Social Media Sunday: ‘Ello, ‘Ello

I’m trying out a new social media network called Ello. I’ve only been there a couple of days, so I’m not going to give you an ebullient review and tell you to rush right out and join. I’ve not done a lot of research, so these are my first impressions. If you’re also experimenting with Ello, you can find me at  Ello.co/justgeneo. If you friend me there, I’ll certainly friend you back.

Ello has a lot of potential, but it’s too early to say whether it’s going to survive or not. It’s still in beta, so it doesn’t have a lot of features yet and it has a few bugs. The upside is that it doesn’t have a massive user base yet, so it presents an opportunity to get into a network at the very beginning and watch it grow from the inside.

If you want to give Ello a try, drop me a comment. I have a few invitations to give away, and I’d just as soon give them to WordPress bloggers as to anyone else. But do read the next four paragraphs before you make the decision. Edit: Looks like I only get 5 invites. I’ve given two of them to the first two bloggers who asked; I need to hang on to the last three until I touch base with my various blogging buddies and strategic wordpress allies. I’ll post an update if I decide to give any more away for the asking 🙂

It’s my impression that Ello’s developers are positioning it as a sort of “anti-Facebook” network. You need an invitation to join, although there’s a button on the Ello homepage that says “get invitation,” so I’m not sure you actually have to be invited by another user (Diana invited me, so I have no idea what the button on their homepage does). Ello has no ads and claims not to share user information with third parties. In fact, they have a manifesto:

Your social network is owned by advertisers. Ello

Every post you share, every friend you make, and every link you follow is tracked, recorded, and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.

We believe there is a better way. We believe in audacity. We believe in beauty, simplicity, and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership.

We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce, and manipulate — but a place to connect, create, and celebrate life.

You are not a product

All this makes Ello pretty intriguing. It’s also easy to use. It features a clean, minimalist interface and it only took me a few minutes to set up my profile. The only thing I had the least bit of trouble with was getting my cover image to display the way I wanted it to. Since I’m using one of my own photos for a cover, I had to take the original and size it exactly to keep it from being blurry, but that’s a minor thing. The main two things that I wish Ello had are notifications in the user interface (at the moment, it seems like email notifications are all they have), and a way to acknowledge a post without actually commenting — like an Ello version of Facebook or WordPress likes.

Of course, I’m not naive enough to believe policies can’t change. It’s easy to turn down ad revenue and keep user information anonymous when you’re trying to get a network off the ground and you’re only fighting for a tiny sliver of a huge market. Once you’ve got a user base of millions, the pressure to monetize the data and the webspace begins to mount, especially if your startup is funded private investors who don’t have a stake in anything but profits. And I want to be clear here — I have no idea how this network is funded, or by whom — I’m just sayin’. In the meantime, I’m willing to have a little trust because I want to see where Ello goes, I see its potential, and I’m on the lookout for the next big social media network. If it does grow and the developers deliver on their manifesto, my trust will turn into loyalty.

Honestly, I’m looking for an exit from Facebook. The more I use FB, the less I like it, but I feel as though I have to maintain at least a minimal presence there for now because it gives me a few things I find useful. This is not to say I’m looking down on other people who use and enjoy Facebook. I’m happy for everyone else to stay there and have their fun, but I use the social media a little differently than most people I know. More often than not, goofing around on the public side of Facebook is a poor use of my time. Here’s a list of things I actually find Facebook useful for.

  • Talking to people in groups. Hidden groups are especially useful.
  • Private chat. It’s just so simple and easy to get multiple people into a chat. It’s the best collaboration and coordination tool I’ve found so far.
  • Interest lists. They’re a great way to aggregate themed content. Diana and I have an interest list for blogs with fanpages that was very useful to us at one point, but we’ve not updated it for awhile and I’m not reading it as much as I was six months ago because I’m mostly spending my time elsewhere.

Now here’s a list of problems I have with Facebook.

  • FBlikeSharing on Facebook isn’t worth the 60 seconds it takes to click the “share” button and write one sentence. Well, it might be worth it if you have tens of thousands of friends, but how many people are comfortable allowing that number of people into their FB networks?
  • The algorithm that determines what appears in news feeds is punishing. To my way of thinking, there are only two ways to get a big audience for a Facebook post at this point: 1. Pay Facebook for promotion; or 2. Get about 20 people together, target a specific post, build the comment thread into the hundreds, have everyone like every comment on that thread, and then have them all share it. Facebook wasn’t always this way, but it is now.
  • The problem with the feed algorithm cuts both ways. On the one hand, almost no one sees anything I post there. On the other, unless I’m continually on Facebook liking things, I miss most of what my friends post, unless I flag nearly everyone “Close Friends,” in which case I have 100+ notifications every time I sign in, and that’s so overwhelming I might as well not be getting notifications at all.
  • It’s nice to have fan pages for my blogs, but the fan pages have done so little good for the blogs in the last nine months, we haven’t even recovered the investment of the hour it took to set them up. On the rare occasion we’ve gotten good traffic from Facebook, it’s come from our personal timelines, and it’s come at the cost of tagging massive numbers of friends, which people really don’t like.
  • Facebook prefers images, big media articles, and fluff. Every time I’ve posted original text that was the least bit serious there in the last six months, I’ve regretted it almost immediately. I’m not just talking about controversial sociopolitical chatter, either. I’m talking about just asking an honest question about this or that.

The one thing the public side of Facebook is good for at this point is keeping up with distant family and friends. I don’t need Facebook for that. I have a telephone. I’ll keep the blogs connected to the fan pages for the long term, because the setup is a sunk cost. But most weeks, I post one personal status update to let people know I’m alive. As soon as I find a suitable alternative to the groups and the chat, I’m pretty much done with Facebook.

When I started all this in November, my plan was to eventually repackage our best content and use it to post to one of the fan pages on a schedule and build a big Facebook following. I’m re-thinking that now because my experience on FB over the past six months has convinced me that I’m better off spending that time and energy elsewhere.

So, Ello. Will it provide a viable alternative? Too early to say. And just looking at my “related content” in Zemanta, it seems as though tons of “experts” are saying it’s just a flash-in-the-pan Internet fad. Maybe it is, but people always say that about new networks. Facebook certainly has nothing to worry about just yet. But I’m willing to cross my fingers, roll the dice, and see where Ello goes. I’m on board for now, and I’m glad I joined when I did.

It’s good to have a social media post on Sunday again. I’ll have a Blog Traffic and Engagement post next week or the week after and share my stats from July though September.  They ain’t pretty, and that’s not surprising, but they’re worth discussing. The last couple of months has exposed weaknesses in my long-term strategy that I’m going to have to find a way to compensate for.

Featured image courtesy of MKH Marketing.

 

 

It must be Friday!

patrickstewart

We’ve been having a conversation about Internet sexism lately. It is one of those conversations that just happens around the edges of the party. This post will catch you up, just in case you have something to say about it. You should go and read it. I think it is the only post we’ve done so far that has generated 29 comments, and we wouldn’t mind continuing that conversation.

Here are some links we’ve collected this week about sexism on the Internet.

First, this one from the Pacific Standard. I am not sure any of us have examined it as closely as it deserves yet, but we filed it away in the archive because it inspired a New York Times editorial and a post at The Mary Sue (which we picked up on twitter via CompGeekHolly, who does fabulous work).

We also found NOLA Feminizer, Feminist Philosphers, Lisa Wade, and a very well-thought-0ut Tumblr page. I like them. I hope you do, too.

Just in case you are wondering how Feminist Friday works:  Every Friday is Feminist Friday. That means you have at least 50 chances per year to write about women needing more equality and less aggression in their lives. If you don’t think this is important, perhaps Alva can persuade you otherwise.

image: I got it here with a Google search. Beyond that, I have no idea, but I am grateful to whomever snapped the pic, and will happily credit them if I ever find out who it was.

[Dwarf Vader is on vacation this week. We are hoping he makes it back by next Friday, because we miss him.]

@Twitter . . . #Rant

Thank you, Twitter, for suspending my account and not communicating with me about it, aside from sending me a set of automatically-generated instructions when I filled out the challenge form on Tuesday night. I needed something to blog about today, so you did me a favor. Thank you even more for restoring my privileges before posting time today, because now I can be magnanimous with this rant.

I am sure there’s a reasonable explanation for the suspension, and I am not writing this to complain about it. This isn’t really a complaint at all. It’s more a critique of the business practices you have forced me to observe over the last couple of days. And to share my feelings, of course.

I am not sure when you actually suspended me. I discovered it around midnight Dec. 3. I went and checked for a message from you giving me notice of the suspension, and my inbox was empty. Then I went to your suspension page and did some reading. I went to best practices and rules and read some more, trying to figure out why my account was suspended. I finally gave up trying to figure it out and just filled out the challenge form.

Once I filled out the form, I received an auto-generated message telling me to read all the stuff I’d just spent two hours poring over. I responded as instructed. Aside from the restoration of my privileges at noon today, which I am very grateful for, I have not received a single word of communication from you. Not even an autoreply acknowledging my message on Tuesday night or my follow-up message this morning.

WTF, Twitter? If you can auto-generate the “Follow Suggestions” and “Trending on Twitter” messages that continually clog my inbox, why can’t you send me a receipt for a support inquiry?

Here are a some things you could have done instead of suspending me without notice and failing to communicate with me for two days:

1. You could have sent me an auto-generated notice of suspension and then sent me an auto-generated acknowledgement once I followed your instructions.

2. You could have suspended my account for a specified period of time, explained to me exactly what I was doing wrong, and then reinstated my privileges on the condition that I not commit the same transgression again.

You did neither of those things.

What all this makes me wonder, Twitter, is:

Is this level of communication with your users indicative of your other day-to-day business practices?

I have to say my suspension felt punitive and it didn’t have to. I am happy to follow your little rules (it is your platform, after all), at least to the extent I can understand them from reading your web pages.

What I am not happy with is having a suspended account, being left to guess what I did wrong, and not knowing how you would respond if I simply created another account using my other email address.

I am even less happy about the fact that I had dead links to my Twitter account on two blogs that I update every day, on a public freakin’ Google Plus page, and on my LinkedIn profile for an unspecified period of time because YOU killed those links and did not have the courtesy to shoot me an email telling me what you’d done.

This is no way to treat a new user who has almost zero invested in your service and has no problem simply walking away and talking bad about you to everyone he knows if you continue to piss him off.

I know a single suspended account doesn’t look like a big deal, but little things have a way of piling up. It is in your best interest to look at this and figure out whether it’s just one of those things that happens sometimes, or whether it is indicative of some organizational or cultural flaw that you need to fix. If it’s the latter, and you ignore it, you are going to wake up one day and realize all the little things have turned into one huge snowball.

You really don’t want Wall Street to decide you are overvalued just at the same moment  a large portion of your user base is starting to look for alternatives. That would not be very good for your stock price; and it is exactly what happens to companies that systematically alienate consumers of their product.

One last thing, Twitter. I AM STILL GUESSING ABOUT WHY YOU SUSPENDED MY ACCOUNT. I think I know why, but I cannot be sure unless you tell me. And until I am sure, I have no way of knowing whether or not my behavior is risking another suspension.

I am a blogger. Most of my “personal status updates” come with links. Not just links to my blogs; links to things I find on other blogs as well. That is what bloggers do. We share links with one another all the time. Links are a sort of currency to us and we use them to show positive regard to one another.

Your policies that deal with links are vague and possibly self-contradictory in places. It is impossible to read them and form a rational opinion about what you, Twitter, consider to be acceptable link-sharing. Please clarify them on your web pages or send me an email answering the questions I asked in my first email to you on Dec. 3.

And please explain to me why you allow commerical news organizations to spam links all day long while you’re suspending a user that’s following fewer than 150 people and had a total of 62 tweets on his timeline at the time his account was suspended.