Past Tech and Consulting Projects

At Third Place Technologies, we had a long history of bringing our expertise in creative collaboration, community development, and social technology research, theory, and best practices to the design, development, and evaluation of both real-world communities and online social technologies. Our drive was to have a real world impact on people’s lives, bringing over 30 years’ combined experience as innovation researchers, technologists, and designers, working with world class industry, government, and startup organizations, including Microsoft Research, Yahoo!, the City of Seattle, O’Reilly Media, Path, and Zillow. Our areas of expertise include creative collaboration, civic technology, social media, online community tools, social networks, identity management, social engagement, mobile social, and social data.  In 2019 we decided to focus exclusively on the development of creative communities, vs. communities more broadly, and have expired some of these activities.

Consulting Services


Community and User Research

  • Surveys
  • Intervies
  • Field Studies
  • Lab Studies
  • Focus Groups


Social Data Analytics

  • Usage Analysis
  • Statistics
  • Instrumentation
  • Data Mining
  • Data Curation



  • Proof-of-Concept
  • Web User Interfaces
  • Algorithms
  • Back-end Databases
  • .Net/Javascript/SQL


Knowledge Sharing

  • Lectures
  • Workshops
  • Publications
  • Conferences/Events
  • Mentorship

Past Projects by our Principal Investigators




Spokin was an online web site with community-curated networking, allowing you to connect with your local communities — your neighborhood, city, or nearby interest groups — so you can work together to get things done.  We expired Spokin in 2018 to shift our focus to collaboration spaces and events.

The Data is In: How to Improve your Neighborhood Community’s Wellbeing (Ignite Talk)


As a citizen, a community organizer, or a local business, what can you do to improve the wellbeing of your neighborhood community? This talk outlines the most impactful ways to improve your neighborhood based on our years of research.  See youtube video here.

Community Well-being Report Pages Using Open Data and Social Media

As a part of the Data Science for Social Good summer incubator program at the UW eScience Institute,  we created neighborhood community report pages in the context of our hyperlocal, crowd-sourced community network (Spokin). A key aspect of this project was to explore novel ways to leverage diverse social media and open data sources to dynamically assess community-level well-being.


Analyzing Social Media Data: Tools and Tips

Lecture / Course
The goal of this lecture was to provide practical tips for collecting and analyzing social media data. We originally developed this lecture/course for CHI 2013, and have subsequently given it as an invited speaker to a number of programs (including University of Washington, Syracuse, and University of Michigan).
See slides.


Fostering a Community of Innovation at the Intersection of Art and Technology

To help foster the growing community of artists/technologists in the Pacific Northwest, we organized a workshop bringing together key stakeholders in the region, as a collaboration between Microsoft Research, Cornish College of the Arts, and the Genius Foundation. The workshop was structured as a focus group including a brief questionnaire to generate feedback for how to best support this community.
See paper (Cornish), paper (ISEA2015) or slides.
Farnham S., Brice, J., Tremblay, G., & Pinto da Silva, A.  (2015).  Fostering a Community of Innovation at the Intersection of Art and Technology in the Pacific Northwest.  ISEA 2015.


Neighborhood Study

Field Research & Twitter Data Analytics
In this study, performed while at Microsoft Research, we adopted a multi-method approach to examine whether the growing use of social media as a channel for hyper-local conversation may provide meaningful insights into the well-being of neighborhood communities. First, through interviews and a questionnaire we explored what are indicators of neighborhood level well-being, and what are current communication practices around the use of social media to support community well-being. Second, through an analysis of neighborhood-level Twitter messages we examined the extent to which Twitter conversations corresponded with our neighborhood well-being indicators.
See paper or slides.


Whooly (Now Spokin Updates): What’s Happening in Your Hyperlocal Community on Twitter

Prototypting with Algorithm Development and Lab Study
While at Microsoft Research we developed and evaluated Whooly, an experimental web service that provided neighborhood-specific information based on Twitter posts that were automatically inferred to be hyperlocal. Whooly further automatically extracts and summarizes hyperlocal information about events, topics, people, and places from these Twitter posts. We tested the usefulness of the system as a tool for finding neighborhood information through a lab study.
Hu, Yuheng, Farnham, S., Monroy-Hernandez, A. (2013). Facilitating information-seeking for informal hyperlocal communities using social media. In Proceedings of CHI, 2013. Honorable Mention.

pr_socl as Learning Network

Longitudinal Deployment Study is a FUSE Labs, Microsoft Research experimental web application that combines web browsing, search, and social networking for the purposes of sharing and learning around topics of interest. We performed a deployment study examining existing learning practices around search and social networking for students, and how these practices shifted when participants adopted
See paper or slides.
Farnham, S., Lahav, M., Raskino, D., Cheng, L., Ickman, T., Laird-McConnell, T. (2012). An interest network for informal learning. In Proceedings of ICWSM 2012. Best Paper Nomination.


Youth Civic Engagement and Social Media

Large Scale Questionnaire Study
While at Microsoft Research and in collaboration with the City of Seattle, we performed a large scale questionnaire study examining factors that impact teen civic engagement through social technologies.
See paper or slides.
Farnham, S., Keyes, D., Yuki, V., Tugwell, C. (2013). Modeling youth civic engagement in the new world of networked publics. In Proceedings of AAAI International Conference of Social Media and Weblogs.


Puget Sound Off and Youth Citizen Journalism

Deployment Evaluation Study
Puget Sound Off is a City of Seattle online blogging and networking site focused on helping youth connect, collaborate, and take action around local community issues. We performed an evaluation study for the City of Seattle seeking lessons learned from a real world deployment.
See paper or slides.
Farnham, S., Keyes, D., Yuki, V., Tugwell, C. (2012). Puget Sound Off: Fostering youth civic engagement through citizen journalism. In Proceedings of ACM 2012 CSCW.

The Fuel-efficient Rocket Stove in the Developing World

Field Study with Focus Groups
Lead focus groups throughout Malawi for Burn Design Lab, to observe existing practices and evaluate the performance and design of fuel-efficient wood cook stoves for the developing world. Designed and lead all focus groups, working directly with Peter Scott, inventor and designer of biomass technologies in Africa.  Results informed the design and implementation of current Burn Design Lap appropriate technologies.
See slides.

pr_docs2 Social File Sharing in Facebook

Usage Analysis
This usage analysis of was performed while at Microsoft Research. integrates Microsoft Office web documents with Facebook. We examined how people share docs in the context of a social network, including types of documents shared, and how people used the relationship sharing settings. We further performed a factor analysis of user activity to find four primary types of usage – sharing, creating, collaborating, and consuming.
See paper or slides.
Farnham, S. D., Turski, A., Halai, S. (2012). Social file sharing in Facebook. In Proceedings of Sixth International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media.


PATH’s Safe Water Project

Field Study
Managed end-to-end research for PATH’s Safe Water Project to inform the development and design of appropriate water filtration devices for people in developing counties who do not have access to safe drinking water. Designed and implemented culturally sensitive research protocols, for the language and context of people who had never been exposed to the product category, and trained research assistants. Conducted field household visits and in-depth interviews in 6 village slums surrounding Hyderabad, India.


Faceted Identity and Life Modes in Social Media

Questionnaire Study and Design Probe Lab Study
Performed a large scale questionnaire study for Yahoo! examining how people facet their identities, and how these facets are expressed through use of email and Facebook. We found family was an extremely important context for sharing online, that email was still a preferred form of communication for private sharing across facets of life, and a higher level of facet incompatibility was correlated with increased email usage and worry about sharing in social networks. We then performed a design probe lab study to solicit user feedback for different design solutions for faceting identity across social media tools.
Farnham, S. & Churchill, E. F. (2011). Faceted identity, faceted lives: Social and technical issues in being yourself online. In Proceedings of Computer Supported Cooperative Work, 2011.
Ozenc. K. & Farnham, S. (2011). Life modes in social media. In Proceedings of CHI 2011.


Cocollage: Networking Tool for “Third Place” Community Development

Longitudinal Deployment Study
CoCollage is a placed-based community technology developed by Strands Labs that leverages the power of online social networking to facilitate awareness and face-to-face interactions in a third place (coffee shops). We performed a longitudinal deployment study with usage analysis, exploring adoption and usage patterns in a cafe, and its impact on community development and place-based attachment.
See paper (short), paper (long), or slides.
Farnham, S., McCarthy, J., Patel, Y., Ahuja, S., Norman, D., Hazlewood, W., Lind, J. (2009). Measuring the impact of place attachment on the adoption of a place-based community technology. In Proceedings of CHI 2009.
McCarthy, J., Farnham, S., Patel, Y., et al. (2009). Supporting community in third places with situated social software. In Communities and Technologies, 2009.


Collaboration/Communication Challenges Following Katrina Hurricane

Observational Field Study
In order to better understand the challenges specific to the deployment of collaboration technologies in crisis situations, we conducted an observational field study of the deployment of Groove Virtual Office to various civil and military groups at the heart of the disaster zone over the course of ten days. We summarize both general lessons learned from observations of social and communication challenges in crisis situations that impact technology adoption, and make specific recommendations for improving the deployment process of Groove to enable cross group collaboration.
See paper or slides.
Farnham, S., Kirkpatrick, R., Pedersen, E. (2006). Observation of Katrina/Rita deployment: Addressing social and communication challenges of ephemeral groups. In Proceedings of ISCRAM 2006, Newark, New Jersey.
Learn more about our principal investigators, see Shelly Farnham’s Bio and CV and Michal Lahav’s online portfolio.