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Where do you usually go when you’re selling your car, looking for an apartment, etc? Craigslist, right?
And Craiglist works great for alot of things, but let’s say you’re looking for a roommate. First, you’re going to get a shitload of e-mails. Many of those e-mails are going to be totally irrelevant: from incompatible candidates, or people who generally didn’t read your post. You’re also going to get some spammers and scammers. When you finally sort through all of that, you’ll set up some appointments to meet with a few candidates. Many of them are not going to show up at all – they have no prior relationship with you, so there’s no damage to be done to their reputation by just not showing up. If you do finally find someone whom you’re comfortable living with, ultimately, they’re just a stranger – even if you get references, because those references are from strangers.
The problems of a socially “dumb” classified system
The problem is that something like Craigslist isn’t socially intelligent. It’s just a huge sea of anonymous listings. It’s oblivious to your social connections and doesn’t employ current methodolgies for building trust amongst members. With the influx of social networking over past years, people are able to maintain larger and larger networks of friends. It’s not uncommon for someone to have 400+ friends on Facebook. Shouldn’t these social connections be of some use?
Methinks also that as we start to have larger and larger networks of friends, we have less and less time for people whom we aren’t connected to in some way – thus the problem of the Craigslist “flake factor.”
If you’re looking for a roommate, you could let all of your friends know about this by sending out an e-mail to all of them. But nobody wants to be “that guy,” and you’re just being unrealistic if you expect your friends to forward that e-mail on to your friends. The trick is, getting that information in front of your social connections without annoying them.
So here’s a conceptual model of what such a system would look like. People’s needs are ported through a mechanism that understands their social connections. Those needs are then broadcast to those social connections through their “leisure portal.” What’s a leisure portal? It’s the “playground” of the internet. Huh?
The internet’s playground: the leisure portal
People are very protective of their e-mail inboxes. It’s their territory. So when you bug them with something that is irrelevant to them, they take offense.
Imagine you hated playing basketball. All of your friends know that you hate playing basketball. It’s okay to not like to play basketball. But there’s this one friend that comes by your place unannounced and says “hey, let’s play basketball.” and you say “I hate basketball, you know that” and then he says “well, I’m going to play basketball, tell your friends that I’m going to play basketball.” If he did that enough times, he probably wouldn’t be your friend for long. Getting impersonal e-mails from your friends is a bit like that.
So if e-mail is like “your house,” then a “leisure portal” is more like a “playground.” It’s not your home, you’re there in public space by your own volition. To the right of you, some of your friends are on the monkey bars, to the left, some others are playing kickball, behind you, they’re playing red rover, and in front of you, some other friends are playing chess. You aren’t obligated to join any of them, but you’re certainly welcome to – and you can always just go home.
Get it? A leisure portal is something that people come in contact with every day, usually during their leisure time. The technical equivalent of a playground. Something that, when you broadcast to it, doesn’t give your friends a sense of obligation to act, the way that a mass e-mail does.
Right now, the closest thing to a leisure portal on the internet is Facebook’s news feed. Hopefully you aren’t on Facebook trying to get some real work done – you’re just there to kill time and see what’s up with your friends. If you see in your news feed that one of your friends is looking for a roommate, that may be of interest to you. You may be able to help out, or know someone who can help out, but you may not. It’s not likely to bother you.
Sound familiar? Yeah, this is the conceptual model behind Through a Friend. Right now, Facebook provides the best system for bringing this model to reality. But hopefully it can be scaled up even further at some point.
Over the past 18 months, and through 15 Flatmate Meetups, I have listened to your questions and concerns. You have found the roommate searching process to be frustrating, laborious, and sometimes even lonely – exactly the same reasons I started Flatmate Meetup in the first place. The main tool that you have all relied upon has been Craigslist. The problems I experienced with using Craigslist, and that I have heard from many of you have included 1) having to sort through too many irrelevant e-mails from incompatible candidates, spammers, and scammers 2) “flaking” and no-shows when it did come time to have an appointment with a potential roommate, and 3) feeling all alone in the process, and not having any sense of progress until the mission of finding a living situation was suddenly complete.
Through a Friend broadcasts your needs to your friends up to three degrees away. This way you can find a roommate who is compatible with you, and who will be more likely to keep their appointment with you. Best of all, Through a Friend’s “support” feature allows your friends to get involved with getting your message out, so you won’t feel all alone.
I am launching an application on the Facebook Platform called Through a Friend. Through a Friend is a socially intelligent marketplace that uses your social connections to help you do things like look for a roommate, find an apartment, sell your car, or even just get advice from trusted friends.
Through a Friend works by displaying your announcement on the profile boxes of your friends, where their friends can see what you need help with. If you have a friend in need, and can’t directly help them out, you can still get involved by “supporting” them, which will push their announcement out a degree further. Through a Friend makes it easy for your friends to get involved in connecting you with people whom you can trust.
“There are many interpretations about what happened on this stage yesterday, but it’s reflective of how new media is changing every process that we are used to.”
2:08pm Sia’s “Breathe Me” is playing over a montage of postsecret postcards (above). A brilliant quote flashed across the screen from Frank: “there are two kinds of secrets: those we keep from others, and those that we keep from ourselves.”
2:11pm He’s talking about some of the variety of secrets that he’s gotten: one on a Rubik’s cube that was mixed up with a secret on each side. One secret: “I passed her at the store the other day. I almost had his child. I wanted to tell her.”
Some of the ones that he just got from conferencegoers. “These web celebrities have never worked with clients.”
“My company sent me to SXSW, but I came here to find another job.”
“My company sent me here to steal ideas from startups. I’m pretending to be a freelancer.”
2:20pm He’s started talking about how he started Post Secret. He said it started with an exhibit. He handed out cards in DC, saying “you’ve been invited to participate in a community art project. Send your secrets to this address.” But, after the exhibit was over, he continued to get post cards.
He told a story of a music video that wanted to use post secret post cards in exchange for $1000. He refused and instead granted them the permission if they would donate $2000 to a suicide prevention hotline. He played the video “Dirty Little Secrets,” by the All-American Rejects.
2:30pm He’s showing some post cards. “I like to watch Dr. Phil, Drunk.” “I’m still thinking of you. (image of a penis on a BBQ)”
He’s talking about the most gratifying moment he’s had in his time during Post Secret. He saved a national suicide prevention hotline by posting on post secret and getting readers to donate $30k.
A postcard: “I tell myself that one day, after our spouses die and we’re like 80, we’ll be reunited”
He’s talking about the barcode sticker that is on some post cards. Some readers want him to remove them, but he likes how they give a sense of the journey that the secrets take to his mailbox.
He’s reading from one of his books about someone who posted a secret inside of a bathroom stall. She came back later in the day and saw at least 10 other secrets posted there, all on pink post-it notes.
2:40pm He tells a story about how his father, for the longest time, couldn’t understand why people would send in post cards. He ended up flying his father to see one of his exhibits. On the way home in the car, his father ended up telling him a secret from his childhood.
A proposal! Some guy just got on stage to tell a secret, and said “Natalie Thai (sp?), will you marry me?” There was a long pause, and a girl came all the way from the back of the ballroom, and walked slowly up to the stage. He said “hurry, I’m shaking up here. There’s alot of people.” She came up on stage and simply said “Yes.”
From the audience “When I was in fifth grade, I thought I was retarded and that my parents were paying everyone to pretend that I wasn’t”
A questioner brought up a point that we are perhaps experiencing an authenticity revolution, and Post Secret is evidence of that.
A questioner asked what he would do if he received a secret admitting to a really serious crime. Frank says that he doesn’t get many like that, but on the back of one of his books there is one that says “he’s been in jail for 10 years for something I did, and he has 5 more to go.”
A questioner asked about how many secrets he thinks are actually true. He’s essentially saying that a piece of art can be good whether it is true or not – Fiction vs. Non-Fiction books as an example. He’s also saying that there’s a little bit of truth in any secret.
Another questioner is bringing up the issue of truth again. He’s reading a post card “the secret I sent you last week was true, and now it’s not.”
2:58pm A girl is up there at the microphone crying, she says she has a secret. Her sister is sick and she is worried she might die. She would like for people to leave comments for her sister at her (her sister’s) blog. Dang, I missed what the address of the blog was.
The girl came up on stage to give Frank a hug. The End.
Use telepathy: you have to see people’s faces when they are using your product, because you can naturally read people’s minds just by seeing their facial expressions
Serendipity: some people think their iPod shuffle is psychic
The Dog Ears Design Principle: real-world physics in interaction make people gasp
Inspire First-Person Language: Get users to talk about themselves instead of about your product
T-shirt first development: If there was a t-shirt for your product, what would it say about the person who is wearing it? (your user). Make a women’s fitted t-shirt!
Easter Eggs and other surprises: inside references
Tools for evangelism: help users defend this “totally lame waste of time”
Reduce their stress
Exercise the brain
Help them improve their body
Give them superpowers quickly: Electric Rain: “User must do something cool within 30 minutes”
Speed their knowledge acquisition: when you upgrade, don’t ruin their expertise. What do experts know, and how can we get other people up to that speed more quickly? Hint: “best practices” are not motivating. “letting them off the hook” is the killer app.
Help with “reinvestment of mental resources into new problems”: Experts vs. non-experts – experts “to-do” lists keep growing.
Create a culture of support: create mentors early in the learning curve. No dumb answers.
Do NOT insist on “inclusivity”: jagon is good because passionate users “talk different”
Practice Seductive Opacity: brains love mystery, anticipation, curiosity. “It’s not secrecy, it’s theater” The UPS guy is like a sex symbol. Everyone loves to get the amazon package and open it up. Add an unboxing experience to your product.
Do what this guy does: Gary Vaynerchuck – has a video blog on tasting wine. “Most people in the wine industry are douchebags…Wine has been put on a pedestal…Stop drinking Yellow Tail people!…If you love something, love it…I love White Castle sliders, but I don’t eat them EVERY MEAL.”
One of the first web 2.0 type events that I went to when I moved to California was Super Happy Dev House, where I met Vinnie and the other guys from Meetro. At the time that company had as many as 8 guys living and working in a three-bedroom apartment in Palo Alto. It sounds like a totally crazy situation, but whenever I hung out there I found it to be extremely inspiring and energizing – they were passionate to the max about their idea (they still are, but now they have some real office space). Current.tv did a great job of depicting this arrangement and I want to share it with you:
As you may have seen in my twits, sustainlane.com has launched! SustainLane allows people to review sustainable, “green,” and organic products and businesses, and I’m more excited about it than probably anything I’ve ever done before in my life (yes, I know, it’s “just a website”…this is how simple my life is). It’s going to make it easier than ever for people to find products and businesses that are socially, environmentally, and/or health conscious.