Final Cometh p.3

The impermanence surrounding Pinterest account deletion clearly has come effect on it’s users. My guess if that it makes the deletion less serious and therefore more likely to happen. In order to fully analyze the effect of the option to temporarily close the account, I need to know more about Pinterest as a company and it’s customer demographics.

1. (some company history)

2. (Pinterest comparied to other companies, economically)

—-Side Note, on the Forbes website, users have the option to comment after just having read the title. One can expect almost nothing except knee-jerk reactions. Forbes also makes it incredibly hard to print their articles, but sharing is no big deal.

3. (break down of Pinterest demographics, in terms of income)

4. (infographic about pinterest users)

These sources tell me that Pinterest users, for the most part, are young (24-35), middle class mothers. I’m assuming, for now, that the mothers use the site to pin projects and clothing for their children, but so far I still need to do more research to see what makes the impermanent account closing a good idea (but I’m considering going down the route of talking about why it’s bad).


Final Cometh p.2

This was supposed to be published a while ago.


I won’t go into the details of what I found, I’ll just introduce the most interesting aspects.

The results of the research:

1. PINTEREST: When you cancel your account on Pinterest, the site keeps your pinboards (albums, basically) alive. You can even return to the site with all of your settings and boards intact if you use the same email address.

—-This seems to suggest that Pinterest knows its members will come back, even if they take a break. Either Pinterest members habitually feel the need to suspend their boards, or Pinterest designers know there’s something in Pinterest that makes the members return. They could be playing on human psychology.

2. WORDPRESS: the notifications tab is shaped like a speech bubble.

—This makes the notifications feel less like intrusive alerts and more like a conversation. The notifications tab also includes comments, so WordPress seems to be encouraging replies to those comments. On other participatory media sites, the speech bubble also signifies the message tab, which creates and even strong suggestion to the user that those notifications are not meant to be seen then ignored.

3. ORGSYNC: events are both in the feed, in the calendar, and off to the side.

—-Orgsync REALLY does not want people to miss their meetings. Unlike other sites I’ve been to, OrgSync puts your events in your feed. The designers seem to realize how seldom users look at the calendars on the site compared to how frequently they scroll through their feed. Putting the events in the feed ensures people will see the events.

4. TUMBLR: tutorials aren’t optional, they appear as the user scrolls past the object.

—(Amusing side note: when users first sign up, tumblr gives them the option to choose from a list of pre-designed names such as CrispyCheesecakePatrol and SparklyWonderlandStrawberry)

—The designers realize young people don’t bother to go through the tutorials because they prefer to figure out the site themselves. I suspect this is the result of being the first generation to grow up with ubiquitous computer and internet usage (there was no one to teach us how to use a computer and internet). As I scrolled through my tumblr dashboard, important icons would animate and a textbox would appear with one or two sentences explaining it’s function. This method of giving a tutorial both ensures that everyone sees it and tells the users which functions are important.


Ultimately, I’ve decided to focus on Pinterest. It, like Facebook, allows users to come back after they’ve decided to quite without forcing them to rebuild their networks and re-gather information. I’m curious as to which site decided to do this first and I want to know why, specifically, they do it.


The Final Paper Cometh

For now, I only have somewhat vague ideas as to what to write about in my final paper, but after doing some research this weekend I should have a more solid idea of what to discuss.

So far, I’ve narrowed my attention to four sites: WordPress, Tumblr, Pinterest, and OrgSync. Of the four, I already know how to use WordPress and OrgSync. This weekend’s investigations will be geared towards familiarizing myself with Tumblr and Pinterest. After I know how each site works, I can choose one.

All of these sites, to some extent, deal with questions of infectiousness, shareability, and user-generated content, but with the exception of WordPress, I’ve been unsuccessful in creating and maintaining an account on these sites. The OrgSync situation is a bit unique; I only maintain a presence on the site because it’s mandated by the school, otherwise I would have deleted my account a long time ago.

My thesis depends on the website I choose:

1) With WordPress I’d look at the importance of user-generated content. The user base, of course, plays an important role in the type of content that appears on the site. WordPress blogs tend to range in subject from high-brow art reviews to summaries of a family dinner. Regardless of the specific subject matter, WordPress blogs tend to be relatively high quality. I’d explore this. I’ve also noticed WordPress allows users to maintain multiple blogs simultaneously. I’d look into the effects of restricting the user to just one blog.

2) Tumblr- I can’t figure out why I don’t like it. I’ve tried Tumblr several times because I wanted to know what the hype was about, but I simply don’t like it. I have a feeling it has to do with content generation and shareability, but I need to sign up one more time to take a closer look at the controls. Tumblr is also a site that allows multiple simultaneous blogs. I’d consider restricting users to one blog.

3) OrgSync- I’ve already written about the uselessness of OrgSync. Facebook and OrgSync are similar in that they are both broadcast services, but NYUSH users seem to be more faithful to Facebook. This is likely because Facebook was introduced first. I might have to do a little bit of exploring on the site to confirm my suspicions, but I’d look at just one of the failings of OrgSync and possibly propose a change.

4) Pinterest- Pinterest is another site I’ve been on and off of several times in the past few years. It is similar to tumblr in that it is image based, but the difference is that it is almost solely image based, which does not allow space for conversation. Recently, Pinterest introduced a messaging feature which might change how the site feels. I’d need to look at the site again, but I think there’s something in the nature of the pin boards that makes the site difficult to use.

On the introduction of OrgSync

Organizations such as educational institutions, greatly benefit from creating a sense of community among its members. They also need to have an effective way to broadcast information to everyone. This school, NYU Shanghai, is attempting to use OrgSync as a platform for business-related conversations withing the school, but it seems the attempts are only mildly successful.

There are two major obstacles to the full integration of OrgSync into students’ lives: lack of utility and a pre-existing network. For NYUSH, OrgSync is essentially little more than a broadcast service. There is a certain sense of community in that each member is asked to join an “organization.” This very action, however, has done more harm than good. Because the “organizations” include both student clubs AND groups that cannot be opted into, like “Residence Life” and “Student Government,” joining these groups is equivalent to being put on the mailing list. Whenever an organization sends a message or adds a new item, it gets sent to the emails of the users (unless they have disabled the notification). Though an email-like messaging service exists on OrgSync, people rarely use it because it is inconvenient. To get to it a user has to log in with his or her NYU information then separately navigate to the NYUSH community before being able to access the right contacts. The site also fails in that it does not have a forum, or a place for discussion, outside of a comments area under each post.

Had OrgSync been introduced before the NYUSH Facebook groups, it might have had a chance to survive. Unfortunately, Facebook is a mammoth of a service that is not easily replaced. Facebook fulfills all of the functions of OrgSync in a familiar, relatively streamlined way. If a club wants to announce an event, it will post an advertisement in at least one– though most usually post in all– of the groups. The four groups have a combined total of over 600 members. These groups also allow discussions in a way that feels awkward on OrgSync. Both sites host discussions through comments, but Facebook caches comments after they have reached a certain number. This keeps particularly long discussions from impeding the flow of the infinite scroll. Users can flick through the posts with ease.

NYU Shanghai, then, faces the challenge of getting more people to use OrgSync, because OrgSync is the official platform for official business (submitting rooms requests and filling budget forms). Most importantly, NYUSH plans to use membership data on OrgSync to extrapolate information and determine budget allocations. Club leaders recognize this predicament, but they are also very aware of the limitations of OrgSync. So far, this has been a problem without a solutions. The NYUSH students are fairly faithful to Facebook. NYUSH admin is challenged with either figuring out a way to use Facebook, or creating a system that’s simply better.

Tabbed Web Browsing

In the formative years of the internet, the search function was not very practical; users had to go to what were essentially website data bases and look through a list of potentially relevant websites in alphabetical order, or some other order unrelated to relevance. Today, search engines such as Google, Bing, and Baidu search the “entire” internet (here in quotations because the “Great Firewall” on Baidu heavily censures results) and brings the most relevant links to the top.

As the internet has developed, a number of web browsers has increased. Among the most popular are Google Chrome, Opera, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer and their reciprocal mobile browsers. In the early days of the internet, clicking on a link would result in going from one page to the next, and the only way to avoid losing the page a user was on was to open up a new window. This would result in a series of overlapping windows that made it impossible to find the relevant window. Tabbed browsing has, for the most part, solved this problem.

Tabbed browsing is a function that allows multiple pages (hosted in tabs) to be open in the same window at the same time. A user can follow a hyperlink without leaving the page he or she is on. The “pin tab” feature automatically locks the most-used tabs to the upper left side of the screen (and prevents accidental closing) and the “arrange tab” feature allows users to change the order of the tabs so they can easily locate a given tab. The size of the tabs allows readers to see the titles of the websites, further increasing convenience.

My essay aims to explore the mutualistic relationship tabbed browsing creates between site proprietors, as well as the inconveniences left unsolved by the software.

“Gotchi, tama-Tamagotchi!”

Tamagotchi Music Star (Released 2009)

Bandai’s** clever marketing and awareness of Japanese social structures in the late 1990s undoubtedly had a hand in the extreme popularity of the Tamagotchi (a small, simple, egg-shaped toy). No detail was left to chance, even the name of the toy was a carefully constructed combination of the Japanese “tamago(たまご),” which means “egg,” and “-uotchi (ウオッチ)” a suffix meaning “to watch.” The result of the portmanteau was a word phonetically similar to “tomodachi (ともだち),” which means “friends.”  According to Dead Media Archive, the toy reached global popularity because it catered to a human desire to nurture. Japanese kids wanted pets but their families either couldn’t afford them or didn’t have the time or space to keep them. The Tamagotchi’s constant care requirement filled the void. For adults, the appeal was similar. Those who wanted felt the need to nurture but didn’t have the resources to raise a child or a pet could purchase a Tamagotchi. The toys were portable and disposable, making them even more convenient. Simple design features made Tamagotchis easy to take care of and appealed to younger audiences, further adding to the toy’s popularity.

Marketing such a simple toy, of course, was no small feat. Bandai needed to convince the public that this seemingly insignificant toy was exactly what the public needed. The company handled this by emphasizing connection making. Consumers could connect with the toy on an intimate level (they could even name their pets, which Dead Media Archive interprets as an owner-property connection) and connect with their friends on a personal level. Children made a competition out of it- who ever owns the longest living pet is the  winner (Dead Media Archive). Through this type of interaction, friends became closer and Tamagotchi sales skyrocketed. Surprisingly, the Tamagotchi’s fame was short-lived. After two years, sales had already started to fall.

The decline of the Tamagotchi had mostly to do with the controversies surrounding it. Though the toy was designed to be simple and portable, it was extremely time consuming. Older audiences grew frustrated that they could not leave their Tamagotchis alone for a few hours to fulfill their responsibilities (like going to work) without their beloved pet dying. Children, more interested in the toy than their schoolwork, spent more time caring for the pet than on their studies, prompting schools all over the world to ban the toy and irreparably damaging Tamagotchi sales.

While Dead Media Archive does mention the ongoing production of Tamagotchis, it fails to interpret this continued production in the context of declining sales. The Tamagotchi has been reinvented several times and in each new version, Bandai has incorporated more modern technologies into the toys in an attempt to bolster sales. Still clinging to the idea of connectivity, Bandai began to include mating, infrared technology and an internet community in Tamagotchi design. Mating forced two consumers to physically connect their devices to “mate” and create the same “Tamagotchi Baby” for each user to raise. Infrared technology not only allowed longer distance mating, but also allowed Tamagotchis to visit each other and play games together. Tamatown, the Tamagotchi internet community combined all the previous design elements and was one of the first handheld gaming devices to combine the use of the device with the use of the internet (the Nintendo DS came out slightly earlier with this feature, but it should be noted that Bandai and Nintendo have a partnership- there were several Tamagotchi games released on Nintendo platforms).

[Introduction of internet capabilities: American Tamagotchi V3 Commercial]

All of these evolutions increased social connectivity, but failed to return the Tamagotchi to its former glory.

Tamagotchis have failed to return to the high sales surrounding their original release because the niche they filled no longer exists. The toys were popular because people were looking for portable, constant companionship and entertainment. Now, mobile devices serve a variety of functions, including entertainment and social networking. Games (Candy Crush, Flappy Bird, etc) fulfill the entertainment need while Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging fulfill the companionship. These apps are more brightly colored and require less patience, therefore making them the obvious choice. Though Tamagotchis are still being reinvented and sold, newer handheld devices (like smartphones) have doomed them to a lifetime of sitting on museum shelves.

**Bandai is also known as Bandai Namco in the United States


Sources: Dead Media Archive: Tamagotchi , List of Tamagotchi Releases

Picture: Familitchi Blogspot