Crowd Sourcing, Crowd Wisdom

http://www.hunch.com

http://www.patientslikeme.com

I really think crowd wisdom is the current paradigm, so what other fields out there that can benefit from crowd wisdom?

穷则变,变则通,通则久(,久则穷)?Confucius said only the first 9 words, the last 3 words was added in much later. A quick search on google reveals this blog that mention that the author himself adds the last 3 words to emphasize what he wants to say.

Case Study: Get Help

This is a case study on “GetHelp!” regarding User Interface & Interaction Design.  “GetHelp!” was developed by a group of students from CS3216 in March 2008. Quoting the assignment PDF,

The core function of the app is to make it super easy and fun to discover people from within and outside a user’s Facebook network to help them with their needs and funky endeavours.

As shown below are screenshots of the initial version of the application. The developers have since redesign the user interface.

My task is “to analyze the screenshots and uncover what was the problem faced which lead to the team’s decision and how the problems can be resolved…

Figure 1: Home Page (also the New Project page)
Figure 2: Overview Page
Figure 3: Project Page
Figure 4: Statistics Page

note: The accompanied verbose description (in the assignment PDF) are not included in this blog post.

My first impression of the application is that “Hey, the icons are cute! I wanna try this out”. However further pondering leads me to the conclusion that the application is redundant. I think users might not want to add an application to do something that the Facebook status publisher can already do very well. The entry level is simply too high.

Besides, I ask myself “Why would I want to add this app?”, “What are the incentives”, “Badges? Special Nicknames?” “Do I really need these?”. In short it is non-viral and non-sticky. It lacks two of the most important feature of a successful Facebook application. More thoughts will have to be put into attracting the lead-generation.

Layout (User Interface)

The landing page is just too cluttered. I bet the developers themselves didn’t spend much time test-using the app themselves. Or their app-flow was not planned properly in the beginning. IMHO, entry-landing page should be straight forward and minimalistic (think Google). Only make available most basic feature (hide the rest under “advanced options”). I would like to take this opportunity to commend whenisgood,  it is simple and effective.

Zooming in….

  1. Usability – it is confusing – “need quick help” and “I need help with“, which is which, what it does?
  2. Top navigation bar – slab icons (on the right) + words link (on the left).  It is clearly a design is not standardised). Overall design throughout the app is standardised. Good.
  3. Red colour draws attention -> immediately users will take note of “call for help” button. Good.
  4. verbose description of options more harm than good i.e. “post to all your friends” “or, you want to hide it from someone specific“? Most users are familiar with facebook users & privacy selections -> simulate it OR use supported Facebook API.
  5. Statistics Page– make the numbers more prominent (bold it or stylise it)
  6. Statistics Page – maybe a simple description of what is “fire” – I seem to have a hard time understanding the metaphor

In short, I think the landing page should be as simple as one simple text-field and a button to submit (as shown in the image below)

Next, the advanced options will only be made available if the user request/click for it.  Better still, the developers should leverage the status “Publisher” to lower the entry level barrier. This way, users wouldn’t have to change their habit of posting stuff onto their Facebook wall. If advanced details are needed, it is possible to amend the published wallpost with the captured post instance.

Features

I notice a “change  image” feature @ the landing page. I wonder how many images are there for users to choose. Does it support user-upload image? If yes, how does the quality-control work?

The SMS feature is commendable if it works (I wonder how they got it working?). Besides, I think it’ll be too much of a SPAM if this application becomes real popular.

Integration with twitter is no easy feat too. Let’s say someone on twitter saw the tweet and wants to help, is this app able to capture that help instance? What if the twitter user doesn’t have a Facebook account?

Principle

There is a fundamental contending issue here. I think if a person really wanna help another person, they wouldn’t want to be seen as to help so as to earn badges. Therefore, the badge/nickname incentive might just backfire. On the other hand, if a person really wants the badge/nickname so badly, experience tells me that they might not have the credentials to help that many people. Unless this issue is resolve, I think the application will not be able to take off.

One more thing, how will this app be monetize? The only way I can think of will be something like the now defunct Google Answers. But is that really what the developers want to achieve?

All in all, I think the take back from this Project Case Study is that minimalistic is KING when it comes to User Interface and Design.  Plan well = half succeed. Cluttered = no good.

External Pitching Session

It was the last lecture before Chinese New Year. I was asked to video the external pitching session so that we will be able make it into a webcast thereafter. However, some of the presentations are a bit too confidential and thus we are not able to put it up online yet. Please hold-on as Prof. Ben settles the permissions with the presenters.

Coming out of LT19, I thought to myself “It is refreshing to know that there are still loads of opportunities out there for grabs.”

iSyndica - Upload Once, Sell EverywhereI have to say, iSyndica really caught my attention when I was reading Prof. Ben’s PDF before the session. From the outset, iSyndica sounds like the name of a game e.g. Pizza Syndicate. However, it smells like a game, it looks like a game, it pronounces like a game, but it’s not a game. The tagline on its official website states

“Upload Once, Sell Everywhere – Distribute, Promote & Track Your Digital Media on Multiple Stock Agencies”.

iSyndica enables photographers, video & audio producers, and vector artists to manage and distribute their microstock portfolio online.

It’s quite self-explanatory. But whether it’s really useful or not, I plan to give it a try. After all, Digital Media is my forte.

Anyway iSyndica turns out to be a solution to the same problem that I’ve identified regarding online media. In fact, I’ve even conceptualized an ingenious idea to solve this problem. It turns out that we are approaching the same problem but from a different perspective.

I’ve heard Prof. Ben mention more than once that “Ideas are cheap, it’s the execution that matters“. On Sebastian’s latest blogpost, Prof. Ben commented “Sharing ideas will help you improve your ideas“. Essentially it’s about sharing our ideas openly so that it can be further refined through crowd wisdom.

Although I am still not fully comfortable to share an ingenious idea in open space but I am willing to give it a try. Very soon I’m gonna post my idea of a collaborative media platform up here.

Another pitch that caught my attention is Project Nimbus,  a project by Microsoft. Neng Giin, the presenter, didn’t go through the uploaded slides. However according to the PPT slides, it looks like a huge project. One of it’s contribution is to open up data sets for local innovators, startups and students to use.. The amount of data that it’s opening up is enormous. As we speak, negotiations with various government agencies and corporations alike are on-going. Once it’s set in stone, it translate to OPPORTUNITIES!

世外桃源
source: http://www.glnyw.gov.cn/Article/Article_Show.asp?ArticleID=867273

It’s like we are venturing into Shangri-la (世外桃源), every turn is full of opportunities. Now the question is what should we do to fully utilize this opportunity? Everything that happens happened for a reason, are we capable enough to hop-on to this in-coming wave? More importantly, how can I leverage upon this for the media collaboration platform idea that I have.

By the way, it turns out that I’m participating in Microsoft’s Imagine Cup, together with KaiLin, WyeMun and Sebastian. It’s exciting as all of them are God-like programmers, there are lots to learn in this dynamic and energetic group.

Meanwhile, my FYP is going slow.. Need to pick up the pace a bit. After all, I need to ace this to ensure I at least get a nice honours. Besides, what’s there to complain when you get to work with cutting edge nanofabrication devices and femtosecond lasers.

Friends for Sale: Facebook Application Seminar Critique

Friends for Sale Logo
Friends for Sale

“Friends for Sale” by Ryan’s team. As I came slightly late and as this was the first group to present, I admit that I didn’t really pay much attention at what Ryan was saying.

However, a skim through the slides seem to indicate that Ryan might not have presented all that he’d prepared, or did he intentionally NOT to talk about the slides? After all YinChao has dropped this module some time last week and thus making Ryan’s team a two-man team.

Honestly, the idea of “Friends for Sale” quite interesting. You get to “Buy” your friends as pets and assign them to do random things, and all without his/her approval. I think these feature are the selling point of this application.

buy friend

During the presentation, Ryan did mention that the application is viral. However, I don’t remember him elaborating further on how FFS achieve its viral status. In my opinion, “Friends for Sale” leverage the Facebook notification feature for the viral-factor. Your friends are automatically notified on every instance of your actions to him/her, whether you’re buying him/her and you’ve assigned some jobs to him/her.

step1
Work - Friends for Sale: Step 1
Work - Friends for Sale: Step 2
Work - Friends for Sale: Step 2
Work - Friends for Sale: Step 3 & 4
Work - Friends for Sale: Step 3 & 4

The viral part comes into play when you assign your pets to do some “actions” to your other friends, even to friends who might not even have added Friends for Sale. So if non-app users receive notification when you’ve done something to him/her, the non-app user might just be provoked enough and add the app just to react to the initial user’s action. Thus producing a natural viral process.

Ryan also mentioned that using the app fulfill friend’s ego, and he attempt to explain this using Maslow’s hierarchy and 7 sins. However I think Ryan didn’t really elaborate much on this point. I think he assume that it’s apparent to all of us how 7 sins and Maslow’s Hierarchy applies to Friends for Sale, which is not entirely true as I have heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy but I’m not too sure how it plays a part the apparent success of Friends for Sale. A quick check with Wikipedia tells me that Maslow’s Hierarchy is more commonly used to represent the priority of needs in a pyramid with the largest and lowest levels of needs at the bottom, and the need for self-actualization at the top. Honestly, I’m even more blurred at the fact that he mention 7 sins. Although I’ve heard of the 7 sins, but I don’t really know what are the 7 sins. In my opinion, the 7 sins are just inference and it isn’t stated explicitly in the Bible. Wikipedia mentioned that

The Seven Deadly Sins, also known as the Capital Vices or Cardinal Sins, is a classification of the most objectionable vices which has been used since early Catholic times to educate and instruct followers concerning (immoral) fallen man’s tendency to sin. The final version of the list consists of wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.

So how exactly Maslow’s Hierarchy and 7 sins translate to Friends for Sale remains a mystery to me.

Like all other successful Facebook application, there seem to be a recurring theme. There must be some kind of Time-sensitive element to give users reasons to come back to the app. Leaderboard – leveling up system -> Like Mafia Wars…. lv600++. I wonder how many hours have been spent playing the game @@.. In Friends for Sale case, it’ll be the viral work you get to do to your friends to earn more money. Virtual money can be used to buy more friends as pets and thus making the user rise higher and higher on the leaderboard. Looks like an app will not go too far without some kind of highscore/leaderboard system. Even Causes has it!!

Towards the end of the presentation, Ryan recommended that we should all watch the video interview of the Friends for Sale founder. If the video is indeed that meaningful, I guess he should have at least summarize the video in his presentation instead of just briefly mentioning it toward the end of the presentation. As promised, Ryan has the link posted up on his blog http://sharetheconversation.blogspot.com/2010/02/links-to-interviews-with-chen-siqi.html

Like a lot of successful Facebook App, the back end is not something remarkable. It runs on Ruby on Rails (RoR). This name is familiar because I think I got eliminated in an internship interview last year because I have no idea what’s RoR. A quick check on wikipedia seems to suggest that RoR is quite popular among web apps nowadays, even Twitter runs on RoR. Apparently Chen SiQi (co-founder of Friends for Sale) thinks that RoR is very well-suited for rapid application development and scalability. How I hope I understand a bit more about why it is so, I got lost in the pool of jargon.

We definitely wouldn’t change our choice of framework – Rails was invaluable for rapid application development, and I think we’ve pretty much proven that two guys without a lot of scaling experience can scale a Rails app up. (Chen SiQi http://highscalability.com/friends-sale-architecture-300-million-page-view-month-facebook-ror-app)

Ok, I guess there’s really a lot to learn from Friends for Sale as the co-creators are part-time developers, just like us in the CS3216 class. However, they manage to rise to be the top10 app on Facebook in 3 months. That is a feat and I bet there’s a lot to learn from them. Onward to the Gwave assignment!

At the end, I would like to promote our group’s video for Facebook Marketplace. Thank you Adhiraj, Xialin and Reuben, this video wouldn’t be possible without you! (I’m just a video-editing-monkey!)