In my first post in 2008 I said I would elaborate a bit about things I would like to see happen in 2008. My first wish for 2008 was to bring back freedom and responsibility to the user. The article can be found here but if you want a very short abstract, I said:
My first wish for 2008 is that Service Providers build business models on user value instead of walled garden free but ad-based business models. In doing this they should provide the user with excellent, easy to use, transparent, privacy controls where the default is always set by the standards of the user. This wish would provide us with 3 major changes: The service provider becomes a partner that can be trusted and that provides user value instead of walled gardens, the user gets his freedom, and the user becomes responsible for his own actions and data on the Internet.
I just read an article written by John Battelle that takes a similar angle. He says:
The problem is, no one seems ready to truly set the social graph free. Till now.
With one move, Facebook can change the face (sorry) of this debate by making it falling-down easy to export your social graph. And I predict that it will.
Why? Because I think in the end, Facebook will win based on the services it provides for that data. Set the data free, and it will come back to roost wherever it’s best used. And if Facebook doesn’t win that race, well, it’ll lose over time anyway. Such a move is entirely in line with the company’s nascent philosophy, and would be a massively popular move within the ouroborosphere (my name for all things Techmeme).
Compete on service, Facebook, it’s where the world is headed anyway!
Let’s move on to my next wishes for 2008.
2. Redesign of the mobile UI and Web to make it really work for its user
I personally feel that accessing the web using my mobile sucks. The experience isn’t even close to the capabilities I have access to on a PC. I have written an article about this called “We need a revolution in mobile UI thinking”. A quote from that:
In my opinion we need a revolution in mobile phone UI thinking. A revolution that puts the user and his intentions central in user interface development. We need to understand what users do with their mobile phones. We shouldn’t be thinking in terms of releasing technical functionalities with nice graphical interfaces. We need to think in terms of the remote control of life, supporting the user in his interaction needs. If we let go of the current UI and browsing paradigms who knows what becomes possible. Let’s not rebuild the entire web to make it mobile, let’s not even come up with even better alternatives for the iPhone touch screen. Let’s first think about what the user wants to do with his phone, and then come up with an interface and a mobile web concept that supports his actions, regardless of the technology.
After I wrote that article I was asked what I felt about ovi by Nokia. It is difficult for me to really comment on that until I have actually used it, but a few things come to mind.
The thing I really dislike about it is the pay off they use, “ovi by Nokia, your door to our services”. What do you mean “our services”? My mobile phone is mine, it is my personal space, my remote control of life. I don’t want anyone to tell me what services to use. Ovi might look great, but if it isn’t truly open, forget it. I won’t be using it. I want to decide what services I access via any mobile interface. It needs an API so that anyone can build services on it. It needs to be freed from any mobile hardware. If a mobile interface is to become successful, it better work on a lot of different handsets. Maybe Android might fill this in, but it remains to be seen. But most of all, we need to get out of the current mobile UI interface, It isn’t fit for our social communications needs.
(images taken from http://www.s60.com)
We are still using SMS, web browsing (screen too small, bandwidth/cost too high), and that darn inbox/outbox paradigm (ever tried to handle 100 or more SMSes, MMSes, e-mails a day using that mechanism?). Old school thinking.
Microsoft just announced their version 7 of their Mobile platform. It uses a touchscreen, like the iPhone does, as a main interface element but will also use motion gestures of the user as a UI interface element.It will be interesting to see if this will lead to better UI development, but For now I hear a lot of technological features, not user experiences. And, I still see the inbox/outbox appearing in the screen shots.
3. Human behavior as the basis for new service development
Innovation is so often triggered by technology. That is not a bad thing necessarily. Many great developments start with the application of new technologies. However, where a lot of these innovations fail is their ability to support human behavior. Technology needs to be used and needs to be useful. If it isn’t the case, then the role of human behavior hasn’t been taken in account thoroughly enough. There have been numerous new technological capabilities launched in 2007 with confusing names and propositions. Just look at a snapshot of the web 2.0 directory and tell me, which services do you know and actually use?
So often this is caused by people thinking they know what users want, but fail to simply engage with them to really understand human need. I call that observing social behavior though a fishbowl. It sounds so simple, yet is hard to do. At the same time, the reward for providing user value is very big.
The good thing about this is that it leads you away from a mediocre web business model that is currently being used in web 2.0 developments. Instead of thinking about locking in the customer, you need to think of providing him value (thus setting him free, big difference).
4. Let content exploration become an interactive adventure again
There is an enormous amount of content on the Internet. Way too much to handle. It becomes increasingly difficult to find the right content. To help us there are numerous sites that index and present the available content to us. But that doesn’t help either. If I want to find something which might interest me but I don’t really know what it is I’m lost. I tried browsing sites like YouTube, but it doesn’t work for me. I could look at the most popular, best watched, highest rated video’s, simply browse on subject or whatever, but at the same time I feel the interface isn’t helping me to find what I want. I’m not the only one with that problem. Looking at the blogosphere there are many examples of a video traveling through many different blogs. Everyone is looking at or recommending the same cleverly launched video’s.
I think the overwhelming availability of content is one part of the problem. The rating mechanism’s every site uses is another (it helps us all look at the same things). But the third aspect of this problem is human laziness. We all want to be entertained, but we don’t really want to put in the effort to find great content. The reason for this is that it is actually quite boring to find content using the current sites and interfaces provided. The search for content needs to become an adventure again. We need to explore new worlds, and get excited by all of our personal findings. To do that, we need new ways of exploration, new interfaces to enter these large worlds.
I hope that Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft will be paying a lot of attention into the work of Jonathan Harris. He has shown that the exploration of content can become exiting and adventurous.
Check out his universe demo to see what I mean by that. It is a new paradigm for browsing, and it is a powerful one. While you are at it, also take a look at some of his other projects. He has done some amazing and inspiring stuff.
5. Let the web continue to be a place for inspiration
I read a lot of blogs, surf to different sites, communicate with family, friends and even total strangers. Why? Well, for one thing, interaction is what life is about. But another way of looking at it is that it helps me to find inspiration. Inspiration in life, work, blogging, anything really. There are so many smart and creative people out there. All you need to do is take the time to look around. I posted a few inspirational sources earlier here, but it is really just a modest list.
Enough for now. What are your wishes for 2008? Let me know? It would be interesting to compile them all together.