Thursday, 15 February 2007

First IA book club meet up

We had the first London-IA book club last week and it went well.

I forgot to take photos of the people to came, but there was a mix of permie/contractor, Annie from Agency, Leisa from flow interactive, Margaret, Giorgio, Dina, Liz. (if any of you have blogs let me know and i'll set up a link)

The book was Persuasive Technology by B.J. Fogg and was a pretty good choice. It raises some interesting questions and talks about some really interesting research.

My Quick summary:
Fogg defines Persuasive Technology as "Any interactive computing system designed to change people's attitudes or behaviours"
He then lays out a 'functional triad' made up of technology as 'Tool', as 'Media' and as 'Social Actor'.

Technology as a tool is where the technology helps you complete a task, or guides you through a process (eg a wizard)
Technology as persuasive media allows the simulation of activities, explore cause & effect, explore potential outcomes and motivate via experiences.
Technology as social actor considers human relationship behaviours and how these can be employed or translated online. Modelling target behaviours, providing social support etc.

Fogg goes through each of these in quite a lot of depth pulling out some really interesting research.

Everyone agreed that the section on Technology as Social Actors was the most interesting (if not the most easily applicable).

An example of some of the most interesting research were the effects of similarity and of reciprocity.

in the affiliation study:
- participants were given a problem to solve and the computer was either a 'teammate' or it was given no label
- interaction was identical for all participants
- the 'teamed' participants considere theh computer was more similar to them, smarter and offered better information.

in the reciprocity study
- participants had to complete a task
- half the time the computer was 'helpful' the other half, 'not helpful'
- subsequently the participants were asked to do some work to help the computer improve it's functions
- those who worked with a 'helpful computer' performed almost twice as much work as did the other participants.

Fogg goes on to speak about Credibility and how to attain it - this is the most practical 'how-to' part of the book, and the most widely known.

His final two chapters discuss mobile technologies & the ethics of persuasive technology.

The term 'Captology' was roundly dismissed as a bit rubbish, and doesn't really seem to have been taken up by the community.

The idea of identifying which role your project was trying to fulfill (eg, change behaviour or initiate action) and then considering which aspects of the functional triad elements are most appropriate for the project (tool/media/social actor) was considered considered a useful tool.

The chapter on credibility was seen to be a bit less interesting, although great for clients.

The use of the book as a tool for selling ideas was discussed.

We all agreed that if it was written now, some 5 years later it would be far more weighted towards the chapters at the back - ie, the mobile & social side of computing.

There was lots more by my brain can't recall it all.

Anyway it was good, if anyone has any more comments about the book then you should continue the discussion below.

details of the next book club to follow...

Book loans
I have 2 copies available for loan if you want them, i'll post them to you, the only requirement is that you write a short (500 word) review of what you thought about it. the first review is below, from Annie Drynan at agency (thanks annie)

1 comment:

David Carruthers said...

This was the review of one of the 2 loan copies. It's by Annie Drynan. Cheers Annie.

Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do
Publisher: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers Inc,US (31 Dec 2002)
B J Fogg

This is a book about “captology”: an acronym for the phrase “computers as persuasive technologies” – focusing on design, research, and analysis of interactive computing products created for the purpose of changing people’s attitudes or behaviour”.

It takes an interesting look at the issues: in particular computers as persuasive tools. A big part of the book looks at the areas of medicine and the environment: tools and programs that persuade people to live healthier lifestyles (for example giving up smoking, taking more exercise) and driving in a more environmentally friendly way. Although these are worthy pursuits, I’m surprised the book doesn’t look in more detail at commercial persuasion: not just in crude advertising messages, or in making a newly downloaded piece of software the default for a particular task, but in more hidden ways. In fact, isn’t a smooth, easy, and intuitive user journey meant to be a persuasive one?

One area that isn’t covered much is social networking, and I suspect that if the book was written today this area would feature. As Fogg says, “People we think are similar to us (in personality, preferences, and other attributes) can motivate and persuade us more easily that people who are not similar to us.” I think this partly explains why user-generated content is considered so compelling. So instead of just looking at computers as anonymous personas persuading changed behaviour, we should look at the scope of using computers as a way of broadcasting reported opinions and behaviours of real people to influence others. Surely this is better than trying to give computers, software, or websites a mock personality? I think that LinkedIn is a persuasive tool: we can form an opinion of other people based on what they say about themselves, who they know, and what other say about them.

The chapters I found most interesting are the ones looking at credibility and ethics, and credibility of websites in particular. The research into what brings credibility: how trustworthiness and expertise are shown and believed, is interesting: nothing very startling (people dislike popup ads, but like to see a company’s physical address and a contact number for customer service) but it is good to see it in the form of research results. The last research was done in 2002 – it would be interesting to see if the factors that people say make a site more or less credible are the same today. Where might the differences be? One area that might be interesting is research into people’s response to user generated content. What makes someone believe a hotel review written by a stranger? How do we improve the quality of such recommendations to make them believable?

The book ends with some predictions. One idea that intrigues me is the emphasis on influence strategies. Again, there is a commercial side to this. How do we ensure that we produce powerful, satisfying, and compelling journeys that don’t irritate our users by being perceived as unduly coercive?

Annie Drynan 07.02.07