Standard Customization. Evaluating Flexibility through Quick-MI.

clip_image001Having choices, broad capabilities and feature sets, is definitely a good thing. All of the previously discussed categories of Quick-MI (4 of the 5 categories)…

…represent the critical components that illuminate the key variables instrumental in the sustained success of many current and emerging products, increasingly becoming part of the Modular Innovation trend.

Having the Flexibility, and being pliable and easy to grasp, further enhances the relationships inherent in successful and emerging products. Flexibility, in the abstract, prevents important relationships from breaking. Without Flexibility, a relationship becomes rigid. Rigid, brittle relationships don’t respond well to strain…

control,
self-determination,
change,
etc.

…often failing under the pressures of the people and products involved.

As previously described

Modular Innovation (MI) is all about relationships, be they between people or products online. In looking at how these relationships are established, maintained, enhanced, and expanded, one can achieve greater insight into the underlying forces shaping Modular Innovation, quantifying the degree by which a product is participating within, as well as evolving towards greater degrees of, Modular Innovation.

Equally important among the 5 categories that make up Quick-MI, is Flexibility. Flexibility is the measure of both the ease and degree of adaptability and customization permitted by a product.

In abiding with the overarching goals of both Quick-UX and Quick-MI (quick assessment for summary, directional guidance, and quantitative comparison), the variables constituting the minimal representative subset for Flexibility are…

  • Customizability
  • Standardization

Each variable and category (e.g. Flexibility) is assigned a value that can be compared and combined. When all the categories’ values are combined, they form the Modular Innovation Index of a product.

Customizability

Customizability is the measure of degree of plasticity of the other 4 categories of Quick-MI. The overall Customizability of the core components of Quick-MI as represented via a product’s present capabilities is sufficiently important to be represented by independent quantification.

Of each feature set representative of each individual Quick-MI category, Customizability is the evaluation of the proportion of the present capabilities that can be customized and adjusted to desired preferences. An example of Customizability of a data feed can be found in the permitting of the recipient, via an API, to customize the format of the data feed, e.g. choosing between JSON or XML.

The Customizability variable’s value is the sum of evaluated Customizability for each individual Quick-MI category; thereby, resulting in a maximum value of 4 (a maximum value of 1 per category: Sharability, Interoperability, Portability, and Convenience). Each Customizability value is determined to be…

  • 0 if the Quick-MI category does not allow any Customizability,
  • 0.5 if the capabilities associated with the Quick-MI category are allowed some Customizability and indication of preference, or
  • 1 if the all capabilities associated with the Quick-MI category can be Customized and have preferences indicated.

01_wordpress-exportWordPress proves a good source for demonstrating the variable value for the Customizability of the Quick-MI category of Portability’s variable User Generated Content Exportability, with this product allowing for some customization of the exported content, by way of controlling which authors are included within the resultant output.

Standardization

The benefits and value associated with Quick-MI’s Flexibility category are weakened through the lack of adherence to common practices and standards. The more non-proprietary, standard methods and formats are employed, the more they will be used in the relationships between product-product and people-product. And, in turn, the more resilient will be these relationships.

Some good questions to ask when evaluating the extent of Standardization within a product are…

  • Is there a non-standard API?
  • Is the resultant file in a proprietary file format?
  • Are standard methodologies employed throughout?

The Standardization variable is assigned the value of…

  • 0 if no standard methods or non-proprietary formats are employed within the product,
  • 0.5 if some places within the product make use of commonly accepted practices and formats, or
  • 1 if all of the product’s touch points follow common standards, methodologies and formats.

02_ostatus Identi.ca is a micro-blogging service much like Twitter. But, unlike Twitter it is built based on free and open software standards, implementing the OStatus suite of standardized protocols; resulting in a Standardization variable value of 1.

Fast and Flexible

Quick-MI is all about understanding and measuring the relationships formed and supported between online products, especially those pioneering the next generation of web products via Modular Innovation.

With too much rigidity, an inflexible relationship can strain and even break. Flexibility of the components of Quick-MI and simplification of benefiting from that Flexibility, through adherence to commonly accepted standards, is crucial to forming strong, sustainable products and product relationships.

Altogether, the 5 categories of Quick-MI …

Sharability,
Interoperability,
Portability,
Convenience, and
Flexibility,

… constitute a sound, representative, quantitative understanding of a product’s ability to foster and maintain relationships both within and without — yielding an oft missed, yet critical, perspective into the success and sustainability of an online product.

Enjoy, Discuss & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

PS Try it out, tweak it, learn more about Modular Innovation and share you experiences.

About these ads

From Fabulous Chart Makeovers to "You’re Fired"

Every week I read thousands of blog posts. For your weekend enjoyment, here are some of those highlights.  What are you reading this weekend?

01_fired

On Starting Up…

http://www.readwriteweb.com/start/2010/05/youre-fired-or-not-advice-on-w.php
Fire your startup employees today (or not).

On Design & Product Experience…

http://www.juiceanalytics.com/writing/chart-makeovers/
Give your charts a fabulous makeover.

02_charts
03_fluid

On Modular Innovation…

http://techcrunch.com/2010/05/24/fluiddb-aims-to-become-the-wikipedia-of-databases/
Interconnecting the disparate data of the web.

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

Memorable Utility. Evaluating Convenience through Quick-MI.

clip_image001Through increased utility and stateful behavior, products are able to improve the User eXperience (UX) as well as strengthen the bond of the relationship between product-product and user-product. This manner of contribution, to the strength of products’ relationships, is better understood and evaluated via Quick-MI’s category of Convenience — 1 of the 5 components of Quick-MI.

In my ongoing discussion of Quick-MI we have already explored the importance of…

…as essential components for successful Modular Innovations. Quick-MI consists of 5 components, or categories, that bring to light critical variables instrumental in the sustained success of many current and emerging products, increasingly becoming part of the Modular Innovation trend. Modular Innovation (MI), along with a product’s User eXperience (UX), combine to become strong indicators of a product’s adoption and success.

As previously described

Modular Innovation (MI) is all about relationships, be they between people or products online. In looking at how these relationships are established, maintained, enhanced, and expanded, one can achieve greater insight into the underlying forces shaping Modular Innovation, quantifying the degree to which a product is participating within, as well as evolving towards, greater degrees of Modular Innovation.

In abiding with the overarching goals of both Quick-UX and Quick-MI (quick assessment for summary, directional guidance, and quantitative comparison), the variables constituting the minimal representative subset for Convenience are…

  • Utilizability
  • Memorability

Each variable and category (e.g. Convenience) is assigned a value that can be compared and combined. When all the categories’ values are combined, they form the Modular Innovation Index of a product.

Utilizability

Utilizability is at the measure of how useful the product is from various, diverse, points of entry. Utilizability can also be seen as a look at how product and people relationships are maintained and fostered under non-desktop browser situations. It is a look at the diversity of means by which the product may be put to use by the user. Utilizability consists of 3 sub-variables, whose values are summed to constitute the final Utilizability variable value:

  • Offline Utilizability
  • Mobile Utilizability
  • Alternate Utilizability

Offline Utilizability assesses the dependence upon a persistent Internet connection of a given product. Furthermore, Offline Utilizability evaluates the extent to which the capability permeates all facets of the product. Some products make use of another product called Google Gears in order to provide additional functionality to their products; sometimes also including the ability to use all or part of the product Offline. Google Docs, for example, makes use of Google Gears to provide local, portable access regardless of the current state of an Internet connection.

The Offline Utilizability variable’s value is…

  • 0 if no Offline use of the product exists,
  • 0.5 if some of functionality the product can be used Offline, or
  • 1 if all of the functionality of the product is able to be used whether or not there exists an Internet connection.

01_offline-google-calendar Offline Google Calendar possesses a subset of the functionality as its online counterpart, being limited primarily to the display of the calendar information, earning it an Offline Utilizability variable value of 0.5.

Mobile Utilizability evaluates the degree of Utilizability of a product from a mobile product. A mobile product can be anything from cell phone, to PDA, to any other device with handheld-portable intent. A good example of partial Mobile Utilizability is Facebook’s mobile interface. While Facebook does provide an easy-to-use interface to much of its key functionality, the mobile version of Facebook limits the capabilities (e.g. no access to Facebook apps) that are Utilizable from a mobile device.

The Mobile Utilizability variable’s value is…

  • 0 if no Mobile (portable device) use of the product exists,
  • 0.5 if some of functionality the product can be Utilized via a Mobile device, or
  • 1 if all of the functionality of the product is Utilizable via a Mobile device.

02_techmeme Another example can be seen in Techmeme, a product that provides all of its non-mobile functionality to a user’s mobile device, achieving a Mobile Utilizability value of 1.

Alternate Utilizability addresses the “other” of Utilizability. How does a product “help” the user use it – beyond Offline and Mobile Utilizability? For the purposes of quick assessment, Alternate Utilizabilty is limited to assessing the degree of Utilizable data and functionality facilitated via alternate products and services. Through what 3rd-party products (digital or physical), or other online 03_identi_ca services, can the product be Utilized. A new product worth following, Identi.ca, with an Alternate Utilizability variable value of 1, is working on implementing the Alternate Utilizability concept via the OpenMicroblogging protocol — that will eventually allow people to send and receive their Twitter and Identi.ca “tweets” from any Laconi.ca (the ‘guts’ behind Identi.ca) server — completely independent of the current status of the Twitter service.

The Alternate Utilizability variable’s value is…

  • 0 if none of the product’s data is accessible and utilizable from alternate products,
  • 0.5 if some of the product’s data is accessible and utilizable from alternate products, or
  • 1 if all of the product’s data is accessible and utilizable from alternate services and/or products.

Memorability

Most products have some degree of Memorability; typically in the form of Setting Memorability. The more that is remembered, the more Convenient is the interaction as well as the underlying functionality, to use and benefit from, and so too are the relationships that facilitate the retention, reconnectivity, and, of course, memory. Memorability is the saving of conditional information and is represented as the sum of 2 sub-variables:

  • Setting Memorability
  • Stateful Memorability

Setting Memorability evaluates the degree of Memorability of user settings. Not all settings are always remembered. For example, some products may or may not remember a customized color scheme.

  • If none of a product’s Settings are recalled upon a user’s return then the Setting Memorability variable value is 0.
  • If some of a product’s Settings are recalled upon a user’s return then the Setting Memorability variable value is 0.5.
  • If all of a product’s Settings are recalled upon a user’s return then the Setting Memorability variable value is 1.

04_hootsuite People who use Hootsuite are happily familiar with the product’s ability to recollect all of the user’s settings and display configuration upon each successive return, earning it a Settings Memorability variable value of 1.

Stateful Memorability evaluates the degree of Memorability of user state – the portions of the experience which, upon user interaction, indicate a preference or customization, but are not directly settable as a user setting. For example, some products may allow the user to re-arrange the UI, moving some windows around, while minimizing others. Within similar products, the user is manipulating the state of the product, and the degree of Stateful Memorability is seen as to how much, if any, of the window positions and similar customizations are retained upon the user’s later return to the product. Another abstract example: Imagine a user Utilizing a product and getting to step 12 of 45 before having to leave. A form of Stateful Memorability that this product may provide is allowing the user to return later to continue from Step 12 and move beyond it, from the desktop, or even a portable device.

The Stateful Memorability variable’s value is…

  • 0 if no state information is remembered,
  • 0.5 if some state information is remembered, or
  • 1 is all state information is remembered.

05_eyeos Classic EyeOS, a web-based operating system, recalls some of your state information, icon placement, etc., from session to session, resulting in a Stateful Memorability variable value of 0.5.

Conveniently Quick

Success of a product is more than having the most awe inspiring UX. There is a lot more to it. Another component, another dimension of sustained success online is Modular Innovation.

Quick-MI is all about understanding and measuring the relationships formed and supported between online products, especially those pioneering the next generation of web products via Modular Innovation.

Important to successful relationships is the ease with which one can re-establish and return to those relationships. This Convenience, when present, can strengthen and even encourage the stronger Modular Innovation relationship and bond through well done implementations of utility and retention, Utilizability and Memorability. These conveniences are another key to understanding the trend of Modular Innovation.

Remember, Convenience is just 1 of 5 categories that make up Quick-MI. The other 4 categories are…

Through all 5 categories, combined, a sound, representative, quantitative understanding of a product’s ability to foster and maintain relationships both within and without — yielding an oft missed, yet critical, perspective into the success and sustainability of an online product.

Enjoy, Discuss & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

PS Try it out, tweak it, learn more about Modular Innovation and share you experiences.

From Super Geeky to the Small Print of UI

Every week I read thousands of blog posts. For your weekend enjoyment, here are some of those highlights.  What are you reading this weekend?

01_geeky

On Starting Up…

http://www.readwriteweb.com/start/2010/05/is-your-startup-too-geeky.php
Beware the overly geeky startup.

 
 

On Design & Product Experience…

http://uxmag.com/design/the-small-print-writing-ui-instructions
On the small print of UI instructions.

02_small-print
03_open-id-connect

On Modular Innovation…

http://www.webmonkey.com/2010/05/new-openid-connect-proposal-could-solve-many-of-the-social-webs-woes/
Re-solving the interconnectivity between the people and products of the web.

 

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

To Have and Own. Evaluating Portability through Quick-MI.

clip_image001In my ongoing discussion of Quick-MI we have explored the importance of Sharability and Interoperability as essential components for successful Modular Innovations. Quick-MI consists of 5 components, or categories, that bring to light critical variables instrumental in the sustained success of many current and emerging products, increasingly becoming part of the Modular Innovation trend. Modular Innovation (MI), along with a product’s User eXperience (UX), combine to be strong indicators of a product’s adoption and success.

As previously described

Modular Innovation (MI) is all about relationships, be they between people or products online. In looking at how these relationships are established, maintained, enhanced, and expanded, one can achieve greater insight into the underlying forces shaping Modular Innovation, quantifying the degree by which a product is participating within, as well as evolving towards greater degrees of, Modular Innovation.

The next of the 5 categories that make-up Quick-MI that we will explore is Portability.

Portability, a key component of Quick-MI , is a measure of degree of ownership and control over one’s own content (commonly referred to as User Generated Content and abbreviated as UGC).

In abiding with the overarching goals of both Quick-UX and Quick-MI (quick assessment for summary, directional guidance, and quantitative comparison), the variables constituting the minimal representative subset for Portability are…

  • Exportability (UGC & Settings)
  • Importability
  • Editability
  • Controllability

Each variable and category (e.g. Portability) is assigned a value that can be compared and combined. When all the categories’ values are combined, they form the Modular Innovation Index of a product.

Exportability

Seen by many as dealing most directly with the actual UGC of all the 5 categories of Quick-MI is Portability. And, readily apparent in bestowing the sense of ownership and control over one’s own content and data is Exportability. The ownership and control derives from the ability to download or transfer your content to your local computer or 3rd party service. As a result, the content can be retained independently and re-used independently of the service through which it originated.

Exportability consists of 2 sub-component variables:

  • UGC Exportability
  • Settings Exportability

UGC Exportability evaluates the degree of Exportability of the UGC created by a user. This can be anything from pictures to blog articles — works created by the user and used with or simply placed upon the studied product.

Settings Exportability evaluates the degree of Exportability of the settings and configurations that directly impact the UGC and resultant User eXperience (UX). For example, the settings can indicate…

  • which of the content is public or private,
  • the color scheme (theme) to use when displaying the information,
  • the user’s friends that are permitted to view each UGC element,
  • and more.

The value of the Exportability variable is the sum of the values of the sub-component variables: UGC Exportability and Settings Exportability.

The UGC Exportability sub-component variable’s value is…

  • 0 if none of the user’s UGC can be transferred or downloaded,
  • 0.5 if some of the user’s UGC can be transferred or downloaded, or
  • 1 if all of the user’s UGC can be transferred or downloaded.

01_wordpressThe Settings Exportability sub-component variable’s value is…

  • 0 if none of the user’s UGC / UX Settings can be transferred or downloaded,
  • 0.5 if some of the user’s UGC /UX Settings can be transferred or downloaded, or
  • 1 if all of the user’s UGC / UX Settings can be transferred or downloaded.

WordPress is a good example of a product with a UGC Exportability value of 1 and Settings Exportability value of 0.

Importability

The logical progression of ability arising from that of Exportability is Importability. Exportability and Importability are logically linked, however, not inextricably so, as one characteristic can exist without the other. It is not uncommon to find a wiki that allows for the exporting of the full contents of the wiki, but provides no capability to import that which was exported. Importability, within Quick-MI, specifically is the ability permitted by a product to import, or re-incorporate, content and/or settings that were previously exported as well as the product’s capability to managed changes within the exported data during the import process.

02_google-merchant-center An example of Importability (value 1.0) is demonstrated by Google Merchant Center. Google Merchant Center allows users to externally edit the content that was stored or generated within the product and then upload and re-combine the edited content with the user’s existing data.

The value of Importability for a product is…

  • 0 if data that was exported from the product cannot be re-imported,
  • 0.5 if only an exact export from the product can be imported back, or
  • 1 if the data that was exported from the product can be edited in the export format and imported back.

Editability

03_flickrEditability is the measure of the degree of dependence the user has upon the product from which the UGC originated, or was modified by, once the UGC has been exported. Without an independent means of editing exported content, the exported content primarily exists as a backup of a user’s data — with limited reusability and flexibility.

  • If none of the exported content can be independently modified, then the Editability value is 0.
  • If some of the exported content can be independently modified, then the Editability value is 0.5.
  • If all of the exported content can be independently modified, then the Editability value is 1.

A simple example of an Editability value of 1.0 would be the ability to independently modify all the content of a Flickr account.

Controllability

Delving into the ‘where’ of Portability is a look at the Controllability of one’s own data, or UGC. Data can be Portable, but…

How close can you get to your data?

How much control can you exert over your UGC?

Can you “touch” it?

Some social networks allow their users to import friend lists directly from 3rd party services, e.g. email or other social networks. The social networks, may also allow the users to easily add, remove, and modify all their friends information. However, the control of the transferred content, for this example, is limited, since neither the social network, nor the origin of the content permitted downloading or other remote storage of the friends data — thereby, limiting the user’s overall control over the content.

This variable should not be confused with the previously discussed Redundancy variable, whose focus is limited to the replication of data or functionality. Controllability relates to the storage and manipulation of the active (in-use) data by the product.

The Controllability variable’s value is…

  • 0 if none of the active data can be stored locally or at some 3rd-party data store,
  • 0.5 if some of the active data can be stored locally or at some 3rd-party data store, or
  • 1 if all of the active data can be stored locally or at some 3rd-party data store.

04_office-liveA good example of a product with a Controllability variable value of 1.0 would be Microsoft Word and its ability to save, load, and modify its UGC both locally, and from Office Live. While Ping.fm facilitates replicating of such UGC as a Tweet, it does not facilitate the any further Control of any of the redundant content post-replication (Controllability variable value of 0).

Swiftly Portable

Success of a product is more than having the most awe inspiring UX. There is a lot more to it. Another component, another dimension of sustained success online is Modular Innovation.

Quick-MI is all about understanding and measuring the relationships formed and supported between online products, especially those pioneering the next generation of web products via Modular Innovation.

Integral to successful relationships is the inherent sense of control and ownership over one’s own work and contributions. A relationship cannot hold together without the individual’s “ownership,” and resulting control and pride that accompanies. A relationship cannot hold together without Portability, quantified via the Portability score (a summation of the above variable values).

Remember, Portability is just 1 of 5 categories that make up Quick-MI. The other 4 categories are…

Through all 5 categories, combined, a sound, representative, quantitative understanding of a product’s ability to foster and maintain relationships both within and without — yielding an oft missed, yet critical, perspective into the success and sustainability of an online product.

Enjoy, Discuss & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

From Team Motivation to Design Hell

Every week I read thousands of blog posts. For your weekend enjoyment, here are some of those highlights.  What are you reading this weekend?

01_motivation

On Starting Up…

http://www.entrepreneur.com/humanresources/employeemanagementcolumnistdavidjavitch/article206502.html
Motivating your team can be tricky in the best of times.

 
 

On Design & Product Experience…

http://theoatmeal.com/comics/design_hell
Finding humor in a design process gone wrong.

02_design-hell
03_blippy

On Modular Innovation…

http://news.cnet.com/8301-27076_3-20004735-248.html
Blippy broadens its Modular Innovation footprint.

 

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

Product Process, HomeField Advantage & More Joy in June!

theproductgroup_logo_200909_thumb752
balsamiq_logo2_thumb263333
RymaLogoHighRes257_thumb5222

A big thank you to everyone who made it to our latest meet-up of The Product Group, as well as to our sponsors, Balsamiq Studios and Ryma Technology Solutions!

BTW, we are working towards securing a new venue for June. Please contact me ASAP if you can help out.

Our group had a great time discussing Product People-oriented topics.

DSC06289

Over the 2+ hours we discussed…

Featured Product: HomeField
exploring the product, its challenges and successes, from user acquisition and marketing to user testing and social strategy (very special thanks to the HomeField team: Reece Pacheco, Dan Spinosa, Joe Yevoli)

Product Process
from the benefits and challenges of agile to feature prioritization to bug and idea management techniques

DSC06283 

The Product Group meet-ups are an opportunity for Product People (managers, strategies, marketers, etc.) to come together to meet, interact, and network in a roundtable setting. It’s awesome to meet fellow Product People in a laid-back, conversational gathering like this one and I am looking forward to seeing everyone, new and familiar, at our next meet-up …

Thursday, June 3rd @ 7PM
@ TBA
NYC

If you would like to attend our next meet-up, RSVP today or visit our group webpage at…

http://meetup.com/TheProductGroup

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

P.S. If you or an organization you represent would be interested in sponsoring or hosting an upcoming gathering of The Product Group please contact me.

Like, How Many Friends Does Facebook Need?

me-grayGuest post By Edo "Amin" Elan, Product Designer,  The Product Point-of-View blog

Facebook’s new, disruptive "like" feature may also be a pre-emptive solution to a looming problem: the anthropological boundaries of friend management

According to the official stats, the average Facebook member now has 130 friends. Is this too many Friends? Can you have too many friends? In fact, you can. 130 is dangerously close to 150, also known in anthropology and social media as the Dunbar number.

Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist and evolutionary biologist, argued in 1998 that there is a cognitive limit to the number of relations that any one primate can maintain. Researching gossip, grooming and human history Dunbar How%20Many%20Friends%20...lr[1]formulated that people can only keep gossip with 150 people at any given time. According to Dunbar, “this limit is a direct function of relative neocortex size, and that this in turn limits group size … the limit imposed by neocortical processing capacity is simply on the number of individuals with whom a stable inter-personal relationship can be maintained.”

The Dunbar number is discussed in some length in Malcolm Gladwell’s "Tipping Point". Dunbar himself blames the Internet for simplifying his theories into a "Dunbar number", but the title of a recent (2010) anthology of his writings seems to wink to the Facebook generation: "How Many Friends Does One Person Need?" (see Dunbar speak here, mentioning Facebook).

It’s no surprise that the Dunbar number made its way to social media circles, and keeping within Dunbar number boundaries may already be one of the industry’s established "best practices". I first learned of the Dunbar number while reading a 2006 article by sociologist Danah Boyd, who researched Friendster and MySpace, among others. As Boyd noted back then, Friendser was acknowledging the Dunbar limit when it capped Friends at 150. With its current average at 130, Facebook might appear to some to be like a car running with steam shooting from under its hood.

To be fair to Boyd, she regarded Friendster’s practice as a misconception. In her 2006 "Friends, Friendsters, and MySpace Top 8" she pointed out that Friendsters were actually connecting to friends from the past with whom they are not currently engaging, so those past links should not be counted towards the 150 contact cognitive limit. That said, Boyd was far from suggesting complacency in the face of exploding friend numbers:

"Because social network sites do not provide physical walls for context, the context that users create is through their choice of Friends. They choose people that they know and other Friends that will support their perception of what public they are addressing through their presentation of self, bulletins, comments, and blog posts. This completely inverts the norms in early public social sites where interests or activities defined a group (Usenet, mailing list, chatroom, etc.) and people chose to participate based on their interest in the topic."

Escaping the Dunbar Curse

The recent Facebook "like" feature, released about two weeks ago, seems to be designed for creating precisely such contexts for social proximity. With a sufficient inventory of "like"s, Facebook should have plenty of options for contexts to differentiate between different kinds of friends. This should help to bail it out if 150 indeed turns out to be Dunbar’s Curse.

In her 2006 paper, Boyd says "While it was once possible to gather all cat lovers into one Usenet group, the size of this group would be beyond unbearable today". I couldn’t help but look into the couple-of-weeks-old Facebook "like" page for Cats- and found it had 53,544 people who "liked" it. Beyond unbearable? Sure, it’s difficult to carry any meaningful conversation in that size of community. But when I view the "Cats" page, all I see above the fold are posts that, indeed, include "Cats" but originate from my friends. So the "context", to use Boyd’s term, might have been created here – but its effect isn’t so much to generate conversation within the huge Cats group, as much as to enable the Cats context between me and my friends.

This correlates to my own experience as an interaction designer. Recently, when designing the interaction for an enterprise social network, I noticed that the more the social element was brought into the forefront, the less the total number count of participants in a "topic" mattered. What mattered was seeing that some "friends" are already participating in the topic. In fact, just a handful of friends interested in (or "liking") a  topic was sufficient to create significant peer pressure.

Simultaneously with launching "like", Facebook also continued quietly revising the news feed filters – another location sensitive to a growing contact book. In a previous post, from about a month ago, I noticed some interface confusion there. It’s now cleared.

Also note that friends lists have a prominent place in the "Account" menu in the current Facebook  layout. Editing those lists will become a more familiar, everyday activity as we learn to target our posts to "lists" (or in the future, "likes") instead of to all friends. My present Facebook policy is to accept any Facebook friend request arriving to my account, then to organize my hundreds of Facebook contacts in lists that look a lot like "Like"s.

Dunbar, by the way, did not provide a single number but a series. The first number was 5 (Bret Taylor, FriendFeed co-founder and Facebook Head of Platform Product, referred to this number as "the magic number" in the beginning of his F8 presentation).  But the next significant "friendship circle" beyond 150, Dunbar says, allows for a more shallow connection with up to 500 contacts. Last weekend, my Facebook friend count crossed that magic number. I’ll keep you posted.

 

Edo "Amin" Elan (LinkedIn.com/in/edoamin) is a Product Designer in San Francisco, CA. Elan has been following social media from its inception to its global spread. His most recent project was designing the interaction for an enterprise social platform. He also likes to draw comic strips.

Interested in being a Guest Blogger on The Product Guy? Contact me.

From Angels to Search of Mobile Design

Every week I read thousands of blog posts. For your weekend enjoyment, here are some of those highlights.  What are you reading this weekend?

01_angels

On Starting Up…

http://www.readwriteweb.com/start/2010/04/angel-backed-companies-more-likely-to-succeed-says-harvard-study.php
Succeed with the help of angels.

 
 

On Design & Product Experience…

http://www.uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2010/05/design-patterns-for-mobile-faceted-search-part-ii.php
On search of mobile design.

02_mobile-search
03_open-graph

On Modular Innovation…

http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/7_tools_apps_and_mashups_that_use_facebooks_new_features.php
Modular Innovation in the land of Facebook from the Open Graph.

 

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

At and Between. Evaluating Interoperability through Quick-MI.

clip_image001In my earlier discussion, I outlined the importance of Sharability to successful Modular Innovations and Quick-MI. Quick-MI consists of 5 categories that bring to light critical variables instrumental in the sustained success of many current and emerging products, increasingly becoming part of the Modular Innovation trend. Modular Innovation (MI), along with a product’s User eXperience (UX), combine to be strong indicators of a product’s adoption and success.

As previously described

Modular Innovation (MI) is all about relationships, be they between people or products online. In looking at how these relationships are established, maintained, enhanced, and expanded, one can achieve greater insight into the underlying forces shaping Modular Innovation, quantifying the degree by which a product is participating within, as well as evolving towards greater degrees of, Modular Innovation.

1 of the 5 categories that makes up Quick-MI, is Interoperability. Interoperability is the measure of the degree of integration permitted. It is the means by which information is shared and disparate products can continually exchange information.

Interoperability is about the connection. It is the Interoperable, integrated connection between products that facilitates sharing and exchanging. This includes the ability to make that connection, to establish that relationship; or the hindrance, thereof.

Through the study of Interoperability, a clearer understanding can be formed of the immediate benefits achievable, as well as the quantification of these benefits and capabilities.

In abiding with the overarching goals of both Quick-UX and Quick-MI (quick assessment for summary, directional guidance, and quantitative comparison), the variables constituting the minimal representative subset for Interoperability are…

  • Connectivity
  • Redundancy
  • Legality

Each variable and category (e.g. Interoperability) is assigned a value that can be compared and combined. When all the categories’ values are combined, they form the Modular Innovation Index of a product.

Connectivity

Perhaps the most obvious variable of Interoperability is Connectivity. Connectivity is the means by which the current product can access and interact with external products and platforms. To exchange information, a connection must be established and methods must exist that enable the relationship to take hold and let flow the content.

02_twitter-homepage The content can be anything, from basic status information to images and friends lists. Connectivity is typically achieved via an API. A well known example is the Twitter API. This API provides a simple, web-based interface that allows people and 3rd-party products to perform actions, like read messages and status updates of the people on Twitter, as well as submit new ‘tweets’ and direct messages — resulting in a Connectivity variable value of 2.0.

Connectivity flows both ways: in and out, read and write. The Connectivity variable value (with a starting value of 0 and maximum value of 3.0) is determined as follows:

  • Add 0.5 if the product can read from, “pull-in,” content from one or more external products, and
  • Add 0.5 if the product can write to, “push-out,” content to one or more external products, and
  • Add 1 if external products can read from, “pull-out,” content from the product, and
  • Add 1 if external products can write to, “push-in,” content to the product.

Redundancy

When integrating with another product, is the user forced to choose exchanging information between either product A or product B? Or can both products be used in parallel?

Redundancy is the ability, provided by the product, whereby external products are leveraged to provide replication of functionality and/or content.

03_pingfm-homepage Building upon the Twitter theme, some services exist to facilitate this very sort of Redundancy. Most notably, Ping.fm comes to mind. Ping.fm does not force integration with one external product over another. Ping.fm allows for simultaneous, parallel integration with multiple similar products; making the user less dependent on any one of these services, in the event of down-time or other failures. Beyond “peace of mind,” Redundancy also provides for means to replicate content and maintain functionality that results from such integrations. For example, when I use Ping.fm (Redundancy value of 1.0), I can simultaneously send a status update to Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, and Plurk …

  • saving me time,
  • replicating my status updates, and
  • ensuring that I can continue sending updates even if one or more of these products are unavailable.

Redundancy can be found on the user-facing side, like Ping.fm, or just under the surface, e.g. using multiple data clouds to store data. The Redundancy variable is assigned the value of 0 or…

  • 1 if, per touch point, multiple external products can be (or are being) used to replicate functionality and/or content throughout the primary functionality and interaction points of the product (e.g. everything from status updates to pictures to messages to data storage), or
  • 0.5 if, for each touch point, a single external product can be (or is being) used to replicate some of the primary functionality and/or content (e.g. status updates sent to both Twitter and Jaiku)

Legality

Terms of Service and other legal restrictions and requirements have a significant impact on the resultant Interoperability possible, or worthwhile. In some cases, broad capabilities of Interoperability are possible, but only for personal usage. Other exemplary cases, allow for Interoperability, but with an associated monetary cost.

01_yelp-homepage The website, Yelp, provides a range of Interoperability that allows external applications to access restaurant and related data. However, those products making use of Yelp’s Interoperability have the following restrictions / requirements resulting in a Legality variable value of 0.75…

  • Clearly display Yelp branding alongside any obtained content,
  • Product must be non-competitive with Yelp,
  • Cannot locally store any obtained content,
  • And, more.

Legality is a measure of freedom, and allowable range of use and usefulness, of the ability to integrate and be Interoperable. The Legality variable is assigned the value of…

  • 1 if there are absolutely ZERO legal restrictions placed on the Interoperability of the product,
  • 0.75 if commercial use is permitted,
  • 0.5 if only non-commercial use is permitted, or
  • 0 if no Interoperability, via API or other means, is permitted.

Rapidly Closer

Quick-MI is all about understanding and measuring the relationships formed and supported between online products, especially those pioneering the next generation of web products via Modular Innovation.

A relationship cannot hold together without the “glue,” without Interoperability, quantified via the Interoperability score (summation of the above variable values). Remember, Interoperability is just 1 of 5 categories that make up Quick-MI. The other 4 categories are…

When all 5 categories are combined, a sound, representative, quantitative understanding of a product’s ability to foster and maintain relationships both within and without — yielding an oft missed, yet critical, perspective into the success and sustainability of an online product.

Through the growing presence of Modular Innovation, and the important category of Interoperability, everything is becoming increasingly and rapidly closer.

Enjoy, Discuss & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

PS Try it out, tweak it, learn more about Modular Innovation and share you experiences.