Talk outline: VTM web design conference next week

Things have been quiet – I just finished writing the final drafts for my book. Big deadline over, so I’ll be blogging a lot over the next few months, introducing some ideas from the book.

Next week I’m excited to speak at the VTM web design conference. Here is an outline of my talk. What parts interest you the most? What would you like to hear me write more about on this blog?

The web of people
The web is undergoing a fundamental change from a web of documents to a web of people. This change is not being driven by new technologies, but by human behavior that is thousands of years old.

How people are connected
People’s social networks have complex structures. Many interconnected people and groups means millions of people are linked through a small number of connections. But it’s important not to confuse possibility with reality. Most people communicate regularly with less than 15 people.

How people relate to each other
People have different types of relationships and rely on some people for very different things than other people. We have three types of ties: Strong ties are the people we care about most. Weak ties are people we don’t know very well. Temporary ties are people we interact with temporarily.

How people interact with each other
People choose different communication channels depending on whether they need to communicate with one person, a few people, or many people. Despite the rise of online social networks, voice calls and text messages dominate people’s communication habits. Email also remains very important. The majority of communication instances happen with a small number of strong ties.

How people influence each other
Our access to information is increasing but our capacity for memory remains the same. So when considering whether something is useful and valuable for us, we rely on others. We place much higher trust in strong ties and in people who share our lifestyle than in celebrities, bloggers, or hipsters. The common ways companies use to target influential people are oversimplified. To measure influence, it’s just as important to measure how influenceable someone is as how influential someone is.

How people display themselves to others
Our identities are not only crafted by us, but also shaped by our connections and environments. We use everyday conversation, including status updates on social networks, to continually shape and refine our identity. Our identities help us recognize common ground for interacting with others, and to judge whether we should trust someone we don’t know. People need to display different facets of their identity to the different groups in their life.

How people manage who sees their personal information
Privacy is about controlling what other people know about us. When we give away personal information, we expect it to stay within a certain boundary and not be publicized. People, young and old, care deeply about their privacy. However, they often misunderstand privacy settings, and underestimate the size of their audience, leading to a perception that they care less about their privacy than they used to.

How interactions on the web are changing
The next stage of the web won’t have destinations, it will be a distributed network of content and people that will get reassembled depending on context and relationships. The increase in people interactions on the web will mean that building and managing communities will be important for responding to customer suggestions, queries, and complaints. Communities will need to be embedded in consumer experiences and not built at a new destination.


  1. Hey Paul,
    Not listed here, but I’d love to hear what you have learned about how major life events trigger online activity.

    e.g. How does my social graph change when I change jobs
    What are the online implications of a break-up? A birth/death/marriage/divorce etc?

    It’s one thing I see a lot; people don’t refer to their break up but do change their “in a relationship” status. Events like births and birthday spawn pseudo-personal congratulations from Facebook friends and friends-of-friends that I barely know.

    It’s an area I find fascinating, and if you’ve any thoughts I’d love to hear them.


  2. On the question of “How people relate to each other?”

    I would be interested in hearing about activity based relationships and messaging based relationships. I think having social network around activities, is more interesting and sustainable than just a social network.

    Another topic which would be interesting is the impact of geographical distance between people on an online social network. My hypothesis is that people who are geographically near, communicate more online, than people who are father away.

  3. Thanks for this fabulous roadmap for making the web more congruent with how we are wired as human beings. While design can play a huge part in creating this congruency, the end user can manage better if they know what’s really happening when they post that status update or friend someone who is a temporary tie.

    I’m looking forward to reading your upcoming book.

  4. [...] ortaya koyuyor. Bu iki gelişmeden ilki daha önce de sosyal web konusunda fikirlerini paylaşan Google’ın araştırma ekibinden Paul Adams’ın konuyla ilgili (bu yazının en altında [...]

  5. [...] ortaya koyuyor. Bu iki gelişmeden ilki daha önce de sosyal web konusunda fikirlerini paylaşan Google’ın araştırma ekibinden Paul Adams’ın konuyla ilgili (bu yazının en altında [...]

  6. The slideshare version of the above talks about trust and privacy going hand in hand. I am not so sure. Some (cf naturists) have a zeroth approach to privacy but this does mean that they are untrustworthy. Trust is obviously not a one dimensional object; over time trust develops in a relationship. If this trust is misfounded it could be said to be due to a perverted level of privacy on the part of one of the participants but normally two people will develop trust despite skeletons in closets because humans need to believe in something. So you could adhere to the Google religion or be an early adopting apple person or ….

  7. Hi Paul! My friend Carol Ross recommended your SlideShare and your post. Glad she did! Wow! You’ve certainly provided food for thought. I’m convinced of the power of social media for enriching our lives. Still, I do think we need to look more closely at the alignment of our social lives – on line and off! You’ve already provided great perspectives on that! Look forward to your book!

  8. [...] ortaya koyuyor. Bu iki gelişmeden ilki daha önce de sosyal web konusunda fikirlerini paylaşan Google’ın araştırma ekibinden Paul Adams’ın konuyla ilgili (bu yazının en altında [...]

  9. I have been using my real personal privacy on all of my websites and blog but I have the feeling that it is un-secure practice.

  10. Oh my goodness! a tremendous article dude. Thank you However I am experiencing problem with ur rss . Don’t know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anybody getting similar rss drawback? Anybody who is aware of kindly respond. Thnkx