Going Native: The Anthropology of Mobile Apps

Think of mobile OS platforms as cultures. Deciding which platform to target and how to design for each—whether web or native—doesn’t hinge only on tech specs or audience reach.

In an era where consumers suddenly perceive mobile apps as richly personal, where software is content instead of tool—culture matters.


Josh Clark is a designer, developer, and author specializing in mobile design strategy and user experience. He’s the author of the O’Reilly books "Tapworthy: Designing Great iPhone Apps" and "Best iPhone Apps: The Guide for Discriminating Downloaders."


Social Identity, Knowledge Management & Member Roles in Online Communities

image from mashable.com“The basic idea of the Web is that an information space through which people can communicate, but communicate in a special way: communicate by sharing their knowledge in a pool.

The idea was not just that it should be a big browsing medium. The idea was that everybody would be putting their ideas in, as well as taking them out.”    ~Tim Berners-Lee

As a community manager or social designer, it's vital to remember that there is a social identity within an group that is both individual and collective.

Community managers should let this process happen naturally to allow for the most meaningful communication to occur between peers and give members time to discover their role in the community.

Social Design in Community Spaces

 In their book, Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge (Harvard Business Press, 2009), Wenger, McDermott and Snyder outline the key strategies required to build a functioning, vibrant and healthy online community:

  • Design Your Community to Evolve: You can't dictate strict design constraints, but must leave it open so new members can shape and contribute to the culture.
  • Include Insiders and Welcome Outsiders: You need insiders who know the purpose for the community and how it works. Yet at the same time, you need new members and their ideas to keep the community vital.
  • Plan for Different Levels of Participation: I'll dig deeper on this point later in this post, but the key takeaway is to remember that only a small 'core group' (10%-15%) will be actively involved in the day-to-day functions of the group.
  • Plan for Private and Public Community Spaces: Creating "private" spaces for one-on-one focused interactions or private meetings should be a key element of your social design. Public spaces are equally important as they give members to engage, share knowledge and draw new members to join the community.
  • Create Value: Online communities and groups must generate value for their participants. Solicit feedback from members and find out what you can to improve it.
  • Combine the Old and the New: Communities need membership continuity to foster their shared identies and preserve their knowledge.
  • Community Rhythm: There will be periods of greater and lesser activity--this is normal and desirable. Groups will naturally formulate their own culture and patterns of interaction.

Member Roles in Online Communities/Social Networks

Each group member wil bring a unique set of experiences, sources of information and level of participation in the community. For example, there will be some members who naturally become the group organizers because of their ability to keep track of details. Those who have artistic abilities will find their personal identity as they offer creative input.

image from www.flickr.com

The exchange of knowledge and experience transforms a group of people into a community as members begin to appreciate the expertise and perspective of each member.

As members interact, they develop relationships, shared values and interests.

View 'Member Roles Chart' Large



When designing for an online community, groups must be given time to build an identity. Each community is unique because of the individuality of its members.

Because of this distinctiveness members within a group must have an opportunity to discover what their contribution will be and which role they will play by interacting socially with one another. Allowing a community to create a sense of identity is a critical.

Finally, it's important to remember that a community built around a shared practice is a living entity that is always evolving. In other words, a well-designed social space should provide users with the tools and leave it to them to construct their own meaning and level of interaction within the community.

Related: Supporting Informed Participation, Social Engagement & Collaboration in Online Communities

Trend Watch: New Television & the Media Blender

Retro-tv Every electronic mass media format introduced in the 20th Century, including film, radio, and television, is now in the process of absorption into digital telecommunications networks.

To survive in the 21st century, the companies that produce and distribute traditional media types must adapt to an entirely new environment. The new networks include digital broadband provided by cable television system operators and telecommunications companies offering wireline and wireless access.

via vimeo.com

From the plasma screen in your media room, to the portable device in your pocket, to the side of a high-rise in Manhattan, savvy broadcasters are creating comprehensive "ecosystems" for rich media content with multiple consumer touch-points and immersive interactivity, blending television, web, movies and gaming to redefine the experience of television now and for the next generation.

The 2009 5D Conference explored the intersection of design and technology in the creation of "new television", the experience in front of the screen and the experience in the screen created by the blending of media and the interaction of the consumer.

In this clip, Robert Tercek addresses the vectors of change across all platforms of media and looks at the sphere of media industries that have been absorbed by the telephony sphere.

Togetherville: Designing a Social Web Experience for Kids

Togetherville.logo What is it?

Togetherville is a social networking experience intended for your younger children (5-10 year olds). The new service is designed to provide a training ground where parents can teach their kids important lessons about online communication, community building and what it means to be a good digital citizen.

The Togetherville community experience piggy-backs on the Facebook platform and allows grownups to guide their kids through an age-appropriate social networking experience, kid friendly content, moderate connections and interactions all in an ad-free environment.

How does it Work?

In Togetherville, grownups act as the moderator for new contacts, assuming the responsibility for inviting family members/friends and other kids' to join their child's online neighborhood. The 6-to 10-year-olds are invited to engage with their real-world friends, play games, watch videos, and create art.

Is it safe?

Togetherville is intended for kids who are too young for Facebook and is fully compliant with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Kids' are *NOT connected* to anyone without their parents approval, so parents don't need to worry about 'stranger danger.'

Unlike other child oriented social networks, kids' use their real names instead of an alias. This is important because it teaches them to be responsible for their actions within the community. Since their identity isn't a secret, the thinking is that this will reduce the chances that they will engage in cyberbullying or other no-no behaviors.


Togetherville "Allowance"

Allowance is a new site feature that helps teach kids financial literacy while providing parents with a way to reward good behavior, both online and off.

Parents or other approved adults (family members, coaches) can give a child Togetherville currency called "T-bills," which can be spent on virtual goods, games or gifts within each child's unique Togetherville neighborhood.

Once they have T-bills, parents and adults can give Allowance to children for whom they are administrators. Kids and adults can use T-bills for virtual goodies, gifts and games.

As with any feature in Togetherville, a parent or other adult with administrative rights has complete control over who can give their child funds. In addition, just like in the offline world, a parent can suspend or eliminate a child's Allowance at any time.

Developing Healthy Media Habits

A lot of people will say that kids' don't need to be online and that they should go outside and play.

Think of it this way: too much of anything is bad. Too many hours playing video games or watching cartoons--not healthy! Eating too much ice cream, Taco Bell or drinking too much soda are also not a good thing.

It doesn't really matter if it's chocolate milk, riding your bike in the dark, watching too much TV or being online. As adults, we need to be the ones who help children develop healthy habits.

Social by Design

Think of Togetherville as a social networking apprenticeship where parents act as a Facebook "expert" who mentor and help their children through the experience of participating in a social networking community.

The situated learning theory argues that learning and knowledge acquisition takes place only when situated in a social and authentic context.

Ultimately this process –known as legitimate peripheral participation—moves the newcomer deeper into a community of practice leading them closer to acquiring the knowledge and skills required to be an expert. In Togetherville, young kids' will form a community of practice (and safety net) consisting of their peers, site moderators, and several parent "experts."

Cognitive apprenticeship is an instructional design and learning theory wherein the instructor (or parent), through socialization, models the skill or task at hand for the child. Kids' may also receive guidance from and learn from their peers.

The role of the parent is to help novices (in this case, your kids') clear cognitive roadblocks (Facebook/social networking) by providing them with the resources needed to develop a better understanding of social media. This process is called scaffolding.

Ultimately the kids will become an expert who no longer needs the scaffolding provided by Togetherville and/or parental guidance. In turn, they will have a better understanding of potential roadblocks and are now equipped the skills to navigate the world of social media/networking sites like Facebook.

Putting it All Together

In the end, what's important here is to take a balanced position when it comes to kids and technology. As a parent or teacher, don't be afraid to jump into the technology and social media pool and get your feet wet.

Use this as an opportunity to spend time with your kids and learn more about how they are using technology, mobile phones and social media in their lives.

Most importantly, when it comes to kids and social networking, don't panic!

Using Facebook in the Elementary School Classroom [Prezi]

Facebook.button.round When it comes to classroom management and keeping parents informed, a lot of teachers use the trusty ol flyer that they send home with students. Another popular tool for classroom management are Yahoo! Groups.

It may come as a surprise to a lot of people, but teachers and other educators are among the highest user demographics of Yahoo! Groups and this is also why we were integrating them into Yahoo! Teachers.

One of the big hurdles for teachers to use Yahoo! Groups was trying to get the parents to sign up and join the group. Given that Facebook has just crossed the 500 million users mark, chances are that most parents already have a Facebook account which makes it the next best choice for student-teacher-parent communication.

I was happily surprised to stumble on (thanks Matt!) this very well done Prezi on using Facebook Pages as a classroom management tool. Erin Schoening, the author of this Prezi, uses Facebook in their 1st Grade classroom to keep parents in the loop and provide narrative feedback to students. This is pretty ingenious.

Are you or any teachers you know using Facebook in the classroom? If so how's it working out? What are the concerns of parents? If you do use Facebook (or Yahoo! Groups for that matter) don't forget to get those permission slips signed.

Update: I've recently partnered with Facebook and co-authors Linda Phillips and Dr. BJ Fogg to write the official Facebook for Educators Guide! The guide is also available in Spanish, Portuguese and German. We also have a Facebook Page (come join us!), free handouts and more!

Trend Watch: Curated Computing

In this video Forrester Research Analyst Sarah Rotman Epps talks about how Apple's iPad and other tablet devices will usher in a new era of personal computing. Forrester calls this "Curated Computing"-- a mode of computing where choice is constrained to deliver less complex, more relevant experiences. 

There's more at stake here than just tablets: Curated Computing will be the dominant design principle behind future form factors like wearable devices.

Product strategists that don't want to cede the future of devices to Apple should start thinking like museum curators and editors: Sometimes less is more.

Weekly Wrap: iPad Demographics, Geolocation Wars, Twitter + Blackbird Pie, Facebook Privacy Translated, TED TV, Nintendo DS Glucose Meter, iPad Apps for Kids & More!

Barking.robot.iconApple iPad User Analysis: Just a week after the iPad’s launch, we began to analyze the behavior of the first iPad users on the Yahoo! network. While some of the findings were expected, there were a few surprises that popped. Related: US Twitter Demographics & Stats [Yahoo! Mobile] [Barking Robot]

Facebook Set to Add Geolocation Features: Watch out Foursquare, information has leaked that Facebook is set to roll out location-based features for users and brands as soon as this month. According to Advertising Age, users could see location options any day now. [Mashable]

What is Twitter Really Up to With Blackbird Pie?: Following a bit of online buzz yesterday around embeddable Twitter quotes for online publishers, Twitter Media made it official today by unveiling a new tool dubbed 'Blackbird Pie'. [Social Media Today]

Facebook-to-English Translator: Despite the voluminous buzz, many commentators have missed the most confusing announcement of all — new Facebook jargon. So, in the interests of helping users understand what's going on, we've put together a rough Facebook-to-English translator. Think of it as a handy phrase-book that could help you navigate through the more common situations you'll find yourself in. [Electronic Freedom Foundation]

Kids Blood Glucose Meter Attaches to Nintendo DS: Every time a kid uses Didget to check his blood glucose level, it awards points that can be used to buy items and unravel new game levels within an associated game. The idea behind Didget is to encourage kids manage their diabetes by rewarding them for regular blood glucose testing. [BoingBoing]

Why Does the BBC Want to Send Its Readers Away?: The BBC aims to double the number outbound clicks from its site by 2013. That’s double the number of people sent away from the BBC site — intentionally. [Nieman Journalism Lab]

TED TV: The new initiative will allow television broadcasters around the world to air the talks for free as well as create programming around them. One of the primary goals behind the project is to extend the reach of TED’s idea-spreading mission into the developing world. [JED] 

Millennials Tech-Dependent, But Not Necessarily Tech-Savvy: One of the biggest myths about Millennials is that they are all digital natives, blogging and tweeting their way through life.  The truth is a bit more nuanced. Related: The Myth of the Digital Native [Millennial Marketing] [Barking Robot]

Teenage Homelessness on the Rise: In Minnesota, the number of 18- to 21-year-olds in shelters more than doubled in the past three years. [StarTribune.com]

Top 10 Entertainment iPad Apps for Kids: Sure, the new gadget isn’t perfect, but not to worry—techie geniuses have been up since its release, working through the kinks and quirks. Nothing left to do but the fun stuff; grab your kids and try out some of the latest entertainment apps, adapted or created for the iPad. [Kideos]

2010 Totally Wired Teacher Award: After listening to feedback from our friends in the educator community, we've made some important changes to this year's Totally Wired Teacher Award provided by Dell. Please help us spread the word to any public school teachers you are in contact with. [Ypulse]

Twitter Research: U.S. Demographics, Community Behaviors & Media Usage Stats

Twitter_icons_256 Twitter Usage In America 2010 is a new report derived from the Edison Research/Arbitron Internet and Multimedia Series. This study presents three years of tracking data from a nationally representative telephone survey (via landline and mobile phone) of 1,753 Americans, and was conducted in February 2010.

The report details new data on the awareness and usage of Twitter, along with user demographics, status updating behaviors, brand following activity and even an early look at location-based social networking.

Twitter Usage in America 2010

Highlights of the study include:

  • Awareness of Twitter has exploded from 5% of Americans 12+ in 2008 to 87% in 2010 (by comparison, Facebook's awareness is 88%;
  • Despite equal awareness, Twitter trails Facebook significantly in usage: 7% of Americans (17 million persons) actively use Twitter, while 41% maintain a profile page on Facebook;
  • Nearly two-thirds of active Twitter users access social networking sites using a mobile phone;
  • 51% of active Twitter users follow companies, brands or products on social networks;
  • Twitter usage among African-American's hovers around 25%, more than double the percentage of African-Americans in the current US population. This could also be attributed to the fact that minority youth tend to use mobile devices to access the web and therefore are more inclined to participate in mobile social networking activities like Twitter.

Report: Minority Teens Close Digital Divide with Mobile Web

A recent Pew Internet & American Life Project report, Teens and Mobile Phones, indicated that black teens were more than twice as likely as whites to go online on with their mobile phones, at 44% versus 21%. Hispanic teens were also relatively active on the mobile Web.

“Teens from low-income households, particularly African-Americans, are much more likely than other teens to go online using a cell phone,” the report said. “This is a pattern that mirrors Pew Internet Project findings about adults and their cell phones.”

Urban Youth Are Wire(less)

For most of the 1990s the conversation around minority youth and technology was centered on the “digital divide.” This conversation was primarily focused on hardware issues and connection to the Internet.

However, as S. Craig Watkins points out, the digital divide is not just about access, it is “also about social and cultural skills in human networks to enable proper participation.”

In his keynote at the 2010 Digital Media Learning 2010, S. Craig Watkins (University of Texas at Austin) presented a number of emergent patterns about African-American and Latino youth usage and participation in the digital media space:

  • Usage Is Mobile: Mobile phones are emerging as the preferred platform among minority youth. 92% of 1500 minority youth surveyed in 6 major urban markets own a mobile phone;
  • Usage Is Peer And Interest Driven: They are "living and learning" with new media, engaging their peers, peer interaction, peer informed spaces that drive their usage and interest driven genres (e.g., hip hop);
  • Digital Media Is The New Town Square: "Back in the day" hip hop youth were always writing stories, carrying pens and papers; documenting their stories about their life in poems and hip hop. Today, the digital landscape is the new town square and they go online to engage with their community, and engage in a "stunning" critique about the world around them;
  • Use Digital Media As A Space Of Opportunity: Messaging & hanging around in digital media is NOT just wasting time, but they are creating gateways for them to create opportunities and engage with what they are love and passionate about (e.g., a young girl who used hip hop to connect with hip hop artists, but also to connect with her friends and record/tweet about her own hip hop).

Whether it's marketing soda, producing digital entertainment or online learning opportunities, it's vital that we have a better understanding how minority and urban youth connect and interact on the web so that we can create more inclusive digital experiences.

Related: The Young and the Digital

Image Source: eMarketer

Trend Watch: LEGO Digital Box + Augmented Reality Marketing

This augmented reality kiosk called "DIGITAL BOX" has been developed by LEGO Digital Systems and metaio. After an evaluatiion phase it is now rolled out to LEGO brand stores worldwide and is widely considered to be one of the best examples of augmented reality in marketing.

Ideally, customers want to hold the product in their hands and look at it closely from all angles. But for products like LEGO sets, it can take hours of construction before you know what the toy really looks like.

Children of all ages can now hold LEGO boxes up to the DIGITAL BOX and watch a 3D animation of the product - from all angles, in every detail - in their hands. This is made possible by metaio, which fuses virtual 3D animations into a live video of the completed LEGO set.

While this is a pretty slick implementation of augmented reality in a youth marketing context, I think it actually is a powerful example of how a brand can leverage augmented reality as a digital storytelling tool.

It's one thing to look at the picture on the box, but to see the LEGO set come to life in 3D that provides youth marketers with exciting new opportunities to create a virtual storyline that draws the customer deeper into the world of LEGO and allows them to connect on a deeper, emotional level with the brand.

Sorta Related: LEGO to Launch Line of Youth Electronics

The Web is a Storytelling Medium

"The Web is a storytelling medium. Most people function in a storytelling mode. It's the way we communicate ideas, richly, as well as how we structure our thoughts.

I have never known a great teacher, a great political leader or great military leader who wasn't also a great storyteller. Education is a storytelling problem.

Leadership is a storytelling problem. Ultimately, being a CIO is a storytelling problem. However, most CIOs don't understand that."     -- Bran Ferren