Notchup invites a cock-up?

· Social Design, The Power of Many, User Experience

I’m having second thoughts about Notchup. The other day I checked my mail in the morning, as is my wont, and found an invitation to Notchup from a friend who left Yahoo a while back to work with venture capitalists. I wondered if this was something he had had a hand in, but I didn’t ask. I went and signed up because it sounded interesting.
A few years ago I had some interviews at LinkedIn for a position that didn’t work out (didn’t work out for me, at least) and they asked me at the time for suggestions and ideas about additional businesses or products they could build on top of their existing platform. I was gung ho at the time about the idea of a reverse-auction style site for hiring. Just as Priceline reversed the polarity on hotel and plane bookings by having customers bid what they are willing to pay and having vendors match that, I figured that job searches could also work in reverse.
Instead of applying for a job, you could advertise the sort of work you are willing and qualified to take on and prospective employers could apply to *you* and try to make the case that you should “hire” them to be your new boss. The LinkedIn guys suggested that that’s what they were already doing but I thought there was still something missing from that model.
So Notchup seems to be somewhat in that same ballpark, which was why I thought I’d check it out.
Next, I saw that they had a way to import your personal info (effectively, your resume) from your LinkedIn account, if you have one. That sounded a lot better than entering all the data myself, again, so even though I had qualms about this violating LinkedIn’s terms of service, and even though it’s generally not a good idea to give your login credentials for one site to another site (even if “all it’s going to do” is scrape some data from the screeen), I went ahead and did that.
So then Notchup offered to enable me to invite my LinkedIn connections into their beta, saving those people the trouble of applying. I started that sequence and went through my list of contacts, which is long so this was tedious, unchecking the folks I figured are either definitely not looking for a job, or whom I don’t actually know that well, or whom I believed would have no interest in the latest social network thingamabob.
I assumed I would have the chance to write a personal note, something along the lines of
> Hi! I’m checking out this new site called Notchup. I don’t know much about it and I don’t necessarily endorse it, but I thought you might be interest in checking it out too.
Unfortunately, before I was given an opportunity to write a note or even review the boilerplate they were going to sign my name to, I was notified that the invitations had been sent. This is not as bad as what and some other sites have done, tricking people into virally inviting their entire address books, but it still rubbed me the wrong way.
All that morning and the next day I got email notifications of friends joining Notchup, and a few personal notes from people asking me if this was for real – because we’ve all gotten spammy invitations in the past. When people asked I told them the gist of what I would have written in the invitation, but many people just joined, apparently trusting me. By now I wasn’t sure what the person who had invited me was thinking.
Then, the other day I saw a message from Russell Unger on the IA Institute members mailing list establishing that he had done more (that is, some) due diligence and actually read Notchup’s terms of service, and that he had uncovered some troubling clauses in the user agreement:
> 9\. NotchUp reserves the right to offer third party services and
products to You based on the preferences that You identify in your
registration and at any time thereafter; such offers may be made by
NotchUp or by third parties.
> 10\. Without limiting any of the other disclaimers of warranty set
forth in these Terms, NotchUp does not provide or make any
representation as to the quality or nature of any of the third party
products or services purchased through or any other NotchUp
Site, or any other representation, warranty or guaranty. Any such
undertaking, representation, warranty or guaranty would be furnished
solely by the provider of such third party products or services, under
the terms agreed to by the provider.
As Russell pointed out, this sounds a lot like signing up for Notchup means agreeing to receive spam.
He also pointed out another pair of clauses:
> 18\. You understand and acknowledge that you have no ownership rights
in your NotchUp account (“NotchUp Account”), and that if you cancel
your NotchUp Account, all your account information from NotchUp,
including resumes, profiles, cover letters, network contacts, saved
jobs, questionnaires and email mailing lists, will be marked as deleted
in NotchUp’s databases and will be removed from any public area of the
NotchUp Sites. Information may continue to be available for some period
of time because of delays in propagating such deletion through
NotchUp’s web servers. In addition, third parties may retain cached
copies of your Information.
> 19\. Your email and other data that you submit as part of the resume
will be made available to our recruiters and employers.
doesn’t have any control over how that data would be used. If you don’t
want any such data to be displayed your only remedy is not to post any
So now I’m really concerned, particularly about seeming to vouch for a site and luring a bunch of best contacts into it. I’ll keep an eye on Notchup but so far I don’t like what I’m seeing, and to those I invited in before researching the subject further, I apologize.

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.

As promised, my pattern library talk

· Design, Patterns, Teamwork, User Experience

As the third curator of Yahoo!’s Design Pattern Library I often receive a lot of thanks and praise from website designers and developers for the way we at Yahoo! have offered this resource to the world. I usually try to explain that much of the goodness happened before I came on board and that I can’t really take credit for it, but when my ego needs a boost I just smile and nod.

When Erin Malone and Matt Leacock and others first launched the internal pattern library, they presented a talk at the IA Summit, called Implementing a Pattern Library in the Real World: A Case Study (and subsequently the linked article on the same topic at Boxes and Arrows). Then Erin and Bill Scott took the library to the public on the Yahoo! Developer Network website and Bill enriched the library with tons of Ajax-y goodness, closely tied to the YUI Library.

Since that time, I came on board and I’ve worked on reorganizing the library, updating the patterns, and shepherding a new generation of patterns through our internal refinement and review process, with an eye toward identifying useful social and openness patterns that we can share with the whole Web. So when people come up to me at conferences or find me on mailing lists for information architects and interaction designers frequently the are curious about how the library has evolved in the years since it was founded, what our internal process looks like these days for writing, reviewing, approving, and rating patterns, and how we decide which ones to publish in the open library.

Recently, I gave a talk at Yahoo! as part of our UED Brown bag series, called The Pattern Library Wants YOU!, intended to update oldtimers on changes and improvements to our process and infrastructure and to orient new designers about the library, and of course to encourage people to get involved. Ricky Montalvo, our ace videographer for YUI Theater and YDN Theater, recorded my talk and edited it together with my slides, and we just spent a week or so removing any too-sensitive information and getting our friendly legal folks to sign off on releasing the talk to the public.

So, without further ado, here is the public version of my talk, which should answer a lot of those questions I’m hearing these days.

(This post was adapted from the YUI blog by sticking it on a block of wood and banging a nail into it.)

For public consumption

· Patterns, User Experience

patternlibrary-brownbag.jpgA few people have asked me about when they might be able to see the recording of my brown bag on the Yahoo Pattern Library and so I wanted to post a little update.

This got delayed because of a cold that laid me up for all of last week, but I’ve just completed a thorough review of the footage to identify anything I may have discussed that wouldn’t be appropriate for public consumption. (It was an internal brown bag, so the primary audience was other designers at Yahoo.)

That’s now done. I need a sign off from legal (they’ve been very helpful), and then I need to sit down with the videographer to get a couple of snippets removed and to take out a few slides, and then we should be good to go. It will run as part of YUI Theater (on the YUI blog), and I’ll post a reminder and a link to it here as soon as it goes live.

Some possible best practices for social design

· Patterns, Social Design, User Experience

bokardo.jpgJoshua Porter, who specializes in Social Web Design and with whom I’ve debated in the past around the perennially boring topic of “Information Architecture vs. Interaction Design, Which is the Best Discipline EVAR!?!?,” has culled an interesting list of social design best practices from Google’s documentation of its new “OpenSocial” API collection.
The interesting (to me) recommended practices are the following (re-paraphrased, somewhat, from how the practices are labeled in Google’s document, using some of Joshua’s verbiage where I found it clearer):
> * Enable self expression via personalization
> * Show what friends are doing
> * Let people explore friends and friends of friends
> * Provide commenting features
> * Expose multiple areas of similarity
> * Solve real world problems through social connections
(The other recommendations were interesting too but they seemed to be more about good widget design and good web experience design in general and not particularly about social, let alone open and social.)
The last item, of course, was the theme of The Power of Many.
The browsing-friends-of-friends one is questionable, too. At LinkedIn, that’s an option. I guess it goes to openness, but it also cuts against privacy. I don’t necessarily want everyone viewing my address book or using me as a step-ladder to meet someone else. To me that’s not social – it’s antisocial. More importantly, I believe in leaving those decisions in the hands of the user as much as possible.
Porter sees some other important issues here:
> [W]e’re clearly seeing a set of practices emerge across all social software that centers around getting people started quickly, allowing for self-expression, engaged in real-life tasks, yet also allowing for flexible discovery and play…. [S]ocial networks have changed the way we look at software in just a couple years.
> [O]nly two or three of the best practices are necessarily part of “social networking” software. They could be used in any kind of social software, be it productivity software for groups or even e-commerce sites that help people find the right product.
> That, to me, is the essence of social design. It isn’t relegated to social networking, even though the rise of social networking is what helped to clarify and refine the ideas. It’s about building software that takes advantage of social connections to provide enhanced value.
Good food for thought.

What can I say about OpenSocial?

· Social Design, User Experience, Web Gossip, Web Services

opensocial.jpgThe blog world, along with my slice of the twitter world, is abuzz with attempts to understand, analyze, deconstruct, laud, and excoriate Google’s new OpenSocial initiative.
One key question seems to be: is this true openness or simply using the (increasingly at risk of dilution) “open” mean as a handy cudgel to ward off Google’s current nemesis, Facebook, with it’s extremely popular but closed application development platform, active and growing userbase, and impending social ad network play?
Another key question I’m hearing people ask is whether this is a hand-off attempt by Google to hew to its roots of faciliating access to information and monetizing the traffic and data that passes through its metaphorical ands or is it an attempt to do judo and place itself at the hub of the social web as it matures?
My meta question might be to ask whether each pair of possibilities is truly mutually exclusive.
But I don’t feel like I really can comment on this right now.
If I were still an independent writer or even just a user experience consultant at an agency with a blog, I’d be much more comfortable jumping into the geek-punditry fray, but I’m not.
I work for a company that view Google and Facebook as competition, a company full of people who use both Google and Facebook, a company in the midst of announcing and operationalizing its new strategy, a company that has just made a commitment to openness and has its own ideas about what that mean, and it’s really just too hard to figure out what has been announced and what hasn’t and I really don’t want to talk out of school, so I’ll just adopt a wait and see attitude and for the time being keep my opinions to myself.