Weekend Inspiration: Making the Web More Emotional

August 12, 2012

10:00 am

“Facebook is to me very communist.”

“You can have any color you want as long as it’s blue, any design you want as long as it’s square. You can have any font you want as long as it’s Times New Roman or Helvetica…. And you’re actually even a little bit concerned what it’s doing with your stuff.”

For Benjamin Joffe, a Frenchman living in Malaysia, the Western web is pretty dull and corporate. So he’s out to create a site called DayDeed that will have personality, stir up positive emotions, and make people smile.

It all centers around our needs: to get some business advice, make a friend, or just find a nice spa. You post your need to DayDeed, take a deep breath in and out, and wait for it to be fulfilled. Compared to sending a message or posting an update on the cold blue pages of Facebook, it puts less pressure on your friends and reaches a wider network. And the trick is that you’re limited to three needs at a time, warding off frivolous requests.

“It’s kind of slow social networking,” says Joffe.

A popular tech speaker and 12-year resident of Asia, Joffe was inspired by some Asian products. Cyworld, Korea’s social network, is very personal and emotional: you can change the design, font, and icons on your profile. And so are Japanese comics: rather than the bang-bang-bang of dialogue in every scene, you might have one or two frames with no text: the rain pattering down outside a home, and shivering pedestrians waiting for the bus.

Joffe adds that the Japanese are good with silence; it’s meaningful, rather than empty. In fact, he made his point by pausing for a full 7 seconds during our interview. (Making my Western self feel awkward, clearly.)

“The entrepreneurs in the West in the tech space tend to be engineers; they’re not very good with emotions,” he says.

To get at those emotions, you have to go deeper than the constant, streaming chatter on sites like Twitter. Sometimes it’s hard to do because we don’t share our needs and feelings with others. We don’t think they can or want to help us, when in reality they do.

“I thought, How could we get deeper into the more real concerns, real problems, real thoughts?” says Joffe. “Maybe not so deep as the existential sort like ‘What is being a human? What is life?’ but somewhere below the surface where there’s actually stronger currents, stronger ideas, and less noise.”

Update: Joffe has put DayDeed on hold and is investing in 500 Startups companies, but he still believes in the power of the “emotional web.” 

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact [email protected]

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