Live Blogging: Josh Porter on Effective Social Interface Design

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Josh Porter, Bokardo.com has blogged about social design for 7-8
years. Is lead designer for Chi.mp, a next generation social network.
In August he started his own design company to design interfaces that
focus on enabling people to talk to each other. Main issues: how do
you get people to engage with your site. How do you get them to sign
up? He’s had clients who got Techcrunched, had a spike, and then over
time they all leak out. How to provide value over the long term?

Five principles:
1. The Del.icio.us Lesson. Delicious let you have bookmarks and access
them everywhere. You could tag bookmarks, adding your own comments.
Tagging was new back then. Designers talked about subverting
hierarchical structures and folksonomies. But people were just saving
bookmarks for later. I tell all my clients: "Personal value precedes
network value" or social value. These are great tools even if your
friends don’t use them. I ask: is your service/software valueable even
if no one else uses it. The Delicious popular page has huge social
value, but it started with the personal value of people saving
bookmarks for later.

2. Tie Behavior to Identify. Profiles support identity; but not all
social software is about a profile. Amazon.com customer reviews: some
have real names, some are by "A Customer". Subtle distinction. EBay
feedback profile may be the best one to look at, sometimes we overlook
what Amazon and eBay do, but they aggregate feedback about each
seller–even though you don’t know who they are, you know how trusted
they are. On eBay you only need to know behavior, not who they are.

3. Give Recognition. Example: top Diggers. It showed who was most
successful for getting their stories to the home page. People started
seeing this as a competition. They all friended each other and helped
each other get top diggs. The top diggers ended up kind of controlling
the home page. So I talked with Daniel Barka, lead interface designer
at Digg, and I asked him if they had a problem with users gaming the
system; he said no, that’s what the interface let’s you do. Early on,
this was great for the growth of Digg. But once they hit the
mainstream and had enough users to support it, they removed the Top
Diggers feature. I’ve never worked on a project where anything was

Recognition seems to work better when it comes from the group and
isn’t permanent. One problem with Top Diggers was that once you got to
the top it was easy to stay there, since top diggs were cumulative.
Made it hard for new users to break in.

Threadless also does this well. They have competitions like Digg, but
any recognition ends. Don’t make everything cumulative.

4. Show Causation. You want to provide options for action and feedback
when they take an action. In the "old days" the screen would go white
as you had a page refresh. Now with ajax you see spinny things showing
something has happened. When someone is rating a movie on Netflix, you
need to show them something is happening. They are excellent at this.
The more you rate movies, the better their suggestions are. On one
screen he shows how it mentions like 5 times where they show causation
of what they are doing. I tell clients this, and they say, "don’t they
already know this?" People know to stop at intersections, but we still
give them signs.

"Rate your recent return" is like a game: waiting for your rating. Makes it fun.

5. Leveraging Reciprocity. I have worked on ratings and review sites.
Clients ask me, why do people leave reviews? Are they altruists? I say
no. I don’t think we ask people know why they do this. I interviewed
people. They didn’t immediately know. So I asked, why do you leave
reviews on Yelp. They say, "I don’t want anyone to eat at a place that
doesn’t have good food, make the same mistake that I did." So that’s
altruism. They always also add, I like to see how many people read my
reviews; I like compliments and tips. So there are many reasons why
people do reviews. They say, I get a ton of value from what others do.

On LinkedIn, where one of my good friends works, there are remarkable
stats on reciprocation when someone writes a positive review for you,
it is often reciprocated.

These are the five principles, there are many more. I just finished a
book on this, coming out in a month or two.

Q. Amazon top reviewers are also cumulative.
A. Hariet Clouser (sic) is top reviewer on Amazon, with over 14,000
book reviews. I did the math. She reads and reviews 7 books a day. She
is one of the most hated people. I blogged about this: is she real?
Many bloggers came and said, she can’t be. Amazon now does both
quantity and quality of reviewers. The rankings are being weighted by
helpful/not helpful more than by just quantity. If you read Harriet’s
reviews, you’ll notice they are a lot like the back of a book–so
she’s not for real. So quality of review is now getting rewarded more.

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