dConstruct, Brighton

Today I’m at dConstruct – a 1-day conference for designers, developers and webbies at the Dome, Brighton. It’s jam packed here – I hear there’s about 830 people here and it’s rather warm. I’m ladying the work stand, basically chatting to people about what we’re up to and encouraging anyone who’ll listen to get involved.

In an hour’s time I’ll be co-hosting the dConstruct dinner, which I’ve been organising for the last couple of weeks. I think it’ll be the first time in living memory there’s been a vegan BBQ at a geek dinner and it’ll be both a novelty and a fantastic treat for me to be able to eat with everyone and not be really hungry and feeling left out!

I’ve only been able to slip away to a couple of presentations, but here’s my notes!

Daniel Burka – ‘Designing for Interaction’
Dan is an interface designer who currently works as lead designer for news website Digg.
He started off with a sporting metaphor – about baseball games attracting all sorts of people from different entry points, which incurs all sorts of personal interaction – he went on to discuss how a broad audience is one of the challenges facing site designers and went on to give us some of his thoughts…

Challenge #1
Get people socializing:

* How do you get people to be social and how do you encourage participation?
* Increasing benefits of your sites – going beyond altruistic motivations – supportive stuff – ie ‘if you do X you’ll get Y’
* Reduce barriers to entry – make things easy
* Dip your toe in the water – ‘get going quickly and get people going’

Challenge #2
Encourage positive participation

* Obvious way is personal profiles – encourage and trust connections
* Focus on tension points – copy and design can go a long way
* Avoid negative competition – ‘king of the hill’ fights don’t work

Challenge #3
Allow for flexible participation
– allow for novices and people with niches interests – for both people with 5 or 5000 friends – a website that works for all users

Seek the ‘unobtainium’! Chemists use this term when they’re talking about ‘something’ they wish they had, or when they are lacking something special or crucial – interaction designers also often wish they had this when designing – that certain something that’s missing!

* Follow trails – don’t be afraid to adapt to your users ways of doing things

Summing up
* Increased benefit and lower barrier to entry
* Gives users a taste
* Expression = trust and connections
* Focus on tension points
* Adapt to volume and frequency
* Pave the cowpaths (pardon?!)


Matt Jones & Matt Biddulph of Dopplr.com – ‘Designing the Coral Reef ‘

The Dopplr guys are sitting on a sofa waving at a monkey. They’re looking very relaxed…

Dopplr is an online tool that brings together frequent travellers. It’s very handy for people like me who travel a lot, as I can share trips and tips with my colleagues and friends.

After informal introductions, Matt Jones gave an overview of the ethos of Dopplr, and how they had been referred to as running like a ‘social physics engine’. Matt showed us some slides, one of them of some animal classification and Matt pointed to an area they’ve decided they’re most like which was something like ‘benthic macroforma (sp?)’ – I think he was joking!

Matt Biddulph then took over and talked about web 2.0 and Dopplr – in terms of connections and how you could compare their evolution to the early days of the computer, for example how large computers used to keep data in one place. Personal computers took people away from the mainframe, but sites like Flickr are now the mainframe for some of us.

The Matts (what’s the correct plural?) went through a selection of quotes and examples from some of their friends who have done (or said) very clever or inspirational things, but I’m going to *poke* them about not including any smart quotes from their girl peers!

Anyways, Matt Biddulph sees Dopplr as ‘always on the edge of the map – on the loading screen’. They’re concerned with designing a distributed, interwoven identity and gave an example of a quote about an identity that appealed to them – it was by Martin Lindstrom who had said that when a coke bottle smashes into a 1000 pieces you still know it’s a coke bottle.

The identity of Dopplr came about when they were testing prototypes – ‘our brand slowly changes into your brand’. They like ‘delighters’ – this is a ‘certain something’ put into a persons experience to give him or her instant joy – such as a rubber duck – for example if you’ve had a miserable day and there’s a rubber duck left prominently in your hotel bathroom it will probably make you smile.

The colour logo strips on Dopplr change – people notice this over a period of using the site – why? They reflect what you’re doing and where you are in the world. Apparently the secret power behind Dopplr is a guy called Tom, who devises features such as this. He has done a lot of work on the colour frameworks they use on the site. They have public profile features, they refer to them as data toys – these are Dopplr’s ‘delighters’ – ‘Personal Velocity’ works out your average speed through the world in the past twelve months, and then compares it to the nearest speed in the animal kingdom – ‘It’s a visualisation – we equivilized ™ speeds into animal representations’.

Matt B talked about building a distributed interwoven system. Looking at APIs from various sites and user experience across many variables such as platforms, he observed that there can be unforseen problems. Although the building process starts off simple and works fine, when you apply it to a live site it doesn’t always work out due unpredictables such as a bad connection or amount of traffic.

One of the things Dopplr is working on right now is the ability to check social network portability and making everything contextual – ie small pieces loosely joined. They’re adding lots of toys that they’d like to have a life outside Dopplr, for example an open social application that can interoperate with other applications and sites.

They recently launched at application that works with Twitter to add your trips.
Dopplr’s new features include ‘groups’ – to help you keep in touch with other people you’ve met, for example at conferences. It includes ‘coincidences’, also includes company groups such as the BBC.
There’s a ‘share this trip’ feature – you can chose people from your contacts or outside Dopplr and share info from a particular trip with them – they don’t want Dopplr to be a walled garden and this feature opens up the system.

There then followed ‘a science bit’ – Matt & Matt tried an experiment with QR codes (you had to be there to get this).

Matt Jones had a slide about the need for pause buttons on social networks. Dopplr mentioned they are careful not to talk about people’s contacts as ‘friends’ – but a connection of ‘trust’ relationships – as there’s so much weight, awkwardness and complication when you introduce the word ‘friend’ into everything. They like the Familiar Stranger project – it’s about the local people you see every day at the bus stop and around your environment – how together these people create a thriving and diverse city.

To end, a chuckling Matt Jones showed a Tim O’Reilly slide so ‘they didn’t get chucked out of the web 2.0 gang’ – which probably doesn’t come out as quite so funny in my write up. They’re also giving away some rather lovely booklets of stickers, reflecting countries in Dopplr’s favourite colours to beautify your laptop, notebook or forehead.



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