dConstruct 2008: live

Opening remarks

Richard Rutter

Richard opened the conference briefly introducing the format and speakers.

The Urban Web

Steven Johnson

Steve introduced the 1854 Broad Street cholera outbreak in London. How information modellers traced the source of the outbreak using clues and working through people networks. He introduced the Miasma theory of disease – its “bad air” smell and how it spreads. Steve talked about the spread of disease on context of ‘Social Systems’ and following the patterns.

John Snow investigated the outbreak and detailed an information model on social systems. He aimed at getting to the heart of the problem. His map plotted the clusters of diseased people through concentrations of deaths

Rev Henry Whitehead was the social connector who discovered the original person – an elevn-year old girl – through his personal inter-connectedness.

Eventually, one of the first open-source data feed was made publicly available. The data feed was very detailed for its time. The idea was that other people might be able to use it and develop their own information models.

This map – the Broad street outbreak – ‘changed the world’ now used throughout the world when designing waste disposal systems = using social connections to develop information systems.

The GEO-Web: standardised addresses for information – caused the quick changes seen on the web. Here local folk are the experts – more accurate!

Outside.in (only available in the US): Local information based on proximity. Uses the GeoToolkit (think of it like Geo-SEO) is still in alpha. Radar (Tell us your exact location to see what’s happening nearby) is the Geo search tool.

One of the problems noted Steve, is the emphasis on business-related location based services – not enough random commentary that has local importance. The ‘eyes on the street’ has been noted as an important giving ‘power’ to the users.

Playing the Web: how gaming makes the internet (and the world) a better place

Aleks Krotoski

Aleks argued that the most compelling thing about gaming is its inherent ‘stickiness’. Gaming is a great platform for advertising – makes money. (seen in wordle)

Engagement/Stickiness through:

  • Outcomes: games get community engagement through outcomes – users are motivated by outcomes.
  • Space: gamers and Game Designers love the concept of space.
  • Relationships: the psychology of of roll-playing and avatar relations is strong binder and motivates community building.
  • Personalisation: gaming offers personalisation with explicit elements.
  • Incentives: gamers collect ‘things’ through incentive offerings.
  • Feedback: there are great feedback systems which stregnthens engagement.

The problem to solve: Bring web developers and game developers together – close the gap and reduce polarities.

Leveraging Cognitive Bias in Social Design

Joshua Porter

It’s all about human psychology
There are biases about design:
Joshua showed showed the audience two photos of restaurants. One restaurant seemed cold, had boundaries and no people eating at it. The second photo showed a busy restaurant (with people queuing) as well as a visual understanding of what type of restaurant it was. Joshua asked the audience which restaurant they’d prefer to eat at? Most people chose the correct one terming it the ‘Bandwagon Effect’.


Follow the behavior of others – showed us the video of the human behaviour effect in a lift (folk turning around during a staged test). The results were revealing (and funny).
Humans take short cuts to follow what others are doing
There are predictable outcomes.

Representation Bias:

The more specific it is the less likely it is.
Examples include: Freshbooks.com and yelp.com

Other Biases:

Loss Aversion – people are more likely to feel strongly about loosing ‘stuff’ than gaining (e.g. Which you’d prefer? Gain $100 vs. loose $300?)
So, frame it as a loss – during signup start gaining immediately, but if you don’t register you’ll loose all the work you’ve just done – geni.com
Ownership bias – coffee cup example – What has more value? $1 coffee cup you bought or $1 coffee cup that was given to you by someone?

There’s a signup problem – the 9x effect. If you make something you own it. The feeling of owning something is strong.

By understanding the academic models helps get the message across.

Designing for Interaction

Daniel Burka

Daniel used the people at an american baseball match – a lot of people – you get the real atmosphere. We rely on the stadium and support around the game showing us how important infrastructure is (the platform).

Rule 1: Encourage people to participate

  • Increase benefit – go beyond the altruistic motivations
  • Reduce the barrier to entry
  • Dip your toe in the water – try it out e.g. geni.com

Rule 2: Encourage position participation

  • Have personal profiles – encourages truc
  • Focus on tension points – your copy and design can go a long way
  • Avoid negative competition

Rule 3: Allow flexible participation

  • Adapt for different data
  • Follow trials – don’t be afraid to follow your users or competition for ideas

Summing up

  • Increase benefit – lower barriers to entry
  • Give users a taste
  • Expression = trust and connections
  • Focus on tension points
  • Adapt to volume and frequency
  • Pave the cowpaths

Daniel’s presentation can be found on Slideshare.com

Answer to question: Digg/Pownce do do usability testing before major releases (field testing)

Social Network Portability

Tantek Çelik

Tantek’s presentation was awesome. I wanted to learn from his presentation – Microformats – that I decided not to write notes, but concentrate instead.

Tantek started by explaining the basic concepts of Microformats and how easily it is to implement on your website. He concentrated on the hCard and xfn Microformats as they’re the most commonly used.

He suggested that if there’s one application a Firefox user should have on machines it should be Firefox Operator.

Why does every social networking website make you:

  • Re-enter your personal information?
  • Re-add all your friends?
  • Turn off notifications?
  • Re-specify privacy preferences?
  • Re-block negative people?

He spoke about “Social Network Fatigue Syndrome” coined by Brian Oberkirch.

Keeping multiple sources of info (social networks etc.) up-to-date is a maintenance problem.

The goal should be giving users complete control over their data. Portable data + consistent URL = data syndicatability.

Designing for the Coral Reef

Matt Biddulph & Matt Jones

NeoReader is a new iPhone app that could revolutionize data capture. We can make models of everything to optimise and tweak our social models.

Placing data on the edge of your reach so (like Google Maps) that it’s there but only as you need it – instantly.

Dan Saffer’s tweet: ‘ideas are easy to think of and write down but so hard to get them right’

The Dopplr team are adding new functionality: Groups.

Whilst the guys were laid-back in their approach Matt Jones was concerned that we don’t confuse the real-life relationships with our relationships online.

The System of the World

Jeremy Keith

Incredible. I need to time to digest Jeremy’s talk in my head. A brilliantly clever talk / speech.

Words: Science fiction, Bill Gates, Curves with fat / short heads and thin/long tails…


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