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June 2008 Archives

June 5, 2008

Patterns of Reputation Representation


It is with a certain sense of pride that I watch as fellow Yahoo Christian Crumlish announces the arrival of a number of Reputation Patterns to the Yahoo! Design Pattern Library. If you've seen me speak in recent months (or followed the ol' blog) then these should be familiar territory: they represent a year or so of my work on an (internal to Yahoo!) Reputation Platform.

On the surface, they are fairly simple (by intent.) Game-like elements and incentive systems are much on-the-mind of social software designers these days. These patterns should provide some guidance to the IA, Designer, or Product Manager who's just now considering how best to wield these implements.

My own personal feeling, however, is that we're rapidly passing the point where the newness and novelty of these patterns is what's noteworthy. ("Hey look! Points!!") Soon, (now?) the care and respect with which we employ these patterns is what will be worth noting. A careful consideration of the context that we deploy them in; an honest and earnest attempt to build communities worth inhabiting (and not just ratcheting up peoples' competitive desires to dominate the leaderboard.) These are the challenges we face when considering how best to reward users' participation in the communities we build.

I would love it if these published patterns were a simple starting point for that conversation. (Though—to be fair—it's already taking place.)

I especially want to honor the contributions of a couple of folks to these patterns: Randy Farmer was Yahoo's Community Strategy Analyst during the months that we collaborated on User Experience best practices for reputation, and his imprint on these patterns is indelible. There's a certain approach to social software design embodied in these patterns that is entirely Randy's influence.

And Yvonne French was the Product Manager for the Reputation Platform. Yvonne worked closely with a number of Yahoo! properties and stakeholders to ensure that thoughtful, considered approach I mention above. She is a walking canon (and a loaded cannon!) of reputation best practices.

I'm really excited to get these out there, and we (Christian and I) hope to add a couple more to the mix in coming months. So… please do enjoy!

June 18, 2008

Open, to Some

Over on the YDN blog, our (brand spankin' new!) Open Standards Evangelist Eran has announced something cool. It's the First OAuth Summit and it's coming up quick.

This is a great event, tho' I'm a bit frustrated at the super-short lead time. Posted on June 13, announced on June 16 & held on June 26 = 10 day window. Hardly enough time for folks outside the Bay Area to: learn about the event; make plans/get permission to attend; and (forget about even tryin' to) get a decent advance rate on airfare. I'm just sayin' … this is how initiatives like OAuth get a bum rap as insular, Valley-only standards.

Hell, I work for Yahoo! (and it's no big secret that we're investing in Oauth.) We're hosting the event and I still won't be able to attend. 10 days' notice is fine when all you have to do is re-arrange a few meetings and hop down 101 from the Sunnyvale campus. But when you telecommute from Columbus? Um... what's that word I'm thinking of... 4 letters, starts with F— ... oh yeah: FAIL!

And… to make this somewhat less of a boo-hoo-Bryce session: a couple weeks back, I asked a local (Columbus) developer's list "Is anyone aware of OAuth? Any plans to implement it soon?" I'd specifically directed the question at devs in the finance sector, who I knew populated this particular list. (For those who aren't aware of it, Columbus is a big banking and insurance market. JPMorganChase, Nationwide Insurance and many others all do product development out of Columbus.) The scant response I got could generally be summarized as "heard of it… aware of it… no intentions to move to it." (My question was prompted by a tweet from Chris Messina that I thought was spot-on.)

Now, wouldn't a truly open OAuth Summit, with a decent amount of lead time (say… a month? 6 weeks? Could we do it in the Fall?) and… (gasp!) a travel-friendly location (I'm thinking Chicago, hell I'd take Denver) do a real service to the movement at this point? It could just be my perception, but I think that folks in the Valley are kinda, sorta hip to this whole OAuth thing. At least aware of it, if not actively working to jump onboard.

As Mr. Messina points out, OAuth will become truly helpful only when providers at both endpoints play along. And there a whole, whole lotta progressive, cool Bay Area Companies that will still need to rely on a lot of staid, conservative (but very smart and eager) service providers in places like Columbus to really make OAuth worth our collective while.

So, Eran and Yahoo! … Good on ya. 'A' for effort… 'B' for openness. And 'F' for advance notice.

June 19, 2008

More Bone

A couple weeks back, I blogged about the Jeff Smith exhibit here in Columbus at the Wexner Center for the Arts. Well, I just got a notice from Amazon that the exhibition catalog, Bone and Beyond, is now available for purchase! (Well, pre-order at this writing.) I picked up a copy when I went over there and it is a georgeous, lovingly-produced hardbound volume. If you're a Jeff Smith fan, I'd say it's a must-have.

Update, later that day: my friend, and Wexarts webmaster, Rob Duffy reminds me that the book and a buncha other really cool Bone merch! is also available direct from them. (Someone buy me that adorable Fone Bone plush!)

June 25, 2008

Welcome, Bokardo Readers!

Hi! It's entirely possible that you've followed a link over here from my recent interview with Josh Porter on bokardo.com (Pt 1 and Pt 2 of the interview.) If so—welcome aboard!

This blog is sort of a grab-bag of irrelevancy, thought-wanders and juvenalia (oh, and horribly organized—did I mention that?) But you might find some satisfaction with the following links:

Enjoy, please comment freely, and thanks for visiting.

Update, June 26: I've also posted a question and answer that didn't make the cut for the original interview.

June 26, 2008

The Bokardo Interview: The Hidden Track

Just for fun, here's one question that Josh asked and didn't use (I'm assuming, in the interests of brevity but also quite possibly because I veer dangerously close to pomposity.) Anyhoo…

10) What do designing video games and designing online reputation have in common? How do they differ?

Well, I'll say right up front that I've never worked on an incentive or reputation system for a game, so my answer will draw from a limited frame of reference. But I think it's evident that software has a lot to learn from the gaming world, and there are plenty of people excited about the prospect of that and talking about potential applications of game-like incentive systems. Amy Jo Kim has a wonderful presentation that she did at Etech a couple years back on that.

What's maybe talked about a little bit less, but is just as evident, is that there's an influence running in the opposite direction as well: the video gaming world is becoming much more social, and learning quite a bit from the Web 2.0 crowd in the process. I've had conversations with my friend Colm about this. (Colm Nelson was the lead UI Designer for Halo 3, and worked on expanding the system's social, party— and matchmaking elements.) It sounds ironic to say that "GAMES are learning social from the 'Net" (I mean, what could be more social than play?) but if you think about the historical arc of video gaming, it's only… oh, within the past 5 years, and the success of Xbox Live, and now online networks from Sony & Nintendo, that gaming is starting to become a much more social and less isolated experience.

I'm wildly generalizing here—computer-based games, MMORPGS, etc have had persistent community elements from the beginning. (In fact, a chief contributor to the Yahoo! patterns was Randy Farmer, who made his early reputation in online communities with Lucasfilm's Habitat and has worked on dozens of games, easily.) But, in general, with games of all stripes, we're kind of expecting now to use the game as a social meeting place. A means to bring our friends together, share a common experience over shared artifacts. Even in first-person shooters like Halo.

It's a very different experience than 10 years ago… you might've had that same experience in a LAN party, but that would require people to actually meet face-to-face. So now, in online gaming, reputation and social elements have become very important. As your circle of potential play-mates grows wider, so too does your need to evaluate those folks, remember them, find them again and communicate with them. You could do all of this in Friendster or MySpace years ago, and the video game services are catching up nicely.

So that's how both sides are similar. How do they differ? One significant difference, I think, is that… in gaming, it's probably easier to assume some common frame of reference between all participants. So, regardless of our specific individual motivations for coming to a game—perhaps you're there mostly to hang out, have fun and learn the game, while I've come to hone my techniques and stomp some N00bs. But, at some level, we're both there to compete or at least we acknowledge that what we're engaged in is a contest. So we're not at all astonished to see indicators to that effect. We're okay with seeing points assigned to our performance after a round: in fact we expect it.

This is not at all the case with reputation systems for online communities. I don't think we can fully anticipate all of the motivators that might bring someone to a… recipe site, for instance. Why would someone become an active recipe contributor? How would they want to be acknowledged for that contribution? Would earning a status indicator or a badge actually help motivate them? Or would it be seen as an insult—something that demeans and devalues their contribution? We've actually heard this in our research—some folks have a gut-level, instinctual aversion to 'earning points' or badges. It makes otherwise-fun online activities feel like school, or like they're being graded. I don't think you have this problem so much in games: the norms are more established, the expectations are set and all comers realize that being judged, graded and compared is… just part of the game.

June 29, 2008

Two Happy Guys

Two Happy Guys, originally uploaded by brian glass.

My brother Brian and my son Edison. Up to no good, the both of 'em.

About June 2008

This page contains all entries posted to Soldier Ant in June 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

May 2008 is the previous archive.

July 2008 is the next archive.

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