Christopher Poole
4chan founder
  • Founded in 2003 as an image sharing site for sharing japanese anime
    • 12M people visit the site monthly
    • all organic growth
  • /b/ is the dark beating heart of the internet
    • new internet memes are born from this board
    • there are about 15,000 people browsing the index page for random all day, just looking for what is coming up
  • 4chan is anonymous, no registration
    • no structural barriers to prevent you from contribution
  • there is no archive
    • posts created on the random board fall off in minutes
    • it’s survival of the fittest: what manages to stay on the board is what survives, and the other stuff falls of
  • the community is very dynamic: people coming and coming, it’s not the same 12M every month
  • see threads change as the day goes by and different time zones: here are the americans, the japanese, the europeans as the day goes by
  • many different parts of site from origami to anime to the adult stuff. (don’t go clicking around if you don’t know what you are clicking on.)
  • Starting thinking last year: what could we be doing better?
    • the message board hasn’t really changed in the last 10 years.
    • the form, functionality, and asthetic, it’s all the same
    • If you look at where it came from usenet, bbs… it’s all the same.
  • 4chan is special in that people come together and collaborate en mass.
    • the way content is created: many participates coming together, being squeezed together in one space.
    • the product is a meme.
    • the process itself is fascinating to watch how it unfolds.
  • 4 things i’ve learned from 4chan
    • fluid identity: 
      • after TED last year, August Hill came up to him and said he liked that people could chat anonymously. 
      • there’s a loss of the innocence of youth if your identify is tracked across the internet. you get stuck in who you are. the cost of failure is very high when you are contributing as yourself. the mistakes are attributed with who you are.
      • when you have the ability to choose to be identified, to be able to experiment, to poke and prod, then 
      • Mark Zuckerboard equates anonymity with a lack of authenticity. But in reality, it’s the exact opposite: you can more fully be exactly yourself without the concern of people’s opinion.
    • people are all judged the same way: by what their contribution is.
      • when you have identity, then you start to judge by their reputation. “oh this is from so and so, and therefore it must be good.”
    • recaptcha
      • we added recaptcha a few years ago to deal with spam
      • users hated this
      • up until this point there had been no structural barriers
      • people made the best of the situation: they started to make captcha art, saving really funny captcha
    • in the beginning the internet was like a letterpress. you could only contribute text.
      • now it’s more malleabe: you can draw something, push it up, someone else can download it, then draw on up, push it back up.
      • pictochart as an example
      • people are now using pictochat to do animations
    • refrigerator magnet game
      • it’s been around for 10 or more years
      • when describing 4chan, for years he had been saying that the content is fleeting. but realized that actually about 90% of the content was reposted.
      • but what is special, fleeting is the experience: the experience of using it at 9pm on a Sunday night will never be recaptured.
      • it’s like going to a drive-in movie: there’s something special about the shared experience.
      • the refrigerator magnet game…
        • allows you to drag to magnets around
        • some people spell their name
        • some people swear
        • hoard the letters
        • steal away the letter at the last minute
      • 4chan is place where people go to hang out
        • sometimes people forget how important it is to have a place and a community to hang out with
    • canvas
      • people had described it as 4chan 2.0. that’s not it at all.
      • it’s a great site to build, share, create, and hang out – based on the lessons of 8 years of 4chan
      • we started using facebook connect
        • people were asking “how can the 4chan people be using facebook connect?”
        • we were sort of forced to.
        • we don’t disclose any information, we still allow people to post anonymously, but because the user knows that we know, it’s filters out some of the worst behavior.
      • HTML5 canvas editor
        • reduce the amount of steps and friction for someone to take an image and edit it.
          • eliminate the download, save, edit in photoshop, upload.
        • It’s leveled the playing field by giving people a common set of tools.
          • by comparison, in an photoshop community, if you came with an MS Paint image, you’d be laughed out of the community.
      • certain threads are really popular: they start with an image seed, which then gets edited into a bunch of somethings by other people.
      • almost everyone who joins the site goes in and plays with the image editing tools at some point.
        • this was surprising, as they thought that only a small part of the community would use artistic tools.
    • in canvas, like all other communities, a small percentage of users create all the content. 
      • they wanted to create a new middle ground
      • they made stickers which could be dragged and put onto other posts.
      • 100,000 stickers placed in a few weeks
    • they wanted to design a product at the intersection of chat and commenting.
      • chat: synchronous but fleeting
      • commenting: asynchronous but lasting
      • reading a chat log is not interesting. chat is just not lasting.
      • it’s like improv comedy: it’s really fun to be in the audience, be live, and feel the tension. it’s not the same watching taped improv.
      • they started it to be very chatty, but then slide back over to commenting.
    • 4chan was not an overnight success. it’s been a slow steady build over 8 years. there was no hockey stick.
      • you want the core community to form over time.
      • with canvas, concern about the culture growing: if we let 10,000 people into the site tomorrow, it would destroy the fragile culture that is developing.
      • people focus on scaling – as an architecture problem. the real problem is not scaling, it’s building a community worth scaling.
    • sign up using link: canv.as/sxsw

I was fortunate enough to see Jason Glaspey give his “Build Something, Build Anything” talk, and although I’ve previously published the notes from his talk, I took some fresh notes again today.

Jason Glaspey
Build Something Build Anything
Why you should work on side projects
@jasonglaspey
  • Works at Urban Airship: platform for mobile apps
  • Always working on little side projects and jobs
    • Massive impact on career
  • People see the Internet differently
    • having lunch with someone: realized they had an entirely different perspective of what the Internet is: the internet is good for directions and screwing off, and that’s about it.
    • Jason was frustrated for days trying to articulate why he felt differently, and finally what he concluded was: the internet was a source of hope
    • People should just believe that anything is possible. 
      • She wasn’t different because of the Internet, just more efficient and faster.
      • Don’t let people like that be the ones to define what to build on the web
    • Knowing what we do is different than the way it used to be. It’s not just about convenience, but it’s about making a difference.
  • Clay Shirkey: 2008 Web 2.0 Expo
    • Introduces the term cognitive surplus
    • Check out the video of his presentation.
    • Going back to the industrial revolution, people were living differently for the first time. People were moving into the city. There wasn’t theatre or arts or things to use up people’s time. They were intrinsically uncomfortable. People would roll gin carts up and down the streets, people would get drunk until they had to go to work the next day.
    • It was only after a while that people learned how to use free time: that they could create art, go to cafes, etc.
    • There was another similar revolution in the fifties with the introduction of the 40 hour work week. People didn’t know what to do with all this time they had in the evening. Sitcoms sprung up to occupy people’s time from 7pm to 10pm.
    • Then came Wikipedia. Where did all the time come from to build Wikipedia?
      • Doing some calculations, he found that in 2008, about 100M hours of effort went into building wikipedia.
      • Americans spend 100M hours watching commercials every weekend.
    • People are starting to turn off the TV and build something instead.
  • Some examples
    • Again and Again: Song by a group called the birds and the bees.
      • they didn’t have a video out.
      • Dennis Liu was a 23 year old college grad trying to become a full-time director/creative. He was a producer at an ad agency, and wanted to produce an Apple commercial. On his own, he build a commercial / music video showcasing Apple technology, set to the song Again and Again. It was a huge success: accomplishing both a music video and an apple commercial.
      • It took him from being a guy working in the accounts department, somewhat stuck, to a really successful promotion at a new company, getting to work on more creative projects.
    • What is Google Wave: By Epipheo Studios
      • Put a video together explaining what Google wave is. Made a super simple video using basic line animations. He was funny and himself. 
      • The thing he did was to solve a problem: everyone trying to understand what Google wave was.
      • He was hired by Google to build more videos. He built a company out of it, now they have a 15 person company.
      • All he was hoping for was an invitation to Google Wave, and what he got out of it was a 15 person company and contracts with Google
    • iPod Touch by Nick Haley
      • 18 year old London kid made a video for the iPod Touch, because he thought it was the coolest thing, and there were no ads for the iPod Touch. He loved his product, and he has lots of time.
      • Apple heard about the video, and loved it. They flew him out to California, to have a Pro version made. (Essentially the same exact video.)
      • Here’s a guy who doesn’t have a marketing team or a PR agency, just had the tools to create and share something cool.
    • unthirsty
      • we’re broke, we’re thirsty, we need to find a happy hour…
      • they put it on the web, and soon other people started adding happy hours to it.
      • they hired a couple of designers, and did 3 or 4 revisions of the site over a few years.
      • there are thousands of happy hours listed.
      • it was wonderful to see it take off.
      • what is success?
        • They sold it, not for a ton of money, but something.
        • but huge cultural, community success: invited to conferences, meet people, get hugs on the street, get invited to interviews.
        • Got hired by an interactive shop based solely on the reputation of having done unthirsty.
        • At the point prior to this, doing a bunch of lame websites, and afterwards getting to do high profile stuff.
    • Jason on Cars
      • Would get to drive high performance cars once a week as part of his job.
      • Put up a wordpress blog on his experiences driving the exotic cars. 
      • After he left his job at the magazine, he asked the car folks if he could keep getting the cars so he could blog about it.
      • The car folks shrugged their shoulders, checked the blog, and then said yes.
      • For two years he got a new exotic car each week. On Thursday a guy would show up in his office with a new car key, and take away the old car. He’d write a 300-400 blog post, and that was it.
      • He gets a few hundred bucks a month in advertising, and a new exotic car every week.
    • Bacn.com:
      • An experiment in “can we build a company in three weeks?”
      • “Why not, let’s build something.”
      • They had full-time jobs, but they were bored. They wanted something fun to do.
      • So they started the business, launched the store, acquired bacon, etc. All in three weeks. Just for fun.
      • They got invited to write a book: From idea to Web Start-Up in 21 Days: Creating bacn.com. Now he has a book on Amazon.com.
      • Sold the site to a competitor.
      • “Oh, you’re the guy who sold bacon.” –> much more valuable than “oh, I could build that for you.”
        • It’s a more interesting story, a more convincing story.
        • It’s not just a story of you following orders, it’s a story about you doing things because you care about it.
    • Paleo Plan: Launched in 3 weeks
      • Threw up WordPress, spent $100 in adwords, to find out whether people would pay for it or not.
      • Now it’s a $9.99 subscription service. He hired programmers, he hired a paleo dietist.
      • Not much traffic initially. But did a redesign, continued working on it, and by March it was making more money than anything else he had every done. 
      • Now he spends an hour a week, and makes a great second income.
    • Lots of failures, we don’t need to talk about.
      • laptopia
      • to smoke a cigar
      • snotips
      • revolution cyclewear
      • on and on…
  • The point is to keep trying.
    • All of them had some success.
    • Some of them were really small successes: e.g. learning “don’t sell t-shirts online”
    • Don’t work on something that absolutely, positively has to be up. You’ll never get to take a vacation.
    • Just keep trying.
  • You don’t have to broadcast your failures
    • Make them count
    • Get there fast
  • Other successes in Portland
    • Mugasha
    • 30-hour day: raised a bunch of money for some charities.
    • Sunago – Scott Andreas: always had two full time jobs, and doing fun stuff on the weekend. 
    • PDXBoom: crowd sourced map of sound: put a pin on a Google map with the intensity of the sound. Was able to find a pipe bomb that had been set off in a park, based on the loudness clustering on the map.
    • Avatari: Sam Grover
    • @ was wrong: Michael Richardson
  • The tools are free. It’s fun. Let’s do something to get excited.
  • Questions to Ask Yourself
    • Is this for art?
      • Are you using for an outlet to be creative?
    • Is this for money?
      • Are you trying to make money?
    • Don’t confuse the two: art and money. You can’t do both. Let your outlets be your outlets.
    • Is this for your career?
      • Will do this help build your skills or reputation?
    • What does success look like?
  • Talk to everyone. Week out bad ideas early.
    • Jason focuses on low risk ideas: a few hundred bucks and a weekend.
  • Ways to get started
    • Partner with someone.
    • Expect this won’t work. Expect you’ll be trying something else soon. Build!
    • Test (with Adwords) and prove a model
    • Start with a simple prototype.
    • Don’t worry if you haven’t figured it out right away.
    • You can adjust as necessar once you get going.
    • Publish a work, tell people. Publish again.
    • Don’t take yourself too seriously. This should be fun.
  • USE THESE:
    • WordPress
    • Cheap cameras and flip cams
    • Simple audio/video tools
    • Twitter
    • Facebook
  • How?
    • Building 50 cups.
    • There was a pottery class. The instructor split the group into two parts. He told the first group that they would be judged entirely on the quality of one piece. he told the second group that they would be judged entirely on the quantity of output. If they made 50 bowls, they would get an A.
      • The first group labored over making a bowl. They were so petrified of screwing it up, they made lousy bowls.
      • The second group made so many bowls, so many flopped, and they learned from their successes, and in the end they produced the best bowls.
    • You don’t want to be the person who almost launched that one website.
  • Questions
    • Q: How do you get traffic to your site?
      • It varies: for Paleo, I use Adwords. the money i spend brings in more money, it’s a profit. For unthirsty, we got great organic search results: no one else has a blog post on “Vancouver Chiles Happy Hour”.
    • Q: How is it different for things that deliver a social value?
      • Paleo has a huge community: they are people who have decided to be healthy in a particular way. They’re friends think they are crazy, so they get a lot of value from the community. on the other, it’s harder to form a community around unthirsty, because there’s no social value to bring a drunk.
      • Are you catering to someone’s identity, and can you strengthen that by catering to it?
    • Q: You mentioned that your T-shirt thing didn’t work. Maybe we’re in the same place. Did you have any idea on what you would have wanted to do if you wanted to make it work?
      • The barrier to entry is so low to that market. Anyone can make, market, and sell it. So you have to find a novel way to sell it. There’s a white underwear, white sock, and white undershirt subscription service. It’s totally plain. But it’s sold in a novel way: you need these things replenished on a regular basis.
      • What about doing that for ink sales? Shouldn’t they just come to your office, house based on what you use?
      • Threadless shows customers wearing their t-shirts. That’s how they advertise. Is there some way to do that for printers? To tie in to the community of customers?
    • Q: something about advertising.
      • If I am selling something, like bacn or paleo plan, then there’s no advertising.
      • But for giving away information, then i do advertising.
      • People don’t want to see advertising for things they pay for.
      • Subscriptions are great because the money keeps coming in. Beats advertising. People just stay subscribed, even if they stop using the service.
      • Every person should get great customer experience, because they have friends.

Erin Malone
Designing Social Experiences
@emalone
founder of Yahoo Pattern Library
partner at tangile ux 
author of Designing Social Interfaces
email: at tangible-ux.com
  • Engaging and Onboarding
    • flow: to move or run smoothly with unbroken continuity / to exhibit a smooth or graceful continuity.
    • The New User Spiral: 
pastedGraphic.pdf
    • Email example: solicitation to sign up for service
      • Good: uses friend’s real name in from. Bad: uses company name – perceived as spam.
      • Good: uses full name in subject line. Bad: use only first name. erin who?
      • Good: uses photo in email, reinforces that it is actually from someone they know. sign up success is much higher with phot.
      • Good: Action button is large and obvious. The call to action is clear.
    • Full of Life
      • Twitter is good because it shows pictures of the active people, and top tweets, even if you are not signed in. It shows that the site is alive, not a ghost site.
    • Research at Yahoo showed that best landing page design should have
      • a large feature block on 2/3rds left side, and main call to action as a large button on the right 1/3rd side, with secondary actions below primary action and more pushed back. (e.g. flat buttons, rather than big web 2.0 button)
      • another big call to action button below the fold.
      • Examples of this include:
    • Sign up / registration
      • Example is http://knx.to
        • No creating an account – uses existing social networks
        • State that they don’t store personal information
      • Have fun: “Enter your DJ name” instead of boring “username”
      • Use Facebook Connect or Twitter API
    • Onboarding
      • Tumblr example: “To get started, why don’t you try uploading a photo you took recently or just add a text update about what you did today.”
        • Full set of options are below. But the introductory text ensures they won’t get overwhelmed.
      • Togetherville: Prompts parent to send Hello message to child. They don’t even have to type anything. The message benefits both parent (who sends something) and child (who receives something).
      • Blip.fm: uses some informal handwriting overlays to show people what to enter where: “type in the name of a song you’d like to hear”. 
      • These introductory messages should go away after 2 or 3 times.
    • Re-engagement
      • Send an email when you add new features or content on the site.
      • TripIt uses peer pressure to show what the rest of your network is doing, which may inspire you to share what you are doing, or to actually do things.
    • Care and feeding of the passionate
      • Featuring what people do on the homepage: shows that not only do their friends see what they do, but the system sees it and values it. Even if people don’t say it outright, they want to be recognized as an expert.
        • At least show the potential that it can happen.
      • Always show something new each time: question / quiz of the day.
      • Badges, points, and stats:
        • Foursquare uses all of the above. Mayorships, badges, and points, plus publishing the stats.
    • Share and share alike
      • You want more people, you want people to bring in their friends.
      • Some patterns, mostly from Christina Wotkle
      • B=f(P,E)
        • Behavior is a function of a Person and their Environment
        • e.g. reputation / points will create competition. whereas labels like “funny”, don’t create competition, just sharing.
      • At Hand: Make the tools for viral sharing be very easy, and obvious.
        • Hulu makes the controls for share and embeding puts the controls right at hand on the borders of the video.
        • YouTube puts the controls right below – within eyesight of the screen.
      • Frictionless
        • Make sure the defaults make sharing easy. Default sharing on flickr is public. (but easy to make it private.) Flickr grew really fast by going against conventional wisdom that picture sharing was private among friends.
      • Email vs. Network
        • What is the default sharing? Email goes to a single person, or multiple people typed in. To the network can go to 200 people with no effort.
      • Connectedness
        • The more connected people are, the more active they will be. Becomes virtuous cycle, because more active people will invite more friends.
        • Make recommendations (facebook connect)
        • Lety users walk other people’s networks to find people they know
      • Password Anti-Pattern: Don’t Use It!
        • Startups frequently are faced with cold-start issue. They say “give us your name and password and we’ll scrap other sites”, e.g. gmail, yahoo, linked in.
        • But that trains people to give away their login information. That’s bad.
  • Bridging Real Life
    • user and activities flows across real world and online world
    • online tools -> real world gatherings -> artifacts from real world -> conversations / pics / data -> online tools
    • Meetup / Evites type sites
      • Need a dashboard of activity, gives people something to come back to and use.
      • Encourage membership: meetup makes you join a group to get all the details. That gate determines interest, and that interest feeds the dashboard.
      • Show friend activity: their taste in music, their events, etc.
    • Travel Sites or Hiking Sites
      • Allow people to put together their top ten hikes, or best vacation package, and share: like lists on Amazon.
    • Foodspotting: food scavenger hunt encourages people to participate in visiting restaurants and sharing experiences.
    • Meetup has second view of event after it happened: add comments, photos. Shows up again in dashboard with stuff added.
    • Upcoming will pull in photos from flickr uploaded with correct tag.
  • Questions
    • Q: Do you have any good resources for dealing with ethics and privacy?
      • A: Check out the EFF – Electronic Frontier Foundation. Also covered in her book Designing Social Interfaces. Copyright of content is an important consideration.
    • Q: How can you pull together pieces from other sites with some kind of flow (we can’t afford to build it all ourselves)
      • A: Look at each individual piece, and see what it has: if you have a blog, is there a way to alert people to new content on that blog? Is there an email that goes out, and what does that email look like? If you can share, what are the defaults around who it is shared with?
    • Q: We have a bunch of introverted scientists who aren’t very social. How can we entice them to participate?
      • A: Look at what are they doing now? Are they having conversations in email? Is there something you can do that is very simple: e.g. move the conversation from email to basecamp, where the history of the conversation can be maintained, but they can still get emails. … Look at what they are already doing, and see if there is a more social interface to support that behavior.
      • Q ongoing: scientists don’t want to give an offhand comment in public because they don’t want to have a record of being wrong, which can afford tenure, and other things like that.
    • Q: Registration is a barrier to participation. registration/comment spam is high. Captcha don’t work well. How can we solve this problem?
      • A: No good answer… stuck with Captcha. People are working on it, but no good answer.
    • Q: Any recommendations on how to get more user data after registration?
      • A: Work it into your site contextually and gradually. e.g. give them value for what they give you. If you can give them value with their zip code, then they’ll give you their zip code.
    • Q: Have you seen evidence where engagement increases when people can control what information they have on screen? (e.g. more customization, personalization)
      • A: You have to design for your demographic, and one size doesn’t fit all. Attuning your interface to the type of people you are seeking is good. It can be hard to have an interface that attunes to someone without knowing who they are. Lightweight interface techniques like collapsing stuff and making stuff go away, that makes sense. 

What We Learned Watching Kids with Homemade Flamethrowers
#homemadeflamethrowers
#flamethrowr
Mega secret homemade flamethrower music video on YouTube
Hwang (founder ROFLCon, @timhwang, tim at timhwang.com, brosephstalin.com)
Jacobs (@underwaterpeeps, sawyer at underwaterpeoples.com, underwaterpeoples.com)
  • Micro-genres: bodies of content that are specific yet enormous – they just haven’t been seen by anyone
    • A cluster of related work, the majority of which receives less than 50,000 views
      • Examples: slap the bag (drink an entire bag of wine, then slap the bag), dance the whip (2,850 videos), fire in the hole (10,000 videos), kids doing drugs (13,700 of salvia alone)
  • Flamethrowers (1,500 videos: 25.2 hours of video)
    • Kids are building stuff to shoot flames onto other stuff
    • Mostly kids, mostly amateur — yet the flamerthrowers get huge. Enormous flames.
    • Outside in the backyard, outside on the patio, in a forest, indoors, out the window of a car
    • Team Bonesaw: lighting a cigarette with a flamethrower
    • We’re not seeing a community here (because the same questions get asked over and over again)… just a lot of independent interactions.
  • So What?
    • the flamethrower example is the dark matter of youtube. 
    • 100,000,000 videos on youtube
    • what is actually going on inside the long tail of content? Who really looks at it?
    • micro-genres are the primordial soup of internet culture
    • ambient, historical archive on our time: continually capturing ourselves in a very genuine, amateur way for the foreseeable future. 
      • How valuable would it have been for researchers to have ambient, historical archive of videos of human behavior for the last 200 years?
    • And yet… Under Threat
  • What’s the threat?
    • Who pours the money into support platforms like YouTube?
      • The Platforms themselves. They provide the supply space for micro-genres.
      • Brands and Businesses: they use the platforms to spread their message. This is the demand element that supports the aggregators.
    • Platforms
      • We’re increasingly surrounded by devices to capture, collect, and put online data. It’s easier to transfer it, can be done at a higher rate (2G -> 3G -> 4G). This is causing an exponential growth in content
      • The monetizable content is growing an a linear rate, while all the rest of the content is growing at an exponential rate.
      • It takes a lot of resources and time to generate the monetizable content. It’s easier and easier to get the other content.
    • Brands and Business
      • Internet Celebrities
      • brands and businesses are moving into this long tail content
    • Enter the micro-genre
      • Some of it just can’t be monetized. Some is dangerous (no one wants to sponsor flamethrowers), or illegal (same for drugs), and some of it is just nothing (kids hanging out and eating McDonalds)
      • The stuff that is most culturally interested is the hardest to monetize.
    • But is there a limit?
      • Brands and businesses can sponsor down to a certain point. But somewhere there is a hard stop.
      • And the cost keeps rising.
      • There’s no love for the micro-genre. Business doesn’t sponsor based on cultural value.
    • There are potentially profitable content, and non-profitable material
      • The two live together now in places like YouTube
      • The non-profitable side is going to grow much faster
      • At a certain side, the profitable side is going to stop subsidizing the non-profitable at a certain size
      • We will lose the historical archive, the social enhancement, the primordial soup of internet culture
    • We’ll end up with something like TV
      • The profitable realm will dominate
    • Making This Stuff Culturally Sustainable
      • What is least valuable in the business realm has the most value in the cultural realm
      • So if we’re concerned about depending that space, about keeping that value, we have to do something
    • But what?
      • Create “Flamethrower Studies” – convert from a cultural curiosity to cultural study
      • Infrastructure – create infrastructure specific to it
      • Cultural Sustainability – make the case for the value so that business will accept the additional cost
      • Conservation – users of the web, as users, can make efforts to direct the web where they want it to go, influence for conservation of the resources they care about.
  • Questions
    • What about the questionable nature of the content? Don’t videos about doing drugs promote drugs?
      • The costs of going through and deciding what fits and what doesn’t fit, exceeds the costs of not allowing this content.
      • The cultural value of the open medium exceeds the cultural value of filtering out some content
    • Do we need to retain everything? Is that just an assumption from our imperial past? We need to retain every species, we need to retain every video of eating mcdonalds? Isn’t some of this just useless stuff we should just let it die?
      • It’s an over statement to say that web would die if this content goes away… It’s hard to quantify the value of any one item going away. (Will: it’s especially hard to know the future value.)
      • Sometimes the value is the community that forms: the red headed kid who made a video about being persecuted because of being a redhead, but then he found a community of supporters through followers.
    • What are the specific threats out there? net neutrality? FCC?
      • Specific case recently… chatroulette… mass media said that it was the worst thing ever, full of perverts and predators. We did some studies… Only about 8% had explicit content, which compared to the internet as a whole is really not very much at all.
    • Are there really significant marginal costs to supply and distribution? Is there any evidence to support this?
      • It’s difficult to collect data on it. (Will: no evidence)
      • The real issue may be the human bandwidth to process it… how much is coming in versus how much we process it.
    • As a teenager who did these activities, even without the internet, we still had these kinds of pranks… they just spread person to person. “How did you make that flamethrower?”
      • The main value of these videos is not that they propagate the activity, it’s that they are a snapshot in time of human behavior.
      • These things just happen… at a certain age you want to blow things up. The value is that you can capture. To compile the 25.2 hours of flamethrower video in VHS would take some serious curation. To do the same on YouTube is trivial. 
    • Any thoughts on the future of the infrastructure?
      • Holden camera has a huge community around it, even though it is a weirdly defective product. When you search on Google, you want to get the one thing you want.
      • There are good products that always do you want, bad products that never do what you want, and weird products that sometimes do what you want. 
      • If there was a random way for people to occasional be exposed to flamethrower videos, this might be useful. (Will: And this is what Rebecca Blood has been saying for years… http://www.rebeccablood.net. It’s the newspaper reading experience. You are exposed to articles you didn’t know you were interested in.)
    • Businesses always want niches. Someday “Bob’s Burn Cream” will find out about these flamethrower videos and want to advertise on them.
      • At a certain point, once the behavior is more accepted, then the advertising might be more OK. Things that are Taboo may become less taboo.
      • Why not have some disgusting snack food sponsor videos of kids getting stoned.
      • But at a certain point, do the costs of going even further niche with advertising outweight the benefit you can get. How many niches can McDonalds support or target with advertising?

Sorry, I got there about 30 minutes late, and so I have only partial notes for this session.

Andrew McAfee
What Corporate America Thinks about Enterprise 2.0
#corpamericathink
  • How to talk to your bosses about technology
    • Use before and after comparisons instead of demos
      • example: search using MIT’s internal search, versus Google search
        • when i want to find the MIT search site, I use Google
        • “strength weak ties”
        • “granovetter weak ties”
        • 49 search results from MIT research, but not one was the right one
        • use Google Scholar
          • granovetter weak ties
          • first result: the right paper, can download the full text, the list of citations, etc.
      • google scholar put together in someone’s spare time over a few months
    • Present theories and frameworks, not jargon
      • grounded in bullet-proof previous work
      • example: a knowledge worker’s view of the enterprise
        • concentric circles
          • none -> potential -> weak -> strong ties
        • then explain how facebook helps build, strengthen, manage the weak ties
    • Present data, case studies, narratives
      • Not about Google, Amazon, etc.
      • “I make dog food for a living, literally, my company is 60 years old, not 10, college students aren’t running to work here, I’m not Google”
      • Examples:
        • Internal Uses Case Study
          • Access to Knowledge (68% report 30% improvement)
        • “We can’t do it because we have security concerns” –> Really, because the CIA is doing it, and they have some serious security
        • “If only HP knew what HP knows, we would be three times more productive” – Lew Platt, Former Hewlett-Packard CEO
    • Activate Peer effects
    • Anticipate and allay concerns
      • don’t wait for the questions, and don’t appear to be some dewy-eyed technologist. 
    • Show that you understand their problems is very important
    • Don’t treat business colleagues like geeks, or dopes
      • Very few are geeks
      • None like to be talked down to
      • Don’t talk to them like they are part of the problem
  • 2.0 Adoption Council – http://www.20adoptioncouncil.com 
    • Helps people get 2.0 stuff adopted inside corporate organizations
  • Questions
    • How does Enterprise 2.0 related to new leadership inside organizations?
      • The job of a leader is to find the spark of genius inside an organization — Nelson Mandela
      • So many times I have found people inside an organization saying “Yes, I have that data you’re looking for, no one here is interested in”. 
      • The technology toolkit to find these sparks of genius has gone from zero to 60 in just a few years
    • Age demographics of workers
      • The default mode of working has switched from working in private to working in public — at a certain age group
      • It’s a really important shift, and many older knowledge workers have a had time adapting to that.
      • “The world can benefit from some of our point-to-point interactions if they are done in public.” — some undergrads explained to McAfee
      • “Why would I wait until my work is done to share it? Then it is too late to get any help.”
    • Forward thinking executives now understand customer service has shifted, the expectations have shifted. The corporation is no longer driving the customer message.
      • it takes time
      • a technology revolution does not immediately create an organizational revolution
      • the organization needs to get the message from the top. if they think it is just another flavor of the month, then they’ll wait it
    • what about organizations in the public sector: governments, academia, etc. seem slow to adopt.
      • there are more similarities than differences, but one key thing is that business is in competition, and if they don’t keep up, they will fail. government doesn’t have that pressure. 
    • what about the cluetrain manifesto
      • it is very focused on the marketing communication…how to deal with current and prospective customers
      • the marketshare of old things versus new things is shifting, but not as apocalyptic as they described
    • tried to implement yammer in organization, and it failed miserably. now i am afraid to try anything else.
      • if you are a believer, try to address a different part of the organization or a different need.

Thanks to archive.org, I was able to find this seven year old blog post of mine. I had just attended the Planetwork conference in San Francisco, a combination social media – social responsibility conference.

In my blog post from June of 2003, I found this gem:

I signed up for LinkedIn, another hot topic at the conference. LinkedIn, like Friendly Favors is a social networking site, that allows us to utilize the relationships we already have. For example, let’s say that you know I know Peter Theony, author of TWiki. And you would like to make a proposal to Peter, but you also want to make sure he’ll give it due consideration. So you ask me to give you an introduction to Peter, or to forward your proposal to him, and putting in a good word for you. Well, this is exactly what LinkedIn does, except that it does it automatically, and allows us to utilize relationships that you don’t know about (like my unusual connection to Weekly World News). Conference reports suggest they are about four weeks into a viral explosion.

It’s funny to consider that we really had to explain what it was, or people just didn’t get it.

I also wrote:

I met Rebecca Blood, author of The Weblog Handbook. We had an interesting conversation on the social effects of macroeconomics (amazing what you can talk about as an MBA student). We also talked about my WikiAdoption experiences at HP. 

That chance conversation led to a panel presentation on wikis at SXSW in 2004.

Tac Anderson put together a nice article about the history of social media, starting with its beginnings in the Cluetrain Manifesto:

At first there was no terminology to describe what was happening. One of the earliest attempts to put a voice to this, The Cluetrain Manifesto,  tried to explain the shift, years before the bubble popped, by pointing out that markets had become conversations. Companies could no longer push messaging at customers and expect them to act like sheep. 

Check out the full article.

In the technical support documentation space I’ve been recommending wikis as a way to enhance collaboration on support documentation as an alternative model to the traditional approach of having a small cadre of technical writers and experts using a traditional content management tool to publish documents to the way.

While I’m an advocate of opening up the wiki to customer input, there are levels of collaboration that may make it easier for companies to get their feet wet without going so far as to open it up to customer input. The wiki could be used, for example, to allow input from other employees across the company, from R&D engineers to call support agents.
However, whenever I propose this, the established parties usually say “Why don’t we just fix the content management process we have?” or “If all we want to do is collaborate inside the company, we can use the content management tools we have for that.”
Wikis aren’t just another content management tool however. Wikis embody design principles that encourage contributions. When Digg was first implemented, the earliest versions had a two-step process to submit a digg vote. Kevin Rose, founder of Digg, spoke about the impact that moving from a two-step to one-step process had on the site:

There was a huge shift in activity on Digg when we made the move to the one-click digg in November 2005. Once we added Ajax, activity went through the roof on [the number of] diggs. It was just insane. Just the ease of the “one-click and you’re done” made all the difference in the world. Once the users grasped that the content is syndicated to friends, friends’ activities then went through the roof. These small incremental steps in feature additions drove the growth.

The more direct and lightweight the process is for contributing, the greater the number of contributors. And it’s not just pure volume of contributors: a simple contribution at first can then lead a user from passive recipient to enthused contributor. The editors at Wikipedia that devote much of their lives to upholding the quality of Wikipedia all started their involvement with a single, simple contribution at some point in time.

Wikis are perhaps the purest embodiment of the design principles of directness and lightweight processes. Every page has an edit button, so contributions are never more than a click away. The act of adding a few words to a document t is rarely more than clicking edit, inserting those words, and then clicking save.
Contrast that with a typical content management system: As a user who is browsing support documents on the web, and then spots an error in a document, if I’ve already used the content management system before, I have to then:
  1. find/launch the content management system
  2. login
  3. navigate to the document I was already viewing, usually by an obscure mechanism that isn’t the URL of the public document
  4. choose to edit the document
  5. make the edit
  6. save the document
  7. probably go through an edit review process relying then on other people to review the edit
  8. wait for notification that the edit is published
  9. check that the web document reflects the change
If I haven’t used the content management system, I would need to:
  1. Find out how the content is managed, probably by emailing peers until I get an answer
  2. Find out how to apply for a login
  3. Justify my need/right to modify the content (usually a lengthy process)
  4. Find out how to use the system
The two choices differ so significantly in effort involved, that the result is not just a quantitative difference in the number of contributions, but a qualitative one as well: true collaboration among a large group of contributors is unlikely using a traditional content management tool, because only those whose primary job it is to manage content are likely to invest the effort to use it.
By comparison, wiki makes it clear that editing is possible, puts the edit tool only a click away, and removes the step of having to renavigate to the content to be edited. While these steps may seem small, like we saw with the Digg example, small reductions in effort correspond to large increases in contributions.
Side note: I’m currently reading Designing Web Interfaces: Principles and Patterns for Rich Interactions, which inspired some of these thoughts.

When a large company rolls out social media capabilities on their website, they frequently worry about negative posts. A large company represents to many, a large target. Even the best companies with excellent customer service will have the occasional frustrated, angry customer.

How to deal with this? If the company moderates posts, and filters out anything negative, they will lose trust with their customers. If the company does nothing, and lets negative posts pile up, they could dominate the online community and discussions even if they are not truly representative of most people’s experiences.
It’s not so much whether a post is negative or postive, but whether it is constructive or destructive. A constructive post might point out a flaw in a product, but lead to a discussion about how to improve the product or work around the flaw. A destructive post might point out a flaw in a product and then proceed to personally attack the employees of the company.
Luckily, communities can police themselves. Using comment moderation features, users of online communities and websites can rate comments up or down, or report them for violation of community guidelines (such as inappropriate language).
When the right tools are in place, the constructive members of the community (who generally represent the majority) will tend to vote down destructive contributions. The company who sponsors the community or social media aspects of the site won’t need to be involved in moderation, and so they won’t be perceived as trying to control the conversation.
Pete Hwang, Experience Designer-Strategist at Hewlett-Packard, recently brought to my attention an excellent Wired magazine article by Clive Thompson on “how to open your website to comments without inviting the flood of toxic and inappropriate comments & flamewars that often arise”.

The world’s top discussion moderators have developed successful tools for keeping online miscreants from disrupting conversation. All are rooted in one psychological insight: If you simply ban trolls—kicking them off your board—you nurture their curdled sense of being an oppressed truth-speaker. Instead, the moderators rely on making the comments less prominent.

Pete’s favorite approach to disarming those destructive comments:

Here’s another hack: selective invisibility. It was invented byDisqus, a company whose discussion software handles the threads at 90,000 blogs worldwide (including mine). In this paradigm, if a comment gets a lot of negative ratings, it goes invisible. No one can see it—except, crucially, the person who posted it. “So the troll just thinks that everyone has learned to ignore him, and he gets discouraged and goes away,” chuckles Disqus cofounder Daniel Ha

(It turns out that selective invisibility is a technique that actually dates to Bulletin Board Systems (BBBs) back in the early 1980s.)