Archive for December, 2007

Computer+user infrastructure

I just want to make sure it is noted that a tenet of design in the internet age is letting users do things for themselves. ┬áReplacing human and physical infrastructure with computer+user infrastructure. ┬áThis is mostly obvious; it’s just worth keeping in mind as a way to frame new technologies.

Examples: online shopping, checking in online for flights, internet-mediated ride sharing.

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Government of the people, for the people, by the people

Who needs congressmen in the age of the Internet?

If the people can write their own Wikipedia, why not write their own bills and then vote them into law? When popular opinion is so out of sync with congress and the president, it makes you wonder why this hasn’t already happened. When everyone has easy access to the internet, everyone can participate. If the software is open source and the audit trail is well documented, it can be made tamper-proof. George Washington feared the “tyranny of the majority,” but when everyone is a minority, compromise bills will be crafted.

The congressmen and -women who refuse to vote for the people-supported bills will be ousted. Those who remain will generally stick with the popular vote and will win elections primarily on personal appearance.

I bet it will happen. Just you wait.

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I recently read that Wikipedia is planning to pay people to make illustrations for some articles. To justify paying for graphics but not article text, the interviewee claimed that “volunteers apparently don’t find it rewarding” to make illustrations.

But I ask: is this because of some inherent property of illustrating (as she seems to be implying), or is it because no good tools currently exist for collaborative, online image editing? If it were as easy to collaboratively make illustrations as it is to write wiki text, my guess is that lots of people would do it for free. It sure sounds fun to me!

Two of my colleagues at MIT are working on separate research projects which I think could greatly contribute to making such a tool practical. But I can’t disclose those projects here without their permission.

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Believe in what you’re doing

My friend “emax” had some words of wisdom to share today:

…But the thing that really made Warhol awesome was that he /was/
rejected. If the MoMA had taken his Shoe painting, adopted it into
their collection (and started selling postcards and scarves with his
design), he probably would have done something drastic, like
committed suicide or something. Or at least done something very
different. Being rejected gave him a very reason to exist; other
people didn’t get it, in the sense that they didn’t understand him or
why he was doing it. And that if anything was the biggest reason he
had to do it.

And he did do it with great intensity. Andy and his “Factory” worked
like mad, refining their image and experimenting with various media
to see what would be the most “fun”. indeed they had a closing
window of opportunity as the factory quickly gained visibility in the
city — especially tahnks to andy’s antics and appearances. And if
the public knew, the MoMA was soon to follow. Then it would all be

so moral of this short story . how to do interaction design like Andy:

– if you’re doing something that gets immediately accepted, it’s not
that exciting. you might want to consider doing something different.

– if you’re on to something really far out there, it will almost
surely not be appreciated immediately. do you believe in it? If
not, do something else. But if you DO, you have a reason to exist!
hooray! now you have some time to execute it. But not long…

So… stick with what you believe, and work hard and fast before the
world catches up. And form a close knit group that you can use to
pierce through the glass shell of the present into the future!

I think there’s a lot of truth there. Most importantly: Believe in what you’re doing.

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