An Evening of Ideas (After the Break)

This is the second part of Defuse Dublin summary. Part I is here.

Hailing from Britain, Ciarán Norris (@ciaranj) said UGC, USC & WTF? Head of Digital at Mindshare Ireland, he is skeptical about user-generated content taking over the world. “New media is only new media if you are old,” he said. All media had to start sometime and was new when it did, but people still want professionally produced content, he said.

Charlie may have bitten my finger, Norris said. “But the next person that says user content will take over the world can bite my arse!”

Another Brit, Dr. Pete Lunn, spoke about the psychology of decision making. A behavioral economist, author (his book is here) and former journalist with the BBC, Lunn now works with the the ESRI. He advised on how to frame decisions since “designers are choice architects.”

“The decisions we take can be radically altered by context,” he said. An example is organ-donation rates in different European countries. The highest opt-in rate is 27.5% in the Netherlands, but the lowest opt-out rate is 85.9% in Sweden. Another example is an operation. Patients feel differently if they are told it has a 90% chance of success or a 10% chance of failure, Lunn said.

“Decision making is hugely influenced by subtle little cues,” Lunn said. This is used to great effect by merchants who recognize this behavior, and is important for web designers, too, he said.

Antonella Sassu (@misentoscossa) asked, What can we learn from ants and bees? A native of Sardinia, she is now working at the ClarityCentre for Sensor Web Technologies at University College Dublin. Ants and bees can build huge societies, but their colonies are emergent, Sassu said. But humans have a tendency to complicate what is already complex. Her advice was to understand our structure and work with simple designs.

John Wood (@cogfric) said he has “an unhealthy fascination with military history” but said that was appropriate since he has seen some projects “come very close to violence.” A senior user experience design consultant at IQ Content, Wood spoke of how to navigate the middle ground between micromanagement and complete freedom.

The answer, he found, lies in the way the then-Prussian army re-organized after it was soundly beaten by Napoleon in 1806. The Prussians began to delegate more. To this day, a direct order is unlikely to be issued in the German army, Wood said. Instead, soldiers get objectives and how they fit in to the big picture. That model has since spread around the world.

In civilian life, this translates to: “Treat people with respect, give them responsibility and don’t let the bastards drive you down.”

Does the internet ever make you feel like shit? asked Ellen Dudley (@meetforeal). Founder of Crowdscanner, she wondered about some of the content on the web. But it is so huge only the outliers grab our attention. Comparison can lead to competition, jealousy and depression.  Citing the example of a hen party she attended recently, Dudley said there were two groups who knew the bride to be, but did not know each other. Even in that shared environment, making connections was tough, she said.

Her mission now is to hack socializing and to design social objects that trigger strangers to talk to each other. I met her colleague, Adrian Avendano (@amonter5), at the Dublin Web Summit in June who showed me an iPhone app that encourages strangers to break the ice. Crowdscanner is a continuation of this effort.

Finally, Eoghan McCabe (@eoghanmccabe) stood up and gave his formula for success. Turns out it is a real formula, too.

s = t x e x l x a

s = success
t = time
e = effort
l = luck and
a = ability

McCabe made extensive use of quotes to drive home each of the points. But the most unPC was from Machiavelli on luck. The Renaissance philosopher said we even have to work to make luck happen.

…for fortune is a woman and in order to be mastered she must be jogged and beaten.

Image of Ellen Dudley copyright IxDA and used with permission.