March 29, 2005

IA Summit 2005 - BJ Fogg

Designing for Impact was the title of BJ Fogg's presentation about how working with technology changes the way our minds work. BJ wrote 'Persuasive Technology' These are the notes that I took from his inspiring keynote lecture.

With the digital age a new phenomenon is emerging where few people who design technology have the power to change the many who use it, quickly. Just as a ballerina's shoe deforms her feet over time, spending hours on end in an email program or browser also changes our minds.

Are we the 'Shaman' of the new age? As the crafter of digital tools we are changing the way people's minds work and culture at the same time. The desire to press "control z" in a car accident, like a ballerina's deformed feet are side effects of this cultural change.

Sometimes we can plan side effects (or just effects). Asking someone to introduce you in a particular way (e.g. "This is Anthony, he is an information architect with expertise in designing social software") has an impact on the course of the following events or discourse.

Users of software should not just 'drift through' an interactive experience. There should be a plan for the outcome of the user's experience. There should be a message behind every interface [Note: This is essentially brand experience design]

The way you design for a one time behavior change, is very different from that for changing behavior over time. People in small towns understand that their relationships with people are likely to be built on multiple interactions. This changes the way they behave compared to those in a big city where interactions are most likely to be 'one time'.

Persuasion as a trend appears to have coincided with the advent of the web. Machines can control human behavior. There are many good things you can do to persuade people, but there are a lot of bad things too.

How can technology persuade you to keep in touch with your family? How can it persuade you to go to the gym? The change in presidential candidate's websites between 2000 and 2004 was big. Employing some of the 60 (approx) theories about how to persuade people. Academics don't agree on the master of these techniques.

Companies embark on impact analysis whereby they graph their aspirations of their users (e.g. sign-up, pay etc) using axes of feasability vs importance (i.e. importance to business success). The top three of these form the primary goals of the company. Persuasion strategies such as praise; persistence; barrier reduction; immediate rewards; pain and fear; social influence; stories (cause and effect); hope (Lottery) are then utilized to see that the goals are met.

The Fire in Captology (what's hot in persuasion right now)

  • Video games - There is a recruiting tool by US army called 'US Army' that persuades people to sign up. Rehearsing behavior in video games influences what players do in real life. Video games are for rewards and are highly compelling, because players can feel their competency growing. Certain demographics get addicted to these games because they get positive feedback about growing competency that is lacking in their lives
  • Automated Behavior Modification (clicker training) is a classical conditioning technique often used to train dogs (click, then feed treat). It is Awkward Behavior Training (not rational). The idea is reinforce everything that is a positive with rewards. Computers can train users like clicker training for dogs and dolphins. When you do something the computer likes, it will reward you. Slot machines do this with periodic rewards in the form of payouts. Very powerful, very scary. Sounds to reinforce: Running water & harps are loved. Horns and alarms are hated. People hate sounds that sound like something bad is happening, like a baby crying.
  • Maxim for Credible Design. To increase the impact of a website, find what elements your target audience interprets most favorably and make those elements most prominent.
  • Companies will map the psychographic profile of users to demographics and will sell this to the highest bidder. They will measure this through observing user behavior.
  • Sequencing strategies work, such as asking for something big (plane ticket) followed by a small request (can you give me a few dollars). The small request will be granted when the larger is refused.

    Who we are as people is expressed through what we create. Methods do matter and we have a social responsibility when creating software.

BJ's Lessons learned
  • Specialize as narrowly as possible. The more you specialize, the broader the impact. This is a law of physics. Focussing on one area gives you more power in that area. Think of three ways you can specialize. In 40 hours, you can be the best in the world at (e.g. passwords of 14yr old japanese girls).
  • Take Risks. Find stories in your life where you overcame something big. These help you when things get tough.
  • Appreciate. Feeling appreciation is a very healthy emotion. Your heart and brain become synchronized. Most spiritual leaders preach this.
  • Rebound. When you fail, bounce. Just get up and keep going. The world keeps going, so you better get up. Walking is controlled falling. You have to fail to learn.
  • Allow yourself to be guided by principles and work with communities to help you make it there. working together we can achieve our goal.

Posted by Ant at 08:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 27, 2005


I just read something strangely funny. This guy comes over a bit like rabid dog, but if you can giggle off the opinionated stuff (and blatant generalisations), there is a (very) small part of his article"Why your Movable Type blog must die" where you may find a truism or two. I giggled a lot.

It reminds me of a joke my father tells... What's the difference between a psychotic and a neurotic? Well, a psychotic thinks 2+2=5. Whereas a neurotic knows that 2+2=4, but it makes him mad.

Posted by Ant at 12:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 21, 2005

Post-modernism in branding and ethics - Capitalism attempting socialism?

The market derserves respect. The Cluetrain Manifesto may have picked up on this idea and run with it, but has anything happened to make companies change their ways? People are still banging on about user experience dictating brand success (personally I think this is a good thing) but it isn't going to gain ground so long as companies are profitable by being mediocre and bullying the customer into paying them.

Removing the wall between customer and staff is happening, albeit slowly. There's pockets of evidence, glinting like silvery mirages (and in the form of blogs, no less). I read an article about a firm who's training their staff to write blogs. The catch is, they're a PR firm, which raises suspicion that perhaps they're on the cusp of someting scary - PR folk planted into companies as bloggers.

I know that by working for a public company, I'd dare not mention anything which could reflect negatively on it, lest it affect share prices. That's why you'll never see me identify who I work for here. The risks of being too honest are well known. I wonder, are we going to see a time where all staff (especially those who blog) are trained in PR? Will the 'company line' be drummed into us all in a way which essentially forces us to act as their mouthpeice? Or will PR blogging double agents essentially erode trust in the other company blogger's word?

But these are symptomatic issues that don't address the core. Globalisation points to the problem but not because of NOLOGO fabled exploitation. Its about sheer market size. In direct marketing circles, there is a principle that essentially says "You don't have to be very successful, just successful enough". Even if 1% of 1000 people you approach buy your $20 product, you've made $200... So when you're talking about a global population of around 6.4 billion, (maybe a third of which can afford to buy anything) the scattergun marketing approach becomes very successful.

This in itself isn't that disturbing, we're pretty used to spam nowadays and are developing ways to effectively cope with it. But what happens when your whole approach to your product follows the guiding principles of scattergun marketing? Your product doesn't have to be that great for the company to survive. Its bought by pretty low percentages, but on a large scale it reaps rewards. We can see this in many big companies in the USA (software being a poignant example).

And so, we head toward the world depicted in Bladerunner where advertising bombards our senses from every perspective and society is strung loosely from sale to sale. Replicants live inside the companies, programmed to spout whatever their creators have deemed the market should think... and few people buy the cruddy products, but that doesn't matter, because few is enough.

Respect for the customer will never be something that all companies have. The Cluetrain Manifesto contains a grand and righteous mantra, but so does communism. Humans are ultimately designed to serve themselves and can't be trusted to just 'do the right thing' without an incentive. Companies, as a colony of humans, are here to make money and they won't treat customers with respect if it affects the bottom line. The company also won't allow the staff to talk freely in public forums if it affects the bottom line. We live in a capitalist (aka self-serving) society. Bless all ye who sail in her mediocrity.

Posted by Ant at 11:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 13, 2005

Blog Holocaust

There's nothing quite as nausiating as when you realise you hadn't recently backed up your website after hearing the words "complete server failure" from your trusted web host. Especially if you're a blogger... So, after I've gone through the four steps of mourning...

Denial: "oh, they surely didn't have another catastrophic crash, that only happened a few years ago. They'd have learned from the experience and protected against it..." and "Ah, not to worry, I must have backed that stuff up just the other day..."

So once the realisation set in that 6 months of blogging was indeed gone, caput, poof, disappeared for ever and ever, next came sadness "SIX MONTHS OF MY MIND, LOST!! AARRHH NOOOO, sob, sob...".

Anger came in the form of a furious letter to my web hosts, asking them why on earth they couldn't buy a simple power back up pack/surge protector from PC World... after all I could've done it for my little computer, why wouldn't they for presumably hundreds of people's websites? I wanted my money back, in no uncertain terms, especially since this had happened with them only a few years before.

Finally acceptance has arrived and it has only taken me a few weeks to get things together with another web host and get this site back up again, albeit with blog content that is now 6 months old. I've missed loads of email I'm sure but that's the least of my worries. I have to keep telling myself that the last 6 months of writing was trite rubbish anyway and all the interesting stuff is still there. There's nothing of my time in the USA, but at least I hadn't just blogged all of the IA Summit or something. Speaking of which, I have loads of notes from that conference. They'll be posted next.

Posted by Ant at 05:09 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack