trends

The Facebook Problem // Random Thoughts

Wow, Facebook is a force. I was on it pretty early for an old guy (we didn't even have .edu, or .anything, when I was in school) because I knew a guy who worked there who got me one of the first corporate invitations. Since then, I've watched entire companies come on, and the age go up and early-adopter-ness go down. Last summer, most of the people I knew from high school joined over about a month. This month it's my middle school class. People who haven't communicated in close to three decades are reminiscing, and scheming about reunions (you know who you are). That's not interesting. You already know that. You've either seen it happen, or perhaps you're one of the latecomers making it happen.

What may be interesting is that this is at least the third go-round for social networking. After Friendster and the MySpace came and went, I learned something: we don't know what the next hot thing will be, but we know it won't be the same as the current hot thing. It seems online socializing is a migratory behavior. So I say with confidence that Facebook's reign will fade, only to be replaced by some other shiny new object, which will in turn be pushed aside. You get it.

But Facebook is a little different than those that came before. First, it's a bit more utilitarian, which seems to be a key to longevity (LinkedIn, AIM). More importantly, the fact that the late adopters are joining en masse suggests that there's an opportunity to keep people around. These guys just got here, and by definition they're not as interested in the next new thing. A lot of these people never joined MySpace at all.

To that end, here's my free advice for Facebook. I'm not here to solve the fact that you may not have a sustainable or even profitable business model. But I do have two suggestions that will keep you alive and relevant for longer.

- Launch Facebook Business. Take LinkedIn out at the ankles. People like Facebook because it's easy and fun. I get ahold of people all the time that I never seem to catch via email; my guess is because it doesn't feel like work. So apply that same user experience to the kinds of "work" people do on LinkedIn. My guess is a ton of people are carrying dual accounts. It won't be tough to get them to forget about the other guys is you start offering similar features, and probably create a wall between business and personal.

- Continue to up the utility. A big frustration is that I now have at least half a dozen contact databases. Mobile Me, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, AIM, Skype, SMS. I'm sure I'm forgetting a few. Sometimes I have to look in multiple places to find someone I want to contact. What we need is a central place from which I can contact anyone within my reach. Why do I have to do the searching and decide how I'm going to communicate? It's like Grand Central for data. Facebook can offer this functionality and really make people beholden to it.

Facebook needs to think, and act, on this now, while it's on top. Don't be like the others and wait until it's too late. Keep growing your user base, and I'm sure you'll figure out a way to make money eventually.

The Internet is Bad // Rebels At Large

From Josh: Dennis White is one of the most creative people I know. When he's not inventing new names to call himself (Static Revenger, D-Dub, Charm Farm, and probably some others I don't know about), he's making dancefloor-packing and chart-topping remixes and original productions, innovative videos or acting as a creative director for Rebel. Plus, he mixes a mean margarita. We've hung out together on more than one continent, and had each other's backs against barracuda. In other words, we've been in the shit. Dennis and I both suffer from a chronic condition: lack of tolerance for stupidity. We experience this affliction in different ways: You might say it makes his skin itch, while it makes my head hurt.

Read his piece here about one of the many things wrong with the world and how to fix it. Then check his music and video skills at www.staticrevenger.com and ddub.com and travelriot.com.

The Internet is Bad by Dennis White

So, here's my blog post. I hate blogs. Sounds like blob. And I'm not sure that I like blobs.

Mr. Levine has encouraged me to participate in the 'discussion' on Rebel Industries and I'm enough of a fan of his to want to follow his lead. I warned him that I don't like the internet, marketing, social networking, blogging, flogging, computer chatting, texting, tweeting, twitting, tight fitting jeans. I might NOT be the ideal contributor.

Problem is, I'm just old enough to have tried every new internet thing since 1993, the first time that it came out, when it sucked in obscurity. AOL Chat rooms? Freaks. Email? Bullshit. Online porn? Too slow. Social networking? Hows about you and I be friends, and cut out the middleman... I'm WAY behind on everything because I was way ahead on it.

I don't like any of this social networking nonsense. It is enslaving and alienating, and we're too caught up in bullshit updates, and friend requests from hot chicks, to know any better or care. I resent that our friendships are being exploited and re-purposed into bland entertainment to the benefit of companies using us as stooges to get their advertising space sold. And LOOK at the photos on most of those social networking sites... LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME!!! I have muscles! I know hot chicks! I have big tits! I look good in a bikini! I've gone some place interesting! (click HERE to buy cheap insurance)... oh F**K OFF!

My engineer is trying to save me from my impending irrelevance, and signed me up on twitter. It's the thing this week. Maybe last week. Twitter. Really? I thought he was kidding. DORKster was taken? JERKster is owned by a Russian domain name sales site? Sigh. Fine. If you don't know about this twitter thing, then let me just take this opportunity to tell you that I love you. Really. The chances that you and I can be friends is far likelier than the chances of me befriending any of the thousands of friends that I paid some assistant to acquire for me on Myspace.

Twitter is bullet point blogging, more or less. You can write only a few sentences per 'update'. And people can subscribe to your updates, or you can deliver them online in various ways. Drew, my engineer, assures me that it's awesome, because (I stop listening about here)... so fine, I shall commence twitting. Is it called tweeting? Knowing this stuff is today's equivalent of knowing how to pronounce INXS in 1982. So, great - I have, like 4 people following me on twitter, so I figure, I better make it sound interesting.... HEY! I'm in Key Largo fishing and diving...HEY! I'm in northern Michigan snowmobiling....HEY! I heard me on the radio...LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! ....D'OH!

I am, however, under the brief impression that there are 2 things that I like about this - 1. it only allows me 2 sentences or so, so it doesn't take that much time to 'update' (no gigs, photos, subscriptions, etc.) and 2. there doesn't seem to be an advertising annoyance, except I've been getting some random twitter usernames following me in suspiciously relevant ways. For example, I updated that I was in Naples, Florida and 20 minutes later, I received an email telling me that I was being followed by my long lost friends at 'naplesscubagear' Wow. Clever. Now I really feel like a twit.

I don't like this form of communication because 1. it fills our head with even more useless nonsense (I caught a fish!) and 2. it robs us of the ability to introduce people individually to our experiences. I want to tell a friend where I've been and what I've been doing, with out it already being a re-run. 'DUDE! I caught a nurse shark with my bare hands!' 'Yeah- I know.' Sigh.

How about instead of advertising the highlights of your life to a bunch of people that wouldn't even CONSIDER driving you to the airport, take the time you spend fucking about on facebook to write a considered, and thoughtful letter to an actual friend. If you are uncomfortable communicating without an option for advertising, include one of those Bed Bath and Beyond coupons that we all have piling up in a drawer, but never seem to have on hand when we actually end up there.

I know that I ain't nothing but my grandpa complaining about Elvis right now, but dagnabit, I will NOT going quietly into polite societies good night- SOME one has to say it - we're being used, and enslaved by this nonsense, and society individually and collectively suffers for it.

See, I told you, Josh, I'm not the ideal blog contributer. Now leave me alone. I have iPhone apps to buy, and a wooden duck to carve.

Now playing: Beach Boys, 'I Just Wasn't Made For These Times.'

Micro-blogging // Hate It or Love It

I've been wondering how long it would take to see various iterations of Twitter's micro-blogging revolution, other than on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, who have basically just added the same functionality to their own. For example, Musebin describes itself as "1-line music reviews." The site — currently in semi-private beta — has been called Twitter x Reddit, but specific to music. What do you think? Is the abbreviated-interaction format appealing? Do you expect to see other variations on the micro-blog theme? Or will people's desire to run their mouths win out?

What's Next? // Random Thoughts

Let me start by saying that this is not a blog about politics. There's plenty of those out there. But, I do want to talk about something this election has brought us, besides a new president. Perhaps most exciting about this election season is the unprecedented levels of participation by young voters. Having come up as part of the "who cares?" generation, I am personally and professionally excited by the engagement of vast numbers of millennials. On Huffington Post, Michael Hais and Harley Winograd make a fairly bold claim that:

"America's last civic generation, Millennials will lead a makeover of American politics. This realignment will make the Democratic Party the dominant force in U.S. politics and will turn the country away from the divisive social issues and gridlock of the past forty years to a win-win approach that confronts and actually resolves fundamental economic and foreign policy matters. Welcome to the Millennial Era."

As I said, this is not about politics, it’s about a trend. And it's fairly clear to me that political engagement, or at least interest, is the latest millennial trend to sweep the nation, much in the same way that "not giving a shit" was the trend when my generation came of age and "Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out" was the mantra of my parents' age group. Millions of young Americans are on board with this trend of engagement for the very first time - most likely due to a confluence of factors including a challenging economic and world political stage, the quick and facile spread of information online, and the candidates' handy use of all available media for fundraising and getting the message out.

But what’s the one thing we know about trends? They never last. More precisely, they never stay the same. The word "trend" itself connotes motion, and in reality a trend is not a physical thing the way it's often described, but rather a direction in which things move.

So, the question for us all is what's next? What is the next iteration of this trend? What will millions of kids do now that there's no longer an end game in sight to energize them? Surely, some have converted to lives of political engagement that will last throughout their days, but my guess is that's probably a smallish minority. Just as the hippies eventually cut their hair and got jobs, so will these youngsters move on from moveon.org.

More importantly, what will you do? Will you find a way to leverage all of this energy? Make your brand relevant to this trend while you've got people's attention? Become the new hero that brings the change that both candidates promised and America so clearly wanted? Or will you sit back and watch it all disperse and then wonder why nobody cares about your marketing messages?