay for it. “The web is free”: to a certain extent, but when it involves huge amounts of hardware, somebody has to pay for it.

Q: (?)

A (Heather): if you have a global community, you want to ensure that people can express themselves — but when it gets member-on-member, that makes her uncomfortable (abuse). “What’s acceptable in the community?” Have a “report abuse” link in the footer of every page of the site. If you come down too hard saying “you can’t say that”… Trout-slapping. Huge question. Some people join communities just to be trolls.

Derek: if something inappropriate is happening in a global forum, create a place where it’s appropriate, and send people there to discuss it, so the rest can get on with their lives.

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Satisfaction Looks Neat [en]

[fr] Un outil de "customer care" qui permet d'une part aux "clients" de s'entre-aider, et au personnel de participer à la conversation. Ça semble vraiment pas mal! Quelques petits problèmes après 20 minutes d'utilisation.

I read about [Satisfaction](http://getsatisfaction.com/) yesterday somewhere and saw it again today [in Brian Oberkirch’s blog](http://www.brianoberkirch.com/2007/09/13/beyond-trouble-tickets-can-satisfaction-make-customer-service-fun/). I went to [sign up](http://getsatisfaction.com/people/new) and [give it a quick toss around](http://getsatisfaction.com/people/e217220ab7592d9724e9137d6d35aeae376f9ee4/). Here are the first screenshots.

The nice thing is that as this is a support tool, I used it to [record the problems I bumped in](http://getsatisfaction.com/satisfaction) too.

Satisfaction: submitting a problem_idea_question_chat

I think it’s a pretty neat tool and I’m going to use it in future when I bump into problems, in addition to [posting them to Flickr with Skitch](http://flickr.com/photos/bunny/tags/skitch). It’s community-based support, but with an option for company employees to participate with a “label” that identifies them as staff.

The first thing that annoyed me was that I had trouble finding where to change my profile photo. I clicked on “Account” and expected to find something there, but in fact it’s under “Dashboard”.

Satisfaction -- change image

Here is [the topic I created about this problem](http://getsatisfaction.com/satisfaction/topics/account_details_place_confusing).

Next issue, a rather important workflow/design flaw:

Recently active topics in Satisfaction Unlimited about Satisfaction Beta Release

I was a bit wordy in [explaining it](http://getsatisfaction.com/satisfaction/topics/submission_workflow_breaks) (early Sunday morning here), but I hope this makes sense:

> Ideally, when fill in the first “chatbox”, I’m going to want to check out the links before saying “not quite right, want to add details and submit”.

> Unfortunately, once I’ve done that, it seems I can’t come back to the page with the link inviting me to “add details and submit”.

> That doesn’t encourage me to click the links and check out first! It encourages me to go straight to “add details and submit”.

> So, if those links are really expected to be useful, encourage me to click on them by providing the “add details and submit” form on them too.

Last but not least:

Get Satisfaction: two gripes

1. If you’re telling me that I’m set to receive e-mail updates, that’s really nice of you — but it would be even nicer to give me a link to where to change it.
2. Please, please, please. [Space-separated tags](http://getsatisfaction.com/satisfaction/topics/i_only_just_discovered_that_you_support_commas_in_your_tags). At least support them. I’ve talked about this [elsewhere](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/09/22/wordpress-finally-has-tags/) (and before, too, but I can’t remember when or where). It breaks the current input model we’re used to (del.icio.us, Flickr…). It makes us type an extra character.

Go try out Satisfaction!

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