I’m Hang and I’m the founder of Bumblebee Labs. I grew up in a family of computer science academics and somehow, I absorbed the idea that that was what I was going to become. I entered into college with a burning love for computers and a macho desire to solve hard problems, the more technical the better. Over the years, that desire to solve hard problems has stayed with me, but without even noticing it, I started to drift towards the softer side of the spectrum: studying people rather than machines. Psychology, Economics, Politics, History & Linguistics were all fascinating to me, and I became interested in how technology could be used to impact people’s lives.
My path through graduate school was marked by puzzlement, more than anything else. I wanted to understand how to build “social” software and what theories and guidelines could be used to design the social interactions and nuances of this ever increasingly important communications channel. What does it mean to “friend” someone on facebook, and how did the design decisions that went into that impact that meaning? Should we support the everyday white lies that people use to smooth over their social interaction? If so, how? What new forms of social awkwardness are these tools creating and is there a smarter way to design them to avoid it? All of these seemed like obvious questions to me, and I was content to contribute to the surely mountainous stacks of existing literature on these very fundamental questions… until I went searching for that mountainous stack.
In one corner was a big group of communication scholars who were doing a masterful job documenting the impact that technology is having on society, and in the other was a big group of Human Computer Interaction scholars talking about how to design computer interfaces to be efficient and usable – but there was virtually no one at all talking about the design of the social aspects of our tools! Quite frankly, nobody really knows at this point what the hell we’re really doing when we unleash these massively transformative tools into the world. We’re making a series of blind stabs in the dark and hoping that whatever current bits of ad-hoc theory we have is enough to ensure success.
This has been the motivation for starting Bumblebee Labs. It got to the point where the only way for me to really understand how to build social software is to roll up my sleeves and build social software: to use everything I’ve been thinking about and figuring out in the pursuit of better tools and better interaction through deliberate design. Lets see how this will work out…