About this new book I'm (co-)writing

· Design, Patterns, Social Design, The Power of Many, User Experience, Yahoo!

As you may know, I am writing a book with Erin Malone called Designing Social Interfaces for O’Reilly Media.

Erin is the the founder of the Yahoo! Design Pattern Library and hired me to be its third curator. Today she is a partner at Tangible UX, a consulting firm, and I maintain the library as a YDN design evangelist on Micah Laaker‘s Yahoo! Open Strategy (YOS) team, in collaboration with Luke Wroblewski‘s Front Doors and Network Services (FDNS) team.

The top of my agenda in the past year has been to identify, gather, and document a family of social design patterns: observed practices that work well in resolving common design problems in social applications. I’ve been looking for and teasing out patterns that enable social environments to thrive and sustain themselves.
Fortunately, I had a leg up or two. While there were very few documented community or social media patterns in the library, there are a wealth of specs, papers, patterns, presentations, and guidelines scattered around the intranet, and there was Matt Leacock‘s first take on a social media toolkit, shepherded together on an internal Yahoo! wiki.

More importantly, I looked out across the landscape of the web and drew on my own personal experience as a user, analyst and addict of online social experiences.

At BarCamp Block last year I facilitated a session on social media patterns (at least that’s what I was calling them then) and the net takeaway was an amazing mindmap of potential patterns. Quite a few of them turn out to be social moments, social behaviors, or social objects; or scenarios that illuminate patterns without being patterns themselves. But the outline and cloud diagrams we built from that brainstorm helped get me started sorting out some possible organizing structures beyond what we had internally a Yahoo.

This mindmap went through a series of iterations and refinements. Meanwhile, I started presenting on the topic of social patterns at BayCHI, at South By, at the IA Summit, at Ignite and more recently at TechPulse and soon PLoP and Interaction09.

Taking your half-baked ideas on the road and presenting them to a demanding crowd of payng customers is a great way of figuring out which ideas have resonance and which miss the mark. Presenting ongoing work in progress is tough: you make yourself vulnerable and open to criticism. But the criticism will come eventually anyway. Why not hear it now while you can still address it and incorporate the best ideas of others into your work?
For that matter, I feel it’s essential to be clear about one thing: almost none of this work on social design patterns is original. Yes, of course I am naming patterns and writing them and perhaps throwing in a nugget of experience here and there, but for the most part I am still *curating* these patterns. I’ve been stealing from everybody!
We hates plagiarism so we cite sources and point back to originators where applicable. I’ve proposed that the nascent PLPL (Pattern Language Markup Language) standard include an attribution element, with a common structure for reflecting sources, reuse, derived work, and licensing matters.

Furthermore, in our book we are inviting a wide range of leading practitioners, thinkers, and bloggers to contribute essays on one or more of the pattern families we’re developing for the book. Because, yes, the book is in many ways an offshoot of this ongoing social pattern collecting effort. And in that same spirit we’re both interested (Erin and me) in experimenting iwth methods of opening up the writing process and seeking feedback, correction, criticism, and contributions before the book’s ship date.

We’ll probably post patterns in progress on a wiki and in the meantime we will both be posting thoughts about the chapters we’re working on on our blogs. I’ll also post some draft patterns here at least until we have the wiki process figured out.

My next post in this series will be about a set of fundamental social design patterns I’m pulling together in Chapter 2.

Help me write my book about presence

· Patterns, Social Design, Teamwork, The Power of Many, User Experience

most recent tweet
I’m going to write my book, Presence of Mind (working title), on a wiki with as much input from others as possible. I’m also starting a mailing list to discuss online presence and related topics (extending from closely related matters such as identity, reputation, attention, privacy and so on, out to the full array of social web design patterns).
If you’re interested in joining this conversation, let me know and I’ll invite you when the list is set up.

Stumbling out of the gate

· Music

[writing image stolen from an online zine]I’m feeling a bit under the weather, fighting off some kind of bug. That’s my first excuse. I woke up on time today after going to be really early last night. I was exhausted. I got up, put the coffee on, and sat down to fold some laundry. The cat was still asleep, which is unusual.
Got my stuff together, poured the coffee and it looked like I had fifteen minutes to start working on my novel for National Novel Writing Month this year. With a blank mind I sat down and started writing, had an idea, then a sentence. One followed after another. By the time I had to head out for work I had about 600 words. Not bad. Not sure where it’s going but that’s the idea.
On the bus I tried to add some more. Put another 400 or so words down, but now I don’t like the way it’s going. I’m having second thoughts. I start thinking: Is this really a good time to be starting a new novel? Don’t I have a nonfiction book on presence to write? a fulltime a job? a novel in the can that needs revision? a memoir I stopped working on to write my last nonfiction book that needs attention now? This blog? A life?
Should I pull the plug?
In the shower at the gym I thought maybe the problem was the second scene. It nailed things down too far in a direction I wasn’t liking. Maybe through that away, go back to the first ambiguous scene. Keep it and add from there. Maybe go to another perspective, another point in time.
On IM, B suggested maybe instead of a novel I write a bunch of short stories. For that matter, I could spend the time working on the memoir. It’s at least a third done and 30 days of solid work might put it over the hump.
I’m going to have to play it by ear. I kind of wish the people who were reading my previous novel draft for me would give me some feedback so I could decided where I’m going with that one. Things are piling up.
So I guess I’ll keep working at it for now. We’ll see.

It's nearly that novel-writin' time of year again

· Music

November is National Novel Writing Monthg

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from doing National Novel Writing Month two years running now it’s that not only is it possible to write a (big chunk of a) novel in a month, but that – for me, at least – it’s nearly impossible to do it any other way.
So, yes, I plan to participate in NaNoWriMo again this year. What am I going to write? I have no idea! That’s the best thing about it. On the first of November I will sit down and start writing something and start discovering what it is I *need* to be writing right now.
Anyone else care to join me?

Selling Amazon shorts

· User Experience, Web Gossip

reluctant-editors.jpgIf Apple can sell electronic downloads of songs with no packaging for 99c a pop why can’t Amazon sell short little chapbooks electronically, download only, for 49c? The answer is they can, of course.
A writer on a mailing list I’m on recently alerted me to this feature (no idea how long Amazon has been at it), mentioning his eleven-page piece called Letters from Resistant Editors. In his own words, “Like almost all writers, I’m well acquainted with rejection and I learned long ago to keep faring forward when I get a rejection slip or letter. But one such letter started my mind tinkering with letters that some editors might write. Here is the result: letters of rejection that might have been written to some well-known authors. If you are a writer of children’s stories, or a reader of them, how would you like to get letters like these?
“It looks interesting and for less than half a buck, why not take a look? Amazon describes its Shorts this way:

About Amazon Shorts:

  • Amazon Shorts are available exclusively at Amazon.com; you will not find them anywhere else.
  • Amazon Shorts are delivered electronically; there are no printed editions.
  • Amazon Shorts are yours forever – after purchase, you can read them anytime at Amazon.com. (They’ll be stored forever in Your Media Library in PDF, HTML, and text e-mail formats.)
  • You are free to print Amazon Shorts to read in hard copy form at your convenience.

For me, this is déjà vu all over again. Back around 1988 I was packaging short “e-books” for a startup called Mightywords that had spun off from Fatbrain. They had detected this exact market: items shorter than a book but still worth publishing. Something like free-floating magazine articles. They were pricing them too high (typically $5 or more) and they were targetting technical subjects, and mainly they were burning through a bunch of VC cash (which I did my best to spread around to the various starving writers I knew). It was too early, the business model was wrong, and so on, but that idea really wasn’t a bad one.
I’ll be watching this Amazon experiment to see how it pans out.