Social Patterns II: The Social Interfacening…

· Activity Streams, Best Practices, Business, Design, Games, Information Architecture, Mobile, Patterns, Product, Social Design, User Experience


It’s starting to feel like time to update ye old Designing Social Interfaces, so Erin Malone and I are talking to the kind editors at O’Reilly about doing a second edition.

Because user experience, we are doing some research, including a survey. If you work with social interfaces, apps, websites, or experiences, please consider taking this survey to help inform the next edition of the book. Thanks!

Here’s that link again for taking our survey toward the second edition of the social design patterns book.

AOL?!? Really?

· AOL, Best Practices, Business, Design, Information Architecture, long story short, Teamwork, User Experience, Web Gossip

By now most of my friends and colleagues and readers know that I resigned from my job at Yahoo! nearly a month ago. The meantime has flown by like a dream. B and I went to New Orleans and I was able to enjoy Jazzfest with no “homework” on my mind for the first time in years. I spoke in Minneapolis on the Web App Masters Tour, returned home, and last week I spoke at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco.

In the midst of all this, a week ago Friday I started my new job at AOL.

I’ve started joking with my friends that I must have joined a company called “AOL!? Really?!?” because that’s the first thing out of most people’s mouths. (The ones who can speak, that is – some just boggle their eyes at me.) To be honest, when my friend and mentor, Matte Scheinker, first told me he had come out of retirement to take a new role at AOL as VP for consumer experience I reacted in almost exactly the same way.

For anyone who’s fought the good fight at Yahoo! against a headwind of Bay Area techie-insider scorn, it might seem like moving to AOL would be a matter of taking on more of the same.

But I listened to what Matte had to tell me about his new gig, and the more I heard about it the more intrigued I got. First of all, I like the idea of a company embracing a turnaround effort head on. At Yahoo! we were winning in enough categories that I did not always feel a sense of urgency in the culture about fixing and improving the areas that needed it.

At AOL I feel a bracing awareness: “now or never, do or die!” The new management team has wasted no time remaking AOL, taking it public again, refreshing the brand, repositioning the strategy, and challenging its employees to excel and win.

At some point while we were talking I realized that Matte was recruiting me to join his team, to help him place design thinking and a laserlike focus on customer experience at the heart of the (digital/software) product development process. In some ways, this is a designer or UX guy’s “put your money where you mouth is” moment, where the leadership of a major corporation says, “OK, you’ve been arguing that the customer is key and that design is a tool that is relevant to a company’s strategy and business processes, so now prove it.”

While I enjoyed my role curating the Yahoo! pattern library immensely, and it provided me with plenty of ego-boosting attention in the user experience design community, I did not always feel like I was able to exert my influence within the company in a concrete, effective way. I was there to offer advice and set an example, but I did not always have the ability to put into action ideas about how to make better products and how to employ better processes.

Further, AOL is aggressively interested in reshaping the world of media, publishing, content, attention, and advertising. This has been my wheelhouse since before the web. I came from book publishing, where I was astonished at the 19th century business practices I saw. The upheaval ripping through the worlds of publishing and journalism are messy and frightening for those being tossed about by the rapid changes, but I’m convinced that new models will emerge to connect people with the information and ideas and art and entertainment they want, and people will be compensated for their talents, yes and empires will grow up around these new models of weaving it all together.

AOL is playing in exactly that space. For example, AOL’s Seed beta and the Patch startup AOL recently acquired both represent (to me) very interesting experiments:

  • Rethinking the “content” business and the infrastructure (is “supply chain” too industrial a term for creative work?) for cultivating high quality writing.
  • Exploring the capabilities the web offers and the types of flows the web favors.
  • Sourcing small pieces of content.
  • Targeting hyperlocal geographies.

I honestly believe AOL has a shot at turning around its fortunes and rejuvenating its illustrious brand and I’m excited to have the opportunity to help the product teams at AOL perform to their highest abilities and succeed at delivering content and experiences that are better than the best of what the Internet has to offer (we call this goal “beating the Internet”).

Are the odds long? Yes, of course they are. That’s what makes the challenge so ambitious and so exciting.

So, yes, AOL. Really!

Corporate blogging ROI

· Business

Scott Weisbrod posted this link to Forrester’s Charlene Li’s Calculating the ROI of blogs – it’s not about the math to the IA Institute’s mailing list a while back, singling out this quotation:

…because a blog’s ROI is built around building a closer relationship with your blog’s readers, be it your most ardent customers or your employees. It’s that investment in the relationship that turns intangible, unquantifiable blogs into hard metrics.

Business Comments are off for this post.

Blogging’s impact on PR (and vice versa)

· Business

The other day I ducked down to my room on the 8th floor of the Hyatt Regency Vancouver to get some money to buy drink tickets at the welcoming cocktail party at the IA Summit.

Ran into David Weinberger, who’s been refining the plenary keynote he’ll be giving to kick off the official proceedings tomorrow. We talked about some of the emerging themes in his current book project (called Everything is Miscellaneous and eagerly awaited in this corner) and he mentioned that he’s noticed recently that marketing and particularly PR folks seems (finally) ready to board the Cluetrain.

“If blogging were to change PR,” he said (quotation approximate), “that would be big.”

“Let’s hope that PR doesn’t change blogging, though,” I said.

“It already has, to some extent” he kinda replied.

“We wouldn’t want blogs to become the silencer on the gun of PR,” I said, gesturing with my hands as if screwing a silencer onto a gun, something I would have no idea how to do in real life, but I’ve seen a lot of movies with Nazis and gangsters in them.

“That’s a great image,” he said. “You should blog it.”

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(reposted from The Power of Many as a test to see if Technorati will pick up the tags, which it didnt from the POM entry)

Corporate blogging? Not so fast

· Business

David Kine asks What’s Holding Back Corporate Blogging? and finds the usual answers: fear, an unwillingness to relinquish control, and so on.
That makes sense to me. Some corporations are clearly not cut out to blog in the usual sense. (It remains to be seen whether they should have internal project logs or knowledge logs, etc. – but that’s usually viewed as a different topic.)
However, no corporation that makes customers of the public can afford *not* to have a blog strategy, in the sense of paying attention to what is being said about the business’ products and services online.
You don’t have to blog, but you have to be aware of blogging and responsive to the conversation out there, simply as a matter of risk management.
Of course, the more forward-looking companies will recognize the opportunity to conduct ongoing “unfocus groups” by studying and learning from what’s being said about their work product in the public sphere.

Business Comments are off for this post.