mk (since you linked this article), was any of this philosophy incorporated in the design of Hubski? Is the intention to be more minimal or more functional and how do you know when those two concepts intersect?
I think we do our best to let the design be guided by functionality. The text is how we interact, and it's what we are here to interact with, so I try to let it dominate. We have experimented with other layouts, and probably will continue to do so in the future, but IMO the current format is fairly user-friendly. Even so, people use the site in different ways, which becomes obvious once we change something. Some people use chatter all the time, some people just interact through their notifications, some people only use their feed, and others primarily use global. One thing that I have learned, is that a cohesiveness in function is more important that the complexity or simplicity of the interface. Wherever we can increase the similarity in functionality across the site, it's usually worth doing.
As for real world objects, I actually am tired of simple/clean design. I want a return to ornamentation in objects and architecture.