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Archive for the ‘Design’ Category

iPhone 5 ‘lacking wow factor’ receives mixed reaction from fans and experts

Posted Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Apple’s iPhone 5 has been criticised for not being ‘innovative enough’ and ‘lacking wow factor’ by some fans following the unveiling of the device at a press conference yesterday.

Following the announcement fans of the smartphone took to the internet to give their reactions to the much-anticipated gadget.

The technology giant revealed the smartphone at an event in San Francisco along with several new iPods.

The iPhone 5 is taller and slimmer than the 4S due to its 4” screen, which allows users to view videos in a near 16:9 aspect ratio.

Battery life is also increased and the smartphone will be available on 4G LTE when it is released in the UK on September 21st.

The company’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller described it as an ‘absolute jewel’.

David McQueen, Principal Analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media, admitted the iPhone 5 offered few surprises but said the company was banking on its ability to create cool products.

‘While the new hardware may not quite stack up against other products expected in market, it is Apple’s ability to create stylish, desirable products attached to a rich set of services that it hopes can still set it apart to create differentiation,’ he said.

Paul Armstrong, head of social at media agency Mindshare UK, agreed with this, and added Apple had demonstrated ‘its commitment to technical and design excellence’.

What do you think of the iPhone 5- Apple rocks or Rotten Apple?


5 Small Biz Web Design Trends to Watch

Posted Thursday, August 12th, 2010

The importance of having an attractive website that converts visitors into buyers and helps cleverly promote your small business is essential in these fiercely competitive times.

Mashable, 10th August 2010

Your website has to capture a visitor’s attention, entice him or her to stay and browse around, create an interest in your product or service, and result in sales. For small businesses with limited time and budgets, design is an essential factor in both attracting and converting potential customers.

With this in mind, here are five current design trends that most small businesses can utilize to great effect.

1. Minimalism

While this web design style has been popular for some time, it’s worth revisiting as no small business owner wants to turn visitors away with a cluttered, overbearing and hard to navigate website.

Minimalist design effectively strips away the excess and helps the user concentrate squarely on the content. If a page has too many elements, the user will easily become confused about where to focus on, with many elements vying for attention.

With page weight now affecting your Google search engine position, it’s the perfect time to reassess how streamlined your design is.

There are several principles and steps you can follow to create a more minimalist design:

  1. Go through your site and prune any unnecessary widgets or elements which aren’t serving a real purpose.
  2. Make good use of whitespace, which is the space between different elements of a design. Used well, it will allow for easier scanning of your site and help frame the elements on each page.
  3. With fewer elements, choosing the right color palette or accent color is critical. As color has great significance and meaning, it’s best to test how certain colors interact with each other.
  4. Browse your site through the eyes of your visitors, evaluating if there is too much information, confusing or off-putting elements, or sufficient calls to action. Answering these types of questions truthfully will help you prioritize the essential elements.

A minimalist design doesn’t have to be bland and boring; it can easily be modern, fresh, sophisticated, elegant or refined, based solely on the details within the design.

2. Unique Photography

Two men shaking hands, a group of people in suits sharing a joke, the call center girl: these are all tired, clichéd images that litter thousands of business websites. These types of images fail to convey either information on the company or a sense of the site’s character, and are essentially meaningless.

Using custom photography or artwork whenever possible is recommended, though for small business owners, both time and budget are limited and stock photos are a relatively cheap and accessible resource.

So when choosing stock imagery, it’s best to keep in mind these four tips:

  1. Research your competitors and industry and take note of the images used. You can then find a unique way to represent your product or service.
  2. Avoid being too literal in your choice of imagery as abstract compositions often give a more dramatic and memorable effect.
  3. Don’t always opt for the cheaper low-res image, as pixelated imagery devalues your overall design and looks unprofessional.
  4. Veer away from the bland and predictable and let the images ‘break out of the box’.

Imaginative imagery will reinforce your brand message and add greater character to your website. So, when you must use stock imagery, do so with great care and take the time to find the right piece that will convey the true personality of your service or product.

3. Bold Typography

Web design at its core is about communication, and typography is a vital component of that. Great web typography helps bring order to information and creates a coherent, visually satisfying experience that engages the reader without their knowing.

A recent trend is the use of big, bold typography which helps to create contrast between other text while grabbing a user’s attention. Oversized text can help create hierarchy and ensure users understand your message loud and clear.

In order to utilize typography to create a bold statement, keep in mind the following tips:

  1. Determine the single most important message you want to emphasize, as too many messages can lead to choice paralysis. Understand the qualities of the message you are trying to convey, and then look for typefaces that embody those qualities.
  2. Choose a typeface that will match the character of your work. For instance, if your company embodies the feel of an Old Style font, you should consider Bembo, Garamond and Sabon. It will also greatly depend on what you want to convey with the type, because legibility is as important as the character of the type.
  3. Give the typography the prominent position it deserves by surrounding it with a generous amount of whitespace. This will add emphasis and create even more focus on the typography.
  4. Test out some of the various font replacement options such as Typekit or Typotheque. These allow you to license fonts to embed within your site, and help you to experiment with beautiful typography.

Typography is an art and the decisions you make are subjective; however, carefully selecting a typeface can make a huge difference to the quality of your design.

 

4. Clear Calls to Action

As a small business owner you want your visitors to complete a certain task when they land on your page. It could be to download, sign up or checkout, but these calls to action are one of the most important (and overlooked) elements in a small business website.

You want to grab your visitor’s attention and move him or her to take action. Crafting a clear, concise call to action is essential.

Here are four tips to keep in mind when designing a call-to-action button or advertisement:

  1. Language: Keep the wording short and snappy (always start with a verb), but also explain the value behind the action the user is taking. In some instances it also helps to create a sense of urgency using words such as ‘now’, ‘hurry’ and ‘offer ends,’ with ‘free’ being the number one incentive.
  2. Positioning: Ideally, calls to action should be above the fold, and be placed on every page of the site in a consistent position. For instance, Squarespace, not only has a large call-to-action button at the top of the page, but also has a slightly smaller button in the footer of every page.
  3. Color: The color should make the call stand out from the rest of the design. Brighter, more contrasting colors usually work best for smaller buttons. For larger buttons, you may want to choose a less prominent color (but one that still stands out from your background), so as to balance out its size.
  4. Size: The call-to-action button should be the largest button on any given page. You want it to be large enough to stand out without overwhelming the rest of the design

.

It’s vital you test different combinations of call-to-action buttons and see how each affects your conversion rates (see A/B Testing below). It’s also best to make sure they fit within your overall design.

  1. 5.      A/B Testing

With competition growing fiercer online, it’s important for small businesses to have a website that converts visitors to buyers and creates a competitive edge. That’s why it is important to continually measure and improve site performance, usability and conversions.

One of the foremost ways of optimizing your web design is via A/B testing (sometimes referred to as split testing). An A/B test examines the effectiveness of one landing page over another. The two versions are randomly shown to site visitors to see which generates the best results. You then evaluate the performance of each and use the best version.

Various elements can be tested, including, layouts, copy, graphics, fonts, headlines, offers, icons, colors and more. Here are a few tips for A/B testing:

  1. Clearly define your goal before beginning any test. For example, if you wanted to increase sign-ups, you might want to test the following: type of fields in the form, length of the form, and display of privacy policy.
  2. Start with elements that will have the biggest impact for minimum effort. For instance, you could tweak the copy on your checkout button to see if conversions can be improved.
  3. Don’t use A/B testing in isolation as this alone won’t give you a well-rounded picture of your users. Instead, use other feedback tools, such as Feedback Army or User Testing, in conjunction with A/B testing to get in-depth analysis of user behavior.

A/B testing won’t make a bad design great, but it will prove an effective aid in optimizing your current design’s usability and conversions until you decide to overhaul your website design completely.

These are just five web design trends that small businesses can take part in to enhance their websites. Which web design changes would make the most sense for your small business?


Model of Bloodhound supersonic car unveiled

Posted Friday, July 23rd, 2010

The British team hoping to drive a car faster than 1,000mph has unveiled a full-scale model of the vehicle.

The model is a star turn at this year’s Farnborough International Air Show.The team has announced that aerospace manufacturer Hampson Industries will begin building the rear of the real vehicle in the first quarter of 2011.

Another deal to construct the front end with a second company is very close.”We now have a route to manufacture for the whole car,” said chief engineer Mark Chapman.”We would hope to be able to shake down the vehicle on a runway in the UK either at the end of 2011 or at the beginning of 2012,” he told BBC News.

Assuming no major issues arise from those runway tests, Bloodhound will be shipped straight to a dried up lakebed known as Hakskeen Pan, in the Northern Cape of South Africa, to begin its assault on the world land speed record.

To claim the record, the vehicle will have to better the mark of 763mph (1,228km/h) set by the Thrust SuperSonic Car in 1997. But the team believes Bloodhound’s superior aerodynamic shape, allied to the immense power of its Falcon hybrid rocket and Eurofighter-Typhoon jet engine, will take the blue and orange car beyond 1,000mph (1,610km/h).

Three people who worked on Thrust are also engaged in the Bloodhound project. They are driver Wing Cdr Andy Green, project director Richard Noble and chief aerodynamicist Ron Ayres. The trio envisaged Bloodhound not just as another record bid but as a project that could inspire children to engage in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects. And the Bloodhound Education Programme has announced here at Farnborough that some 1.5 million school children are now using curriculum resource materials based on the supersonic car.

Key modifications
 
The model car is on display at the Farnborough air show this week. The real vehicle will weigh about six tonnes, but even the polystyrene and fibre-glass replica weighs 950kg.

Visitors will be able to see in the model the key aerodynamic advances made by the design team at the turn of the year which turned Bloodhound into a driveable car.

Before this point, the car was producing dangerous amounts of lift at high speed in the modelling. But by playing with the position and shape of key elements of the car’s rear end, the design team found a solution that will manage the shockwave passing around and under the vehicle when it goes supersonic.

The effort was assisted greatly by project sponsor Intel. It was able to bring colossal computing power to bear on the lift problem.

“It’s called configuration 10,” said Mr Chapman. “It’s very angular at the back; it’s got a very narrow rear-track.

Between November and March, we reduced 11 tonnes of lift to zero lift at Mach 1.3. At that point, we had the aerodynamic shape which you see in the show car. It’s very stable.”

Ron Ayres added: “We’re now working on things like the air brakes and engine-bay cooling – detail inside the car. There’s a lot of engineering to do. But as far as the outside of the car is concerned, we’re pretty much done. Some work still needs to be done on the wheel fairings, the fin, the shape and size of the winglets.”


Mobile App Market to Surge to $17.5 Billion by 2012

Posted Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Lithuanian-based GetJar, an independent mobile phone application store with more than 60,000 mobile applications for major mobile platforms such as Android, Symbian and Windows Mobile, commissioned a study that predicts a huge surge in the number of mobile app downloads and the overall size of the mobile app market.

Mashable, 17th March 2010

According to the study, created by Chetan Sharma Consulting, mobile app downloads should jump from 7 billion in 2009 to almost 50 billion in 2012. By this time, the market will be worth 17.5 billion dollars, the study predicts, despite the expected lower price of mobile apps, which should drop from the current average of 2 dollars per app to 1.5 dollars in 2012.

GetJar chief executive Ilja Laurs makes another bold prediction, echoing the one we’ve recently heard from a Google executive. “It is easy to see how mobile apps will eclipse the traditional desktop Internet. It makes perfect sense that mobile devices will kill the desktop,” he said.

He backs this up with more data from the study, citing that 17% of GetJar users spend more time on internet-linked smartphones than they do on desktops.

Be that as it may, the work you do on your desktop is still a lot different than the work you do on your smartphone. The mobile application market definitely has tremendous room to grow, especially with the coming of iPad, which takes the mobile app paradigm and slaps it onto a bigger, tablet device. But let’s wait and see how it performs on the market before we declare desktop dead or irrelevant.


Using Design to Drive Innovation

Posted Friday, December 11th, 2009

Designers must deliver the orchestration of the total experience with a brand, product, or service or face irrelevancy

Businessweek, June 29 2009

In a previous era, all the talk was of strategy, strategy, strategy. More recently, it’s been innovation, innovation, innovation. As design thinking seems poised to sweep away some of today’s celebrated innovation practices, we must be wondering what new provocation is on the horizon. Relax, I’m not planning to conjure one up.

For those of us on the design consulting side of the business, it has not exactly been a smooth ride lately. But then again, I can’t say that I ever remember it being all that smooth, even when the demand for all forms of basic design and new production capability was sky-high.

Having lived one career on the corporate design side of the consumer-products industry and now a good part of another on the consulting side, I’ve seen the ascendancy of design as a profession and the movement of design toward business competency. At the outset, designers were about style and the creation of bright shiny objects, and we dutifully manned our post at the last decoration station on the way to the marketplace.

Today, there are arguably two design strategies in the marketplace. You either succeed as the low-cost producer, or you successfully differentiate your offering by design in a relevant, meaningful way that is valued by shoppers, consumers, and sellers. As such, the theoretical role of design in business is relatively uncomplicated and straightforward.

Design in Business
The complications come with these two questions: Where does the core idea around a differentiated, relevant, valued offering come from? And what is its relationship to this thing we used to call design? You know—the bright shiny objects.

In our practice, we refer to the former as innovation strategy, and to the latter as design strategy. Somewhere in between resides the opportunity for brand strategy, and we hope to create a system in which there is a seamless flow from ideas to brand meaning and, finally, to how that brand or product or service is expressed and communicated.

Putting all three aspects of this brand-building practice together provides validity in thinking about design as one of the primary idea generators for the creation of viable business platforms. Assuming that the manifestation of a business offering is realized in the context of a brand, that brand requires meaning, a defined expression, and then, given some success, a plan for continued opportunity development that sustains and grows the business.

How to Innovate
True innovation requires the adoption of a belief system that sometimes must prevail in the face of other data metrics. Read up on the great inventions and business wins and you will note that at the core of most of them lie belief, dedication, and the passion to succeed.

Today’s business leaders are often too afraid to move ideas forward without ironclad data proofs that they will be successful. All too often, they are the losers. Use your head, listen to your heart, and feel what’s in your gut.

As long as the human spirit and the marketplace lives on, I’m sure we will be inventing and innovating. Innovation is the commercial side of discovery and invention. Change is a huge driver of both discovery and invention. The world changes around us and we discover new things and we observe change and invent new things to deal with change.

If designers are content to function as purveyors of bright shiny objects, they will likely fade into obscurity. On the other hand, if they step forward and deliver the orchestration of the total experience with a brand, product, or service in the context of our changing environment, their future, too, looks bright.


Electric cars save cash for city drivers

Posted Friday, October 30th, 2009

 They may miss out on revving their engines at the lights, but urban drivers of electric cars can cut their emissions by two thirds and save up to £3,000 a year. Sound like a fair compromise?

BBC.co.uk, April 2008

Electric cars produce no exhaust fumes, minimal pollution and a third of the CO2 emissions of petrol engines. On top of that they’re tax free, immune to congestion charges, and a full ‘tank’ of fuel costs no more than a pint of milk.

So what’s the snag? Currently, limited range and recharging opportunities, and a lack of driving pizzazz. But could the next generation of electric vehicles change all that?

How does it work? Electric cars use a battery and electric motor to power the vehicle and are charged via a standard mains socket in your home, or at an increasing number of free outdoor charging bays. The average electric car does 60 miles on a single charge with a top speed of 40mph – while higher performance sports cars can do 150 miles and 130mph. There are currently over 100 electricity pumps in the UK – the majority of which are in London. But 250 new points are expected to be added this year across Britain.

How will it make a difference? 1. An electric car run on conventional electricity from a coal-fired generator produces a third of the emissions of a conventional petrol car (64g of CO2 per km compared to 176g CO2 per km) and just over half the emissions of a diesel or hybrid car (104g CO2/km). 2. You can save thousands of pounds a year in running costs
3. If you’re thinking electric car plus green electricity tariff equals carbon neutral transport, you might need to recalculate. green energy

What’s stopping me?
“Max speed, 40mph?” Electric cars are currently best suited to city driving because the average speed of traffic in London, for example, is notoriously just 10mph: 2mph slower than an Edwardian horse-drawn carriage.

“I’ve heard they aren’t safe” Electric cars are classified as ‘quadricycles‘ by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, so are subject to less stringent safety tests than cars. But one report estimates they are three times less likely than petrol cars to be involved in accidents. Insurers certainly think so – electric cars qualify for the lowest insurance category, group one, because (reckons the AA) their likelihood of getting into dangerous situations is much lower than that of conventional, high-speed cars.

“Won’t the battery go flat as soon as I get out of my road?” Current models manage an average of about 60 miles on a single charge so we can make our average daily commute of 17 miles more than three times between recharges, but out-of-town journeys are of course trickier. Upgrading to more expensive lithium-ion batteries can increase range significantly.

“I’d love to help the planet, but I can’t afford such fancy new technology” Actually, electric cars range in price between £8,900 and £17,000 and, based on the UK average of 10,000 miles a year, you could save £800 a year on fuel, £300 in car tax, up to £2,000 from congestion charges and free parking in London, and get cheap insurance too. On the other hand, the current generation of electric vehicles are unlikely to rack up that sort of mileage due to their limited range.

Fuel and maintenance costs are also about a third of the typical petrol car: about 6.5p per mile as opposed to 20p. Even with the cost of replacement batteries – about £1,500 every three to four years – electric motoring still costs only about 11p per mile.

What’s the debate?
Electric vehicles are exhaust free but critics say that they simply shift the point at which the emissions and pollution is generated to the power station. This is true (in fact, electricity generation accounts for a third of the UK’s climate impact) but power stations are more efficient at generating energy than cars, so emission reductions still hold. You may be tempted to switch your electricity tariff to green energy to reduce your driving emissions to near zero – but think twice before making the jump.

New research published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology in 2008 levels another, less serious, accusation at electric cars: they use more water than fossil fuelled cars. Vehicles running off electricity use about 17 times more water per mile than petrol vehicles because electricity production in power plants requires the withdrawal (and return) of surface water from nearby lakes and rivers. It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that one million electric cars account for just 0.3% of the miles driven by light duty vehicles in the US.


Curtain twitchers, the CIA and the rise of Facebook

Posted Thursday, October 1st, 2009

New technology and old-fashioned curiosity have made social networking so hot that everyone is cashing in. Nico Macdonald helps you sort the tweets from the bots

 Design Council

If everyone felt like Jerry Seinfeld, Facebook wouldn’t exist. The comedian observed: “As an adult, it’s very hard to make a new friend. Whatever group you’ve got now, that’s who you’re going with. You’re not interviewing, you’re not looking at any people, you’re not interested in seeing any applications.”

Yet, for most of us, the social instinct is deeply ingrained. So deeply that, by the age of seven, research suggests, two thirds of American children have an imaginary friend. Technology has made it possible for us to connect with real friends in undreamt of ways. When Tom Coates, a staffer in a London office of Yahoo!, needed a break, he decided the best way to round up some company was to post this message on Twitter, a hip social networking service: “I need to go for a walk to clear my head. Yauatcha for macaroons anyone?”

Social networking is such a phenomenon that many employers – even the CIA – now have Facebook pages and use the site as a recruitment tool. The agency plans to launch its own staff social networking site called A-Space.

The wisdom of friends: the psychological argument for using social networking sites full of ‘people like us’ is compelling. But how long with the fashion last? And what do sites need to do to increase their reach?
Asking all your friends if they’d like to join you for lunch would once have been impractical. But sites like Facebook allow us to gossip and curtain-twitch online, be bored by someone else’s holiday snaps without visiting their house, plan a business meeting and accelerate the getting-to-know-you process. Instead of taking months to realise that a new acquaintance, like you, can quote Seinfeld scripts verbatim, you can join a group of like-minded souls in minutes.

New technology, old-fashioned curiosity and a dollop of ‘wisdom of friends’ psychology have made sites like Facebook, MySpace and Bebo immensely popular. A 2007 survey found that 48% of American teenagers online visit social networking sites at least once a day and 72% use them to make plans with friends. In the network age, computing power is in the hands of more people and is tackling new challenges. We’ve moved from using computers as work objects to the widespread use of computing-enabled things – laptops, mobile phones, games consoles – to manipulate emails, diary entries, instant messages, contact information, URLs and blogs wherever we are.

Social networking is driven by significant technical developments and rapid social change. The current fears for – and of – teenagers – may explain why they have become core users of social networking sites, spending more time at home on the internet. As a rule of thumb, for every hour we spend on the web, we typically spend 23.5 minutes less with friends and family.

The culture of fear and decreasing trust have made some wary of encounters with strangers and reluctant to embark on deep personal relationships. Surveys show that a record one in four Americans say they have no close friends at all. Many prefer ‘safer’ relationships mediated, to an extent, via a screen, where they can connect with a wider circle of friends in a non-committal fashion. Consumer trends analyst Linda Stone calls this “continuous partial attention”, adding: “To be busy, to be connected, is to be alive, to be recognised and to matter.”

Cheaper travel and a more integrated global economy, where staff change jobs more often and are more likely to work abroad, have played their part too.

Keeping in contact, avoiding cowboy plumbers
The functions social networking best supports are, in a nutshell or seven:

Familiarisation and maintaining contacts. From status updates and edited profiles you build a rounded picture of an individual. People you know may share this with you – to varying degrees – if asked. Essentially, human knowledge is being connected by the network (rather than embedded in it – the goal of so many past computing visions).
Swapping, sharing and storing of ‘objects’ – photos, movies or songs – online. We can be told when something of interest has been uploaded.
Group discussion, which is moving to social networking sites. Contributors’ real names and pictures can be displayed and you can check their profile.
Finding and hiring skills. The self-employed already use sites like LinkedIn to get in touch with businesses and customers regardless of location.
Online or internet-enabled applications which allow us to manage tasks, meetings and diaries. You can, for instance, open up your diary to contacts.
Campaigning. You can network with people with the same ideology. But the likes of Facebook can’t, by themselves, reinvigorate the democratic process.
Searching the web. Social networking can reveal, filter, enhance or shape the data we find when searching. We can link, recommend or rate almost anything and form an opinion influenced by our knowledge of the contributor or the number of recommendations. In a world full of cowboy plumbers – or so reality TV shows would have us believe – we might be relieved to find one implicitly recommended because they’re linked to someone we know. Friends or contacts are acting as ‘trust engines’, and by answering, friends build their relationship with you and increase their kudos with others.
While Google focuses on computer science, engineering and performance, Yahoo! has focused on what Bradley Horowitz, vice president of product strategy, calls “better search through people”, buying bookmark-sharing tool del.icio.us and photo-sharing site Flickr and developing such services as Yahoo! Answers.

Junk mail, smart address books and over-engineering
Social networking sites need to improve. As Facebook’s personal profile – which includes favourite music, TV shows, films and books – is completed manually, it is of limited use and soon out of date. Profiles would be richer if they drew on actual activity, such as the music we buy or play. Artificial intelligence-based tools could help others access a user’s locally stored information. There is a risk of over-engineering, though. An element of a profile or relationship can be extracted or inferred but do we want to share it with everyone? Giving users visibility on – and control of – what they share is a design challenge. Already LinkedIn lets you ‘View my profile as others see it’.

Sites need to be accessible and to hand, as easy to use as a stapler. Modern mobiles and smart phones like the iPhone have feature-filled browsers. A site such as Jaiku offers a dedicated application for modern Nokia devices that identifies your geographic location to your circle of friends. You could have a smart address book that tells you if a contact you plan to call is busy or abroad. Giving physical form to such ideas is the Availabot, a pop-up figure that stands up on your desk when the contact it represents comes online and falls into a flaccid heap of despair when s/he goes away.

Exhaustion, Rupert Murdoch and evolutionary psychology
The subtlety of human relationships can’t be over-estimated. We finesse what we tell different people, even lie. There is a danger that concerns about privacy, and scares based on extraordinarily rare – but shocking – abuses of social networking tools, may deter people from using these sites. Worries over security, time wasting and other abuses has led employers to block access to Facebook.

On a practical level, there is a danger of exhaustion. Coates says: “The amount of sites using social networks is so substantial that [registration] is no longer something people will go through again for no obvious reason.” Sites could be integrated as an external service to other sites. If LibraryThing could access your Facebook profile, it could show you books your friends liked. Profiles could be abstracted so they can be ‘applied’ to any site or service. So far, this has had little success, but as social networking profiles are made easier to edit and when this approach presents a competitive advantage, the ‘abstract’ approach may flourish.

Rupert Murdoch’s strategy for MySpace raises another issue. MySpace plans to run a TV series about showbiz wannabes as it strives to persuade users to linger longer, so they can be targeted by ads. If these sites are not full of user- generated content but have content developed by professionals, does that extend their appeal or fatally undermine it? Facebook has announced it will start targeting ads based on user profiles. Will users be deterred by advertising or welcome it? Concerns about privacy have been heightened by Facebook’s plan to allow (user-controlled) elements of profiles to be indexed by Google.

Historically, human relationships have built over time from face-to-face encounters, in which we use body language and other cues to assess honesty. By contrast, the ease with which we can indicate friendship with social networking allows us to appear to have a cohort of friends. There is some science behind Seinfeld’s gag. Evolutionary psychology suggests we are hardwired to remember no more than 150 people. These smaller, more intensely focused groups have often been responsible for scientific, technical and intellectual breakthroughs. The trajectory of social networking is in our hands. Will we, as a society, take these services seriously – or be satisfied to play online with our new ‘friends’?


 
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