Weeks 10/11/12

I would like to see an application developed that allows for spontaneous event planning. Think Facebook events, but with the default set to being public. I imagine the service being gamified to entice more people to use it, and for there to be a variety of sorting methods to allow the consumers greater control over what results they see (and see first) when determining their plans for the night/weekend. There will also be a number of controls for the “producers” of the event, including privacy options for closed groups.

My other feature that could be discussed in my final would be an adaptation of Reddit that takes advantage of Facebook and Google’s algorithms to give a new sorting option based on what subreddits the site thinks the consumer would like to see.

Expanding upon the first idea, my paper is going to be a design proposal for the social spontaneous event planning idea, and here is the outline for how I imagine the paper going:

  • Introduction with an emphasis on the need for such an app

  • Point out the flaws in the Facebook event app and why it has essentially failed

  • Look at other event planning apps that have failed
  • Start to draw the connection that most of the apps that have apparent “success” cover a certain niche, so while most people haven’t heard of them, they’re quite good at what they do just within their respective communities
  • Begin to get into the actual text, starting with a basic outline of the different features
  • Specifically look at the different sorting functions, the default of having events open to the public, and its initial release as closed within the NYUSH community
  • Explain the tradeoffs of each of the features that were looked at in detail (the tradeoff with the default of the sorting abilities)
  • Get into the bit about what will likely happen: gain popularity amongst NYUSH people carving out a dedicated niche and overtaking orgsync, once it is used actively by NYUSH people, open up to NYU students overall when the NYUSH people are studying away and can promote it, take hold amongst the NYU population before eventual opening to the public, which will then take hold because of its use in major cities across the world.
  • NYU alum tend to become pretty famous, talk about how having famous users will prompt further use
  • Also talk about how it can be used as a political tool for spontaneous organization amongst “rebel” groups, how it will likely be banned by the Chinese gov’t
  • Conclusion with wrap up about how the tool will be useful for both the first world college student, trying to find a party for the night, and the oppressed citizen trying to topple a corrupt government across the world.

The White House

Sorry for the delay.

The White House has quite a history of making an effort to connect with the American people, with the first example popping to mind being FDR’s famous Fireside Chats that all third grade American kids learn about in school. But in this time of ever-evolving social media, this interaction with the White House and the president of the United States has become more direct than ever. Take for example President Obama’s AMA from two years ago that, to my frustration crashed the website multiple times, but also broke records for Reddit pageviews: it gave citizens the opportunity to interact directly with one of the most important people in American politics.

However, I think the most important thing to take away from the increased effort on the part of the White House to be engaged with younger audiences through social networking platforms (evidenced by the eight sites linked out in the footer of their website) is that in reality, it really isn’t an effort to engage with younger audiences, but it is really an effort to get young voters into the voting booth. All it takes is a few replies every month to a few youngsters on public websites to perpetuate the illusion that the American people are in conversation with the government online. However, the thing is, no matter how many times I mention the White House on twitter or comment on Youtube videos, the likelihood of me actually affecting policy is pretty much null, the White House presenting us information on these two way channels simply gives the illusion of dialogue when in reality it is more closely resembles a broadcast network where the station occasionally takes calls from viewers. In this way, I think it is important to look at the White House in the same way that we look at designers of social networking sites: we shouldn’t take what they say at face value but instead question why the “features” of their “participatory nature” work the way they do.

Human Sacrifice

In a time in which we as a species understood very little about the world around us, it is completely understandable that human beings thought that human sacrifice would be a good idea. After all, who doesn’t like ritualistic practice resulting in the betterment of the community? Back in the day when human sacrifice was considered the norm, people believed that the sacrifice of these individuals was really doing good for the community: if you could kill off one slave or lower-class citizen in exchange for greater good for the collective, it made sense to take that option.
Since then, human sacrifice has fallen out of practice because people have started to question the morals behind sacrificing the one for the many, people have started to question if the gods really want people to kill other humans, and people have started to question the existence of gods in general.

Changing up scales

When it comes to moving from a small scale to a larger one, problems would definitely occur if you were to take a relatively exclusive community and try to expand it to include more members because it then looses the appeal that it had for being only for a specific sub set of individuals. In the case of the site ASmallWorld, which is essentially a social network for the ultra-wealthy, the members have a lot to gain from being able to network with only people that they know have made it just as big as themselves; allowing just anyone into that network would immediately make the site lose it’s appeal, which explains why you have to receive an invitation to join and the number of users is capped at 250,000 (relatively small for a social network that has been around since 2004). In the case of another small community, the Urban Exploration Resource (UER), exclusivity comes as a means of security. The site is geared towards urban exploration, which is a phenomena in which curious participants break into abandoned buildings and photograph locations or write about their journeys. UER was created as a means for these people to come together and talk about their experiences and share locations with each other, but allowing just anyone into that network could mean police officers or vandals with bad intentions would have access to private discussions on popular destinations and with enough access could likely discern the identity of other members partaking in less than legal activities, which explains why there is such a rigorous process for joining that can take over a year.

On the flip side, general dating sites need to have large communities in order to be successful. There has to be a certain degree of diversity in dating sites in order for people to match up with people they’re interested in, but if the number of users plummeted then people would be less likely to find individuals they are interested in and they would in turn leave the sites themselves.

Medium

Sometime in Early 2013, the creators of Twitter sat down and decided to make a new sort of social media website. Though the concept itself is not entirely new, Evan Williams and Biz Stone sought to make a blogging platform that combined the interactive and transparent nature of Twitter, the ability to consume high quality content on par with professional long-form journalism publications, and “democratic” features that sites like Reddit allow such as self-categorizing stories and voting on what content deserves more recognition. In less than a year, the fruits of their labor produced Medium, what I would consider one of the most attractive blogging platforms currently available on the web.

When it comes to Medium, I’ve never been in the place of the producer, but I have messed around with the story creation feature and it is quite extensive but also extremely easy to use, two qualities that you don’t often find together when it comes to writing blogs. But while the post generation side of the site should definitely be a big draw for someone looking to start a blog, the consumer side is also at the top of it’s game. ┬áNot only is the site extremely aesthetically pleasing, regardless of what platform you’re using to view the stories, the way it was designed is very intuitive and makes it easier for anyone to jump in. I’ve been using the site since around August of 2013 with varying degrees of activity, and not much has changed about the site design wise in pretty much all of that time, but for good reason! The formula that they have is working, and there is no reason to fix what isn’t broken. Beyond that, the site itself seems to attract more professional writing than you’ll find on most blogging platforms, and as a reader that’s always a good thing. I can go from reading stories of tales in far away lands to full fledged opinion pieces about the environment or poverty or whatever may strike my fancy that day without having to worry about a dip in quality. And because the site is structured the way it is in regards to categorization, it’s easy to binge read about a topic and become fairly knowledgeable with one simple search.

Personally, my use of Medium has dwindled off a little in the past few months because I deleted my Twitter account, but I can definitely see myself recreating a Twitter just for the explicit purpose of writing about my adventures here in Shanghai on Medium.