'Fulbrighter: Net Working?': the O.G. social network goes digital
A conversation on Digital Wellness led by w4rner.
Previous article. Post-#SmartphoneDetox.

'The Role of Hi-Tech in Social Media' on… The Internet

In the entrepreneur space today, it’s hard to get money from a VC without saying you’ve got AI/ML/another fancy sounding 2 letters in your product. To the extent that merely having a .ai domain could potentially triple funding.

Because of this, there has been a bias toward Silicon Valley companies going deep on crafting complex algorithms, which users can hardly engage with. As ML expert Bhargav Desikan says, these tools have mostly been used to manipulate users. More worringly, perhaps they don’t even understand them themselves.

I want to highlight digital products which reject fancy machine learning tools in order to focus on crafting beautiful features

In these 2 articles, I want to highlight digital products which reject fancy machine learning tools in order to focus on crafting beautiful features, and in some way promote Digital Minimalism.
First up, 2 products, still in an early adopter stage:

1). ItalicType.com
Emily Achler is building this virtual book club space to run alongside a paper reading experience. In this way, she’s refusing to go deep on manipulating user’s content consuming, but rather provide useful features like recommendation, private book club management & digital note-taking.

2). Publist.app
This Cloud Desktop organiser potentially helps you avoid having to context switch between multiple apps in your workflow. 
Fun story: they used to have the website Publist.ai, but soon realised that their product literally didn’t need any complex Machine Learning tools, and re-focussed dev efforts on designing a user-friendly experience.

And OG Bonus: Instagram.com, they’ve finally made a great product improvement, by not hooking users with Friend’s Like activity. (as mentioned in a previous edition, they are already experimenting with removing likes entirely in Australia).

'The Role of Hi-Tech in Social Media' on… The Fulbrighter Network

Continuing their trend toward great openness to user input, Fulbrighter have launched a survey.

Continuing their trend toward great openness to user input, Fulbrighter have launched a survey.

I want to advocate pushing for the following 3 priorities, each one based upon the insights of this series so far.

1). ‘Compulsion: the dark side of Engagement’. Remove the Like feature; or at least remove Like activity from notifications to make way for more meaningful interactions, which are currently buried:

2). ‘Rich & Original Content’ Integrate with existing social media apps. In particular, allow users LinkedIn feed to be syndicated here. As we have seen, original content on the global feed has been sluggish; and this could provide a baseline of ambient activity upon which the private sub-communities can be built.

3). ‘The Role of Hi-Tech in Social Media’. Transparency. Share basic analytics on view counts etc. with users; only use complex algorithms if shared.

Do you agree with these recommendations?

Either way, please go and complete the survey by the end of the month! 

Posts of the Month

1. ‘Humans of Fulbright’.

2. 'Promoting longform article’

  • Please comment any suggestions!

3. ‘Invitations to engage’

Fulbrighter Feature of the Month: Mobile App

Fulbrighter shared with me that usage is in the following order: Mobile web > Desktop web > Mobile app

Given my Master’s thesis on Smartphone Dependence, you won’t be surprised that I gravitate toward Desktop as a user, even though I develop mobile apps.

I UX tested the Fulbrighter iOS app [...] My main suggestion is to simplify & streamline the UX

So I UX tested the iOS app: (see what i got up to).

My main suggestion is to simplify & streamline the UX. I’m a big fan of purposefully focussed & minimal mobile experiences, so I wonder whether removing the global feed and focussing in on more private communication could be the best way forward with the mobile app.



w4rner (Laurence Warner) is a Digital Wellness activist, whose Fulbright funded Master’s Thesis focusses on Smartphone Dependence. LinkedIn, Twitter 

Fulbrighter: Net Working? is a 2019 series of bi-monthly articles published on the public Fulbrighter news page. It aims to encourage discussion within the Fulbrighter community about how we can make the most of our unique opportunity to co-design a healthy social media space.
Project Lead: w4rner (UK Fulbright Scholar ’17-19) is a tech designer with a particular interest in radical innovations towards Digital Wellness. Their Fulbright Master’s Research explored the new phenomenon of Smartphone Dependence. Connect on LinkedIn, Twitter, (and most importantly) Fulbrighter!
Contributors: Rob Ellis, Lina Quinceno.

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