I wonder if engagement killed social media?

There’s no way to miss the frustration about social media all around us. Algorithmic feeds, allegations of Facebook manipulating the media. It never seems to end.

in the middle of this storm Andy Baio, the former CTO at Kickstarter, put up a link that shows you what your twitter feed was like ten years ago. It went viral.

Today were bombarded by snide comments and jokes at everyone’s expense, but ten years ago people mostly observed and shared things. 

I wonder why?

What happened that made the social landscape change this drastically? Was is the influx of new people that swamped the established culture? Possible, but I believe in humanity way more than that. was is the hardening social climate all around us? Doubtful, the only place it seems to get rougher is in the the media.

I think there’s a piece of evidence right there in what social posts look like today.

It’s a megaphone.

All these posts are broadcasts. They’re mostly snide, satirical or cynical posts at someone’s expense. 

There’s  another sort of content that’s experiencing the same development in parallel. News is growing worse and more snide by the minute in the race for faster and cheaper clickbait. 

Can it be that social media turned bad because we all strive for short term engagement? We know that measuring engagement shortsightedly has left Facebook with the massive undertaking to redesign their feed. So it’s not a big leap of the imagination to think that perhaps social media was killed by the like button. And twitter by the heart icon.

An entire form of media. Possibly killed because of a bad design choice. 

...or am I reading to much into this? 

UI is important, learn to know what good or bad

UI is the second most important part of any application or service.The service or function is more important, but it's not important at all if users can't use it.

How to know whats good or bad? Thankfully, our old friend Cognitive Psychology provides us with the key. Just record a user using your UI (or use it yourself and make notes).

  • Every time they try to do something that requires testing or a moments thought counts as negative.
  • Every time they do something that doesn't require thought and was intended counts as a positive.

Every negative counts twice, that's how humans perceive negative impact.

The higher the score, the better it is.

Of course, this is only generally true, performing 200 actions to change a song on your MP3 player is not a good UI. Even if every step was intuitive.

Project Natal

You've probably seen Microsoft's new interface for the Xbox 360: Project Natal. If you haven't, project Natal is a 3d stereo-optic RGB camera with a microphone. So it sees depth, color and can hear. Coupled with the Xbox 360 it allegedly allows you to do full body motion capture in real time as well as facial recognition and voice recognition. If you have no idea what I'm talking about watch the video(s) for the quickest look at what it does.

Project Natal at Xbox.com

If you do know about Natal, consider this:

Milo is probably scripted and pretty fake though surely the technology is possible just not Milo's AI. As a gaming interface Natal might be hard to use with the normal games of today, this does however not mean that it wont sell well or be fun to use. It certainly will. But with less gamish games probably.

There is a seed I'd like to place with all of you though. Think about the iPhone, what it really does well is that it forces applications and games to use a very easy to use interface that looks good. Microsoft are trying to do the same with Microsoft Surface technology but it is very expensive and hard to implement...

And along comes Natal. Not only does it implicitly force the use of an easy interface, your body is quite probably the best interface you'll ever use, but it's also available for existing technology. And it doesn't have to be very expensive.

This might be the interface that really leads us to ubiquitous computing. Typing still needs a keyboard, even on an iPhone, but navigation and normal use could be done by Natal.

Let's hope it works.