Across my career, I have pursued a passion for helping people connect and build community through technology. I have over ten years experience creating and studying social technologies as an industry researcher. I received my Ph.D. in Social Psychology at the University of Washington in 1999, and then spent seven years prototyping and evaluating social technologies at Microsoft Research. In 2006 I started consulting for numerous startups including Zillow, Trusera, Strands, Microsoft, and O’Reilly as a part of my own company Waggle Labs. As a consultant I guided innovation groups through the process of incorporating theory, research, and best practices into the design and/or evaluation of their social technologies.
In 2007 I co-founded Pathable (spun out of Waggle Labs), an online social networking system for helping people meet at events. I played a lead role in designing the social experience and recommendation system of Pathable. In 2009, I left the consulting world to join Yahoo! as a researcher in social media, sitting with the communities and communications teams (primarily Yahoo! Groups and Yahoo! Mail). See my full CV for work history, publications and patents. On a more personal note, I have always been an active community organizer, especially in the areas of collaborative art and technology. See http://shellyfarnham.com for my art portfolio.
I have participated in the development of many social technologies, playing a lead role in all phases of project development including brainstorming, design, implementation, and evaluation. My prototyping projects have explored the use of social technologies for social networking — e.g. Pathable and Wallop – for mobile social coordination — e.g. Swarm and Slam — and for community development, e.g. CoCollage. I have a strong quantitative background with an expertise in operationalizing social constructs from interaction behavior, and many of my prototyping projects involved analyzing users’ behavior to infer social groups and social relationships (e.g. Personal Map and Point-to-Point). As an R&D consultant, I have applied my expertise to help startups consider theory, research and best practices when building social features into their technologies. Across many of these projects I performed user research, including usage analysis, questionnaire studies, and interviews, to help understand and improve the technology, in addition to developing my own proof-of-concept prototypes. A brief summary of various projects (including prototyping, studies, and consulting) is below. See my full CV for a list of papers and patents.
MyTwee (2008-current): MyTwee is an online, interactive painting and lightweight social game that encourages people to make the world a greener place through their tweets. MyTwee is a work in progress. Try MyTwee at http://mytwee.com.
Pathable (2007-2008): Pathable creates on-line communities for conferences and events. Attendees complete short profiles, including a photo and interests, and then use the system’s recommendations and forums to meet and start conversations. Pathable was initiated as a part of Waggle Labs in collaboration with Peter Brown and Jordan Schwartz, then spun out as its own company.
CoCollage (2008): CoCollage is a digital community collage for cafés and other shared places, designed to help cafe owners build community in their cafes. It includes a large community display in the coffee shop and an online component for media sharing and conversation. CoCollage was completed in collaboration with Joe McCarthy and the Seattle Strands innovation team.
Facebook Analysis (2008): For a O’Reilly Radar report I performed an in depth, large scale analysis of the Facebook application ecosystem to examine social goals met by facebook applications, and why some thrived by leveraging the sharing features of Facebooks while others did not.
Teen Panels (2006, 2008). Worked with faculty from Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences to have students complete a “Powerpoint Diary”, documenting their use of technology over the course of the week. Out of the larger group, five students were selected to present the results of their diary to senior Microsoft executives, and twice at the Social Computing Symposium.
Trusera (2006, 2007): Trusera is a health networking startup focused on helping people with help issues find each other and give each other support. I consulted with Trusera at the very early phases of their product development to help them incorporate theory, research and best practices into the design of their system. As a part of this project I provided basic design specs for architecture of a niche social network.
Zillow (2006): Zillow is an online site that provides valuation of real estate. I worked with members of different teams of Zillow to consider theory and best practices that should influence the design of their social systems, and how to leverage their existing social data to foster communities around real estate.
RealityAllStarz (2006): RealityAllStarz is an online social networking game, where people play the game of life and get points for their accomplishments. People challenge each other to accomplish life adventures, post proof of having completed challenges, and then earn points from their friends’ votes. Completed in collaboration with Peter Brown as a part of Waggle Labs.
Groove Analysis for Disaster Relief (2005): I performed an in depth analysis of the communication challenges faced by relief workers in a distaster zone (following hurricane Katrina), and how relief workers might better use Groove, a peer-to-peer collaboration technology, to solve problems across orgnaizations.
Slam (2004-2005): At a time when we were only beginning to conceive of rich social applications for mobile devices, we created a group communication and media sharing application for the smartphone, with associated online web sharing and browsing. In collaboration with Scott Counts and Jordan Schwartz while at Microsoft Research (MSR).
Swarm (2004): To enable light-weight ad-hoc social groups, we implemented a group-based SMS system for social coordination. Completed in collaboration with Pedram Keyani (at MSR).
Wallop (2003-2004): We created a social network for sharing media and building conversations in the context of implicit social network, bootstrapped from interaction behavior. This project was completed in collaboration with Sean Kelly and Will Portnoy (at MSR), and was then spun out into its own startup by Sean Kelly.
Point to Point (2002): This application showed overlapping social networks in a work environment based on communication groups. The network was used to facilitate communities of practice seeking knowledge information. Completed in collaboration with Will Portnoy (at MSR).
Inner Circle (2003): A file sharing and person centric email client. A project completed in collaboration with Andrzej Turski, Lili Cheng, and Susan Yee (at MSR).
Personal Map (2002-2003): With this project, we created and visualized implicit personal social networks, inferred from social networking behavior. Completed in collaboration with Will Portnoy (at MSR).
MSR Connections (2002-2003): Profiles were placed in the context of social network in the work environment, based on communication groups and projects. In collaboration with Will Portnoy and Andrzej Turski (at MSR). Related project was bootstrapping entire corporate social network from mailing list data.
Online Lab (2000): Created a tool for hosting studies and questionnaires online (at MSR).
Shared Browsing (2000): Explored several user interfaces for improving social presence in shared browsing tasks. In collaboration with Lili Cheng (at MSR).
HutchWorld (1999-2000): Providing social support through virtual environments. In collaboration with Melora Zaner Godsey, Lili Cheng, Linda Stone (at MSR).