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Technology does not have to be boring to be social; it needs to be invisible

iStock_000004190374XSmall.jpgI was reading my feeds this morning and came across this post from Simon Collister at his excellent blog, Simonsays. In the post, he quoted a new book by Clay Shirky titled "Here comes everybody".

"Communication tools don't get socially interesting until they get technologically boring. The invention of a tool doesn't create change: it has to have been round long enough that most of society is using it."

I have to wholeheartedly disagree with this quote and here is why. Technology that enables social interaction doesn't have to be boring to be great, it has to be invisible.

Here is my comment from his blog:

Simon -- I take exception to this point. Technology doesn't have to be boring to be social, it needs to be invisible. The less we perceive the technology behind the services we're using the more adoption will take place. Our goal as marketers is not to use boring technology, but to make the technology work so well with our campaigns that the end user doesn't notice them.

There is a *lot* of non-boring, very complex technology behind sites like Amazon and Facebook. The reason that they excel is that the user experience is where they put their focus. As a user it makes sense to just use the site and the technology gets out of the way.

WAY too often marketers use technology as a scapegoat for poor user interface and interaction design. The goal for any marketing campaign should be to do something great that your target audience can use so that it "just works". The technology doesn't need to be boring, far from it. The technology can be mind blowing and earth shattering as long as the user can interact with it and not even notice it.

The technology behind sites like Utterz is a good example. Utterz has some very exciting technology behind it, but to the user it's all easy. Want to create a podcast? Dial a phone number and leave a voicemail. Look at the social recommendation on Amazon.com. That's millions of dollars of technology investment done so well that you think it's boring.

Here is a diagram of what I mean charting your awareness of technology and the level of technological complication/coolness/cutting-edgeness (I don't think those are real words).

technology_awareness.png

So what do you think? Does technology have to be boring to be social or does it just need to be used correctly? I'm very interested to hear your thoughts.


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