Mobile phone enables real-time feedback from the users and enables him to live in the moment. When you are surfing the Web with a stationary PC at home, you are either accessing information about some past events, or some real-time information about some event a distance away. In contrast, with mobile phone you can take part in the event, capture it, provide comments and share all this with others. Mobile phone therefore provides richer social interaction. The core of mobility is not movement but context. Adding context-awareness to services brings about complexity, but at the same time lots and lots of possibilities.
In a previous post, I had written about a few mobile social networking scenarios. Now before we go designing something, it’s important to understand the user needs that the product will satisfy. Here I want to put forth my take on what user needs I felt a mobile social network can satisfy based on which I created those scenarios.
- Get updates on what’s going on with my social circle whenever I have time or feel the need to check on them.
- Conversation is what the whole deal is about. It’s easy to see who’s available to chat right now and a conversation can be started anytime/anywhere.
- Transmit my location to let others know where I am at the moment so they can interact with me based on that
- Find out if there are any friends near my location.
This would be better executed with a map as user gets a visual reference of proximity of his friends, and can figure out exactly where all of them are easily in reference to his own location, much more powerful than say 10 street addresses. Narrowing down or expanding the field is useful if to get him those friends in range with whom he can interact with at that moment
- Instantly share my thoughts or pics/videos with my social circle and get instant feedback from those who may be tuned in.
- I’m at a location and curious about what others have done at or said about this location, phone can bring up photos, videos of the location and comments entered for the location
- As the number of friends increase, the noise level increases and it’s very tiresome to sort through them on a mobile. If there’s a person or group that user is most interested in at any time, he shouldn’t have to parse through the entire feed, he should be able to get updates just from that person or group.
- All said and done, privacy is a big concern. There are some things I can share with all my friends, others I only want to share with close friends and some I want to share only with family. These concerns must be addressed and user should be put in total control of his privacy settings.
- For a mobile social network to be of any use to me, it must work on my friend’s phones as well.
I feel a mobile social network is best implemented when integrated with the Phonebook. See Finally… Phonebook gets social for why I think so and advances being made on this front.