Little House on the Noosphere

The Rise of the Web √ Tick

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As a user of the social web, you know about feeds and friending and following. You may even be familiar with bacn and toast.

But have you taken note of the lowly web tick — appearing in ever-more web interfaces?

You’ve surely used a tick — perhaps already several times today.

The like is a tick. But before the like, many flags were also ticks, as well. The single-star-to-favorite and the insta-follow are ticks, as are the upvote and downvote on social news sites.

One-click-ordering was almost, but not quite, a tick. If retweet skipped the confirmation dialog, it would be a tick, too.

The tick is a special kind of click — a click which takes immediate effect, with visual confirmation but no (perceivable) page reload. No confirmation or continuation is necessary to complete its action.

That action has a persistent influence on future attention: of the user, their associates, site admins, or the entire audience of the site.

The like is advertised to friends, other likers, and even (at the very least through the grand total) complete strangers. The flag highlights content to site admins – or even triggers automatic censorship. The upvote or downvote changes the prominence of articles and comments to a larger audience. The follow may immediately notify the target or peers, and means a new inflow of chosen content, in perpetuity — until a later unfollow tick.

A tick is thus the smallest, easiest gesture that can contribute to larger attention cascades. An interface that uses a tick properly is like a lever with a well-placed fulcrum, turning a tiny initial force — an almost effortless twitch, even — into a larger effect on a wider audience.

Ticktrails are as meaningful on the Likernet as outlinks and clicktrails are on the Internet — an essential part of digital stigmergy. Facebook and Twitter may soon make most of their money from pay-per-tick offerings.

Are your favorite projects and sites using ticks where they need an attention force multiplier?


Written by gojomo

2010-10-17 at 12:02

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