Football, Yogurt and Live-Tweeting

Superbowl Ads Twitter

Yessss! The Superbowl is today!

I didn’t even know who was playing until someone at work asked if I wanted to join a pool this week. I asked who was playing and the guy told me while backing away.

Here’s a brief history of my personal interaction with this all-American event:

Superbowl XXXVII: A Personal Triumph

Until recently, I associated the Superbowl with pledging a sorority. The amazing sorority I wanted to join freshman year had a time-honored tradition in which each year’s pledges present a halftime “dance” at superbowl parties, at a house of upperclassmen guys. There was no effing way I was doing that. I participated as far as wearing the proper colors (Raiders’ black-and-silver) and allowing my face to be painted. I then successfully ducked out completely unnoticed as we were ascending the stairs toward the living room. Taking advantage of the cluster-fuck and drunkenness, I looped back around to the end of the procession line, so there wasn’t enough room for me in the living room. (This is my 1st time admitting this.)

Superbowl XLVII: Prime Reading (& Tweeting!) Time 

I never developed an interest in this game. Visiting my brother in college meant I was forced to attend a couple of Wisconsin football games in ridiculously freezing weather. There are photos of me eating yogurt and reading a book during these games.

Now, Superbowl feels like some kind of milestone in my 1st year back home in 4 years. I’m spending it at my parents’ house (unintentionally; I didn’t realize this weekend was Superbowl Sunday until 2 days ago).

Tonight, I’m excited for more than just yogurt and reading (as if that power combo wasn’t enough). Tonight the added bonus is Twitter. I have fallen in love with Twitter this year – especially during huge public events. I had a blast during the Presidential debates – another event I probably wouldn’t have cared that much about had I not been privy to hilarious real-time commentary offered by professional and amateur comedians.

Participating in a collective conversation with complete strangers is basically the most invigorating experience I’m capable of having these days.

Twitter provides the platform; Superbowl-like events set the topic.

My mom’s response to all this:

I hate that word ‘hashtag’. Isn’t it just this? (Crosses fingers in hashtag formation.)

Follow me tonight @steppenchik.

Facebook After Weddings Feels Like Rocket Science

Facebook Wedding Photos

Facebook can prolong post-wedding bliss . . . or instill anxiety in hung-over guests.

I went to a picture-perfect wedding this weekend, and posted a ton of iPhone pics on Facebook. Everyone complains while it’s happening but then harasses me to post them as soon as I can.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

My passion for taking iPhone pictures at events like this lately has led to some heated privacy discussions, untagging requests and questions about how to remove comments. One of my friends went so far as to explain to me that she’s worked so far to get to where she is, and can’t afford to have it all taken away with some drunken pictures of her posted on Facebook. (You’d think the person who said this was a kindergarten teacher, but it wasn’t.) After a post-bachelorette party posting session, I received frantic phone calls from friends who didn’t understand that I set the albums to private, and that no one but us could see them.

I try and be as respectful as possible, and honor all the “take down/untag” requests I can – but I can’t help but notice how increasingly difficult or annoying the process has gotten; ironically as Facebook claims it’s goal is  “improve” the user experience, it feels more complicated than ever.

More Users, More Responsibility, More Confusion

There’s a huge catch-22 going on with Facebook’s growing popularity and photo-sharing that’s resulting in UX improvements that are actually making everything more complicated than before. It’s the easiest way to share pictures with friends, but this means it’s also the easiest way to inadvertently share pictures with friends’ bosses. Technophile parents are popping up all over the network, and with them comes irresponsible content sharing. Facebook is aware of this, and has made several privacy improvements over the past couple of years.

Unfortunately, these “improvements” are tucked inside Settings windows and easy-to-miss rollover icons, that most users just don’t notice.

So when I get a text message from the bride the day after her wedding asking me how to tag people on her iPhone, I don’t even know where to begin. Facebook has changed it’s user interface so many times – most recently a couple of weeks ago to improve the app’s speed – that it’s pretty impossible to visualize yet alone describe the user-flow of an action as simple as tagging. I had to tell the bride to be patient, and that I’d tag them myself once I got to a computer. The iPhone app was simply too complicated.

Facebook Wedding Photos 1

The tag icon reveals previously-added tags

Facebook Wedding Photo 2

No tags were previously added on desktop, and there’s no way to add them on mobile.

View the full *public album on Facebook: Jennie & Tommy

IRONY: My Mom Clips Articles on Social Media

Digital Anthropology

My mom still clips articles and leaves them for me on my desk. It’s nice sometimes, especially if it’s a longer op-ed piece or something from the Sunday Times magazine, as I do enjoy longreads more in print than on screens. Otherwise, when she tells me she’ll save something interesting in today’s paper that she wants me to read, I tell her to not bother – I’ll find it online.

She took the time to grab a pair of scissors, and physically cut out an article to share with me – on social media.

But this week, she cut out and clipped the ultimate irony: an article about social media and the ways in which companies are using it to leverage their market research. It was already funny that she was still doing this for articles in general: obituaries of interesting writers or anthropologists, travel pieces on places I’ve visited or are planning to, etc. But this one took the proverbial cake. She took the time to grab a pair of scissors, and physically cut out an article to share with me – on social media.

I read it, and learned nothing new. It was written for people who do not use social media, but instead clip articles about it. My mother enjoyed it, and I think it helped her understand a little more about the field in which I work and am interested.

I just got a kick out of the message/medium combo.

3 Bones to Pick, 3 Social Networks

3 social media bones to pick

There are a few complaints I just have been dying to put out there on the interweb recently. I decided to stop putting it off and air my grievances in the hopes that someone finds them, who will either (a) fix what’s wrong with the user experiences of these social networks, or (b) realize I’m the missing piece of their UX or social media team and hire me on the spot. Or, more likely, (c) I’ll get a huge weight off my shoulders by “blogging it out”.

Picasa (or Google Photos, or Google+)

I was one of the first people to join Google+, before it was open to the public. Remember they wanted it to be all “exclusive” and you needed an invite? I actually signed up for a mailing list, to be notified when Google+ was in beta testing. I tried it out, I created some circles, I posted things for about a week before I realized not that many people were using the damn thing. A few weeks later, everyone else did join – and then the cycle repeated itself. Fine, I’m over it.

Until . . . I wanted to view a friend’s photo album recently, and it was literally as convenient as taking the LSAT. The friend is actually a 70-year old author for whom I’m building a web presence. He tried sharing with me a photo album with Picasa. When I clicked on the link in his email, it told me the link did not exist. I had him set up a Google+ account, but still I was unable to view the album. The two of us went back and forth for about a week, until somehow he was able to share the damn album with me. It was shocking how complicated the process was, considering Google+ is supposedly all about sharing and engaging with one’s social circles. It was a mind-bogglingly difficult experience to view this guy’s one simple album.

Facebook’s iPhone App

Facebook Mobile TimelineWe all know that it’s slow. Fine. But I only found out yesterday that you can’t even access Timeline from it. Does this make any sense? You cannot convert the user experience on one platform (desktop) and not the other. I was tagged in a friend’s picture, and went to approve the tag but was told the app could not access Timeline. I will, however, give Facebook credit for recently adding the ability to unfriend someone, on mobile. I unfriend people every so often when I’m feeling sassy, and not being able to do this on the go was really inconvenient. I can’t predict when some random person I met on a teen tour 10 years ago is suddenly uploading pictures of their wedding – and I want to be able to unfriend this person immediately. Even if I’m on the bus. Thankfully, this is now relatively simple to do on the mobile app. But the Timeline thing – come on.

Instagram’s Social Options

instagram Social OptionsThis is really also a Facebook complaint. Ever since they bought Instagram, you can no longer search for someone on Instagram by their Instagram username. You have to be Facebook friends before you can be connected on Instagram. Which I get – it’s in Facebook’s interest I guess to get even more users. But part of what I love about Instagram is how not intimate it is; it’s supposed to be all about the pictures, not the people behind them. I actually met a girl at a bar who I clicked with, and we tried becoming Instagram friends then and there – only to discover that since we’re not Facebook friends, we can’t. And it feels a lot stranger to quickly “friend” someone you meet when you’re out, as opposed to just following them on something like Instagram or even Twitter. I left the bar that night without having a new Instagram follower/followee, because I didn’t feel comfortable asking this girl to be Facebook friends right away.

Adding someone on Instagram should be much more casual; I see you taking a photo of something interesting, I want to follow you. Not get updates on your sister’s wedding photos or a link to the article you read in the Washington Post this morning.

Phew. I said my peace. Now hopefully some good will come of it, and these weird little kinks will either be worked out or I’ll realize that I’m the dumb one all along. The sad thing is I don’t feel like either of these outcomes is likely.

IDEA: An Infographic of Typical Social Network Users

Last week I posted a comment on Google+ (after remembering that it exists for the 1st time in a few weeks), about how there are too many social media networks to be consistently active in all.

I then wondered: there must be an infographic to illustrate the typical user profile, for each social media site. For instance, typical Flickr users might be completely different from Instagram users in terms of age or profession. I think it would be extremely interesting to see such data, and tried to find some fun, graphically composed poster with bright, bold colors and shapes pointing out just what that data is from a macro and even entertaining perspective.

I came across a few interesting infographics: Social Media Demographics, on Flowtown.com; and Twitter Users Profile, on InfographicsShowcase.com to name a couple.

I’d love to pool these and other related concepts and presentations together, and see what pops out. Or, would getting real actual user data constitute for privacy violation?

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