Friday, 26 September 2008

Tafiti’s Way To Go!

This has been contributed by Tanu Miriam George, an employee of MindTree.

I would like to share a super cool website that I recently discovered. I received this link in a forwarded email and loved it the moment I opened it.

Here is your access to it!

Tafiti, meaning "do research" in Swahili, is an experimental search front-end from Microsoft that is designed to help people use the Web for research projects that span multiple search sessions by helping visualize, store, and share research results. Tafiti uses both Microsoft Silverlight and Live Search to explore the intersection of richer experiences on the Web and the increasing specialization of search.

What Makes It Different From Our Google Search Engine?
The visual feel and the interaction is what pulls people towards this website. It’s not like a conventional site where you have just one text box that is well placed so that’s the first thing one sees and a ‘SEARCH’ button very near to it. The site is capable of so much more.

The search results come up in the same window. There is also a filter that is available (like ‘search within results’ in Google).

Another super cool feature is the ‘shelf’ where you can keep all the articles that you may need most frequently. This functionality also helps you customize the site for yourself which is by far an added advantage.

What next for Tafiti?
Still in its beta stage, Tafiti is yet to grow and make its mark. But with these advancements made, this website has a bright future for itself. With clever marketing strategies and advertisements, Tafiti will gain a stronger hold.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Bringing Virtual to Real

Internet-based social sharing networks are effectively catering to our need to share with friends, family and others. Aristotle mentioned, Man is a social animal. This implies that society is an integral need of a human being to survive and everybody wants to be part of a larger group of people to:

  • pursue their interest,
  • share experiences and views,
  • stay in touch with family and friends,
  • help them perform their jobs better, and
  • find new friends to explore and expand reach
Yet, at the same time, everyone wants to have a unique presence and identity of their own.

According to an American internet research organization – Pew Internet research – 93% American teenagers use internet for social sharing and networking out of which 64% participate in one or more content creation activities such as creation of blogs (28%) and sharing artwork, photos, videos, stories (39%), etc.

In addition to such core elements of content creation, 55% teenagers have their profiles on social networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace. Moreover, 47% teens have uploaded photos where others can see them.

Where is the fun?
In another similar internet research it is evident that a large number of people go to internet just to have fun. Meaning that they find enough content on the internet to let them continue to have fun. This raises a question: does social sharing and networking platform provide us a sub-platform to have enough fun? Let me try and answer this.

Social networks try all possible ways to bring the real life experiences to digital space. To an extent they have been successful and evolving. Nevertheless, there are a few aspects of social networking which are still outside the reach of social networking platforms. For example, a guy showing a printed photo album to a group of friends, all of them having fun together by noticing their collective views, giving different face expressions and comments on a particular picture or a portion of a picture, their noise of making fun of a few pictures, their collective laughter - all that is still something which cannot be captured or shared on social networking sites. Presently, it is only restricted to a set of people remotely accessing the content published by someone on a social sharing network.

We have not made much of a progress other than giving space for leaving a text comment in order to capture someone’s reaction on a content produced by another member. Plain text including a set of smileys can communicate a lot in volume but it still cannot convey those actual emotions and expressions out and loud in public. Simple text with added icons fails to express the actual sound oscillation, loudness, expressions of people, their excitement, laughter, tears and much more.

Internet is about efficiency as well and leaving a text comment is the easiest thing one can do. However, we need to do more to bring in the real fun. A web service or a web tool with a richer user interface which can support audio and video based commenting feature on other content in addition to text-based commenting facility would take this to newer heights.

This would allow a user to capture videos using the webcam or a small camera and the standard video capturing software installed on his/her machine. The system should automatically convert the captured video into a flash player based video output and publish it as a video comment on the original content with an option to preview information. Entire task of capturing and publishing should be made as easy as possible by adding keyboard shortcuts and display of real time progression of system activities. Optionally, the user’s other demographic or/and registration details can be made pre-populated.

In addition, the user should be allowed to upload an already captured video or attach a video from another platform such as YouTube as a comment. Similarly user should be able to upload recorded audio files as a comment to the original content. This will allow users to capture, communicate, store and reuse their true natural expressions and reactions and also increase the life of content by adding fun to it. Lastly, multiple audio and video based comments must be shown together like a multimedia playlist.

Yet, while the commenting arena is changed, as a standard practice, the author of the original content should be able to publish and un-publish the comments. For safety’s sake!

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Learning From Users

Witnessing the growth of user experience design, I would like to share with you an article that was published by me (Afshan Kirmani) in the Mid-Day, a daily newspaper.

The reason for writing this article was to bring International conferences like the USID 2008 to the fore. Because of communities and summits that take us forward, user experience shall eventually be a best practice followed at every step of the way.

Enjoy reading this one! Make sure that you click on the image to see an enlarged view. :)