Principles

I’m figuring out what to do with my life in the year between now and (hopefully) being at a PhD program fall 2011. I’d like to outline my principles, so that I can have a benchmark, guiding point and even a place to record any changes in my outlook as I do more research and map this space I’m figuring out. The key principles won’t be changing, but their implications are what I envision shaping through further research.

I’m an advocate for openness. This DOES mean that I think people should have access to information that they need, and have the ability to innovate in new ways, and built off of old systems (eg. Zittrain’s generativity or the idea of “remix” or “view source.”)

This DOES NOT mean I’d want to use an open-source version of paypal (an example where ‘closed’ is a bit of a necessity, or would require some SERIOUS innovation to be open in the FSF/GPL sense of the word), nor does it mean that I think people shouldn’t be able to charge for content/services/goods — whether or not it’s always a good *idea* to charge for those things is another story.

I think that good, clean, design, and simplification are NECESSITIES of technology — not afterthoughts or options to add in later. This DOES mean that I think things like ergonomics of physical devices and user experience of media are valuable assets that should *never* be subject to death-by-committee, being pushed back to version 2.0 or any excuses for lacking legitimate research in this area.

This DOES NOT mean that everyone need be using Helvetica (the canonical “simple, clean” font, for all you non-design snobs out there), agree on the same design aesthetic, or meet every end user’s needs, nor does it mean that because I value this, (despite my degree in design) I want to design it for you.

Social is important. I mean this in many, many ways. From a future-online-business-model discussion, people are always going to value content they find from their friends, online and off. Now that it’s moved online, we finally have word-of-mouth, quantified. Companies and brands are just now beginning to realize the value of this

Also, getting people together face-to-face is an invaluable way to communicate, brainstorm and build. I don’t know if any video-chat-second-life-online-VOIP will ever replace good human eye contact, and the truth is, it doesn’t have to. Meetups, Hackathons, Bar Camps and Parties can’t be replaced by a “killer app.”

Technologies can enhance the ways we connect to one another, and anyone making “social media” should embrace the fact that it’s an enhancement, not a replacement or replica. The companies (and quirky projects in people’s basements) that design systems around this will succeed, and those that don’t will fade away as clutter. Systems that allow users to build off of existing connections, and make signifigant, valuable new ones (‘IRL’ as they say) will remain relevant to people’s real lives. There are also niche markets in this space, because one person’s “media overload” is another’s “media zen.”

These aren’t all of my “guiding principles” but it’s a good list of the ones that have been on my mind lately as I’m shaping the projects I take on for the summer and the next year.

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