Information technology, gadgets, social media, libraries, design, marketing, higher ed, data visualization, educational technology, mobility, innovation, strategy, trends and futures. . . 

Posts suspended for a bit while I settle into a new job. . . 


Social Media: What Motivates People to Use Them?

I signed up for Jelly right when its beta opened but almost immediately deleted my account and the app -- but that's another story. 

Here in TechCrunch is a prescient piece about what motivates people to embrace social media and social services. Nearly any social media/service requires people to invest at least time and attention; why do some socials stick, and some fade away? 

You’d Be Surprised By What Really Motivates Users

Posted Feb 7, 2014 by Nir Eyal (@nireyal)

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from Hooked: A Guide to Building Habit-Forming Products, a new book by Nir Eyal and Ryan Hoover.

Earlier this month, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone unveiled his mysterious startup Jelly. The question-and-answer app was met with a mix of criticism and head scratching. Tech-watchers asked if the world really needed another Q&A service. Skeptics questioned how it would compete with existing solutions and pointed to the rocky history of previous products like Mahalo Answers, Formspring, and Aardvark.


In an interview, Biz articulated his goal to, “make the world a more empathetic place.” Sounds great but one wonders if Biz is being overly optimistic. Aren’t we all busy enough? Control for our attention is in a constant tug-of-war as we struggle to keep-up with all the demands for our time. Can Jelly realistically help people help one another? For that matter, how does any technology stand a chance of motivating users to do things outside their normal routines?

We hope a few insights gleaned from user psychology may help the Jelly makers improve their jam and provide some tips for anyone building an online community.

See the article for full treatment of the motivators and examples thereof -- but the motivators, in summary are, 

  1. Reward system -- recognition from peers or the community may be a more effective incentive than money or prizes 
  2. Frequent engagement -- services that people use daily, and that deliver incentives (rewards) frequently, succeed 
  3. (Related to #1,) the community with which people would enage in the social media/service, is a "community of people whose opinions we care about" 



Avoid These Design Trends

Via Design Shack -- a very useful resource -- 

Design Shack showcases inspiring web design, alongside resources and tutorials for you to succeed in the same way. We only offer the cream of great design, filtering through lots of the redesigns that occur every day across the Internet, and cataloguing the greatest projects out there – perfect for getting that spark of creativity going again.

Regular articles will teach you new techniques for creating your own designs, and daily community news ensures that you’re up to date with the latest developments elsewhere.

If you want to be updated every time a new design or tutorial is added, you can subscribe to our RSS news feed. 

-- a welcome post about over-used techniques: 

10 Design Trends I Don’t Want to See in 2014

by Carrie Cousins on 3rd February 2014

We talk a lot about emerging trends and how to make them work in a variety of design projects. But there are some design techniques that I am, quite frankly, sick of seeing. They are overused, overdone and just not effective anymore. (And if you use them, you risk having a design that looks like a lot of other stuff out there.)

Today, we’re going to take a look at 10 design trends that have outlasted their time. Do yourself a favor and really think about removing each of these tricks from your 2014 projects.

Post continues at link. My least favorite trends are script typefaces and thin type.

Many of the trends are rooted in skeumorphism, which is design that uses elements and tricks to make graphical representations emulate physical objects -- cues ranging from functioning knobs in video processing software; to tabs that behave like real, paper folder tabs; to the shutter-click sound used on smartphones. 


Digital Humanities and Libraries

OCLC was established in the mid-60s as the Ohio College Library Center, a non-profit, cooperative "bibliographic utility" intended to create a computerized network for Ohio libraries. Now the Online Computer Library Center, Inc., (but more commonly known, still, as OCLC), it has grown to have over 72,000 member libraries, archives, and museums. OCLC Research's mission is to ". . .  expand knowledge that advances OCLC's public purposes of furthering access to the world's information and reducing library costs. Since 1978, we have carried out research and made technological advances that enhance the value of library services and improve the productivity of librarians and library users." 

OCLC Research has popped up with a report about research libraries support of digital humanities, which is a construct of the intersection of humanities education and research and scholarship with computing and information technology. (Text mining is the canonical example of digital humanities.) Many research libraries are trying to identify their responsibilities and opportunities in this emerging area.

Schaffner, Jennifer, and Ricky Erway. 2014. Does Every Research Library Need a Digital 
Humanities Center? Dublin, Ohio: OCLC Research.

The report is just 18 pages long, and a worthwhile read. Here is the executive summary: 

There are many ways to respond to the needs of digital humanists, and a digital humanities (DH) center is appropriate in relatively few circumstances. Library leadership can choose from a range of possible directions:

  • package existing services as a “virtual DH center” 
  • advocate coordinated DH support across the institution 
  • help scholars plan for preservation needs 
  • extend the institutional repository to accommodate DH digital objects 
  • work internationally to spur co-investment in DH across institutions 
  • create avenues for scholarly use and enhancement of metadata 
  • consult DH scholars at the beginning of digitization projects 
  • get involved in DH project planning for sustainability from the beginning 
  • commit to a DH center 

A DH center does not always meet the needs of DH researchers. When warranted, a DH center is not necessarily best located in the library. Library culture may need to evolve in order for librarians to be seen as effective DH partners. A handful of models demonstrate successful collaborations with digital humanists, but one size does not fit all. 

In most settings, the best decision is to observe what the DH academics are already doing and then set out to address gaps. 


Clay Shirky on "The End of Higher Education's Golden Age"

I have heard of Clay Shirky, but don't recall having had the opportunity to read him before. According to the Wikipedia,

Clay Shirky (born 1964) is an American writer, consultant and teacher on the social and economic effects of Internet technologies. He has a joint appointment at New York University (NYU) as a Distinguished Writer in Residence at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and Assistant Arts Professor in the New Media focused graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP). His courses address, among other things, the interrelated effects of the topology of social networks and technological networks, how our networks shape culture and vice-versa.

Here in his blog, he writes starkly about, in general, the development of the current model of higher education and its declension, and, in particular, why higher ed will change to embrace tech-enabled, large-scale, low-cost models. 

The End of Higher Education’s Golden Age

Interest in using the internet to slash the price of higher education is being driven in part by hope for new methods of teaching, but also by frustration with the existing system. The biggest threat those of us working in colleges and universities face isn’t video lectures or online tests. It’s the fact that we live in institutions perfectly adapted to an environment that no longer exists.

In the first half of the 20th century, higher education was a luxury and a rarity in the U.S. Only 5% or so of adults, overwhelmingly drawn from well-off families, had attended college. That changed with the end of WWII. Waves of discharged soldiers subsidized by the GI Bill, joined by the children of the expanding middle class, wanted or needed a college degree. From 1945 to 1975, the number of undergraduates increased five-fold, and graduate students nine-fold. PhDs graduating one year got jobs teaching the ever-larger cohort of freshman arriving the next.

This growth was enthusiastically subsidized. Between 1960 and 1975, states more than doubled their rate of appropriations for higher education, from four dollars per thousand in state revenue to ten. Post-secondary education extended its previous mission—liberal arts education for elites—to include both more basic research from faculty and more job-specific training for students. Federal research grants quadrupled; at the same time, a Bachelor’s degree became an entry-level certificate for an increasing number of jobs.

This expansion created tensions among the goals of open-ended exploration, training for the workplace, and research, but these tensions were masked by new income. Decades of rising revenue meant we could simultaneously become the research arm of government and industry, the training ground for a rapidly professionalizing workforce, and the preservers of the liberal arts tradition. Even better, we could do all of this while increasing faculty ranks and reducing the time senior professors spent in the classroom. This was the Golden Age of American academia.

He concludes: 

It will also require us to abandon any hope of restoring the Golden Age. It was a nice time, but it wasn’t stable, and it didn’t last, and it’s not coming back. It’s been gone ten years more than it lasted, in fact, and in the time since it ended, we’ve done more damage to our institutions, and our students, and our junior colleagues, by trying to preserve it than we would have by trying to adapt. Arguing that we need to keep the current system going just long enough to get the subsidy the world owes us is really just a way of preserving an arrangement that works well for elites—tenured professors, rich students, endowed institutions—but increasingly badly for everyone else.

See the whole post at the link.  

As with many good/provocative blog posts, you should be sure to read the comments conversation at the bottom. 


Google's Plans

Wow. Here's a sixteen-page (as a pdf; website citation below) report from ars technica with intel on Google's likely activity in 2014. The report cites

  • push on gaming -- mobiles, Chrome browser 
  • increasing connectivity for the developing world -- infrastructure, cheaper smartphones 
  • home automation (see related Internet of Things)
  • healthcare 
  • robotics -- the self-driving cars, the company's recent acquisitions (Boston Dynamics and others) 
  • Project Ara -- a modular, componentized smartphone 
  • Android improvements -- camera, for car, Google Home, speedier runtime, a fitness API, Chrome remote desktop app, YouTube and background audio and subscription music services
  • wearable computing -- including a consumer release of Google Glass
  • Chrome 
  • those silly barges 

This is an important read for everyone, whether you're a heavy Google user or not. 

The 2014 Google tracker—Everything we know Google is working on this year

Google's plans for Android, gaming, smart homes, healthcare, robots, and much, much more.

by Ron Amadeo - Feb 10 2014 

While some companies pride themselves on secrecy, Google doesn't seem interested in surprises. The future of the company is often proudly demonstrated on a stage in front of hundreds of people or announced to the world via a company acquisition press release. Everything Google mentions publicly is for a reason, and if you just listen, you'll pick up a few hints and get a pretty good idea of what the company is working on.

Google via ars technica

This post is a collection of all the hints, announcements, and acquisitions we've heard from Google lately, along with some common sense speculation. We're not predicting or guaranteeing that all of these projects will become consumer products in 2014; it's more of a "to-do list" for Google. Like any to-do list, it's not heavy on ETAs—you can complete an item and cross it off the list, or you can procrastinate and let that list item hang around another year. So to prepare for what promises to be a wild year of Google news, here's everything we know about the company's future plans.

See link for full report.