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.

A book for those who got in the bus in the '80s

· Musicology, the Dead, man...

My review of a memoir by poet Peter Conners called Growing Up Dead appeared in the Proceedings of the Grateful Dead Scholars Caucus at the Southwest/Texas Popular Culture Association conference in Albuquerque a week or so ago, reprinted here with permission from Dead Letters Press, the publisher of the Proceedings:
[cover image from the book 'Growing Up Dead']

Growing Up Dead:
The Hallucinated Confessions
of a Teenage Deadhead

by Peter Conners
da Capo Press, 2009

Pick up just about any history or memoir of the Grateful Dead and you’ll hear about bluegrass, the Acid Tests, Live/Dead, Europe in ’72, the hiatus, and the Pyramids in excruciating detail. Then the years start to fly by, punctuated by the occasional happening: hit song and tour with Dylan in ’87, return to Europe in ’90, and then all of a sudden Jerry is dead and we’re into that nebulous post-Grateful period that continues to this day. This is understandable, but for Dead fans like my self who got on the bus in the 1980s, this leaves out a big important part of the story.

During the long period between album releases, when perhaps various bandmembers’ rebellious proclivities were beginning to catch up with them, the Dead scene experienced something of a third wind. Perhaps it was the advent of the “just say no” years and the growing need for a refuge for the disaffected youth of that era. Garcia famously called the Dead tour the last remaining great American adventure. Certainly my own experience when I stumbled into the parking lot in 1984 was a stiff sense of incredulity: how was this through-the-looking-glass society existing in parallel with the malls and office parks of the Reagan 80s? How were we getting away with this? How could it possibly last?

As we know, it couldn’t last. It was a bubble of sorts, but its surface tension held for a crucial stretch of years, long enough to sustain this pocket of the counterculture until reinforcements could arrive, tune up, plug in, and rock out.

Peter Conners is a bit younger than I am, but he got on the bus just before the tidal wave of a “hit song on MTV” crashed into the parking lot scene of 1987 and his memoir, Growing Up Dead, represents the first holographic capture of exactly what it felt like at just that time. He limns the road, the buses, the parking lots, and most importantly the shows, the music, and lyrics of the Grateful Dead in the 1980s. He described growing up in a suburban middle class enclave and falling in with a stoner crowd and eventually finding himself in the world of the Deadheads.

Perhaps most importantly, he finds his muse and toward the end of the tale, when he comes off the road, he finds that he has become a poet. The language of the Dead spoke to him and brought something out of him that his teachers and his day-to-day life did not manage to reach. As Conners said in an interview conducted on the Well’s public Inkwell conference:

When I was growing up, I didn’t have any friends who connected to language on that same level. I still remember sharing my first poems with friends. To their credit, they were openly enthusiastic. No one in our group, myself included, knew anything about poetry or literature outside of what we were fed in school. We all bonded over lyrics, singing them, writing them on our notebooks, etc., but that was more about our love of the bands and reinforcing our bonds with each other.

His is not the tawdry tale of excess and destruction and repentance that we’ve been hearing since the opium eaters but one of enlightenment, joy, self-discovery and, ultimately, graduation into adulthood and self-possession.

Conners is a gifted storyteller and delivers his tale not as a series of banal or hyperbolic generalities but in a well-knit sequence of anecdotes and portraits. The book moves along swiftly and sweeps you up in the life path of this young person questing in search of fun and liberty and friendship and love.

The story of the Grateful Dead from the viewpoint of the musicians and the Peninsula milieu in which the coalesced has been told to death (and I’ve devoured with pleasure each telling and re-telling of those days) and to some extent the personal stories of the extended community rooted in those early days and into the 1970s has at least begun to be told, but Growing Up Dead crucially fills a gap in the story without which my own experience lacks a literary context, and for this I am, dare I say it? grateful.

Oh, and hey now, be sure to read Conners’ wonderful Dead Crazy Uncle, which was reprinted as well in the Proceedings.

An essential guide to fostering online community

· Applications, Best Practices, Design, Development, Information Architecture, long story short, Patterns, Social Design, User Experience

[Building Social Web Application book cover]Building Social Web Applications
by Gavin Bell
O’Reilly (October, 2009)

Gavin Bell draws on his extensive experience to offer a well structured guide to adding community elements to a website or application. His book will help any professional planning a social strategy, designing a set of social features, determining the types of relationships to foster among users, and even determining how best to manage change in an existing site or online structure.

Bell covers a wide gamut of issues that a site planner will need to consider, from developing the data schema for people, relationships, and objects; to how best to expose APIs to third-party developers; to the process of rolling out a new product or feature. Anyone developing a social website or app should keep this book handy throughout the process.

Bell and I share a publisher and our titles cover some similar issues. When I first picked up Bell’s finished book I gritted my teeth with envy. As I quickly devoured the book, though, I was relieved (or, at least I convinced myself) that our books are complementary and are each useful in their own way.

If you’re looking for one book to guide you through the entire process, from conception to launch and into the life of a social web application, then this is the book for you.

(via Christian Crumlish “mediajunkie’s review of Building Social Web Applications”.)

Richard Fleming's Walking to Guantanamo: A closely observed true thing

· long story short

Walking to Guantanamo
by Richard Fleming
Commons (Oct 1, 2008)

I loved this book from start to finish. Fleming is a charming and self-deprecating travel companion: the best kind. His pictorial eye strives to transmit clear, unfiltered images and as his readers we make up our own minds about the pros of cons of hitchhiking across Cuba. Fleming’s wit makes it one of the more enjoyable learning experiences I could imagine, and the people, birds, religions, and politics of the island now mean something to me in a way they never had before, something that refuses to accept a black or white view of the world. Fleming shares his open lens with us and reveals the small truths of human interactions.

A+++++++++ WOULD BUY AGAIN!!!!

(via Christian Crumlish “mediajunkie’s review of Walking to Guantanamo.)