For the odd moments I can manage to think of something.

Patience, people and virtual spaces

Been a while…

So tonight I’m watching App.net and Facebook, with half an eye on Twitter and fielding some emails. I’m exhausted. Not by the programs running on my machine. Just tired physically.

The slow-down is forcing me to think of things a little differently. Get a different view.

So – lucky you for reading – I have queries again. This post will be littered with them, some rhetorical.

Over this week I’ve seen an uptick on App.net – the emails about followers drew me back in to take a look around. It’s quiet and full of developers on my stream and awkwardly funny, like speaking a little too loud in a quiet room on the global stream. Plenty of people, just a little self-conscious.

It feels like we know where the furniture is on Twitter so we can swagger and bray – it’s public. But the steps are more tentative on App.net. A new room and not all the lights are on yet. But we can tell that people are building around us.

Meanwhile on Facebook, all the lights are on…even in the bedroom.

There’s been another step into the privacy of that world. Internal messages being tracked for ‘likes’. Heh – this feels a bit like writing a log for a future me or someone else maybe.

Over and over on Twitter and blogs, people are repeating the mantra – it’s not free if you’re paying with your data. I wonder how loud that echo will become and if this step is one that anyone will truly digest or if they will change anything as a result of knowing.

Like the lack of definition in App.net and the realisation that your private messages on a free service like Facebook are not really private in the traditional sense, these virtual spaces shift. Imagine if your home worked that way.

What if your landlords knew whose name you said in your sleep?

I see friends posting about paid services for email. The price of privacy? App.net is paid for but that price came down. What happens to the ‘me’ that is there over time?

In comparison, App.net is a toddler in a world of near adults like Twitter and Facebook. The age ranged defined by global acceptance in this case. If Facebook and Twitter are large enough for advertising and political movements, then they appear to have a closer integration with our real world, the one with the actual furniture you can walk into and the hot tea that you can add to your body. App.net’s not that yet.

Being grown up businesses, Twitter and Facebook need to make money too. We’ve yet to come up with a viable solution to running a system outside of current economies. So something has to trade for cash and development.

So why did App.net lift off a little higher than other online communications that challenged the grown ups? Maybe it is possible that users were reaching a threshold where we realise the value in an online system, but we would rather consider UX over ubiquity. This doesn’t solve privacy of course, but maybe that will be another thing to build.

To the future me or someone else. One of the things that intrigues me is that none of this exists. The actions that come from electronic communications in any ‘cloud’ certainly do. If I told you something so offensive that you felt compelled to head my way and punch me in the face, that would be real. But virtual exchanges seem to lead to other virtual exchanges – even to the point of credibility based on someone else’s judgement (or algorithm) and coins – well, okay, money’s always been a bit questionable.

I find it hard to deny the importance of social media and virtual spaces. I’ve met too many people who have been helped, saved, changed and moved. But as a member of a generation that knows the before and after, it also sometimes seems like a huge game that I can’t touch directly with my fingers. I can’t taste it or smell it. (probably for the best)

The whole kit and kaboodle seems to have shifted this week. For me anyway. Not a change where I’d walk away, I’m too curious about the broad movements of people. But a small trigger being tripped. That may lead to a bigger shift in total.

I think that Facebook would have to make an earth shattering social blunder for one billion users to leave. Myspace may have drifted the way of Friendster and others, but Facebook learned from those mistakes. And social connectivity crossed with convenience is extraordinarily seductive.

Anyway. Another thing that lodged in my mind was the impatience that comes with these worlds. I can describe it in naive terms. It’s about patience, time and investment.

To bake a cake, I need the ingredients, an oven and time. I can use a different oven and I can change the ingredients, but I still need time that would be in a similar ballpark. (No – I am not going to consider microwave cakes, they’re fundamentally wrong…and they taste funny.)

So App.net’s not baked, Twitter moves the furniture around all the time and Facebook, where do I start? But the latter have had years to evolve. So being impatient with App.net is kind of bollocks. It’s like expecting people to be born as adults. (flinch – childbirth).

I think it is a wider problem. Even Mitt Romney was ready to dismiss Tesla in last nights debate. A company that is not doing that badly, but did not show progress that was acceptable to the politician at the time of his talks. Surely as a rich businessman he would understand that economic systems and companies take time to grow in a stable fashion? Or it’s point-scoring in the first debate maybe.

In the UK, we see a pressure in some quarters for startups to go apeshit, suck in the money and throw out to IPO. Jason Fried of 37signals called it a sickness. I’m inclined to agree.

If you bake a cake too quickly and sell it on. You can make a lot of people sick.

Development in a virtual sense can be one with less responsibility for people. Privacy infringement, sales of data, rapid growth with no stability and blowing out to make your team unemployed.

Recently at DLD the architect Ole Schereen remarked that many employees don’t know how their role fits into a company, that what they do has value and that they are valuable. That sounds dreadful, especially when so much of our lives is dedicated to work.

If your goal is to feed an unstable system to then have it sold and put to sleep. What did you make? I can hear that it’s good to fail and the experience is the value – I know. But doing so repeatedly doesn’t seem like a worthwhile purpose.

But I’m writing this on a cloud service and just about to post it publicly on a global virtual network. Who am I to judge?

It does kinda make me want to go build things with my hands,write on paper with a pencil, dance with people I care about and maybe buy some flowers – or grow my own. Sometimes.

JK

2 Responses to “Patience, people and virtual spaces”

  1. Ben Walker

    This all feels very familiar to me. The shifting of the kit and kaboodle. The importance of knowing one’s purpose (in a company or otherwise). The cake. All interesting thoughts.

    I like App.net even though it has no immediate use for me. It’s interesting to watch the process of communities evolving from nothing, and it’s good to know there’s a group of people who care enough about data ownership and related issues to lay some money down. The money makes it real, and maybe that’s why it feels so much more serious than early Twitter. Or maybe we’re all just a bit older.

    Building, dancing, gardening and writing with pencils are always satisfying for their own sake. Good online conversations too, but they’re not so easy to find…

    Reply
  2. jemimahknight

    It’s true. We’re getting older and the platforms are becoming more serious. I guess you can’t stuff that all back in the bottle.

    Though it was cool to skitter about yawping things on Twitter in the early days, it’s become something entirely
    different, with different values. I think I agree with that broadly. I’m not sure we can go back to the early days of a platform just by switching to another one – it’s a different time and we’ve all seen the evolved versions.

    The thing I do have trust in is that there can still be nice conversations. (Which means I have not checked in with you Ben for a loooong time! I hope rockstar life is aces! 🙂

    Maybe the changes we think about are not something guided by the platforms, but something to change ourselves and think about how we use them. That’s vague enough a statement to prove I’ve not thought it through…but it does make me think about it a little more.

    Reply

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