How to pick friends

myfolks selector

Imagine, you’re back from a trip abroad and want to tell your friends about all the fascinating experiences that you have made (And you either don’t have a blog for that purpose or don’t want to publish it publicly). Usually, that means you have to go through your entire address book and select the appropriate persons. However, if your computer knew about your relationships it could help you a lot with this task.

How could an interface for this case look like? Here are some propositions (and some problems to discuss!).

A basic consideration at the beginning: Your computer could do most of the selections on its own. But having a visual representation offers the possibilty to show the “excluded people” somewhere at the borders. Thus, you can pick some special recipients manually or de-select those that you don’t want to inform this time.

buddyfinder mini circle
The most natural visualisation seems to be a “circle of friends”. The closer to the center the higher the relevance of this person for you (note: I used the images of friends for my studies but I distributed them randomly. Their (your!) position might not represent our actual relationship).

buddyfinder mini circle
You can select some basic tags (“private” means your relation has no “professional” character) and adjust the level of relevance that seems appropriate for your letter.
Problem: the circle needs the most space of all visualisations.

buddyfinder mini crowd
A variation to the circle is the “crowd” which is more compact because it does not map the distance from the center strictly to relevance. Which is ok as this infromation can be found in the size of the “bubbles”, too.

buddyfinder mini crowd selection
All bubbles that match the criteria will aggregate in the middle, surrounded by those that match only some and surrounded again by the rest of your contacts.
Problem: defining the limit for relevance from within the visualisation (“direct manipulation”) seems to be difficult.

buddyfinder mini halfcircle
Positioning in “parliament style” takes up less space.
Problem: Very little space in the center, lots of space at the edges. It becomes difficult to map any value (e.g. “silence since last conversation”) to the angle as near the center real estate becomes scarce.

buddyfinder mini rectangle selection
Your audience?

buddyfinder mini rectangle
A group photo delivers another metaphor. Biggest advantage: It fits well into rectangular (computer/mobile device) screens and appropriate windows. But it appears least poetic to me, too…

buddyfinder mini rectangle selection
Nice thing about the rectangular display: If you are running out of space you can place the less necessary persons (here at the left hand side) outside the display window while preserving access to them through some kind of scrolling mechanism.

2 Responses to How to pick friends

  1. Hannes:

    edit: My first version was based on a scenario with inviting your friends to a party. Larissa made me aware of some difficulties with this background: sometimes members of different groups can’t stand one another, so you will try to keep them separated and invite only one of them.
    To be aware of these interdependencies can be quite helpful, however, and the computer can help with this task, too. Jeff Potter (and danah boyd) show it with their buddy graph. But that’s another story (with complicated visualisations coming along)…

  2. Larissa:

    I can perfectly imagine myself in this scenario, now. 🙂