Social Media on a Timeout

I’m an impulsive guy and unlike a lot of people, I do better at cold turkey than tapering things. One day last spring I just decided to stop drinking diet coke and went from 3-6 cans a day to drinking maybe a dozen in the last year. Last fall I decided to stop using Twitter pretty much all at once, based on their treatment of the I Want Sandy acquisition.

Today, out of nowhere I decided to taper down my use of FriendFeed quite a bit. From my hiatus message and comments:

I’m thinking hard about taking a FriendFeed timeout. It feels like I have a big imbalance between the time I use it and the value I receive from it. I also really don’t like that I used to blog 10 times a week and now I do it once or twice a week.

I used to build value for myself, now I do it for FriendFeed. Others are doing it for Twitter or Facebook or whatever. This is the ugly underside of Web 2.0. We feel like we’re conversing but we’re really sharecroppers to make a few millionaires into billionaires. I’m having a 2.0 burnout/meltdown/rejection.

In fact, I’m closing the web page right now. For the time being, my only interaction with FF will be through the ~ 1/10th of my subscriber list that goes to IM (mostly locals with whom I might conceivably have lunch.) Time to start following my gut, and this feels right.

I really do feel like I’m getting played by social media in general. FriendFeed is without a doubt the social media that feels like I get the most value out of it and it isn’t enough. I’m tired of strangers who come in via friend of friend relationships giving me smack. (It’s already happened on my post above.) The whole enterprise feels like a time suck that doesn’t give me enough back to warrant my time.

I’m already gotten pushback on my paragraph #2. This is absolutely something I believe and have been talking about for some time. Tim O’Reilly and other Web 2.0 utopists talk about the upside to users. I’ve been noting that Web 2.0 and the Long Tail have a seriously dark underbelly in that while lots of people are doing bits of work and hopefully receiving requisite value back, the people who cash in are the aggregators and big players while the rest of us are just hamsters in their wheels. While we are running around and crying “Wheeeee!” for getting to ride in the wheel, they have wired us to the grid and are selling the power we generate. The real winners are Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg and Kevin Rose and Evan Williams. People think I’m nuts for this attitude, but it’s the truth. This is happening right now. I mentioned I Want Sandy above. Rael Dornfest sold his company to Twitter and the reason he could is that 50,000 or so people used the site. We created the value, someone else cashed the check. That’s what Web 2.0 really is.

So, I’m withdrawing somewhat from the social media world. I’m going to take that energy and try to post more to this blog. I’d like to record more podcasts. Perhaps I’m being a selfish prick but if I’m taking my time, I’d like to accrue the value. I have control of every post I’ve ever made to this here blog. I can’t say that about any social media site. I’m tired of building things in other people’s house. Let’s do some of it here or on your own site, in ways you control. Take back your time, rise up and stop your tweets and super pokes and what have you. I want to be in charge of my own identity, to own my own stuff and I’m tired of building someone else’s house 140 characters at a time.

EGC Clambake For August 25, 2006

Here is the Bittorrent link and direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for August 25, 2006.

I talk a little about the loss of my beloved dog, play some sad songs by K. McCarty, discuss Chris Anderson’s book The Long Tail and go back to my theme of why we all do this if we aren’t getting rich. I then play a song by Choose Your Own Adventure and return to my cave of despair.

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Pulling Rank

The Feedster 500 fun continues. I guess that I must have mistyped in the search box when I was looking for myself in the list the other day, because I thought I wasn’t in it but actually I am, #368. That delights me because now I can say, without any possibility of sour grapes and as a member of that group, I think the list is stupid. Finally, I get to criticize this line of thinking from actually within the group. Right on!

Scott Rafer left me a comment on the previous post, suggesting that the list is good as a gateway to let those who don’t know where to start in the blogosphere to get going and to find things of interest to them. I have to say I’m not sure I buy that. It seems actually less likely to get to a specific weblog of niche interest from the Feedster 500 than from randomly surfing webpages related to that interest. By definition, this list is of most general appeal and farthest away from that sort of thing on average. I suppose you could luck up and find what you are looking for as the top post on Boing Boing, but the smart money wouldn’t bet that way, and that can’t work for everyone simultaneously.

The killer commentary on why this list is silly was provided by Chris “Long Tail” Anderson, who attacks it less from whether this is a line of thinking worth pursuing as I did, but from whether it is effective for what it is trying to do:

These lists are, in other words, a semi-random collection of totally disparate things.

To use an analogy, top-blog lists are akin to saying that the bestsellers in the supermarket today were:

  1. DairyFresh 2% Vitamin D Milk
  2. Hayseed Farms mixed grain Bread
  3. Bananas, assorted bunches
  4. Crunchios cereal, large size
  5. DietWhoopsy, 12-pack, cans
  6. and so on…

Which is pointless. Nobody cares if bananas outsell soft drinks. What they care about is which soft drink outsells which other soft drink. Lists only make sense in context, comparing like with like within a category.

and later

My take: this is another reminder that you have to treat niches as niches.
When you look at a wildly diverse three-dimensional marketplace through
a one-dimensional lens, you get nonsense. It’s a list, but it’s a list
without meaning. What matters in the rankings within a genre (or subgenre), not across genres.

My thinking remains unchanged so far. I think the Feedster 500 is pointless and that line of thinking is inapplicable for new media. Until we get beyond this obsession with the numbers, we will never fully tap the potential of the new part of new media.