Sweet and Salty

Fact: I love to receive feedback on the things I write and share.
Fact: Most of the time I’m too lazy to give feedback to others.

You don’t have to admit it right now, but I get the sense that I’m not alone in this. Social media (blogs, twitter, facebook, et al) is about connecting with people and sharing things. Lots of people are doing it, so there are a lot of things competing for attention.

When we get feedback in the form of comments, mentions, or re-tweets, it’s like the hearing someone say, “Of all the cools things Ive seen today, this is something I felt strongly enough to spend extra time thinking about.” And if a lengthy discussion is started based on something you posted? Well, that’s awesome and you’re more likely to feel the benefit of contributing content to the Internet.

Content and feedback are the sweet and salty of the Internet. One makes you crave the other. You return again and again to sites and experiences that help you get your fix. Unfortunately, most to the time there is way more content than feedback. Too much sweet with not enough salty is okay for a while, but eventually you want a more balanced palate.

Yesterday, I wrote about how interaction designers can influence, but not control the actions of users.  In a control-based model, you could restrict users from posting content until they had first provided feedback to others. I’ve seen this on some message boards and it absolutely sucks.  In an influence-based model, you try to make it as easy as possible for people to provide feedback.

Lately, it has become so easy that even a lazy person like me does it regularly.

MySpace has Kudos, a one-click way of saying, “Good for you.”

Facebook has Like, a one-click way of saying, “I like what you posted.”

If you click  “Like,” you can leave it at that or comment easily, but most don’t comment.

StumbleUpon suggests content to users. Users register their interests and new sites are suggested to them based on a simple Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down. Many of you are reading this now because of StumbleUpon according to statcounter. Like Digg and similar sites, the more people like something, the people it gets shown to.

I could go crazy with screenshots (Macs make it so simple), but you get the point. It’s nice to be liked, but when you’re on the receiving end, it’s not quite like receiving a full-fledged review or comment.

Yelp does it differently and I love them for it.

Let’s say you read a review of  a restaurant and you like the review. With one click you can simply say three things: the review was useful, funny, or cool

That’s nice, but they take it a step futher. With another click, you can give someone a compliment. Who doesn’t like compliments?

There are many compliment options which turns this from a simple, “I like this review,” to a “I like you.” It’s so much more fulfilling for the reviewer to get that kind of information. The text in the box below the radio buttons is provided for users. It’s funny on its own or you can change it.

After you compliment someone, they see it on their homepage.

Yelp’s business model relies on it’s users posting new and interesting content on it’s site. It’s no wonder they have evolved to encourage a more robust interaction among their users. Comments and discussions are still the most valuable feedback around, but Yelp’s compliment system recognizes and respects the how the attention economy works.

Now a poll. Bring on the salty ;)

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