Robert Scoble has been writing about social networking sites lately. A lot. A whole lot. The only interruptions of the continuous stream of posts about how Facebook is going to change the world somehow have been about how great the iPhone is (and you might recall how I feel about that). Most people in the real world, however, do not get paid to read hundreds of blogs and dawdle on sites that amount to little more than MySpace with widgets. In fact, most people would get fired for doing so — and thus do not. And as for the iPhone; call me Scrooge, but I find it somewhat insane to pay upward of $2,000 over the course of two years for a phone. For that kind of money, it had better perform sexual favors. Well.
Still, his blog serves as a reminder of the very common phenomenon of self-reinforcing myopia: shockingly, it seems that if you hang out with people that make a living on/with/through the Internet all the time, it seems that the entire world is on the Internet — and the things that are important on the Internet (important being either truly important, useless but shiny and new, or something someone told you about over lunch last Wednesday that sounded really, really cool) — is right up there with the situation in Darfur in importance. It is somewhat like Schrodinger’s cat assuming that the universe is somewhat squarish and made of wood.
Today, however, it just got a little silly. Stickers for the iPhone. Wow.
True to form, I started venting:
Okay, that’s it, Robert. It has been getting worse and worse of late, but this one made it official: you are truly and completely out of touch.
No amount of wishful thinking can change the fact that:
- Nobody needs Facebook, Twitter, Flickr or anything of the kind. None of them fill an actual need. The incessant drive to become a platform should tell you something — they are all solutions in search of a problem. Every single person I know who has tried one or more of these sites and their ilk already has passed the “neat, but so what”-horizon(TM).
- Since they do not fill a need, there has to be novelty and/or reward. What is the reward? Compared to IM clients and that old BlogSpot account?
- Remember that old BlogSpot account? The one millions of people have and have abandoned since they realized that they simply have very little of interest to say, and — Robert, this is critical — no farking time to say it?
Most people spend around 9-10 hours a day on their job, where they cannot really spend too much time in Second Life. Most people do NOT get paid to read blogs or look at a complete stranger’s FaceBook page. Throw in dinner, taking out the trash and (hopefully) taking a shower, and you are left with perhaps 2-3 hours of freely spendable time a day tops. Your precious Twitters of the world are competing with movies, loved ones and getting that thirld WoW character to level 70 — and when the novelty wears off, all social networking will lose.
- By the way, as the exception that proves the rule, MySpace does fill an actual need: it gives teens another way to waste their time and foist really, really bad poetry upon the world, and as a very bad public e-mail and chatting system. Old wine, new jugs.
Nice and irrelevant to the post I commented on, but nonetheless true. True to form, I posted this without reading the other comments first, so I missed this one:
Vainentree and Al: I will report on culture and stuff and iPhones have dramatically changed our culture. Deal with it.
It’s absolutely hilarious — until you realize he’s serious. Ugh. I just couldn’t let that one go:
And, to stay somewhat on-topic (I of course should have posted the above on a different thread):
“Changed our culture”
Whoa. That’s just… wow. It’s a phone, okay? The sun still rises in the east. Around release time, there was a lot of buzz (including in my professional and social circles), but guess what? The one sucker — I mean trend-setter — I know who got one enjoyed about a day and a half of interest all around, but now has a $600 crappy MP3 player and crappy phone with a 2 year contract.
By the way… “I report on culture and stuff”… truly smacks of the Married With Children episode where Kelly gets her own TV show: “Important Issues And Stuff”. Like, totally.
Okay, so I can get somewhat jerky at times. But what irks me is that Scoble actually came perilously close to making the same point mere hours before, but zoomed past it — whether intentionally out of job protection or out of the institutional myopia I described above (or both) :
We ARE in a bubble. Not just one that John is properly identifying.
We’re in a bubble of attention diffusers.
Huh? I’m getting so many things pulling me in so many directions that it’s hard to spend 60 minutes just thinking about one thing and getting deep.
See? He’s almost there. He can’t keep up with all these nifty, nifty sites, and it’s his full-time job for crying out loud! Where oh where does the average working stiff fit in an hour a day for Facebook? I don’t. Nobody I know does. And in the end, all these sites and services boil down to repackaging the same basic things:
- Staying connected. People already have blogs they don’t maintain, MySpace pages no-one wants to see and e-mail accounts they lost their password to. When the novelty wears off, and the job of maintaining all of it starts feeling like a job, all of it withers away. Oh, people want to stay connected alright, and most do — they run Yahoo! Messenger and send eachother jokes.
- Gadgets. Widgets. Trinkets. All designed to make easy things easier. I cannot stress this enough. There is no lasting power in picture-sharing sites, for example (aside from the obvious niche audiences). You can e-mail pictures. Yahoo! Messenger has photo sharing built-in. You can print pictures and hand them to someone. None of these things are difficult. In essence, almost all Web 2.0 gadgets are solutions to non-problems.
- Expression. If you need a hint how huge the need for this is, look up some statistics on BlogSpot and their ilk. Thousands upon thousands of new blogs are created each day. If you need a hint how fleeting this need is, look up statistics on how many blogs are abandoned each day. Expression takes effort. Unrewarded effort is a thankless job, and people tend to quit thankless jobs, especially if they do not get paid for them.
Cynical? Quite. The silliness of it all must be getting to me.