Facebook’s command over everyone’s attention span

Facebook’s command over everyone’s attention span, as well as its deft use of your personal data, has turned it into a money-spinning machine. We may well look back and see Facebook as the most consequential development in publishing since the invention of hot type. But Facebook holds most of the cards, and even the smallest changes in how it pushes information out to its billion plus users’ news feeds can make or break a digital publisher.

Lydia Polgreen


Facebook’s ‘reasonable’ users

When you speak with grown-ups and young adults who used to be Facebook enthusiasts, you hear the following:

  • Facebook’s interface and features have become overly complicated. The result is it takes more time to do the same old things.
  • Managing friends leaves you with two choices: spending a lot of time delicately pruning lists, circles and groups, or being swamped.
  • Constant and insidious changes in Facebook’s privacy features keep taking people off-guard: all of a sudden, you find many things about your digital life, mostly mundane stuff such as what you read and listen, being broadly available outside your initial circle. Quasi-paranoid caution has become a must. And again, since “open” is the default setting on Facebook, recovering your own privacy gets increasingly complicated.
  • A rise in the advertising presence, which reinforces the impression of being tracked down: users don’t have the slightest idea of the breadth and depth of Facebook’s mining of their personal activities.

It now seems Facebook’s usage is undergoing a split. Active Facebookers become increasingly engaged, spend more time doing more stuff, while “reasonable” users (over 25) become more reluctant and careful.

Frédéric Filloux: Does Twitter have more influence than Facebook?

6 successful social features of Intranets

  • Knowledge sharing. Offering repositories for case studies, samples, and other existing information can help people with similar problems avoid having to start building their solutions from scratch. Examples range from Habitat for Humanity’s fundraising templates to Bennett Jones’ Share Your Work widget. Sometimes, knowledge sharing can be as simple as a Q&A tool to connect employees with questions to colleagues with answers.
  • Innovation management. Companies managed and encouraged innovation by offering users tools for taking ideas and improvements from conception to completion. Indeed, this is the sole purpose of Mota-Engil’s winning InnovCenter. Verizon offers a mobile version to capture ideas as they occur, which is often on outside jobs, far from any old-fashioned suggestion box.
  • Comments. The simplest way to inspire user-contributed intranet content is to let employees comment on existing information, ranging from news stories to knowledge bank resources. Commenting features reduce the fear of the blank screen; systems that force people to create content from scratch every time inhibit user participation.
  • Ratings. Giving a grade requires even less work than writing a comment, and thus rating systems can further broaden user participation. Sites that use ratings can list top-rated resources first in menus or give them added weight in search listings. Mota-Engil and Verizon offered an even simpler approach by noting how many users had previously accessed a resource (even if they had not rated it). Sometimes, bad content gets substantial use simply because it addressees a key need; on average, however, better stuff gets used more, so a usage count is a reasonable proxy for quality — and has the huge benefit of requiring no extra effort from users.
  • Participation rewards. We know from research on social features that user participation increases when contributors are visibly rewarded, such as by adding points or badges to their profiles. Many winning intranets did exactly that. Because there’s real business value to features like knowledge sharing and innovation management within an enterprise, some intranets went beyond the symbolic value of visible recognition and offered real prizes to employees who gathered sufficient participation points.
  • Customized collections. The default intranet information architecture (IA) must be based on the average employee’s tasks and usage patterns, but can never predict any individual user’s information needs with 100% accuracy. To contend with this fact, designers often allowed users to customize content collections.

From Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox

Social intranets

“The social intranet is not just about adding a layer of social collaboration tools; it is a platform that combines the powers of push with the powers of pull to supply anyone who participates and contributes within an extended enterprise with the information, knowledge and connections they need to make the right decisions and act to fulfill their objectives. It equips everyone with the tools that allows them to participate, contribute, attract, discover, find and connect with each other to exchange information and knowledge and/or collaborate. It connects information demand with information supply in knowledge-intensive businesses, something which can only be done by involving all employees in the information supply, removing bottle-necks created by the production model (such as approval workflows and that everything must fit in a central taxonomy) and enabling employee-to-employee information exchange.”


“The social intranet also has an important part to play when it comes to supporting serendipity; enabling people to find both information and people they didn’t know they were looking for. To do so it must have mechanisms that allow information and people that might be useful to us to be pulled to us. Spending time and effort searching for relevant information and people where there is information abundance just won’t pay off. We must have ways that “automagically” attract useful information and connections to us. We just need to implicitly and explicitly share what do and know to other people in our networks, to people who share our interests, or to people who happen to pass us by at any other kind of cross-road.”

Oscar Berg: Why traditional intranets fail today’s knowledge workers

5 stepping stones for building social experience

  1. What’s your social object? Make sure there is a “there” there. Give users a reason to rally. Why would someone come to your site?
  2. Give people a way to identify themselves and to be identified.
  3. Give people something to do
  4. Enable a bridge to real life (groups, mobile, meetings, face-to-face)
  5. Gently Moderate. Let the community elevate people and content they value.

Erin Malone: 5 Steps to Building Social Experiences

Social software elements

  1. Identity – a way of uniquely identifying people in the system
  2. Presence – a way of knowing who is online, available or otherwise nearby
  3. Relationships – a way of describing how two users in the system are related (e.g. in Flickr, people can be contacts, friends of family)
  4. Conversations – a way of talking to other people through the system
  5. Groups – a way of forming communities of interest
  6. Reputation – a way of knowing the status of other people in the system (who’s a good citizen? who can be trusted?)
  7. Sharing – a way of sharing things that are meaningful to participants (like photos or videos)

Gene Smith referring to work produced by Matt Webb and Stewart Butterfield

Why do people use social Web apps

    Motivations to use social Web applications (paraphrased):

  1. Identity – to manage their identity within social groups
  2. Uniqueness – to make a unique and valuable contribution
  3. Reciprocity – to give in order to receive or because having received
  4. Reputation – to build their reputation
  5. Sense of efficacy – to do good work that has a positive effect
  6. Control – to be in control of the information shared
  7. Ownership – to feel a sense of ownership over their online content
  8. Attachment to a group – to seek like-minded people
  9. Fun – to be entertained

Porter 2008, 98/9

Creating Sign-Up framework

A sign-up framework is the set of information and resources we provide to people who are going to be signing up for our application.

    A sign-up framework must do the following:

  1. Clearly communicate the capabilities of the software
  2. Allow a person to decide if the software is right for them
  3. Answer any outstanding questions people have about the software
  4. Confirm or refute any preconceptions people have about the application
  5. Get people actually using the application to get stuff done
  6. Let people connect with any other people who they might collaborate or work with
  7. Give people an idea of the type of relationship they’ll have with you
    A sign-up frame may contain one or more of the following:

  1. An elevator pitch, a tagline, or some other pithy explanation of service
  2. Graphics or illustrations that show how your software works
  3. Carefully crafted copywriting that describes your software
  4. In depth feature tour or feature pages
  5. Video or screencast showing actual use
  6. Get people started using the software as early as possible
  7. Evidence of other people using your software successfully

Porter 2008, p.68/9