Five years from now on the web for free you’ll be able to find the best lectures in the world. It will be better than any single university.
- Bill Gates
iPad apps that have amazing user experiences are able to deliver a bar course at a premium over books, but a huge discount over in-place learning. We’ll continue this trajectory. The argument over scaling hybrid learning will ebb and flow. Now more than ever, we’re able to create mechanisms that improve hybrid learning environments and encompass digital media. This was all possible before, but now learners are becoming more attuned to the social layer that is the web today, and using a variety of tools to consume and create information (mobile, tablet, web). Facebooking, Tweeting, BetterAting will all be part of an ecosystem of socializing, publishing, and learning on the web.
Recently, I visited a school near the south side of Seattle, WA. I immediately recognized the capacity for transformation that the learning tools we’re building could bring to a segment of the population that’s not particularly digitally accessible. While the school didn’t have wifi access, some students actually bought Clear 4G wifi cards from home just so they could connect to the internet to learn. The appetite and demand is certainly there… but importantly, the needs are coming from the individuals.
I thought about those kids and I wondered where they would go after they graduated high school. Many of them didn’t have access to post K-12 education. In many schools across the US, the problem is much greater. There’s no inherent desire to continue going to school because students are jaded and apathetic about learning.
I believe there’s huge potential for user experiences to adapt to the “current” stage in people’s lives, whatever term “current” can be applied to. Context-aware recommendations for content, services, experiences and more is a field that’s bound to explode. Companies, societies, and individuals are cropping up to serve this use-case of curating/filtering and making people aware of things when apt/necessary.
While technically it seems complicated and difficult (because it’s hard to know someone’s current state of being), I believe there’s scope for lots of the existing user experiences to take advantage of “currency” in someone’s life.
As time progresses, your contacts change
For example, I believe email clients could be improved simply by creating temporary contact clusters for months or for different projects. When the email client senses that I’ve received >1 email message or sent > 1 message to a contact (other than a reply-chain), it’s likely that this person could be labeled a contact, and should show up in the AutoComplete. As months progress and you move from one project/client to another, the core set of contacts that you deal with change, and your autocomplete/addressability should dynamically reflect that. Over time, if the system made you aware of these changes in communication, that would be stellar.
As a sidenote, I have no idea why I can’t search through recent contacts, or search email in a sidebar, or really do much of anything when I’m in Compose Email mode. I can’t imagine that I’m the only person that often needs to reference a snippet or content in a past conversation in order to convey something in a new email. Currently, this is only possible by opening two tabs or if the past conversation was in the same thread. At the very minimum, I should be able to find recent contacts in a sidebar or something.
Proposed email interface
Getting back to the point of this post, I hope that we’re not alone or martyrs at BettrAt in suggesting that time-based context awareness is a vitally important mechanism to help deal with information overload.
Here’s where our intuitive response is really wrong: we have a tendency to indulge our pleasures without respite, and to take frequent breaks from those things that make us miserable. This is exactly backwards. If you want to maximize your pleasure — a great dessert, the delight of furnishing your first real apartment after graduation, a wonderful new relationship — you should trickle it into your life, with frequent breaks for your adaptive response to diminish. If you want to minimize your pain — an unpleasant chore, an awful trip — you should continue straight through without a break, because every time you stop, your adaptive response resets and you experience the discomfort anew.
I’m going to experiment with this for the next week and see what happens. Update coming soon.
You start to lose track of days when you are trying polyphasic sleeping. Remember when I was talking about all of the social norms you’re up against when trying non circadian sleeping habits? Well, they’re a lot more pervasive than I thought.
I think I finally got into a groove, but I’m not sure how I can hold this up for very much longer. Here are some initial thoughts about the experiment in alternative sleeping styles:
I’m not a recluse (okay, sometimes I am). But it’s REALLY nice to be able to be awake or alone and focused on your stuff with no distractions from other people. I only wish that this was during the day. Most of the time that I am distraction free, it’s late at night when everyone else is sleeping. Night isn’t conducive to work. At least, not creative work, I’ve found. Try listening to tunes while you’re awake and no one else is awake — Trance and Bollywood dance remixes always wake you up and help you have a nice steady cadence.
Optimal sleeping time is about 24 minutes. If you go past about that long, you’re essentially screwed. You will absolutely not wake up. Don’t even try.
Invest in two helpful devices, a yoga eye pillow, and get one of those eye masks that strap to your face that they give out in business class at most airlines. Use the eye mask when you have to take a nap sitting up, the yoga pillow is really nice when you can lie down.
You will probably lose track of days. Which could be terrible depending on what your job is.
This one is particularly insidious because you don’t really notice it at first: I feel much less creative and more groggy. I guess that doesn’t work so well for our profession. Rats.
I fell asleep while doing work / chatting with Jeff last night. Sorry Jeff! He reminded me of the story of Max Levchin of Paypal fame from Founders at Work. See, I’m committed, dangit.
Probably the worst part of all of it is that it ruins your ability to exert physical effort. I lost almost all concentration at Bikram Yoga for about 2 days in a row. I think this might be the reason I give up the experiment.
I’ll update you again if I continue with this experiment.
Today begins the 3rd attempt in my life to switch to a polyphasic sleeping schedule. I’ve tried twice in the past, unsuccessfully. Both of those were in college.
For a while I just thought that it would be amazingly awesome to sleep just… less. Be insanely more productive and contribute to seventy five different projects, all while training to climb Everest or something. That would be pretty awesome. Impossible? No impossible is the opposite of possible (thanks to Scott Mio and of course, Aleksey for that).
The only problem is, societal norms, functions, classes, work obligations have always impeded my progress. I also received a great deal of inspiration to try polyphasic sleeping from the spate of articles on the interwebs about how it may actually be healthier (that’s highly suspect) and a GSI I knew from undergrad (Tom Begey) that had like 17 degrees by the time he left.
I realize now that it just might be the case that polyphasic sleeping is a necessity for some people. It might actually be healthier. I clearly can’t seem to stick to a normal circadian sleep cycle. Particularly during the fall months.
So, maybe I should just embrace the insomnia and give in to it? And take my yoga “eye pillow” with me and take a nap during the afternoon.
Anyway, I’m trying this experiment. I’ll let you know how long I can go for this time with some details.
For now, I gotta take a quick nap. Good Nigh-morn (I made that word up). Ok its late and I’m tired. I make dumb jokes.
Last week, Chris Dixon posted this comment from Caterina Fake (of Flickr fame) that really got me thinking:
“Flickr is a wonderful place to be a photograph“.
Makes a lot of sense. If you were a photograph, where else would you want to be? On Flickr, lots of people would look at you, you’d be in slideshows, you’d be discussed, you could even be a part of the great liberation of media that’s happened this decade with Creative Commons.
What a splendid thought. In design school (and at BettrAt) We’re always thinking about how to be so intently user focused, because we care.. and we do stuff like “artifact analysis” while we’re doing ethno’s and contextual inquiry, but often times after listening to the whole mantra around “the experience IS the product” we forget to think about the by-products of our experiences.
For me, this was a great reminder to think about the stuff that sits on the shelves of the platform you create. To truly think about the things that people would create on your site and cherish for time immemorial. Flickr has photographs. Youtube has videos (though most of the stuff on there is terrible anymore). BettrAt will be a wonderful place to be a dream.
Isn’t the ultimate win for someone to elicit their dream.. their goal.. the thing they’re trying to really accomplish in the world and have the people they know support them?
That’s our vision for BettrAt.
I look forward to the day I’ll see someone tweeting the title of this post.
Oh great. Here we go. My post yesterday about realtime couldn’t have been more timely.
Now that Google and Bing are getting the firehose, it could have a big impact on search results. For the search engines, the firehose is much more valuable than any single Tweet. They can index it and sift it, looking for patterns and spikes in keywords and shared links to get a better sense of what people across the Web are paying attention to at any given moment. This data can then be folded back into regular search results, even if the top result isn’t a Tweet.
Many startups are tackling this problem, as is Twitter itself. And now Google and Bing can try their hand at finding the most important bits of data in the firehose. The results should be a more relevant, faster feedback loop between data appearing on the Internet and the search engines finding it.
Unless someone figures out this “StreamRank” idea mentioned by Schonfeld, I want to have a big ol’ button that says “TURN OFF REALTIME SEARCH” on almost any search engine I use.
I’m going to take a stand and call utter BS on the article and all these so-called pundits vaunting the realtime web. Google’s mission was to unlock the world’s information. It’s done a pretty good job at doing that, and has earned the hearts and mindshare of many. It’s come a long way in accomplishing this mission and has a long way to go, but is on the right trajectory.
Most of the realtime tools are a way to surface understanding, determine sentiment (often times, I don’t care all that much about sentiment, I want to judge facts. If I wanted sentiment, I’d pay attention to people talking on the CTA instead of listening to a podcast or something). But they are not the solution to unlocking information. Maybe recent information, but that’s about it. The facts still have to come from somewhere.
Some of these experts claim that this “4th wave” of the internet, the real time web, will slowly encroach and obviate the “incumbent” web. Completely false. Maybe for news, but news isn’t everything. Edo Segal, a “pioneer in realtime search” according to the article, says “Google organized our memory. Real-time search organizes our consciousness.”
Ummh. Okay? For the vast majority of people who either 1) Don’t care to share with the world explicit details about their consciousness or, even more importantly, 2) Don’t care to know the inner details of others’ consciousness, organizing it is vastly complex and of trivial importance.
My favorite comments from the wired article:
“Bye bye, facts. Hello, gossip and misinformation”
“I am a bit bored of reading yet another “google killer”, and “google is so old fashioned they totally don’t get the latest hipness”. Yeah. Once the new hipness is pulling down a few billion a quarter with their model, then they’ll be something to talk about.”
There’s a place for realtime but it isn’t going to nom nom nom the entire web. Maybe I should start a slow information movement that’s focused on deeper reflection, processing, and learning, kind of like what “slow food” was to fast food.
A few weeks ago I wrote about rating systems for product reviews from an article I read in ACM. Then I saw this article in VentureBeat about what Yelp is doing. The author mentions: “when you’re looking for a fast solution on where to eat, a list full of four-star restaurants makes for an overwhelming “paradox of choice” situation. (Ironically, the site feels less useful to me now than it did two years ago when there were enough reviews that I could discover great finds, but not be daunted by all the four-star choices.) This intrigues me. personalization and curation by peer group (aka tribe or interest net) is definitely the next horizon. Yelp is smart for incorporating features like “nudging users to find and follow like-minded reviewers. Rather than relying on a generic one- to five-star system, connecting people with similar tastes may be the best way of discovering the next gem.” Well done, Yelp. I like it.