When does introducing simplicity or constraint in design improve experience

From iPhone to sites like Fotolog (where you can only post one picture a day), constraint of design drives the user experience, and can also create popularity. Adam at Fotolog (and Scott) described how the constraint (or simplicity) of Just One Foto keeps the editorial imperative high, and it keeps the community different from Flickr (where you can post a HUGE number of pictures at any time). Communities like VOX where prompting people with the “Question of the Day” gives people something to blog about, in case the community member feels frozen or writer’s block – this ‘constraint’ bounds the experience and gives a place for writers to start.
Simplicity – making things easier for people to get over pain of adoption. People get overwhelmed with too many choices.

Skype – hard but gives people way to make free phone calls so people use it.

Adam – fotolog – doesn’t deny the appeal of the long tail, but too much or too many will reduce usage.

Pip Coburn’s model about getting people over pain of adoption – by giving them value.

Whether you call it restrictions, constraints, or simplicity, there’s something that helps people get over that pain of adoption. Rules vs Guidelines.

John B. – Everyone thinks they want infinite choice but it turns out they really don’t adapt well. Less choice can drive more behavior/purchase/etc.

Hardware guys ship and they’re done – web guys can iterate –

Games guys do this constraint thing well – give rewards, test a huge amount, watch user behavior.

Is Facebook Simple? Yes and no. The applications can be overwhelming, but the social dashboard, keeping track of friends, and photos is easy and well done.

Social Media and Social Capital Exchange

John Borthwick has gathered a group of entrepreneurs, early investors, and some how, me, to talk about the above topics in NYC.

Great group of people. We’re seeing some demos of the apps now.
Tumblr is up. Interesting – I though they were just meta-aggregators – but it’s really an interesting way to ‘microblog’ in a different way than Twitter is a microblog – chunks of content that can include photos, videos, audio (coming soon), text, links etc. And it can aggregate a bunch of sources that you have with feeds like Flickr, your own blog, etc. I like it. Have to try this out.

Now up – Public Square – the power behind the “Boxes and Arrows” blog that generated the story I posted about yesterday about “what’s above the fold.” The site enables online community or group writing sites. Gives great things like reputation on the site, and in the back end communication between authors and editors. They’re also offering publishers simple tools for them to make money including taking ads, job boards, etc. They have over 1100 sites, with 25% publishing regularly. 150k page views a week.

Billy from Fichey next. Great way to quickly scan top site’s top pages (like top pages on Digg, Del.icio.us) then easily jump from an image of the page to exploring the site, and back. Love it. New morning way to scan the net.

Hey, Consume This! The Future of Online Advertising

Here I am at the “Future of Onlilne Advertising” conference, and here we are, 12 or 13 years after the first banner ads were placed. We’re up to at least Web 2.0, according to everyone around. It is my contention that in Web 2.0, companies would discover that talking to, and with, their customers would start to happen.

And yet, the guys on the stage continue to insist on calling the people who visit their sites, buy their products and pay their bills “CONSUMERS.” I’ll even call out the Yahoo guy for naming his presentation “Consumer 2.0.” And I’ll keep calling him Yahoo Guy as long as he calls me consumer.

Hey, buddy, you’re in New York, CONSUME THIS.  I’m a buyer, a customer, a user, a dad, a husband, a tech enthusiast, a major ingredient in Soylent Green, and an 18-54 white male making a $X a year. (I’ll let you know X when I figure it out, ok, but last year it was pretty ok.) You want me to buy stuff and use stuff, and you REALLY want me to recommend your stuff to others, because before anyone I know buys electronics, technology, software, cameras, uses a web site or buys a phone, they call me. I’m an influencer.

Web 2.0, as many have noted, is about People. Then Yahoo guy had a slide saying “Find your best consumers, listen to them, have conversations with them.” Cows are consumers. They eat grass and make milk, and then we consume them for beef or leather or whatever. You don’t have conversations with consumers, unless “moo” is in your vocabulary.

Yahoo did a contest for ‘make your own video’ for Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie. They got 10k contributions from “consumers” who consumed more copies of the video and consumed more copies of the music by purchasing (or licensing) it.

Listen, Yahoo guy, good message. Yes, let us make media, and respond to campaigns. But call us who we are, not consumers. You’re Ron Belanger. You’re not a cookie ID or a consumer. You’re in a position to teach people how to speak to “Consumer 2.0.” Start buy calling them Customers. If you have to, call them Customer 2.0. Or Bob. Bob works.

Note, I got sensitized to the word Consumer via Jerry Michalski at http://www.sociate.com/. He’s be talking about this for years. One post, (scroll down the page to “Advertising is War” from 3/10/03, tells the story well.)
In advertising, the best targets are “captive” audiences: people hemmed in by checkout lines, high-rise office building elevators (note the name of the company that puts displays in elevators) or airplane and taxi seats, who these days have to view individual video monitors that are difficult to turn off…. Notice that consumer marketing is like artillery or bombing, not hand-to-hand combat…. In mass marketing, cultural distance gives the “shooters” emotional distance from their targets.

More gems there. Go read it.

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Speaking at the Association for Women in Communications, Westchester

I’ve been asked to speak on a panel at the Association for Women in Communications, Westchester Chapter.

The event is on Wednesday, November 15th, and the description says:

Do you have a fear of new forms of media? Are blogs, social networks, podcasts, RSS feeds, MySpace and YouTube part of an alien world to you? Or, are you media-savvy, but just not sure what’s a sound investment and what’s a passing fad?

Join us when our expert panelists—up-to-speed on a wide range of new media AND how they can be applied to communications and marketing—share their perspectives and practical tips.

I believe I have a few things to say about this, and there are some other great panelists too. My friend Renee Edelman of Edelman PR is moderating. If you’re in the Tarrytown area, please come!

Brand Sluts, Consumers and Attention

As “consumers” or CUSTOMERS (thanks Jerry), we’ve been targets to be advertised at, our eyeballs have been made ‘sticky’ to keep us viewing pages, and we’ve been positioned, demographically skewed, psychographically sliced and surveyed until it hurts.

Now, my fellow Clue-train riders, we’re being accused of being “Brand Sluts.” No more august publication than the NY Post has noted in yesterday’s paper, (gracefully left for me on my seat by a fellow commuter who thought I would find the article important):

Consumers are showing little or no loyalty when it comes to sticking with a company or product, and they’re increasingly prone to hopping from one brand to another when they feel bored or get a better offer.

The problem is so widespread — and of such concern to marketers — that ad agency JWT has popularized a “half-joking” term to describe it: brand sluts. The whole notion is heartbreaking for advertisers, who talk endlessly about estalishing a “relationship” that will keep consumers coming back.

Ah. I think I’ve found the problem. See, consumers just consume. So, if you put out more attractive food, they’ll go elsewhere. Ironic that the JWT folks who are responsible for creating ads for companies in order to pull customers away from the attention and brands of their competitors are bawling now that these tactics of advertisting AT CONSUMERS and not talking TO CUSTOMERS makes us disloyal. That might lead to (gasp) new and different ad campaigns that would win us back! More spending. Better CPMs. Better targeted executions. I was also shocked, shocked, to find gambling at RIck’s as well.

Hearing Dave Winer on the Attentiontech podcast last week say that advertising was so “20th century” and that there was no room for ads in RSS feeds made me choke a little. But, upon further considering his more expanded-upon thoughts, and those of Steve Gillmor around Attention Trust, I’m beginning to see that not only is the ad model completely broken, but that there really is no mending it.

I never see ads on TV, unless I choose to (thanks Tivo!). I tune them out on web pages too. But I seek out commerical information all the time. Will some combination of search, social networks, Attention “gestures” as Gillmor likes to say, and companies like Seth Goldstein’s “Root.net” allow us CUSTOMERS to offer our attentioon, ask for what we want and get it?

Sounds a lot more like dating with intent to marry than acting like a slut. And in our society, isn’t it much more important to value the sanctity of marriage? (Ironic insert here).