“Glassboard: The Anti-Facebook” by Gabe Weatherhead
Gabe’s review is very thorough and answers all of my questions about what a Glassboard is, but that’s not why I’m interested. It’s his anti-Facebook bit that got me thinking.
He opens with “I don’t use Facebook” and then talks about how the rest of his social world doesn’t like that. Grandparents want to see pictures. Friends don’t want to remember how email works. He doesn’t trust Facebook (who can blame him) and he doesn’t want to entrust Facebook with information about his family (ditto).
So by harassing friends and bribing grandparents with promises of photos he has managed to get people over to using his Glassboard account as a private social network. Win for Gabe.
I tried to do something similar with Minigroup but failed. Minigroup is a similar tool for collaboration and document sharing. I had hopes of getting a core group of friends to use it for event planning and whatnot. The idea didn’t stick. Alas, I have no children to bribe people with.
Laziness of use
Email doesn’t scale. Sending an email about a thing to one or two people is easy. Updating all of your family and friends about a thing over email is work. Do you send multiple emails? Do you BCC everyone? Can your uncle using the decrepit WindowsXP machine open that attachment? Do people have to reply? Do you even want them to reply?
On Facebook (or Twitter, or Google+, or whatever) an author simply posts a thing and assumes that it will be seen by the people who care. The audience has little work to do. They can quickly read the status update and just click a Like / Plus button to acknowledge that they saw it. If they’re feeling exceedingly moved they can leave a comment.
This is why your grandkids don’t email you any more. It’s too much extra work.
Back in my day it took twenty minutes to send an email! You kids today have it easy with your face-books.
Low impact communication is very appealing. I can completely understand the desire to have that same kind of easy communication on a private or trusted platform.
Ease of discovery
People will not abandon Facebook for their own balkanized, private social networks because they will never “accidentally” find their old high school sweetheart on a private social network.
Stumbling into old friends is hard when the network is invitation only. You don’t get to see weird retweets from weirdo friends of friends in a locked down environment. Private networks limit the opportunity for chance encounters.
Easy discovery is what makes public social networks powerful. Ease of communication is just a bonus.
I think Gabe’s experiment is timely, given all the internet noise about App.net, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see more people trying this very same thing. That would be great. Maybe a million tiny private networks will be a million tiny bee stings on Facebook’s leathery hide.
But that serendipity problem is going to be tough to beat.
Imagine a social network where there are no comments or replies. Just up /down like / hate buttons and maybe a laughing face / frowning face button. It will be very popular. “Here are my political views!” [frowny face] ↩