Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Mission Impossible (Self-destructing Post)

I have been on a mission to re-think a design for how we view massive amounts of information.

An obvious goal would be to eliminate excess, redundant and uninteresting information being presented. 

If you notice, social media feeds are very perishable. 

We don't often re-scroll to see things again. It's now you see it, now you don't. Tomorrow,  most of what you view is all but forgotten.  Posts become dinosaurs after a few hours, replaced by a new story every minute. 

And these days we are seeing a lot of things we don't want to see. 

The interest factor is inconsistent and arguably in decline. How different can a selfie really look in each photo?

Scrolling is largely needed to skip over posts we don't want to see or see for much longer. 

It is a big time killer.

It's like skipping over miles of places on a map being scrolled. 

We will have probably spent years of our lives scrolling past things we don't wish to view by the time we die. 

And for things we do want to see, the posts are often disposable media. We don't often go back to review them. Facebook Timeline is seldom used for this very reason. The posts of today, this minute and the next second keep us busy enough. 

So let's imagine a new set of posts where every post is something we want to see.

Tiling windows or tabbing to view pages would actually be faster than scrolling. 

But you can only tile or tab so much. So what if as soon as you tap "close" the window just disintegrates like a Mission Impossible message. 

The popular Snapchat already employs a system of "disappearing" messages after expiry.

But this time there is a difference, another recommended window appears to replace it, showing something interesting. 

If you destroyed a post by accident, we can always consider a "back" button.  But let's first consider a search field to find a lost post (or old post).  Let's also consider permanently freezing windows you liked or commented on to be cached in your archives. 

If we automate disappearing posts by expiry times (for self-destruction), exploration will be even faster. You can also  "like" any post to freeze it, skipping any destruction.  

The juice of the design will be in how new windows are recommended. 

That's the mission if you choose to accept it.

My secret agenda is to figure out a faster way to explore stories geo-spatially.  A way to travel place to place without needing to scroll slowly along a map and barely seeing anything - and coming across signs (map pins) that don't really saying anything or tell me where to go to find something cool.

I started looking at displaying windows into a place (instead of non-descript pins) and the idea of not even using a map to show stories at places. This is after spending time to figure out one way to recommend windows nearby and faraway.  The next step was to figure out how to view these windows - to jump from one to another fast.  I started to become focused on self-destructing windows that led to new windows. A view can clear up for a new window with a prior post bursting. 

Is it just as fun to burst a photo? 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Windows Into A Place

Imagine a world where your screen had windows into a place.

In one window,  you see Al Pacino talking to Jerry Orbach for the film Chinese Coffee (2000)  at Caffe Vivaldi (32 Jones, NYC).   That's Al Pacino's debut as a feature film director.

In another window (same place at 32 Jones), you see Rob Reiner talking to John Cusack by the fireplace in Woody Allen's Bullets Over Broadway (1994).

Through a window by the front (same place), you see Marcus Mumford singing with Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) star Oscar Isaac in January 2012. 

And one day, nearly three years later, Dec 30, 2014, you are notified that your friend Kate Sland is at 32 Jones (same place) with Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) star Oscar Isaac and Erik Frandsen (who's played with Bob Dylan and appeared on The Colbert Report). You see a photo of them taken by someone you've seen sing, Jon D'Angelo. 

Imagine if these windows told stories to be seen for history.

And that you could jump fast without any scrolling to a nearby window at another place with more interesting stories and see what a notable writer thought.  

 “Poetry might be defined as the clear expression of mixed feelings.”  WH Auden lived at 7 Cornelia.

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”  Ernest Hemingway lived  at 25 Cornelia. 

Back on Jones Street, actor Kirk Douglas and country singer Steve Earle lived at No. 20. Earle, a Greenwich Village history buff, wanted to live by history: 

Don Hunstein photographed Bob Dylan and Suze Rotolo for Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963) by 8 Jones (r)  and 9 Jones (l) where jazz legend Jaco Pastorius later lived in the 1980s. 

Jaco Pastorius is standing a few blocks away with the jazz landmark Village Vanguard (178 7th Ave S) behind him. During 1982-86, he would feed homeless people with food from local restaurants. Village restauranteurs knew him well. 

Circling back to the fireplace at 32 Jones...imagine you could "jump" from here to a new window that is related to John Cusack but not nearby (even fictional): 

John Cusack and Cameron Diaz are on the 7 1/2 fl at 610 11th Ave (NYC). Secret door behind filing cabinet goes into John Malkovich's mind in Being John Malkovich (1999). 

Imagine venturing even further away...

John Cusack and Jack Black are at Champion Vinyl (1500 N. Milwaukee Ave, Chicago) in High Fidelity (2000). 

Imagine seeing connected stories this good consistently every hour. 

Now imagine you are notified an interesting conversation is happening related to a story you like. A new window opens for you to connect. 

You can add or open "new windows"  for additional visual perspectives: 

You can open  "new windows" for dialogue:

People who were there show up in live storytelling windows: 

Fab Five Freddy aka Fred Brathwaite appears in Blondie's video Rapture

* * * 

In defining a more usable, compelling locative media experience, we are conceptually thinking about connecting windows at places as a design theme. We need a media-viewing Mac for places to go past the Commodore 64 of mapping. 

Map scrolling, as noted in a prior post, has proven to be too slow for regular exploration. Media is too hidden in anonymous untitled story pins.  Maps can offer inspiring maps, but media viewing is relegated to secondary and tertiary navigation levels.  Maps cannot yield top-level inspired media viewing on the front page.  

We have 100s of iconic stories just for the vicinity of Jones Street collected over a decade in our database that a map cannot present all at once.  

We desire a geo-media platform with rapid visual exploration and storytelling. One that embraces community comment threading (which maps cannot do). And a way to manage even a 1000 stories at one place instead of just one story at one place in one anonymous pin. Scalability needs great consideration.  

You'll get the technical issues of mapping lots of info  in this post  discussing the mapping of 375 million taxi origin points in Manhattan. And that is just to show a map (no media viewing).  

After spending about 20,000 hours, using  tools to geo-index 1.5 million items into 150,000 notable stories, it became rapidly apparent, we need something more than a map to view media conveniently fast. Maps cannot achieve user goals fast or be used every minute of the day. 

After participating daily with 12,000 photographers, bloggers, historians, art curators and local experts in a Manhattan Facebook group passionate about sharing stories and photos at places, the key reward also became apparent. It's live storytelling stimulated by one lead photo and story at a place. 

You can get 60 notifications in an hour at times in this group whereas with maps, notifications are at zero regularly. Notable photographers like  "Donna Ferrato" notify you: 

Notifications, for example, were triggered in our group by  Keith Haring's Pop Shop at 292 Lafayette (NY): 

Notifications  were triggered by Richard Avedon's studio at 407 E 75th St:  

Windows can give you an experience of a scene past/present. 

Now we are hoping to find a compelling way to tile or stitch connective windows that will leave streetviews in the dust. The idea is to explore geography much faster than a map leaving out tons of irrelevant data normally seen in a map. Most data on a map is needed for driving but not for media viewing. We want to show only compelling visuals and stories geo-spatially in windows. The key design traits are:

1. Windows into a place.
2. Jumping fast to nearby windows
3. Jumping fast to faraway windows
4. Jumping deeper into conversation windows with images and text. 

Like a film director, we can show the same locations and story using different cinematography for geography. Like Martin Scorcese's Taxi Driver

The idea is to navigate linearly (nearby) and topologically (related locations anywhere in the world). 

Searching for stories by  place takes work. So  we have also considered how to predetermine stories of interest by mutual interest to extend story exploration without searching. The trigger point for starting an exploration has also been deeply considered.