a lovingly detailed virtual flower delivery service. As with online greeting card services, users are encouraged to send greetings to their loved ones. However, instead of sending a card, the person sends a one-of-a-kind bouquet of flowers that the recipient can keep “alive” through attentive care.In essence, when you send someone flowers through the site, that person can create a greenhouse account where she will see all of the flowers she has been sent. To keep the flowers looking nice and fresh you have to water them every once in awhile. This is a form of degradation in the virtual goods delivered in this site. It marks the passage of time, and is an indication for the user (and the company) of how often the site is used. Back at the radar post, Hedlund said:
I wrote an article at the time called "A well-worn staircase" about how the virtual world was missing some of the signals the real world gives us about how many people have been somewhere or used something before us: stairs that have been worn down by years of use, books with dog-eared pages and coffee stains, that sort of thing. The only way a newcomer to the Star Wars site would know someone else had been there was if the site was slow.
My friend Ben Olander later used a similar idea on the Pleasantville movie site -- like the movie, the Pleasantville site switched from black and white to color images the more you used it.
I always wanted to do something similar, but had thought of a site in slight different terms. In my idea a sight would stay clean and spiffy the more it was visited. Kind of like a metal railing on a stair case is always well polished.
So my idea for virtual degradation was to add dust, cob webs, and small graphical signs of disuses gradually the longer a page in a site was quiet. So, over time, the page would start to break down, fall apart, and give the visitor a visual indication that it was no longer being maintained.
I'd love to see more work done in this area, I think that the web increasingly needs better metaphors for freshness and well worn paths.