February 02, 2004

If I Were Building a Tribe or Orkut

Weinberger brings up some valid complaints about Orkut. Rather than complain about it some more, let me take a different perspective. If I built an Orkut or a Tribe.net, how would I do it?

The first thing I would do is design it as a desktop application. Browsers are simply too slow and too dumb, or they force designs that are too slow and too dumb. Orkut's fast, which helps a lot, but the design is still stuck in browserthink.

I'd have a local app that caches everything, including volumes of RSS and FOAF and other XML feeds. Presence galore. P2P capabilities galore. IM built in. Multiplayer games and conferencing built in. Conference topics and metadata all cached. Bottom line, you would subscribe to a social network feed, that's constantly giving you updates from all of the folks in your network and in the communities you belong to.

Until then, we'll be stuck with hopelessly inadequate designs that hide too much information or reveal the wrong information (Orkut's community forum topics for instance).

What these social networks are doing that is good, in my opinion, is they'e bringing to the forefront the notion that personal computing is not about files and documents, it's about people and your interactions with them. (I like the idea of good interaction design being that you're trying to increase the transparency of and therefore disintermediate the tools so people can interact more directly or at least think they're interacting more directly with each other). Desktop operating environments are still so file/folder based. There ought to be more ways of viewing your information, including your all of relationships and ongoing conversations with other people.

It's funny, look at Apple's iLife product. iLife should be ALL ABOUT PEOPLE, STUPID. But instead it's all about FILES. Very 1990s. 1980s even! The flagship application of iLife should be a social network iApp. Perhaps one that is embedded within all of the other iApps.

Imagine: open up iTunes, and suddenly there are affordances leading you to all kinds of info about who among all the people you know also likes this artist or song, along with message forums, and artist info a la MusicMoz or AllMusic. Then open up iPhoto and there's options to share photos with your social network friends, built in. Or see the photos of taken by any of your friends, just a click away. iChat, well, that one's obvious: your buddy lists and your social network friend lists should be merged into one. Then open up GarageBand and it explore what everyone else in your social nets has done with GarageBand tricks, instruments, mixes, etc. And of course, AddressBook and Mail would likewise be deeply integrated with your social nets. In the end, your computer is no longer a pile of random applications and files, but a single app that manages your day-to-day interactions and transactions with all the people you know and all the people who know you.

That's what iLife ought to be. Who'd need Orkut of there were an iFriends app (maybe call it iContact!) that did it all a thousand times better, and that was deeply integrated with all of your desktop file and media creation tools?

Posted by brian at February 2, 2004 08:44 AM


Here's what you're looking for, or at least a first approximation of it: http://wiredreach.com/products/


Posted by: Tim Keller at February 2, 2004 09:17 AM

That's a start.

Posted by: Brian Dear at February 2, 2004 09:28 AM

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