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Later Button poster at iConference 2009

Two weeks ago the 2009 iConference was held at the Friday Center here in Chapel Hill, NC. There were lots of great posters and papers and hallway discussions.

Jacob and I presented our poster and have since posted it online over at dlist.

We ran a Mechanical Turk study with over 2000 responses to help determine whether people would be willing to share their stuff more after some time had passed.

This study investigates users’ willingness to disclose information with respect to how long ago that information may have been created or captured. Users were more willing to share items as time passed.

Potentially, a “Later Button” should be put into practice to address this latent willingness (40% of sharing scenarios) to disclose information at a later date.



The most striking outcome of this research is the apparent willingness of over 40% of people to share these types of information with others “later”, across demographics, the intimacy level of the item itself, and the perceived audience. This suggests a gaping disservice on the part of current tools.

Tools like Twitter and Facebook should consider an interface control that allows their users to designate the sharing of items “later”. The more granular data from this study (dividing “later” into more discrete chunks of time) suggests a strong default for this control to be set at “one month” of elapsed time between the creation/capture of an information item and its availability to the designated audience.

The apparent collapse of nuance between “inner” and “outer” audience and between “very” and “somewhat” intimate items suggests a flattening of how we understand and relate to our information sharing and our perceived audiences.

Are Facebook and/or Twitter to blame for this apparent flattening of our friendscape? Are all our friends equal when it comes to the mediated sharing of personal information?

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  1. Rowan Nairn | February 24, 2009 at 2:22 am | Permalink

    What? I don’t get it. You asked “How long ago must your photo have been taken before you are comfortable sharing it?” and people mostly said a month?? Why? What is the motivation for waiting a month? Am I missing something?

  2. Terrell Russell | February 24, 2009 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    No, they didn’t mostly say a month. “One Month” was the max elbow of the data that didn’t consist of “Now” and “Never”. “One Month” was only part of the “Later” collapsed category.

    We’re currently planning a follow-up to help validate some of this and tease out a little more detail. We didn’t ask “Why”, so we don’t have that answer yet.

    I think the motivation for answering ‘later’ is explained in part by the fact that these shared items have context and meaning that are diluted as time goes by. But if shared “immediately”, they may mean quite a bit more to particular audience members and to the person themselves.

    Perhaps something akin to “that’s who I was, not who I am”.