Rich User Experience: Pixlr.com

This week I examine Tim O’Reilly’s fourth Web 2.0 pattern: Rich User Experience.  So firstly, what is a “Rich user experience”? I think James Ward explains it better than most in saying it is a “more natural – more connected, more alive, more interactive, and more responsive” user experience.

It was not long ago that in order to enjoy a graphically intensive, immediately responsive experience when connecting with the internet a user would have to install a heavy and often very large desktop application and point it in the direction of the corresponding internet server.  This desktop interface model was utilised so that most of the complex processing involving large amounts of data could be carried out at the client end and not take up precious band width.

Today, with faster, higher bandwidth internet connections, more intelligent and sophisticated programming techniques such as AJAX and HTML5, and global user demand for a truly ubiquitous internet experience we have dispensed with the data laden client side application and moved completely to an online interface.  Rich Internet Applications or (RIA’s) are the web applications designed to give users desktop like functionality through a web browser and are the same applications that make the Rich User Experience possible.

Since the dawn of desktop computer time graphics manipulation has been heavy on resources, so, how about a paint/photoshop style Rich User Experience?

pixlr

Enter Pixlr.com. 

Pixlr.com can be accessed from your web browser and is compatible with all of the popular varieties. Pixlr offers a fully functional picture editor that looks very much like a cross between Photoshop and Paint at a glance. Cut down varieties of the editor are also available from the main page for simple photo effects. So lets look at how it stacks up against the best practices for a Rich User Experience.

The Pixlr Editor:

pixlr editor

Combine the best of desktop & online experiences 

One of the best features of Pixlr is the fact that it feels like you are using a desktop application, and that is exactly how you want a photo editing suite to feel. It responds instantly and provides all the tools you are used to. There is seamless integration with both online and desktop based images as well as webcam, smartphone, and devices using both iOS and Android operating systems.

Usability and simplicity first

You don’t have to learn to use Pixlr, it is actually intuitive in it’s design and follows established convention for photo editing tools. It is essentially minimalist in design without flashy ‘additions’ that some other sites offer, this is a good thing. The options that are presented on the home page: Open Pixlr Editor (Advanced), Open Pixlr Express (Efficient), and Open Pixlr-o-matic (Playfull), quickly dispense with the need to annoy the user with superfluous information or features. If you aren’t familiar with exactly how Pixlr works it is designed to be intuitive enough to give it away for most users. Almost unbelievably, no registration required! Dive straight in!

Match the technology usage to the requirements

Pixlr.com harnesses technology well, in that it matches it to its user requirements. Through utilising predominately Flash, Javascript, HTML, & JQuery Pixlr delivers a photo editor that responds instantly and is truly ubiquitous in nature (smartphone, online, iOS, Android). Some might say the technology is lackluster or underwhelming, I say the fact that it intuitively delivers on what it promises to it’s target audience every time makes it smart technology usage.

Preserve content addressability

Pixlr delivers again here, providing desktop features within its environment including undo, redo and save. The user is always in control of the data they are manipulating and seamless integration with Facebook and other online libraries ensures pictures can be accessed, saved & restored from anywhere.

Deep, adaptive personalization

The thing I appreciate most about Pixlr is the fact that it is no nonsense and delivers exactly what is promises to its users. Pixlr does not ask for a registration, nor a login like almost every other site does and I found this refreshing. I think Pixlr has an excellent idea of what the average user in their target audience expects, and delivers a catered solution for that expectation. It has effectively pre-personalised the website around its target audience.

References:

http://www.jamesward.com/2007/10/17/what-is-a-rich-internet-application/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTML_5

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajax_(programming)

http://searchsoa.techtarget.com/definition/Rich-Internet-Application-RIA

http://w3techs.com/sites/info/pixlr.com

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Innovation In Assembly: Have you Reddit ?

So, what is innovation in assembly?

Essentially, in theory, it is pretty simple. Design your web 2.0 site application in a way that is easy to be shared then provide users access to relevant parts of your source code so that they can develop programs that interact with it called “middleware”. Doing this the right way however, as many companies have discovered the hard way is not always so easy. In fact many speculate that the downfall of MySpace was the hesitation in releasing any sort of decent API, and I tend to agree with them. Amber wrote a great blog about exactly that this week, here.

Innovation in Assembly is also the third web 2.0 pattern identified by Tim O’Reily. Part of an essential 8 core set that are necessary for success in the world of web 2.0.

Front page of the internet

Front page of the internet

Many of you will be avid users of the site I have chosen this week. Why? Well it is widely touted as the “front page of the internet” just type exactly that into a Google search and see how many times it comes up. So is this considerable acclaim deserved? I think so… why? Because REDDIT does everything right. Lets look at what it offers and how it adheres to Tim O’Reily’s best practices.

(1) Offer APIs to your service

There are many different APIs available for Reddit, for almost every conceivable permutation and combination involving sharing. In fact, Reddit itself IS open source.

“We know reddit’s success has less to do with our technology than it does with you, our community, and now we want to let our community improve our technology.”  Says Reddit.

This is proof that they know it is primarily about making yourself accessible en masse.

(2) Design for remixability

There are innumerable applications available that take advantage of Reddit’s easy to share design. Information is available in all selections, combinations and sizes. The smallest quantity of information available can easily be singled out, identified and accessed.

(3) Apply API best practices

Reddit is entirely open source. They make not only make access to their program (in the form of APIs) easily accessible and customisable but their ENTIRE program easy accessible and customisable and actively encourage it. What more is there to say ?

(4) Use existing standards

Redit is available to pretty much every conceivable existing standard. Again, it is open source, it is entirely at the developers discretion.

(5) Build your business model into you API

Reddit makes most of its money by advertising. Through going open source it opens up every possibility for access. More access means more chance of someone landing on an add, and that = $ for Reddit.

(6) Use Web 2.0 to support your platform

A huge amount of communication and interaction by Reddit users online, and massive amounts of user contribution makes Reddit what it is. Reddit supplies information by users to users who want information. I think its size is due partly to the fact it is so easy to adopt, and also the fact that it rewards users in terms of status for quality.

(7) Be your own platform customer

The Reddit written API is as good as it is because of research and testing Reddit did before it was released. Reddit’s semi wiki nature means that it can stay pretty simple and probably doesn’t have much cause to use it’s own API.

(8) Granular addressability of content

Both Reddit API and custom developed programs, by utilising the open source code ensure Reddit’s Granularity is fine and information findability and remixablility are present.

(9) Use your platform to build customer trust and loyalty

What better way to command customer trust and loyalty than put it completely in their own hands. Reddit works on a ranking system and it is the public who control the rankings. Reddit just provides the space and the excellent idea.

(10) Learn from how your customers remix

Reddit is known by most web 2.0 application/platform owners on the internet and is very widely shared. Reddit’s information and presentation is intentionally made available to be fully customisable at the whim of a developer.

So have you Reddit? Do you think this is a site that has it right?

Data is the next “Intel Inside”. Enter: A mix of Facebook and advanced statistics – Corporate style of course.

I remember the days when people boasted about their computer hardware specifications and mentioned little if anything about software, bar the latest games they ‘acquired’ from their mates. Times have changed…

To be honest, I am only vaguely aware of exactly what CPU I have and what speed it runs at and really have no clue about my motherboard, but I can definitely tell you all about each and every app I have downloaded and the websites I just cannot live without.

There has been a paradigm shift, nowadays hardware and networking is taken for granted – simply looking at the households with access to the internet in Australia alone means people are used to being able to access what they want, when they want and exactly how they want.

3-21-2013 7-55-04 PM

So basic economics tells us that data is cheap as supply far exceeds demand. Yet there are people who have made unfathomable fortunes through harnessing data, harnessing collective intelligence, and presenting it in certain ways. So, when it comes to web 2.0 what are they keys to success with data? Well Tim O’reily goes as far as saying that “SQL is the new HTML”. So it’s about storing and being able to manipulate valuable data quickly, at will, and and ensuring it’s availability at crucial times of need.

I personally believe the next “big thing” will be ‘that perfect application’ in a corporate environment. An application that is as friendly as Facebook on the outside but a statistics professor, accountant, psychologist, and work place productivity expert on the inside. I mean imagine it, businesses being able to interpret employee online behavior contributions and patterns to ensure they had the best possible staff positioned in the best possible roles, to ensure best possible business efficiency and effectiveness.

Anyone remember the movie Gattaca?  In order to get the best positions in the best corporations human beings were genetically profiled as well as evaluated and examined in almost all other aspects. I can’t help but think that as soon as human beings have access to / the rights to examine others in the cut throat environment of the corporate world they will, but we are not there yet.

gattaca

So where are we right now? What about a Facebook style application that lets work mates communicate freely? I use one at work and I find it incredibly engaging. I like that there are no barriers, you can online chat (in the same way as facebook) with anyone in the company from the CEO to the receptionist. Effortlessly shaere information and organise functions etc. It’s truly does add another dimension to the work place like Facebook adds another dimension to our social lives. The particular web 2.0 app I use at work and recommend to anyone reading this is “Yammer”. Yammer is good, but it’s in its infancy…

yammer

The near future?  

In 2012 Apple famously filed a patent to blur their online footprint due to other companies mining information from the internet habits of its users. In short Apple does not want other companies profiting from their user data. 

The value is inside the relevant data set so, it has to be vehemently targeted and in a state of constant evolution. Well what about a Facebook style application that analyses everything that anyone ever contributes against complex algorithms created and tailored specifically for certain workplaces. I do believe this is the way of the future, I believe standard employment contracts will mention that everything is monitored and evaluated and in spite of this you will be expected to contribute. There are already countless articles available on electronic profiling like this one. Imagine having everything you ever posted or uploaded analysed. Imagine your employer building a profile on you to determine whether or not you really should be in your current role? This software will absolutely satisfy all 8 of the best practices mentioned in Lecture 3, effortlessly. It sounds unbelievable doesn’t it… but think about it… is it really that far fetched? The successful application will profile psychologically, intellectually, score intelligence, score financially and who knows… if it’s web cam enabled possibly even monitor eye patterns as we think. For what? For increased profit of course, to find the best of the best. The almighty $.

question mark

So what is the exact application? I am not 100% sure, for now it remains lurking in the back of the mind of its creator. As did the likes of Facebook, and Youtube until less than 10 years ago.  But it’s coming and sooner than you think…

I hope this post provided food for thought and inspired you to really think – how would you feel about the above type of application in your workplace?

 

 

 

Some excellent references:

http://www.businessspectator.com.au/keyword/electronic-profiling

http://oreilly.com/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html?page=3

http://help.sap.com/saphelp_erp60_sp/helpdata/en/46/ae1017e667031ee10000000a11466f/content.htm

Dr Jason Watson – Lecture 3 QUT

Harnessing the Collective Intelligence: It just might save your life!

First of all – welcome back to the semester everyone I hope you had a good break. I studied enterprise 2.0 at the end of last year and you can see my previous blog posts by simply scrolling down. I am happy to be back to blogging in web 2.0, as it is an experience I find both enjoyable and empowering, so without further ado… let’s start the semester off on a slightly controversial note.

I am not going to sugar coat this, nor am I going to apologise for posting content that some of you may find confronting. Why? Simply because websites like “Erowid” could very well save your life. Save your life through harnessing collective intelligence.

The harsh reality is that almost half of you have tried illicit substances in one form or another. In fact a new study appearing in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that 42.5 percent of teens have used drugs by age 18. Everyone has different reasons for wanting to try illicit substances, and more often than not cannot go to their parents, and may not necessarily trust their close friends for advice. So what do they do?

Enter Erowid:

Image

What is it you ask?

Erowid is a wiki where users  contribute genuine medical documentation, research case studies, effects, and user experiences of every imaginable drug (both legal & illegal) anti depressants, pharmaceuticals, you name it.

How does it fit this weeks pattern? Like this:

  • Explicit & Implicit user participation

When you are reading user experiences, whatever the drug / medication you will often read about dosage information, body weight, gender and general health and well being of the particular poster.  In addition to this information is often provided about surroundings, ie an abusive family relationship in the case of anti depressants. Or for illicit substances, how, when and where they were ingested and how this may have affected the experience in general.  So you when reading experiences you are able to not only consider the facts, the information that is undeniable, but also consider the surrounding elements. Are you likely to react to a certain substance in the same way as another person? Are you similar person to the poster with a similar personality? Do you really want to begin that course of anti depressants after readings X’s experience?

  • Erowid rewards the user first

Like most other websites that offer huge amounts of collaborative information there is the opportunity to donate but, you don’t have to. You are free to search, read and draw your own conclusions based on legitimate medical findings and user experiences. You do not have to participate, you need not even let anyone know you were doing such research.

  • A meaningful context for creation

Erowid claims to be for “educational” purposes only and in many ways I think that is the truth. You are unlikely to stumble across this website, rather you would have actively sought it out because you had already been thinking about ingesting one substance or another, legal or illegal. Erowid creates a community environment where people can come together and discuss whatever it is that is concerning them about any type of legal / illegal substance without fear of reprimand of any sort.

drug abuse

15 years of drug abuse captured in police mug shots – could the collective intelligence at Erowid help prevent this?

  • Set network effects by default

People visit Erowid because they are either seeking general information, seeking advice or seeking help, so it has become the phenomenon that it is as a side effect of serving self interests.  Often times when it comes to sites like Erowid people forget that they often spawn many support networks for those who have ventured down the wrong paths. Support networks that may otherwise be unattainable due to financial or geographical constraints.

Trust your users: The community has grown into one where people post because they believe in the cause. Hence time, effort, research and genuine heart felt posts resonating throughout the forum

Software that improves as people use it: Erowid is made up entirely of contributions by non profiting parties. The more contributions, they better and more thorough a resource it becomes.

Facilitate emergence: Erowid is now available for android which is further testament to it’s popularity / necessity.

  • People could post anything? What about moderation?

Erowid is closely monitored and often edited by people who have earned respect from others if information does not add up, does not make sense, or is just plain stupid behavior. It is moderated, and treated as an educational resource.

What do you think? Is a site like Erowid a good thing?

References:

http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/erowid.org

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=erowid