more on 360
Joyce Park aka Troutgirl, Scott Rafer of Feedster, Julie Herendeen of Yahoo!
We saw 360 on Thursday, and Yahoo! asked us for feedback…and told us we could blog it freely. In that spirit (and in the spirit of release 0.7 rather than fully baked thoughts):
First, it was difficult to keep Flickr out of of my mind… and one *can* be excellent without being Flickr (!). 360 – which is a great name, btw – is a blogging service with instant communications, with photos, with IM blasts, the ability to create circles of friends, and much more. That’s both the opportunity and the problem. Yahoo!’s challenge is to figure out how to introduce it in a way that will draw in the most enthusiastic early users -without confusing them - and then rely on them to spread it. It could take several paths, and those paths will affect how the service is used and by whom….and ultimately how it evolves, because it will inevitably respond to the demands of its users and get shaped by them. That’s the lesson of the long tail: one size should not fit all; it should find its natural market, and then communicate well with other sizes. So they could call it a refrigerator door product (as described so ably by jerry Michalski years ago), for keeping others up to date (but it lacks a calendar). Or they could call it a blogging tool. Or a photo-sharing tool. Or they could decide not to compete with “blogging” tools (a la Live Journal) and attract newbies by calling it an “everyday holiday letter” tool for keeping your friends and family informed. Or they could give up on the metaphors and call it 360 – for surrounding yourself with your friends and with tools to keep in touch with them.
Enough pontification, on to specifics (rather than a full review): What struck me was what I missed, which is Flickr’s ability to create shared context around shared objects. Randy Farmer called 360 a “user-centric” community tool; each user is the center of a number of concentric circles…. except they’re not really circles; they’re ellipses that all have the user at on of the [whatever the geometric terms is for the two "centers" of an ellipse], but don’t intersect (or perhaps they’re in 3D, in different planes). The user creates categories of friends – school, biking club, band practice, family – and communicates with them in that context. (The categories/ groups/circles aren't aware of their own existence, as far as I can tell; they are simply so designated by each user, so "biking frineds" is more a way of classifying individuals and determining what info about or from the user they see, than an actual group with its own collective existance.)
But my friends and their “categories” are more fluid and self-organizing than that, and I prefer to let them define themselves. I like posting my photos/captions and tagging them, and then my friends who are interested can look and comment. I don’t presume to know what interests we might share…and I might not be the center of the conversation; they can gather around the artifact (the photo) rather than around me… but the conversation is semi-public, so I can join in again if I want. Or I can join others’ conversations. There was much discussion about the need (as in Flickr) for asymmetrical relationships: Juan can list Alice as his friend and let her see his (semi-)private photos, but she can keep him as a contact (or peoplemark)... with no hard feelings as long as he hasn't begged to be her friend. Subtle differences, perhaps, but they matter in ways we can;t always predict (unless we're danah boyd!).
I know people can use Flickr to create groups, but I like the fluidity of tagging. So for some people, perhaps, Flickr groups are the natural home, rather than the people and the tags. The trick is to create something that draws people in, and then they can create their own nests with the particular colors of ribbons and strings that they prefer.
Another interesting thing is the different sense of time. I see Flickr as a place to store things and keep them alive; 360 feels more like a stream: IM rather than e-mail. I don’t know how much this is a function of age, and how much my personal predilections as a packrat, but I feel most at home in a service that stores things and emergently organizes them rather than one that lets them stream through. And I like to *discover* people, by seeing what interests them and what they say, rather than reading self-descriptions of dubious accuracy and insight.
And of course.... I like to use Flickr as my blog. By calling this "captions," I can avoid the presumption of calling it a blog... It was just a caption, sir, nothing serious!