Category Archives: Object Centred Sociality

Object Centred Sociality

object centred sociality is the topic, all about Social Objects. A technique for thinking about design for online networks.

Open Plaques Open Day
Facebook adds Social Objects
London Google Maps mashup with what’s on listings
Social Objects applied to PajamaNation

object centred sociality is the topic, all about Social Objects. A technique for thinking about design for online networks.

Open Plaques Open Day

No breakfast before going out on a Saturday!?  The reason why I was in a hurry to leave the house early yesterday was to get to the Open Plaques Open Day at the Centre for Creative Collaboration near Kings Cross Station.

Centre for Creative Collaboration - Venue for Open Plaques day

I know the venue from the Tuttle club, which I have attended once or twice there. The Open Day was due to kick off at 09.50 with a presentation by Frankie Roberto about “How We Got To Where We Are” which I didn’t want to miss. Well, I did manage to get there in time, despite the fact there were no trains at all on the Circle, Hammersmith and City, and District Lines in that direction. (Weekends are a bad time to get about in London, midweek breaks are better).

So Frankie talked a bit about how he sent out a tweet once wondering if there was a database somewhere of Blue Plaques, and how the answers came in suggesting things, none of which were at all adequate. The best resource available was a single page on one of the plaque erecting organisation  sites. So he scraped the list into a database and started trying to parse it into meaningful data, using his linguistics abilities.


Lenin by Simon Harriyott - Plaque #2210

Another useful source of information would be the pictures on Flickr, and these could be geotagged which then provided a link into the new Open Plaques database. Once the people at Flickr had made a blog post about the Open Plaques group and integrated the special tag

ging into Flickr itself, then there was no turning back. Open Plaques could not be switched off, it was now more than just an experiment. The provision of an api to send the data out again meant that satellite applications could be built by creative people

and these would find new and unthought of uses for the growing system. There was also a graph which showed the steady growth in numbers of plaques added during the lifetime of the project. This graph could be expected to turn dramatically upwards once there is an easy way to add new plaques, which at present requires somebody from the “core team” to do it!

Morning Agenda

09:50 – 10:05 – Frankie Roberto, ‘The Story So Far’
10:05 – 10:20 – Ian Ozsvald, ‘The OCR Challenge
10:20 – 10:35 – Richard Vahrman, ‘Games based on Open Plaques data’
10:35 – 10:50 – Emily Toop, ‘Open Plaques the iPhone app

Next up we had Ian Ozsvald using a subset of the pictures of plaques as an AI research project to see how well they could get OCR software to recognise the writing in the plaques. This makes a nice real world example dataset which can help to advance the science of artificial intelligence and character recognition in the real world. The vision is that one day soon you will be able to simply wave your phone camera about in a room and it will automatically detect any faces present, take a picture of each of them and store it with their names and the geolocation of the place on a map, as well as read any text that is being displayed in the room, on the walls or from a projector for example, and store that as well with the date, time, place and list of attendees etc. It can’t be done yet, but this will be mainstream in just a few years, he said. Is that scary? Then an iPhone app which is being built to show all the plaques nearby as pins on a map which you can get information about. The future is mobile, and anybody who isn’t intending to get a smart phone within the next twelve months might as well just go and live in a cave somewhere, cut off from all of technical society. And a mobile app that turns it into a game, which has gone through some transitions. Based on a treasure trail type model, the app ended up giving out directions for how to get to the next plaque, so that was just too easy and not fun. The clever idea was to take a picture with your back to the plaque, of the view from the plaque as it were, which can then be used in a “Guess where Plaque” game, with the numbers on the plaques adding up to link references which tells you where the pub is. Some of the people just wanted to take a short cut to the pub though, which is fair enough.

So then we broke up into groups to try and further the project from different angles. One team discussed the future direction from from the developers point of view, one looked at design I think, and the group I joined discussed content. We brainstormed about “who are the different types of users” who may have an interest in Open Plaques, both current and potential, came out with some wistful ideas for addons and expansion, hammered out the concept of what a plaque is, looked at the different page types, the additional information that could be included within the database or on a specific page, and suggested new functions and concepts. If it came down to just one new facility that would make the biggest difference that would be the ability to Nominate a New Plaque which would then sit alongside the existing plaques as a ‘virtual plaque’. I chose this as the most important because it’s a disruptive move which takes the initiative out of the hands of the few organisations who very slowly make the decisions as to which locations or historical figures are worthy of a plaque, and puts it into the hands of the ordinary person, or the ordinary Open Plaques user. It was interesting to note that most of the small group of people present, some of whom admitted to being mildly obsessed with plaques, one who described herself as being a “plaques widow” and half of whom seemed to come from Brighton, all had a clear idea that somewhere out there would be the “ordinary Open plaques user” for whom the grand service is being refined and must be orientated. What the ordinary user, should such a group of people come into being at some point, will make out of of all this, of course has yet to be seen.

I found the whole topic a lot more interesting than I had originally anticipated to be honest, and far from feeling that I wouldn’t have anything to contribute, did my best to add in and highlight what I felt to be the most pertinent ideas. Using the theory of Social Objects it seems fairly clear that the principal page type and the url at which the casual visitor arrives should be the plaque itself rather than the person or place. The verbs then need to encourage contributions in order to help build out the community around plaques in general, and perhaps temporarily around individual plaques, probably asynchronously. “Add a Plaque”   “Edit this Page” or even “check in here” are contenders for prominent verbs on the page, but you have to remember that this is a small and in some ways unlikely project, that just happens to have gained enough momentum to become sustainable, but is unlikely to attract enormous resources for development and maintenance. Definitely something to keep an eye on though.

Open Plaques Open Day on other blogs:

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Facebook adds Social Objects

This month sees Facebook rolling out major changes on their social networking structure, appearing to embrace the concept of social objects and placing them on a par with the people in the network, which is where they should be. The changes are modest in terms of technical functionality but potentially could be very big in effect, depending on how people come to use them.  

Facebook Pages are Social Objects

facebook pages are social objects

cider page on facebook as a social object

Facebook’s “pages” with “fans” have been around for a year or so, but were implemented as poor relations to personal profiles, not having the ability to push updates out into the newstream. Anybody can create a page for any purpose, so pages can become anchors for topic based conversations, a bit like friendfeed rooms or Flickr groups. On the micro social objects scale, pictures, videos, discussions and status updates added to the Facebook pages will be broadcast out into fans news streams, with the potential for remarkable topics at the pages level to gain traction a lot more quickly than before.   

Social Objects theory and Facebook

Social Objects theory says that successful social networking sites work best when they enable easy relationships between people and social objects, not just between people and other people. Facebook pages have unique permanent URLs which are expose to search engines, so they are very different from the original college student private profile pages Facebook was founded upon. It’s likely though that much of Facebook’s huge existing userbase is going to be a little confused by this big departure from the longstanding culture of limited exposure to vetted human nodes in the network (friends). 

By the way, I’m using the term Social Objects here in it’s strictly European scientific sense, unlike the diluted idealist form that has muddied the theoretical waters somewhat in the past year or so.

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London Google Maps mashup with what’s on listings

The LondonPaper has launched a website which mashes up Google Maps with up-to -date listings data to provide a service which will also be available by mobile phone using Monilink.

They (News International, Rupert Murdoch) call it “The London Knowledge” and the listings information is apparently supplied by Londonparties, one of the best Time-Out style online guides to London nightlife. The checkbox allows you to map any or all locations for categories Cinema, Theatre, Comedy, Art shows, Live music, Nightclubs and ‘Something different’

London Knowledge

The Search box accepts street name , venue or postcode for 5,000 listings of cinema showings, music gigs, theatre shows, club nights and art events for any specific day, so you can find out what’s on at the London theatres for example.

The one fatal drawback at this stage though, is NO PERMALINKS !

It’s all done within Javascript, Ajax, Flash or whatever within the same initial page URL so no social objects, no ’email a friend’ and no community reviews, community content. If this is engineered into the software design then Trusted Places have nothing to fear for a long time to come, except for the mobile phone aspect perhaps, which Londoners may take a liking to especially for finding out what’s on last minute nearby when you’re already out and about.

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Social Objects applied to PajamaNation

I’ve been thinking about Jyri Engeström’s geek dinner where he outlined the Five Principles of Social Objects. In particular, if this approach is significantly beneficial for designing sucessful social websites then what sort of implications, suggestions and ideas can be generated by applying this to PajamaNation, the global microjobs exchange?

  1. You should be able to define the social object your service is built around.
  2. That would be the microjob. So using the theory, pajamanation is not all about connecting people to people, it’s about connecting people to microjobs. And there are at least two ways to be connected. One person places a microjob onto the marketplace and others apply or bid for it. When a contract is awarded to a suitable bidder then this connects two people together in a working relationship, but this exists via or around the microjob which is central. The pajamaworker and her profile or his portfolio are important too, but they are not the objects around which the action takes place.

    Each microjob therefore, needs to have its own page, permalink, unique resource location (URL).

    That is the case at present. The url could be more friendly, it could be displayed on the page and there could be more options available to do things with microjobs, but the basic stuctural design is in place, for example:


    Fast typist needed to type 200 page book into a word document

  3. Define your verbs that your users perform on the objects. For instance, eBay has buy and sell buttons. It’s clear what the site is for.
    • AWARD a microjob
    • UPDATE a pajamaworker profile
    • CORRECT a microjob listing
    • SEARCH or FIND microjobs – not sure how to resolve this one.
    • VIEW profiles and portfolios
  4. This is harder for us. “Buy” and “Sell” can get confusing when applied to services. A worker is selling his labour, and the job “provider” is buying a service but when you start “bidding” for microjobs it can sound like the other way round. In reality, the bid is an offer to receive a payment hence the description “reverse auction”. It can even get confusing to talk about providers since both ends of the transaction could be regarded as providing something – skills or microjobs.

    Additionally we have two major verbs on the website “find” and “search” and it’s not immediately obvious what the difference is. So this needs looking at.

    One recommendation would be to have a prominent “Place a microjob ad” button on the main page. Is “place” clear enough?

    so the main two verbs should probably be PLACE and BID with these others featuring less prominently

  5. How can people share the objects?
  6. Good point. I guess we need an “email this microjob to a friend” button as well as options to add comments and tags right there on the microjob page.

  7. Turn invitations into gifts.
  8. As above. If you’re browsing for work and you come across something which isn’t quite suitable for you, but puts you in mind of an appropriate friend thne what better gift than to point them towards an opportunity? So change the wording to reflect that – “Give this microjob opportunity to a friend”

  9. Charge the publishers, not the spectators.
  10. Here’s a rub. The original business model for PajamaNation is to charge a moderate annual subscription for access to the local market, a bit more to go global. That’s already different to ebay and many straight job sites which charge commission or make entry level free with a premium service for those who require additional privileges. The idea of charging publishers would imply that the microjobs can be viewed and bidded upon by anybody for free, thus building up a large and valuable readership which is then so sought after by the microjobs providers that they would pay to be allowed to publish jobs, or perhaps to place more than one per month. Something like that. We are currently focussed on the problem of not getting a high enough proportion of microjobs for the registered workers, so charging for placement would appear to be the opposite of what’s required. It’s not completely implausible though, and a flexible approach may help to get geared up for the big picture once things start really moving. I also remember hearing that posting jobs to sites which accept free job ads is a waste of time because they get filled up with rubbish that nobody wants to sift through.

Ok, that process certainly helped to surface a lot of ideas and suggestions for development of the pajamanation site. I hope this starts a dialogue leading to fruitful exchange, faster growth and development towards a world changing service. I published my thoughts here on my blog where participation by all will be welcomed, especially my most valued spectators 🙂 Thanks again to Jyri for inspiration and bringing theory to the social media world.

object centered sociality

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Thanks for reading Andy Roberts articles about Object Centred Sociality on the DARnet Blog