Truly, I don't care if Ello lives or dies, but the latest 'critiques' and instatakes from all the usual sources came during a week of the same
Here's my take on Ello.
It's too early to have a smart take on Ello.
It's 3 months old.
If you do have a take right now you may be dumb.
This last week as filled with madness. We're at war in Iraq again, insane murders, people were up in arms because the President saluted with a cup of coffee in his hands, just all kinds of craziness this week. I read, listened to and watched all kinds of takes from all kinds of people on these subjects. I'm smart, but am no expert on those topics. Something seemed off about almost all of the arguments, as if people were just responding and reacting, without thinking or researching even a little.
Then I started to read instapundit ello reactions, and my brain went dead stop. Because, I have hard won expertise about online business. Suddenly, not only was the shallowness of the commentary transparent, but there was some knowledge and thinking available to me to (hopefully) comment intelligently on the topic.
The playbook for the latest 'ello' critiques is "new tech thing that got buzz." I don't even know if the people using plays from this playbook realize they're doing it. It's like, everyone has absorbed the same dumb kinds of WSJ and boingboing and beatsheet and blahblahblah.com articles they just regurgitate the thinking without realizing it - and the original thinking wasn't necessarily that sharp to begin with. So, you end up with a watered down thing that people don't even realize is watered down.
It's the dumb that's driving me nuts. We want information so fast that we don't even stop to really think. If you're in media, you want to be first, because first is how you hit your SEO goals, and make sure you have all the DAUs you need to hit all your conversion funnels. And the rest of us read this stuff, and we internalize it, and we do it too. Suddenly, everyone is an expert, but no one is an expert.
It's not just the tech stuff. At all. You've got, like ... hmm. Let me put it this way.
I'm not a dental hygienist.
There is work involved there, and skill. I'm not joking. You could not put me in an office, and say, "You, you're a dental hygienist." I'd probably kill someone. I actually have no idea if I'd kill someone, because I don't know what a dental hygienist does. If you are a dental hygienist, I do not think you're stupid, and I respect your opinion on dental hygiene, because I don't know. I don't know if you were an A+ dental hygiene student, or a D-, or what, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt.
However, if you're a dental hygienist, and I know you, and I remember that you used to ditch Mr. Provo's class, or I watched you duck out of Vernon Johnson's political science class when we reviewed the US Constitution, I'm not going to think too highly of your opinions on the fourth amendment. It's not because you're a dental hygienist, it's because you don't know what you're talking about, but don't seem to realize it.
It is stupid to talk about stuff without knowing much about it. It's stupid to not say, "I don't know much about this stuff." I don't understand it. I know I probably do this, but luckily my friends catch me when I do, but they know I read a lot, I study, and I know my business, and I try not to share stupid things with people, because it's stupid. Let me pause here to make a critical point. This is most important. People are not wearing enough hats.
So, let's talk about the fear that ello is going to sell all of our data to Fresh Tracks Capital. Fresh Track Capital invested $435,000 in ello. The other 7 richish dudes who founded ello own approximately 82-84% of the company.
If that's true, that means ello was valued at ~$2.5 million when the investment was made. And by the way, everyone who owns the thing (including the VC company) hates ads.
So, let's leave the ownership stake at 82%. That controlling interest is from some rich, quirky people including the guy who owns Kid Robot. Those rich guys have the money to build this without any other money.
But smart rich people know, hey, if someone is going to practically give you money, spend their money before you spend your own. The VC companies that own small percentages of companies but can drive the direction do so by holding the purse strings.
Here's another thing to think about. Not all VC companies make their money the same way. Tornante is a good example of a quirky VC company that sometimes doesn't always do exit plans; if they did in every case, they would've divested Topps about 2 years ago. You could also look at Fresh Tracks Capital, you'll discover they're from Vermont and also have some quirky companies (and a quirky 5 member team).
These things take about five minutes to figure out. But all the instanpundits and thinkpieces about ello have written things that could substitute 'iPhone' or 'AOL' at given points. Nor did the people who are now writing substrate articles based on a thrown off ello post seem to bother, either.
Let me be clear on something. I absolutely do not care if ello lives or dies, I don't. It's just a website, and if it's fun and gets more fun, awesome! But if it dies, oh well, I don't work there, I just use it. Life goes on.
I think of my online identity as a superhero. The first time I had an identity online, as a kid, that's how I thought of it. Those same thoughts rolled into my head when I got to college, and when I found Jonah Weiland's comic book message boards all those years ago, and boom, I was thinking of online identities like superhero identities again. I had a bad experience in college that convinced me to hide myself online for a while, but it was isolated, and I got over it a few years ago, and
I realized that my inner superhero is privileged. In some parallel universe, one of me is a superhero, and that one doesn't have a secret identity. He's lucky that he doesn't need one. Generally affable, but also tough enough and lucky enough that his enemies can't really hurt him.
But that's me. And that's the trouble with Facebook. I actually like Facebook. I really do. It's free, it reminds me of TV when I was kid, except that the channels are all these amazing people I know. But I know that those amazing people are the ones who can afford to have public identities. Not everyone can. For every Luke Cage, Powerman, there's a Spider-Man who has a Green Goblin for an enemy. I have a lot of friends who have Green Goblins in their lives, and Facebook is TERRIBLE for them.
That's the thing with Facebook. On some level, they don't understand why an honest, law-abiding citizen would need to hide. They're kind of like J. Jonah Jameson if you think about it. Anyone in a mask is hiding for a bad reason, and is probably a villain of some kind. Spider-Man and his ilk? They're a menace! The Green Goblin is also a menace! I was thinking about some stuff I did a few years ago, helping people who could be murdered if their identity was known. I kind of felt like Oracle (aka Barbara Gordon), trying to help these superheroes stay hidden and get around and get their messages across, but also hoping my judgement was sound, and that these folks were all Spider-Heroes, and not Green Goblins.
That's the thing Facebook hasn't understood yet. They're a young business, and they're just thinking about ads and TV, and with ads and TV, well, the advertisers don't pay or care if Spider-Man is watching. They only care if the person watching is Peter Parker, Miles Morales, Mary Jane Watson or Gwen Stacey. Maybe one of these days, Facebook will figure out, and realize, that they can help protect Spider-Man's secret identity, and that there's a benefit to doing so. Websites all gotta get paid for, especially as they get more complex and spin into apps and things. Wikipedia does this by donation. Facebook pays by Ads. Having the user subscribe is another option. Hulu and Reddit, for example, are a combination of Ads and Paid.
So, if ello is going to fulfill its promise of no ads, it's going to be paid for by the users somehow. Whether those payments are by donation or subscription is anyone's guess. Or maybe Facebook figures out and finally realizes the value in being able to talk to the world from behind a mask. Either way, I care about my friends, and really don't feel that passionate about ello, or facebook, or twitter, or any of the tools I'm using, one way or the other.
What I do care about is the incessant, almost constant, dumbness and instapunditry that's going on all around us online in the US, because it's everywhere. The beauty of being online is that it doesn't take much time to do even a bare amount of research before you write something. I don't mean finding the first nugget of gotcha that you can find, I mean pausing and thinking a little before you write.
Ello commentary this week was a good reminder of that simple power, and also why it's important. In the grand scheme of the world, ello is not that important. But how we talk about it says a lot about who we all are, and where we're at right now, because we fall into the same tropes we use to discuss everything else.
I'm all for smarter whenever possible.
And please, for the love of all that is good, I can't stress this enough...
People are not wearing enough hats.