Twitter fatigue, social networks fatigue

Laura Hale has a great post on the Fan History blog (via Kaplak Stream), which deals with Twitter fatigue. Among other things, she writes :

I really wish that as Twitter exists now, that I felt like I was getting more out of my relationships that use Twitter to facilitate them. They don’t. I’m tired of trying to make the effort while feeling like I should be getting something out of it. I’m tired of people following me for no apparent reason who never communicate with me. I’m tired of the idea that I should be getting more connected with people as I feel even less connected.

I’m tired of the hype. (…) CNN talks about Twitter. FaceBook changed to look more like Twitter. News people talk about how Twitter will change how news is reported. Newspapers print Tweets. Twitter will change the world! Celebrities tweet from everywhere. Entertainment Tonight covers people who are tweeting while they are being interviewed. I get it. This is like MySpace about 2 years ago. (And we know where MySpace is going.) I kind of just want to be left alone in a world where I can use it with out everyone and their neighbor going on about how great it is. If we could get back to reporting the news instead of reporting on how people are sharing their news, I might be less tired.

In my particular case what Laura describes goes a long way to describe the love/hate relationship I have with most proprietary social networks (if in doubt, see this piece on why we don’t really like social networks). It would best be called social networks fatigue in general.

On Twitter in particular, I tire excessively of the countless outright attempts to game the system, of which this is only the latest I’ve bumped into. I like experiments and new ways to approach the Twitter API – but I dislike manipulation and being treated like a fool.

I would maintain that it is possible to use these tools to create and sustain meaningful relations, although like Laura it is probably no more than a handfull or at most a few handfulls which have come out of my personal use of Twitter. I haven’t calculated it rationally in terms of how many hours I’ve put into it, and if I did the numbers probably would not look encouraging.

But I don’t look at it in those terms. I see it more like a big learning experiment which helps me dress myself and others up for whats coming – and what will be _more_ the real thing. More peer-to-peer driven, more sharing, more caring and much more powerful (as in the Wikipedia meaning of the word). More so than say Twitter, Facebook, even Google, which are all young wild proprietary experiments trapped in the “old” economy.

I never forget the wonder of encountering Wikipedia in those early years, in 2003 and 2004. I and a few others worked on the Max Stirner article in the wiki and we built what we thought was a pretty decent encyclopedic article on Stirner. Since then, our work has been completely destroyed, mashed-up and remixed into an obscurity of an enormous and unstructured piece of writing. Great, because our work was not so sacred it couldn’t be demolished, and the lively activity on the article suggests that a lot of people find Stirner’s thinking interesting – which is great. Great, because the friendly environment and cooperative spirit which nurtured and built Wikipedia in those years laid the foundation for a global phenomenon we have yet to fully understand and appreciate. Great, because Wikipedia shocked me. It woke me up! In the Lessig meaning of those words. Sure there are problems. Lots of them. One of these minor quibbles may be, that the article which at present introduces Max Stirner to the uninitiated is not as good as the one we once wrote. But when all comes to all, it is a minor quibble. What shocked me and appeared to me as truly revolutionizing, was the power of people coming together, from different parts of the world, working together towards a meaningful goal, if just an encyclopedic article, we wanted it to be the best article it could be. And this stays with me. A lot of people these days use services such as Facebook and Twitter and marvel at the opportunities of connecting with other people. Most coming in via these online services have not learnt how to connect. They are easy targets for the “make a quick buck”-promoters who will sell their old grandma for +10.000 additional followers on Twitter.

There’s a big job in educating ourselves on how to communicate. The real power of tools like Twitter is not in the meaningless “what are you doing right now”-nonsense (except these may sometimes be good conversation-starters) but in the ability to reach someone beyond far distances, who shares your concern, your problem, your interests. Who may be able to help you. Whom you may be able to help. Not in the “shouting” and “selling your products in the face” way of “helping”. Forget the products. Help because you care. Because you share passionate common interests.

I like when I can see the person behind the connection. “It is the real you I want to see, behind the imagery”, I once described it somewhere. In that context, I spoke about the importance of crafting films with authentic messages and stories which resonate with oneself and one’s audience. But it is no less true when connecting with others using internet tools. To have something important to say, something meaningful to communicate. Something to ask. Something to think about, to be concerned about. A piece of information which makes my life richer, in the deeper sense and not the monetary sense.

We don’t always know what that is, and if we can’t write and post a message without thinking deeply about the deeper meaning of it, we would write and post a lot less. Which may be a good thing, some might say. Something which I repeatedly find very embarrassing myself, is how despite all precautions, you can’t easily hide the less flattering sides of yourself when engaging in online conversations. Some of it doesn’t look very pretty. Misspellings, impatience, frustrations, childish blabbering, pride, just plain rudeness. I’m a big fan of civil online behaviour as I am in civil offline behaviour, but still sometimes things slip out, which are less than flattering, sound a little too blunt than it was meant etc. And it doesn’t all have to be flattering. I’m also a great fan of filtering tools and I hope those who read what I have to say take note and learn how to use these to their great effect. As we’re still only learning how to handle and filter our in/out information streams, the noise levels of our online communication are inevitably rising as we try and deal with the problems of communicating with people in different contexts, on different platforms, and using different kinds of filtering tools.

Those of us who learnt how to communicate and work together building the early articles of Wikipedia, and did it the hard way, by connecting with others and discussing page up and down with complete strangers how best to do it, we’ve got a long way helping the many others coming into this world of online connectedness much less well prepared. And most importantly, whether we use crude (but working) wiki talk pages or sophisticated tools like social messaging or multi-platform microblogging, we need to make our passions shown. To help deliver the shock.

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Why We Don’t Really Like Social Networks

I’ve sometimes experienced people who won’t accept invitations to connect with me on social networking sites such as LinkedIn or Facebook. Sometimes because they don’t know me or believe they don’t know me. “Knowing someone” is an extremely relative concept with the advent of the internet, though I can also see the grounds on which LinkedIn would want to hold on to this concept.

In other cases, people are afraid they may get spammed or get tricked into spending lots and lots of precious time on meaningless online jabbering and “click this to see who’s on your page” kind of stuff. Others, like my friend the science fiction writer Palle Juul Holm, simply hates what he calls the “americanized categories” of LinkedIn which doesn’t even allow “retired” or “literature” as categories.

To tell you the truth, I hate this too. I hate and dislike fixed categories, because they shape people’s minds in bad ways. In fact, I hate social networks. Social relations there are rarely true and meaningful relations, and I don’t want to waste my time installing useless applications which waste other people’s time. I hate to waste my time on useless crap. I like quality and I like meaningful conversations.

Yet I am a member of more than a handful social networks, and will add a lot more as we go along in Kaplak. Why? I’ll tell you why in a minute.

I have and have always had great contempt for people, institutions or societies which seek to enslave people. Be it slaves to certain kings or rulers, or slaves to certain ideas or modes of thought. The worst idea is probably the habit of believing that one can do no difference in one’s life, which one grows into, when one is not free. “The slave is not free, as long as he considers himself a slave”, to paraphrase one of my heroes, the German philosopher Max Stirner.

I believe people grow, create and live their lives best as free, empowered individuals, and that the world will be a greater place to be when as many people can be and can do so. I believe people who are free, and free to seek and find information, will be wiser people.

One of my greatest passions is tools and services, which empower individuals to create their own online architectures. Because using and building our own tools (i.e. free software) is what makes us free, knowledgeable and capable of change. With free software, i.e. software which can be freely distributed and tinkered with, we can modify the online as well as the offline digital architectures we use ourselves.

This is why I love wikis, why I love decentralized structures and p2p-based architectures, which empower individual members to exercise their influence, bandwidth, harddrive spaces and every bit and byte of their communicative and hacking capabilities to mold what they use so that it fits their needs.

The antithesis to this, of course is any “system”, which create architectures, that cannot be changed by it’s individual users. Systems which are the fruits of what Richard Stallman (visit Stallman’s personal website here) with disdain and contempt in his voice calls “proprietary software”. Facebook and LinkedIn are prime cases of such enormous systems, which are based on fixed categories and variables, which cannot be modified by users. Within this system, of course, there are lots of things which can be modified, but only after you accept the premises of say Facebook’s view of the world, which is “users”, “friends”, “pages”, “groups”, “walls”, “applications” and so on. One cannot break up and shape the architecture itself.

These systems are clearly bad, IMO, for our freedoms and capabilities of building our own architectures.

Why do I support and encourage the use of these systems then? Why do I invite others to take part in services such as these? One very important reason is that we can’t do anything, unless we’re connected. And as long as any platform gives me the opportunity to reach out and connect with others – most importantly those I want to know and who wants to know me, but don’t know about me – I will use it, as long as it’s free and doesn’t give me headaches. As long as it gives others an opportunity to reach out and communicate back, it’s a tool we may be able to use in our broader scope of things to come. It’s a tool for connecting, so that we may share and shape those much deeper and meaningful conversations – which will form more durable relations, which are beneficial to us in the long term. Which may help us break down the walls and empower more people to create their own architectures.

If we can, for instance, use the Facebook platform to promote Kaplak’s widgets and allow our users to sell products there, we’ll do it with this perspective in mind. We have a focus beyond the categories of “knowing someone” or being someone’s “friend” on social networks, which is crucial to what we do in Kaplak. It is not just about “selling things” and making money, when we try to expand on social networks. We do not dislike money or earning them, but as a company we want to add real value. Our primary capital for doing this is durable connections and ressourceful people, not money or “friends” on Facebook.

If this post resonates with you, we’d like to invite you to join our new Kaplak group on Linkedin, or alternatively, to ‘become a fan’ or group member of our Facebook group. Not just as a number in our friend count, but as someone capable of speaking back, here, there or in other contexts or platforms of your preference and choosing. As always, you’ll find us on Twitter and, among other places :-)

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Kaplak and The Wiki Way

This video is a few words about our online method and work ethos, which is greatly inspired by what has been coined “the wiki way”, by our friends at About Us, among others (and yet others).

I’ve previously written about Kaplak’s multi-platform strategy and compared our business aspirations to the world of grafitti painting in our local neighbourhood. We want to create a company, which is capable of inviting “tags” and “shouts”, i.e. inputs from outside our company, so that we may, in the process and with time, learn how to do a great “piece”, so to speak. Inviting outside input is more difficult, than one would imagine, as everything in the business world as is, is built around keeping closed circles closed and creating stiff hierarchies, which are detrimental to the very kind of open, global process, we mean to help kick off and participate in. By all means, we want to steer clear of the corporate thickness, which quickly creeps into a company and prevents it from doing bold things.

Thus, we mean the “wiki way” in broader terms, than for just the work of building a wiki. We consider it a way of doing business and a mindset, which we need, in order to maintain a broad online presence over a number of different platforms and web architectures, without being overencumbered by the sheer vastness of what we’re doing – “making the world’s ends meet”, as we say, i.e. making financially viable connections between niche products and global niche markets.

Building and writing a blog sometimes can be like working against the clock. Posts are time-stamped and articles read and digested in the order they are published.

Not so with wikis. They evolve slowly over time, as additions to the wiki accumulate, from vastly different and otherwise territorially and contextually dispersed contributors. A wiki is built from time to time, when there’s something to add. A page can be an inactive dead end for months or even years, and it can see a sudden outburst of activity from one moment to the other, when it finds it’s use in a new context.

We understand and implement our online strategy much in this way. We use web tools and services, when they are useful to us, and we try to add bits and pieces to our network, when we need to. We don’t write blog posts every day, just for the sake of it or just to draw in traffic. However, we do work systematically to find explicit ways to add information or new contacts to our network. Precisely where the activity occurs – whether it happens on Twitter or Friendfeed, or somewhere else – is less important, as long as our pieces and nitbits are closely interlinked, and as long as we can feed stuff from one platform to another. The last thing is a high priority, which is why RSS and widgets are important. But what is even more important, is that in most contexts, not just in our wiki, we invite replies, comments, reactions, input, if just for the rare case, when someone in some unexpected context stumbles upon one of the bits and pieces, which help he or she activate that page and connect with us.

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Kaplak’s Online Strategy

If you’re reading this, you belong to a select group of people who have managed to find their way along intricate paths into this new home for the Kaplak Blog. Kaplak’s first site was since it’s inception last summer born as a temporary website for Kaplak. It’s primary purpose was to host the blog and the mailing list until we had developed our first online strategy. Now, we’re in the process of implementing this strategy for our online presence. This mindmap roughly illustrates what this entails :

Kaplak is not just one website – we’re building a presence on a number of different platforms, from Twitter and to YouTube and Facebook, and on countless others. Many of these platforms are tied together by RSS, which makes it (which is the goal) comparatively easy or convenient to travel (i.e. follow links) between these different platforms and communities.

One important step in the process has been to move the blog to it’s own domain, with new powerful software (WordPress) and plugins, so that we could ‘free up’ the main domain for a complete revamp. The purpose of changes to become a key entry point on the web for the “signup and upload” process for new customers. This will be closely connected to the Kaplak Marketplace, which will be Kaplak’s main original contribution to the web. We have some clever ideas in Kaplak about how to avoid what we have termed the mainstream problem and look very much forward to showing this part of our activities off to the world.

The next step in the implementation of our strategy will be setting up a decent skin for and opening up our public Kaplak Wiki.

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Kaplak and

Too much is happening these days in the Kaplak universe for this blog to keep up to speed. We have attended a pre-springboard (early investor’s presentation, still among “friends”), attended a conference for computer game producers and have met with some great people. We’ve also interviewed 8 applicants for a designer position in the core Kaplak team, and have invited 3 candidates to further talks. This is a very exciting process.

The slowness of getting all this information out to the right people is highly dissatisfying to me. I come from a wiki background where small changes or huge revolutions can be done rapidly, by one or several people. The architecture is open, which means that anyone can add to the growing pile of hyperlinks and information. A blog is somewhat different, it’s a lot slower for me. In Kaplak, we need both. We need the wiki for rapid information gathering and sharing, and we need the blog as a core official communications channel instrument. We also need email to play a functional role. Our mailing list has long served primarily as a filtering mechanism for people interested in Kaplak – it has not been a practical instrument as a communications channel, as I so far prefer contacting our customers personally, and not mass mailing some message out. We’ve also been slow on our survey, which are not yet flying.

In other words, there’s much to improve and much to be done. I’m looking forward to rolling out more of our online presence in the coming time and hope to remedy the shortcomings of our present online communications shortly.

In the meantime, please follow our kaplak “tweets” on Twitter which I’ve found to be a tremendously valuable tool in fast communication with a lot of people simultanously. We’ve also begun to systematically use for Kaplak’s growing bookmark collection. These are the latest added links on our profile :

Both Twitter and are fast and tremendous tools for following Kaplak for the time being. For those of you, who don’t know or use yet, it is a wonderful “social bookmarking” service, which lets you instantly share the things you find of value on the web. All you need is a small browser plugin and it is just as easy as bookmarking pages in your browser. The huge advantage of this of course being, that since your bookmarks are online, your collaborators, fans and employees will be able to follow your sources, without you having to ship every link to them via email. And vice versa. If you, for instance, tag something with the tag “kaplak” on, it will rapidly get my attention. Please do, if you find something we should take a look at.

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