Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Pew Internet Report | Teens + Social Media

Pew Internet released another excellent research report today on teens and their use of social media. Findings include:

-39 percent of online teens share their own artistic creations online such as
artwork, photos stories, or videos
-33 percent of online teens create or work on webpages or blogs for others,
including friends, groups they belong to or school assignments
-28 percent of online teens have created their own blog, up from 19% in 2004,
and almost completely driven by the popularity of blogging among girls
-27 percent of online teens maintain their own webpage
-26 percent of online teens remix content they find online into their own

Other high level take-aways: girls are more active than boys in social media, except for posting video online; and content creation is not only about creating, it's about "participating in conversations fueled by that content."

Finally, and this is not surprising, the report points out how uncool email is, with only 22 percent of respondents saying they email their friends daily. So how do they connect? Cell phones are at the top of the list, followed by texting and then instant messaging. Really, email is so 90s.

Thanks Pew for your great research!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Why RIAs are not social media

I've been thinking this weekend about rich Internet applications in comparison to social media. Their differences would seem to be apparent, but numerous times over the last year, I have been involved in projects where RIA's are confused with social media apps. So I have to ask, why is this?

I think the main point of confusion is that RIA's are often provoking to the senses, meaning that they do a good job of stimulating visual and aural senses, and sometimes even emotional responses. This response however is only between the user and the computer. In other words, I suggest that RIA's feel social because the computer is responsible for a human response that goes beyond what, in the CHI world, is often referred to as "surgical" (meaning I'm buying a product or clicking on a button). So the thinking goes, the response feels social so it must be social media.

But what makes social media, well, social, is the feedback loop. It simply is not social media without a feedback loop. What I mean by that is that the user must be able to respond beyond a click or a laugh or a purchase. They must be able to offer input and that input must be shared with the greater community. This is not rocket science but rather a very basic tenant communications and systems theories.

The feedback loop is the key because it allows for noise in the system, and it is that noise which enables change. It is dynamic, whereas RIA's, while fun to watch, are static. The creator creates and the audience gets to watch. Where is the "social" in that? It is really no different than watching TV.

For those with a deeper interest, or perhaps those who may just be bored, here's a paper I wrote a few years ago, which offers a more academic look at feedback loops by comparing blogs to Gregory Bateson's criteria of a mental process as a circuit. Please feel free to comment, feedback is always welcome ;)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Defy the Social Media Blackout

There has been a call today for a Twitterout—and some are even calling for a social media blackout. The idea is to see how productive one might be without using social media for a day.

I have two words for that idea: screw that.

I find it disturbing that my generation heeds the warnings of the less digital that the Internet is a waste of time. After spending 12 years in highly digital work spaces, I work in what I would consider a traditional work environment these days--and ad agency--and the only difference is that people waste their time in person here. For example, they hang out in each others' offices instead of IMing or spending time on facebook.

First of all, I would suggest that the concept of "wasting time" is a purely industrial one that needs to be banished along with time cards and mandatory in-office desk time. Who's to say that chatting around the office cooler, or for that matter, twittering, is wasteful? I find myself more productive when I am in contact with my people, meaning the ones who teach me and inspire me to do better work. Work is not linear, at least not for me. In this new environment, where I feel chained to my desk from 9 to 5, I find myself less inspired.

Second, the only difference between in-person and digital connections is one of choice. I call it "interest space," meaning that I form more meaningful connections via the web since I can connect with people I want to connect with. Here at the office, I have a small pool of which more forced interactions. That's not to say I don't find many of the people I work with brilliant, it's just to say that I don't have a choice.

So that's my take on a Twitterout or a social media blackout or whatever it may be. While we're at it let's ban rock-n-roll and books, and how about electricity.

Oh, and to join to blackout just go to facebook, oh wait, I think that's banned.