Friend or friend icon?

We have recently seen a dramatic shift in the definition and responsibilities of friendship. According to Time Out Chicago, we are more likely to call people our friends without really defining them as real friends. Some sites like Facebook and Twitter have made friendship equivalent to replying to a status update.  And even Dentyne is telling us to how to treat our friends:

But, in an era where online social networking is the norm, how do we find the set of people who’s opinions we trust the most? And how does this effect what we buy?

Well, there is a fair amount of research on the subject of online word of mouth referrals amongst friends and it all centers around two things: 1.) A referral by a past customer is one of the most trusted pieces of online communication and 2.) The Dunbar Number. According to this concept, a human being can sustain relationships and communicate with about 150 people. Ironically, this is the average number of friends users have on Facebook. These 150 people make up a person’s referral circle, the people we receive information from (commercial or otherwise). Yet only 26% of these 150 will actually be called ‘real friends’ according to the aforementioned article in Time Out.

So, do we only trust these 39 people who we call our ‘real friends’? Well, a local artist/teacher, Maria Scapelli, might be able to shed some light on that with a project  called Peoplescape 365. Essentially, Scapelli set out on a mission to make one new friend a day for a year either online or offline. Her topline conclusions: 1.) she only kept about 10% as ‘real friends’ 2.) almost all of these people she met in person. So, based on these loose numbers, we might be able to say a person is only able to maintain about 30-40 real friendships and that these relationships are mainly forged by face-to-face contact.

Does that mean we don’t trust the remaining 110 people in our social circle when they say a Samsung TV is a great purchase or buy a book recommend by Legend457 online? No, of course not. But when it comes to making a brand something we love to a point of passionate irrationality (see Lovemarks), one might assume we have to talk to these 30-40 people (among other things). If we don’t, we are simply just providing purchasing descisions not life long loves.

Look mom, no newspaper!

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4.16.09 :: The fate of the daily newspaper has been the talk of the town for some time now. Here in Chicago, The Sun Times has filed for bankruptcy. In Minneapolis, their daily is discussing reducing itself to a once a week publication and the Seattle city newspaper has gone entirely online. The reasons are the same– newspapers do not have the ad revenue to compete with the ad dollars and real time news found on the web.

While reading The Reader (a local Chicago indie paper) on my way to work today, I discovered a simpler reason why the newspaper is failing: you have to turn the pages. On any given day, you will see plenty of people hold a  coffee and bag in one hand and a newspaper in the other. To continue reading a story, a messy ballet of appendages and items ensues that eventually results in someone using their mouth as a third hand.

So, what happened that the newspaper became cumbersome? Well, we’re busy. In fact, Americans still work the most per week out of any country. And we’re mobile. We now change jobs more, travel more and demand information sooner. (Thank you, Al Gore and the Interwebs!)

So, I would argue the mere design of the newspaper is failing. It wasn’t the business model or the ROI, it began with a product that simply did not keep up with our new nomadic lifestyles. Proper design takes into account it’s user and the environment. Reference the iPod, iPhone and the Amazon Kindle who all knew ease of use with one finger is paramount. Even Yoplait figured this out with one handed yogurt, GoGurt. The newspaper failed to recognize its user’s experience. Save the NY Times, which can explain itself.

Web 3.0 Prognostication

4.13.09 :: With all the gaffs being thrown around about the future of social media and internet, we’ve decided to add our two sense in about web 3.0.

Most people agree that both web 1.0 and 2.0 can be broken down into content, functionality and style. Web 1.0 was about pushing information through fact driven brochureware and e-commerce sites that were fairly static. Web 2.0 used social media and shared content with a higher user experience to pull people to sites. So, what’s next?

Web 3.0 Content
Content will always be king. So will concept (the angle or the idea that sells the content). So, despite the proliferation of user self-generated content (i.e. youtube) we can expect branding, infotainment and user generated branded content to proliferate and co mingle more with social media. i.e. Sprint’s Now Site and Coke’s Happiness Factory.

Web 3.0 Functionality
Two words: I, Robot. Largely unexplored in the past 10 years, have been the fields of robotics and AI (despite Google’s ability to ‘guess’ what you’re going to search). Futurist, creator of pets.com, and predictor of social media 10 years ago, Paul Saffo, confirmed this in an interview with Communication Arts recently. Not to mention an upcoming search engine, Wolfram Alpha, that uses AI to provide an actual ANSWER to your question, not just search results. Expect the web of the future to be able to have a conversation with you to figure out what you want. aka Max Headroom.

Web 3.0 Style
We will see the webpage cease to be a page. The web will interact with us as a dynamic entity fluidly. See Minority Report. E-ink, touch screen tech and new mobile devices will dictate this new experience, design and interface. Expect information to look more abstract and intuitive rather than instructional. So more icons, less words. Who knows…maybe we’ll develop short hand stenography for the web.

And now, back to the present.