Post a new Bit – Select an existing book to post the new Bit within:
Post a new Bit – Select an existing book to post the new Bit within:
I created this styletile to set the visual design direction for future comp designs.
Last week I made an audiobook acquisition with my free audiobook-a-month subscription credit that has since given rise to a euphoria akin to striking oil in my backyard. The book is called “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries. Its a title not at all unfamiliar to savvy business folks and tech entrepreneurs in the 21st Century because its a nationwide bestseller and a rock-star hit in its subject category. However, I was encountering it for the first time while browsing for audiobooks that would offer me information related to my thesis project. I’ve subsequently purchased it in eBook form along with a separate cliff notes-style eBook summarizing all of the primary information from the full book in concise form. Its easily one of the best buys I’ve made relating to my thesis project and has helped me determine what approach I should take as proceed with building the practical portion of my thesis.
The book introduces the reader to the Lean Startup Method which emphasizes an approach to building startups that involves iterating quickly, discovering what the consumers want, and making business, product and marketing decisions based on data gleamed scientifically. One of the central elements of practically employing this method is creating a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) which startups use to test on a small scale a market or product hypotheses in the real world in order quickly learn what works and what doesn’t, and make educated decisions going forward based on that learning. An MVP shouldn’t shouldn’t be a polished product, in fact it should include no feature or polish that isn’t essential to acquiring the targeted learning a startup seeks. The MVP shouldn’t be distributed to the market at large but rather to a small segment of the market referred to as “early adopters” who are more forgiving when encountering a crude product because the relish the opportunity to be the first to use a new product.
The wisdom gleamed from this book has significantly altered my approach to building the initial iteration of BioBits. I’m no longer plan to build a fully functional small social media network as I had been initially. Instead my intent moving forward is to just build the parts of this proposed platform that can affirm or invalidate through testing and feedback my beliefs about what features of the proposed platform will set it apart for success in a crowded social media market.
As part of my reading for my thesis research I came across this passage from Joe Lambert’s book “Digital Storytelling: Capturing Lives, Creating Community”. I think it really helps articulate what I’m trying to accomplish with this project, namely an attempt to help people find meaning by discovering the narratives that emerge from sharing their everyday lives on social media.
In traditional culture, stories are the units of knowledge to live by, and the ability to call them out and perform them is cherished. While many of the stories are in the form of folktale and myth, equally many are cherished family stories of recent ancestors, or tales spun out of people’s own lives. Historically, we lacked the instantaneous gratification of the book or the turning on of a machine with speakers and a screen to entertain ourselves. We had no choice but to entertain each other, at the dinner table or around a fireplace at night. Some part of our story muscle atrophied with mass culture; what is unpracticed is soon lost. Many cultures still value the family oracle or storyteller, but on the whole, the art of conversational storytelling has diminished or disappeared from our lives. Author Richard Stone has described our culture as de- storied, as in de- forested, and that the various efforts at reclaiming story and storytelling are a process of restorification. Our mainstream culture has “clear cut” our ability to make and hold stories, folktales, and even song lyrics. We can no longer see how our daily lives provide us with rich content for meaning making through creating and sharing stories…
Only people who develop effective filtering, indexing, and repackaging tools in their minds can manage to successfully and consistently articulate meaning that reconstructs a coherent story.
(Digital Storytelling: Capturing Lives, Creating Community – #2: Stories In Our Lives)
Moving into the design of interface, I wanted to create a set of usability goals to guide interface design decisions. I identified three activities essential to BioBits under which all usability objectives could be categorized: Story Creation, Story Consumption and Social Interaction.
Ability to rapidly create posts one after another to composite a story
(User should feel no apprehension about posting new content)
Ability to quickly modify a post’s placement in a story’s chronology
Ability to quickly edit a post
Comfortably and Enjoyably consume a story in a linear fashion
Comfortably and quickly navigate in, out, and between books
Ability to allow people to quickly express reactions
Allow people to store favorites
Allow for comments
Notify users of new community interactions that have taken on their posted content
Biobits is centered upon a story-telling and album sharing activities. My approach is to design first for the activities and tasks and secondarily for the audience that is more likely to do these activities.
1) Determine and prioritize the activities that BioBits excels in
2) Determine what audiences would be most interested in performing these activities
In order to contain the scope of this project I will be addressing only 4 activities although more are conceivable
a) People desiring to document their life’s story, a sub-story from their life or another person’s life story
b) People desiring to relay sequential or step-by-step information like tutorials or a visual process books
c) People interested in browsing the stories of their friends, family and loved ones.
d) People seeking to learn about something sequentially
Having identified these activities, I sought out relevant research and statistics analysis of social media use. In particular I was looking to find out which particular demographics were more likely to sight specific reasons for social media use that approximated the activities I believed BioBits would excel in. The identified demographics that were interested in activities similar to those that BioBits seeks to address would serve as my target audience.
The following Pew Research study proved helpful “Why Americans Use Social Media”. Here are a list of those results.
Pew List of Social Media Use Reasons (http://www.pewinternet.org/2011/11/15/why-americans-use-social-media)
1) Staying in touch with current friends and family members (67%)
2) Staying in touch with family members (64%)
2) Connecting with old friends they’ve lost touch with (50%)
3) Connecting around a shared hobby or interest (14%)
4) Making new friends (9%)
5) Comments by public figures (5%)
6) Finding potential romantic partners (3%)
“Parents are more likely than non-parents to say that connecting with old friends is a major reason behind their use of these sites (56% vs. 47%)”
“Female social media users are more likely than male users to cite family connections as a major reason for using these sites (72% vs. 55%)”
Conclusion: Parents and Females a Target Audience – BioBits offers features that are conducive to sharing and following the progression of a new born child or some other major life endeavor, like the pursuit of a graduate degree or a new career, that might be of interest to other family members. Thus per this Pew study it appears Parents and Female social media users are more likely to find BioBits useful to their social media needs.
Assumption: Artists and Designers a Target Audience – Its assumed the demographic desiring to relay or consume sequential or step-by-step information would be quite large and broad. However, since this project aims to display such information in a largely visual manner, relying more upon images rather than text, it stands to reason that users that think and learn visually would be prime targets for this platform. Perhaps the group of people that would most reliably fit within this category would be artists and designers.
Preproduction has commenced on my thesis project. Having taken some time to carve out a process for building my project, I determined that a creating a product statement of some kind would be the best place to start.
This product statement would act as a short summary or description of the project and my intents. Moving forward it would serve as a broad foundation that guides my decision making in subsequent stages of my process. The following is my first draft:
“BioBits is a social media tool that gives users control of their own media narratives by making it easy for users to organize and share multiple photo albums as easy-to-browse linear stories.”
In marketing a statement is used to serve similar ends called a positioning statement. The main purpose of a positioning statement is to elucidate a product’s niche in relation to other market competitors and to serve as a guidepost for subsequent marketing efforts. I felt creating a positioning statement as well would also be useful especially since I’m introducing a new social media network concept in an already overcrowded space.
According to an article at WhatIs.com, the following template was proposed for creating a positioning statement in Geoffrey Moore’s book, Crossing the Chasm:
For (target customer) who (statement of the need or opportunity), the (product name) is a (product category) that (statement of key benefit – that is, compelling reason to buy). Unlike (primary competitive alternative), our product (statement of primary differentiation).
Using this template I created this positioning statement for my thesis project:
For mature social media users who relish stories past and present in their lives, BioBits is a narrative-centric social media network that makes it easy for users to organize and share social media posts as easy-to-browse linear stories. Unlike other prominent social media networks that compile all of a user’s posts into a single context, BioBits allows users to effortlessly assign their posts into separate contexts dedicated to a user determined narrative.
I also found this article on positioning statements helpful on eCornell’s blog – http://blog.ecornell.com/how-to-write-market-positioning-statements.
The primary premise upon which my thesis is based is that there is a need for a social media tool that is built upon a story-centric paradigm. A tool that in other words enables users to use media to tell multiple narratives the way they would like to tell them. To demonstrate this, my proposal is to create a small functional web application that would bring into focus the benefits of such a tool.
This web-based application would prompt users to connect to their Facebook accounts, and using their photos uploaded to Facebook, let them create multiple chronological timelines of event posts. Each of these individual posts within a timeline would contain a short summary of the event, a picture and an optional voice-recorded summary of the event. The interface would give users the ability to determine where a post appears in a timeline’s chronology allowing them to retroactively add missing events to the past of an ongoing narrative. Each timeline would represent a story, and each post within a timeline would represent an event or idea within that story. This approach gives users the power to control their stories and build narratives meaningful to them.
This application would also introduce several interface solutions that aim to make story creation and story consumption easier in a social media context. One example of this would be that timelines would be laid out horizontally instead of vertically, the way most social media networks prefer to layout multiple posts. This project intends to demonstrate how a horizontal layout is more natural to consuming a story, since the majority of western cultures read information from left to right.
To use this application to create timelines a user must be on a desktop or laptop computer that is equipped with a microphone. Users will be able to consume published timelines on laptops, desktops and tablets.