First Impressions: So.cl

Observations:

  1. Growing pains: Editing my profile was painful. I encountered one error changing my display name, other times it timed-out. Today was better.
  2. Google+ “Circles” have been replaced with more intuitive “Interests”. There are pre-defined Interests in the Explore menu to get started quickly.
  3. When you add a Tag to a post, an Interest is automatically created and a search is added to the menu bar. Technically you are automatically Subscribed to this interest (you can unsubscribe from the Interest page).
  4. The Interest URL is transparent. Try this one: http://www.so.cl/#/interest/itsm
  5. Adding an external link creates a mirage of photos from the linked page. It looks nicer and more unique than adding a single photo.
  6. Minor usability issues: Failed 3 times to add a link. After entering the URL, there is a non-intuitive “ADD TO POST” button beneath the preview.
  7. More usability issues: when adding a link, reviewing additional images makes the “ADD TO POST” button go away.
  8. Very easy to add new content to So.cl by dragging a button to your Favorites bar (Firefox). Thereafter just click on the Favorite button from the current page and a new tab/page will open. I really like this simplicity.
  9. Search is integrated with Post. As are adding a Post, you can quickly search content (Bing) to link to the Post. You can browse the searched content by type (video, image, web, etc.) This also makes it very easy.
  10. There’s a new “Video Party” function that integrates with YouTube that appears to be adding social functions around watching video content. The video can take up the main page or can be viewed (in small) in a static bar on the right side of the page.
  11. There is a Feed for Everyone which is a monstrosity.

Thoughts:

  1. I actually like Microsoft’s new interface guidelines. I’m no usability expert and won’t debate the topic, but I find it visually appealing, intuitive, and functional with both traditional desktops and tablets.
  2. People will forever question the rationale of So.cl given failure of Google+. Forgive Microsoft–it is their strategy to be in all things. Microsoft is patient and will tolerate a long period of disuse. So.cl will be integrated with Windows 8 and may become a real player in the tablet version.
  3. Despite the temporary usability issues, also contains some usability innovations. The integration of Video Parties throughout the interface (sticky) and searching while posting are high on the list.
  4. I believe the Video Party function will be useful for live product demonstrations and webcasts. It will also be useful in viewing saved content in a social context, eventually interacting with other members of the party who share interests. The stickiness of these interactions remains to be seen.
  5. Microsoft hasn’t hit a home run but it is a promising start. When will my friends start to use it?

I am afraid to invite anyone but feel free to Follow me at http://www.so.cl/#/@Gregory-Tucker.

Gaming the Addiction of Social Media

During World War II the British routinely intercepted German Morse Code transmissions. Eventually Bletchley Park was able to decode many in real time, but even the encrypted transmissions provided valuable information. The radio operators developed intimate familiarity with signature characteristics of the transmitters. They were assigned names and given personalities. The locations of their transmissions provided valuable intelligence about the deployment of Germany troops.

Even the limited bandwidth of encrypted Morse Code transmissions provides the radio operators a rewarding sense of intimacy. Those of us who are incapable of “getting” their experience should note that many non-users of social media also don’t get it. An increasing number of people worldwide understand the feeling of connectedness and intimacy they can feel with complete “strangers”. Nobody need remain a stranger for long.

TEDTalks never ceases to amaze me for the breadth, depth, and originality of the presentations. On November 2, 2010 TEDTalks released a presentation by Tom Chatfield called 7 Ways Games Reward the Brain. It is worth watching the video, but in a nutshell the 7 ways are:

1. Experience bars measuring progress: LinkedIn uses this when filling out your profile completeness. Facebook users measure their importance by their number of friends. Similarly Twitter users measure their numbers of followers and tweets.

2. Multiple long and short-term aims: Users seek to engage each other in a variety of ways that evolve over time. However, the lack of clear objectives is at least one reason for abandonment by novice users.

3. Reward effort: in video games this means every activity is associated with experience points or gold. In social networking it means getting retweets or Likes or replies to updates.

4. Rapid, frequent, clear feedback: In video games and social networks the availability of feedback is a reward of use. However, the lack of clear aims with clear feedback can cause abandonment.

5. An element of uncertainty. (“This is the neurological goldmine.”): Gamblers know this factor well, as do gamers and social networkers. Your most clever post can go without response, while the most mundane of comments can elicit pages of replies. The uncertainty encourages participants to keep trying.

6. Windows of enhanced attention, when learning is taking place at an enhanced memory. Improves memory and confidence. Video game designers spend a lot of time tuning the game to enhance attention. To some extent social networkers can tune their own experiences by how often they check their data feeds, subscriptions, and discussions. However, social network participants and designers are behind video games in studying ways of enhancing attention to improve retention and learning.

7. Other people: This is a factor in video games, and even more so in social networks. The ability to form networks of interest or reconnect with old friends are some of the most rewarding aspects of social networks. Somehow, following the travels and travails of complete strangers is entirely rewarding.

Why does this matter? The video game industry is $50 billion, and gamers spend $8 billion in real-world cash on video game experiences that have no real-world equivalent. We haven’t even begun to unlock the (monetary and otherwise) potential of social networks. As a participant, a corporate marketer, or social network designer, this matters. Constructing the right experiences can result in significant cash rewards. But for many, I reckon that isn’t the point.