MiniBar London (People will share if you let them)

I like this idea. It’s like a short, sharp, Friday evening version of BarCamp with beer.

Well, actually it’s nothing much like BarCamp at all except I imagine a bunch of the same people turn up and more who aren’t so interested to invest a weekend in it. Oh, and who like free beer :)

Here’s how they describe it:

For those who don’t have time to attend a full BarCamp, some of us have come up with MiniBar, a chance to snaffle some free beer while discussing p2p, Creative Commons, web applications, social networking and general Web 2.0 mayhem & fandango.

Despite the pouring rain, MiniBar was very well attended and perhaps because they all knew that John Buckman had a pretty interesting presentation up his sleeve. Or for free beer.
But first, two things that bugged me about MiniBar:

  • Microphone please! The presentation was in a large space, the rain was noisy, and it was really, REALLY hard to hear John speak because there was no microphone! (no, I’m serious). This is a shame, because what I heard of his talk was really interesting.
  • The Very Situated Social Tagging System: this turned out to be stickers that you stuck on your name tag. Very lame. Tagging is part of the BarCamp thing, but can we do something much cooler for next MiniBar please?Like, let people make their own tags and then we can collect all the tags and look at the patterns?Tags are kind of interesting when you see them applied to a single object/person, but they’re not really tags if they’re predefined, and they can be so more interesting when you see them applied to a group, or segments of a group! There are a dozen great ways we could do this without spending too much time or money. Can we do this again but better?

OK. Back to John.

John was essentially telling us about two of his businesses, BookMooch (a site where you can swap your used books for other people’s used books, using the BookMooch economy of points for books swapped) and MagnaTune (a virtual music label where musicians can sell/license their music. It’s also well used for music licensing for films, MP3 players in cars(!), and more) and a little about Creative Commons.

The moral of the story for me was that John could show through these examples that given the opportunity, the incentive and the right environment, people are likely to act generously and to pay for content they value, even if they could get it more cheaply or free for the same effort.

OK. Perhaps that doesn’t sound particularly new or interesting… it’s the last bit – the bit about getting it for free or more cheaply for the SAME EFFORT that I think it interesting.

Check out the PDF download of Johns presentation for more details (you can pretty much make out what he was saying from his slides, which is just as well given the accoustics on the night!)

The next MiniBar is apparently on 15 December and that presentation will be from the Tape It Off The Internet guys apparently… should be very interesting!

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Image Credit: Gareth Rodger @ Flickr

Fun & Games (and a new superhero!) for World Usability Day!

Usability Man

There’s some cool stuff going on now for World Usability Day 2006 (14 November). In London today we’re particularly honoured to have Usability Man (pictured in action above) helping us out with our mission to identify good and bad usability throughout London. Read more about him on the MakingLifeEasy website, and check out the Flickr Group where he’ll be sending photos live from the streets from about 3pm local time.

On a slightly less frenzied note, you can also participate in the Worlds Largest Cardsort. It’s online now so go, signup and try a sort.

Cardsorting is a tool that lots of Information Architects like to use to help them devise effective and usable website structures and terminology, but you don’t need to be an Information Architect to contribute. It’s dead easy and quite an interesting process.

There are loads of other activities happening all over the world. Even if you can’t participate, take a bit of time today to think about how good design DOES make your life easier through good usability, and how bad or thoughtless design makes your life unnecessarily difficult or even dangerous.

Usability. It might be a notoriously geeky thing to be interested in. But if you’re interested in usability, you’re interested in making life better for everyone. And that’s pretty special.

Happy World Usability Day!