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Four-Armed Martians and the Big Social Media Run Down

(Note: This is the fifth in a series of Blogmaster 2000 posts about  four-armed Martians in which I don’t actually discuss anything that is truly useful with regard to Martians, or even mention them at all.)

With the recent Initial Public Offering of Facebook, I thought it might be worthwhile to level set my thoughts on the major Social Media players currently.

The big draw of Social Media from the beginning has been the connectedness. The things that made this possible were the freedom to communicate without barriers (for the most part), and the democracy of reciprocity – it was a two way relationship. It was no longer solely about those that could speak hogging the microphone. Everyone had a microphone and there is a disruptive, wonderful beauty in that.

But since then the level of conversation has started to die. It has slowly gone from real back and forth sharing (which, believe it or not, includes trolling) to simple repostings of assets (video, images, quotes, ephemera). It has become the most rudimentary and lazy form of conversation: “Here, look at this.” “Ok, but you look at this.” “Fine, as long as you look at this.” And so on.

The loss of reciprocity is a very sad thing and I am not sure what it will take to bring it back. The direction of all Social Media seems to be away from that, even the ones that built their fortunes on it.

Here are my thoughts, then, in a roughly premeditated order.


I was going to jump out onto my old Pinterest account and see if anything had changed in the last couple of years since I first signed up for it, but they have lost my account somehow and now I am waiting for a new invite. Having said that, I really didn’t care for it much then and I am pretty sure that its basic value prop hasn’t changed tremendously since then, so we can probably just leave it at that.


I have never used Instagram,and I probably won’t anytime soon. My problem with it is pretty simple – I work in a creative field. I really don’t think I should rely on some set template filters to make my photos more interesting – if they can’t stand on their own as spur of the moment snaps of stuff that I wanted to share, then no amount of cool effects will help them. Also, I have a passing familiarity with the technology that I use, I know how to upload photos to the internet. I can do it from a mobile phone just as easily I can from a desktop. Part of my job responsibility is to contribute creatively to projects. My main focus is to make sure that when we work creatively we do it strategically and with as much originality as we can get away with based on what the client is looking to accomplish and has predetermined they want. I think it would reflect poorly on me or any other person that works in a creative field to use Instagram as a default way to share our personal art. If we don’t take the opportunity to make things ourselves when we can, then how can anyone have faith in us as Professional Creatives. If you don’t work in a creative field, however, then by all means go for it – but if you haven’t broken the cycle after using it for a year….

WordPress (Hosted)

Let’s be clear on this one, I am referring to the hosted version of WordPress, not the open source software version. Is there a difference? No and yes. No, in that they are both basically WordPress and all share a very similar CMS UI and backend. Yes, in that the Open Source version is very powerful and is highly customizable with a ton of flexibility and the hosted version has less ability to be customized but is a very stable integrated and interconnected platform that allows for greater community building. Blogmaster2000 (this blog that you are reading right now) is a good example of the open source software version – we host it and Larry cracked it wide open and played around in the code to make all of the fun bells and whistles work, however, our ability to get quickly into any search results is limited. My personal blog is on the hosted version. WordPress hosts it for free (though there are Premium versions available – mostly that increase functionality or give you more flexible templates to play with) and it immediately allows me to follow other blogs, be notified in my dashboard when they are updated and for my posts to effortlessly appear in the main newsfeed as well as be immediately searchable via tag or targeted search terms that cover the entire platform. Once that is taken into account then the blog hits much closer to Social Media than it does to the old definition of blog, which was something like “website on which Ben waxed eloquently about unimportant things to no one”.


I am really digging Tumblr. I mean a lot. It doesn’t scale as well as the big boys in Social do, but it is a bottomless pit of interesting stuff. When I say it doesn’t scale well, I mean that Tumblr pages tend to focus down on sharing content that is very, very targeted, like this one – which is pretty much just reblogs and reposts of Game of Thrones Fan Art, or this one – just beautiful old photos of days long gone. As a social community then, it is really hard to gain traction as an individual unless you are just as focused. I have no traction on it, but I post and reblog a plethora of things that interest me, from work stuff, to comic stuff, to industry stuff, to just anything weird or comedic that catches my fleeting fancy. So, it is no surprise that I am not a compelling Tumbl. However, with good tagging of posts the ability to pop up in search is very good. The stuff that I post that gets reblogged the most are mostly anything I put up from The Aquabats! Super Show! And it gets found quickly. Like within minutes. Which doesn’t happen on any other network on which I play. Finally, one quick warning before you jump out there all willynilly like. Tumblr, to put it mildly, is just one great big untamed wilderness. It is like the blog version of MySpace at its peak, but without the platform limitations. If you are not careful and alert you will find yourself in NSFW space before you know it. So proceed with caution.


LinkedIn is a really big question mark in my book. I like most everything about it. I am connected to almost everyone I have ever worked with or for, going back many years – so it is a very targeted community with very little overlap. The level of conversation is much higher there than in any of my other Social Networks. It has a ton of functionality that makes a lot of sense to me. The constant sensual beckoning of the premium pay service feels like it lives inside of my brain, pulling me closer, and closer… But, I just barely use it. My status updates are only shared from our Agency Twitter account. I try to get out there a couple of times a week to check the news feed, but it is heavy with activity updates and light on personal statuses. The people are all too serious and are no fun. Posting something funny or goofy or quirky is frowned upon and generally falls on to deaf eyes.


I feel like I am shouting into an empty auditorium on Twitter, but I keep doing it. Very few of my real life friends are on there, and if they are they are not very active. My youngest son is the most active of people I follow that I know personally, and every once in a while he will throw me a bone and acknowledge my presence. With regard to the all important factor of reciprocity, Twitter promises none of it. As with most of the different Networks, I only follow people who follow back. Twitter is rife with people who follow and then once you follow back they unfollow, which is just dirty pool. That is why I found a decent pool app to help me go through and find those sneaky tweeters and unfollow them back. I clean the pool, so to speak, several times a month. With regard to traction, in order to get even a semblance of it, you have to actively court attention – retweeting the swine-ish pearls of others, replying to them, desperately clamoring  for their attention. It feels like work. An endless chore list of boring things, yet, I am still there, lo these many years later, shouting into that empty auditorium, hoping that every once in a while someone will smile at me and say, “yes, yes, we hear you, maybe one day you can join the big people’s table.”


It has been called alternately the Great Wasteland, the Empty Planet, the Hollow Google Earth, and more. I can easily go several weeks without logging in and not miss a thing. This could mean that either my connections are not active there, or they don’t have me added to any of their circles, in which case it goes back to reciprocity. If this isn’t a give and take, my interest in engaging is much smaller. I think, and this is me trying to be all smart and stuff, the main issue is that Google didn’t look at Social as something special. They didn’t have a passion for it. They were more interested in the owning of the audience, so when they tried to enter the game, they didn’t bring new thinking or move the bar in any important way. They didn’t introduce the next generation of social networking – they tweaked the Facebook experience a bit, added some iterative functionality and figured their status as Google would do the rest. Unfortunately for them, we are lazy. There has to be a greater reason for us to move than it is a slightly nicer neighborhood. Can we have everything that we had before, plus a hot tub and pool, some tennis courts, flying cars and a Star Trek like matter generator? Well then, maybe we can open discussions, but if all we are getting is the ability to ignore people easier, well I do that already by just ignoring them.


I used to be a big fan of Facebook. It was pretty close to being exactly what it needed to be. And I didn’t mind the occasional sponsored post or side bar ads popping up. If that was the price for connectivity then it was a cheap price. What I liked mostly is that it was built on a pure foundation of reciprocal engagement. We both, me and you, had to agree to be connected for the connection to occur. That is community. We were in it together. Since then the Powers That Be have slowly slipped away from that very hard and fast rule. Now with the addition of EdgeRank and the perceived need to target ads better and deliver more relevant content, the ability to see what is going on and be seen is heavily restricted. This bothers me, there are some people that I may not comment on or interact with, but it is important to me to know what is going on in their lives. That is now harder to do. Before I could just scroll back through my timeline, now not so easy. The way Pages (formerly Fan Pages ) are handled on this topic bothers me, too. People have consciously opted in follow our Agency Page, or our Comedy Film Festival page, but now only about 20% of our posts on those pages get any visibility. With “Promote Updates” which is just being rolled out, we can pay to get into followers feeds – that is into the feeds of followers that have already requested by opting in or “Liking our Page” to receive those updates. Ugh.

This is all rather moot though, the next big shake-up is supposed to be coming anytime and all the “experts” are saying that it is going to be Mobile Social, and very few of these companies that we have just discussed are prepared for that world, least of all Google and Facebook.

Our kids will drift to something that makes better sense to them. We will be left rudderless for a short while trying to stay interested in what we have grown comfortable with, until we aren’t anymore. At that point we will just unmoor, leave everything – our photo albums, our collected years of ultimately meaningless posts, and shared videos, and desperate cries for attention – and we will just follow the youth over to their new playgrounds.

And these companies that dominate our worldview now will fall back on their collective butts in surprise at how quickly it happened, just like AOL, Friendster and MySpace.

And then the cycle will set itself up to start all over again for Web 4.0 – which I expect to have something to do with sharing sushi experiences in a virtual social setting.

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