Everyday Apps

I think LinkedIn is a fantastic site that grows in value through
gradual cultivation. I’ve worked in several industries, in several
cities, and it wasn’t until these different transitions started to
accumulate that I started to collect a truly valuable set of contacts –
and I didn’t do that ‘add anyone and everyone‘ approach but focused on people that I truly knew. I always think of the maxim ‘dig your well before you’re thirsty‘ idea. Keep the pilot light on because you may have to fire up your network at any given time.

Six Apart was part of the intitial release of LinkedIn apps where we released the BlogLink app that allows your most recent blog updates to be featured in your LinkedIn profile.
I was skeptical about LinkedIn’s value in providing apps that would be
used frequently. I don’t go to LinkedIn every day and I don’t know why
I would.

LinkedIn isn’t fun. I thought Facebook was a shit-bin until my
high school and college friends finally started using it (it all seemed
to gel last Thanksgiving – when Web 2.0 reaches midwest Indiana then it
is sufficiently mainstream).

I don’t see the need to use LinkedIn if I’m not looking for a job – I’m
sure that is a total insult to all the many things the designers and
engineers behind LinkedIn see as other ways to use the site – but I
simply don’t get it. Plus, I’m not the type to hermetically seal my
business and personal lives so if crazy updates from Facebook or
Twitter or my blogs are seen by both co-workers, potential employers,
friends and possibly conservative-minded extended family members in
Indiana (who are always polite enough to just simply ignore those
things since that’s just how we roll in Hoosier-ville).

Joshua Porter hits it on the head:

The fact is that LinkedIn, in its current incarnation, is
not an everyday app. An everyday app is one that is used every day (or
most days) by its users. This means that each and every day they do
something with the app. Maybe they’re communicating with coworkers, or
creating wireframes, or sharing what they ate for breakfast. Everyday
apps in theory are as plentiful as bees in a blossoming apple tree. In
practice, however, everyday apps are exceedingly rare. … The best way to make people passionate about your business is to make
them better at what they’re already passionate about.
In other words,
users will get passionate about LinkedIn if LinkedIn can help them do
their work better.

He also points to a nightmare slide from an online use survey pointing
to how many sites teens in different countries use regularly. I think
this is one of the awful secrets about web apps and services. ‘Real people’ don’t have a need for that many websites in their lives. This of course scares the shit out of everybody in the online industry: Most of your potential users don’t know your site, don’t want your services and probably wish you’d leave them alone and get out of their lives because they don’t want to spend their entire lives online and don’t see the value
in doing so. I recognize this in my reluctance to face down my Google
Reader updates and have another pile of updates to sort through.

These are all thoughts that zoom through my head everyday as we’re
encouraged to argue about future features and development on TypePad.
Recently I tried to keep a calm demeanor while we argued about the
value of Categories versus Keywords versus Tags. I myself wish I could
choke to death the folks that decided to call them tags after we’d
spent a decade trying to convey to ‘real people’ what the hell a
keyword is. I think I can blame the original Delicious and Flickr
folks. I like the concept of tags because it conveys ‘multiple
assignments’ – I can add multiple physical tags to a tangible objects
and it also conveys on-the-fly classification with no set ‘list’ of
‘correct categories.’. But the librarians and information taxonomists
always seem to pile more complexity on top of everything simply because
it gets them off. But ‘categories’ would have sufficed for all of these
cases. But different bloggers have adapted these different buckets to
different classification models. Automattic dodged this bullet with
WordPress.com by getting rid of categories all together when they
launched the .com service and making it all tag-based (and I’m sure
some of their users went ape-shit crazy on them too).

Some use Categories as major themes and Keywords as their META tag
information and Tags as a more specific classifier. Some use Categories
for user-facing sorting and Tags as a blogger-side sort. Then Google
came along and dragged things into another layer of garbage with
‘labels’ which has the same physical metaphor as tags and was probably
chosen over tags because it aligns with the way Gmail handles views of
your email messages (don’t you dare say folders!).

I think the main thread here is that complexity for products built for mainstream users drives me up a wall.

I think we wrestle daily trying to estimate and understand the way most
of our users use TypePad while trying to reconcile that with how we use
TypePad and try and gauge the future of how everybody will start to use
TypePad while we expand social features into the mix with TypePad
Connect and the accompanying profiles.

Maybe I’m just hard-headed. Could be. Just maybe.






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