Department of Design

Curated by Timoni West.

Primarily focused on product design, technology, cognitive psychology, and the brain. Also—pretty pictures, sometimes moving.


Posts about social networks
March 28th, 2014
But the bigger picture issue is that we can’t trust you. You lied to us and said you were a social network but you’re totally not a social network. At least not anymore. When we log in to Facebook, we want to see what Aunt Judy is doing next weekend (hopefully baking us cupcakes) and read hilarious headlines from The Onion and see pictures of a cat who got his head stuck in the couch cushions. Instead, we get this: [ads]

A Breakup Letter to Facebook from Eat24 | Bacon Sriracha Unicorn Diaries

Funny article, but excellent point made about how Facebook’s algorithms, by deciding what we see, overwrite what our friends *want* us to see.

Theoretically, Facebook’s algorithms should function like a good party host: arranging introductions, inspiring better conversations, and carefully guiding new guests away from the rude overtalker.

In reality, they have become the rude overtalker themselves; hiding small bids for conversation, steering away into unrelated topics.

November 22nd, 2013
November 4th, 2013
Today’s self-publishing tools, almost from the get-go, were designed to privilege the present and ignore the past. When blogs first became popular, they were all organized in reverse chronology, with the most recent post at the top, the older ones fading into the background, and the clear implication of that design is that what’s written today is more important than what was written last week or last year. That design has carried over into basically every tool of social media. And, again, because most of the big social-media tools are paid for by advertising, they have even more economic impetus to reinforce recency in their design. They want us to be constantly refreshing the feed over and over again, because that’ll give them more eyeballs to which to sell ads. What this suggests, though, is that one could design all sorts of quite delightful tools for expression and contact that didn’t prize recency. If you founded a social network that charged a minimal amount of money, for example, you wouldn’t need ads at all, and suddenly the economic need to reinforce recency is gone. Facebook only makes five dollars a year off of each user. That’s actually an amazingly piddling amount, when you think about it.

Interview with Clive Thompson About Twitter, Ambient Awareness, Socrates, and Recency Bias : The New Yorker

I think this depends entirely on the type of ‘social network’ one makes. If you consider Medium a social network—instead of a content network, but why would you?—then, sure, quality over freshness. When it comes to sharing one’s day to day life, however, the most important events are also the most memorable, and don’t need constant re-hashing.

(h/t Paul Mison

April 19th, 2013
Touching base with an old acquaintance is all about catching up. If I haven’t talked to someone in 20 years, the level of detail I’d like to see is what you typically see in letters from a family that accompany their holiday cards. Let me see a photo, how many kids do you have, what trips did you recently take, where are you working, how is everyone doing, and that’s about all I want to know for the next 20 years. But on Facebook I only have the option of adding an old acquaintance as a friend or denying them, and then I am met with daily updates on their daughter’s ballet classes, photos from their workplace, and who they think should win the big game tonight, forever. I kind of wish I could just see a person’s About page for five minutes and move on, as I don’t need the daily detail/updates of every old high school buddy’s life.

Why I love Twitter and barely tolerate Facebook, by Matt Haughy

As you get older, you care less about the day-to-day minutiae of your peers or former acquaintances. You may care more about your family, or your new friends, or yourself, or you may just be focusing on other non-people things, but at some point, your focus will have shifted completely.

Facebook may know this internally, but if so, they haven’t changed round their news feed algorithms to reflect it. My guess is they’ll need to start segmenting interestingness algorithms by age group more aggressively: high schoolers care very much about their peers, college students less so, and so on.

December 13th, 2012
In the early days of the social web, there was a broad expectation that regular people might own their own identities by having their own websites, instead of being dependent on a few big sites to host their online identity. In this vision, you would own your own domain name and have complete control over its contents, rather than having a handle tacked on to the end of a huge company’s site. This was a sensible reaction to the realization that big sites rise and fall in popularity, but that regular people need an identity that persists longer than those sites do.
March 5th, 2012
….deindividuation is as much about anonymity of the self as it is about anonymity of the victim of the abuse; the belief that one need not face the consequences for his or her uncivil actions plays a major role. Does this suggest that people are not so inherently good as I have argued? Perhaps, or perhaps self-anonymity is connected with a perceived anonymity of the other. Just because you see the ref and know he is a person does not mean you see him as anything more than stripes. You don’t know who he is outside of that set of circumstances. Whether the cause is the concealment of one’s own identity or the concealment of the target’s identity, however, is irrelevant. The fact remains that the problem happens and it is the result of anonymity.

In a Digital Age: Internet Sociopathy Interesting point. From this perspective, trolling makes more sense, too.