Spoiler Alert: Ello will one day suck.
Take this as network pessimism if you want, or take it as a dare for Ello to last as long as it can. I was excited about Facebook once, and joined because I thought it might be everything that was good about the internet communities that I knew and loved. It wasn't. So I quit. There were blogs and I loved those, Twitter was amazing, but Google killed blogs along with RSS and now Twitter takes turns being tiresome and emotionally draining. I still have a blog, and I still use Twitter. But for how long?
Networks are important to us. My entire line of work stems from Twitter--it's how I get jobs. But I'm not going to either let it suck me under or go down with it furiously trying to bail. And I know many of you do important advocacy work to make sure that networks are egalitarian in their accessibility; i.e. as potentially fun for all as they are for some. But there are so many places that need defending.
My point is, for what little it might be worth: it doesn't seem that we are going to find the one resilient network that stands the test of time. We're never going to re-invent and preserve that one moment when everything seemed like it was going to be perfect for ever. At the risk of cascading waves of nostalgia for networked bliss that echo the non-existent generation of the golden age of newspapers, novels, radio, paintings, or whatever, we must reject this Christian utopianism. It is better, I think, to live out of our cars, so to speak, than try to set up roots on a terrain that is not solid, owned by others, and often times doesn't exist.
The best situations are those in which, when someone begins complaining, I can say, "great idea, how can I support you fixing that?" Instead of complaining about being hungry, you start chopping up vegetables. We commit to things, we ally ourselves with them, and invest in the project to give it some lasting life. But networks aren't like that. You can't really crowd-source building an interstate highway (or lack of one) without a state, as it turns out. A personal boycott isn't going to thwart Walmart. States and corporations are things that are bigger than us. They don't care what we think, and see no problem in running us over rather than slowing down. That doesn't mean they are permanent. It just means that history is going to be beset by disappointment and tragedies, because the people with the right ideas throwing themselves at the system just aren't big enough. Because of the frightening scale of our current networks, some of these tragedies are large enough to potentially kill us all. Far better than preparing to throw yourself underneath the wheels, is preparing to run.
Luckily, the fate of Ello isn't as cataclysmic as all this. But I am still fairly convinced that it will one day suck. Could be six months, three years, or ten years. I don't know when, and I don't know exactly why. But this particular network is being controlled by someone other than me, and I'm not going to barge into their offices and demand that they make changes that will satisfy my idea of what is not suck. Networks couldn't be more important, but to me, they couldn't be less worth it. Instead, I'll just leave when it is time to do so. I am fairly convinced that I will use a succession of social network like things for the rest of my life. Eventually, someone might really get it, and fix all the things, so that I feel good using a particular social network for more than six years of its evolution. But right now, that seems unlikely. (Just a single example: if a social network can't figure out that it will need a block button on its own, I don't have much hope for it's survival. There are tens of other examples.)
It's been said that the ability to not be connected is the greatest privilege of all. But as someone who regularly has his cell phone shut off because he can't pay to re-up his SIM, I know where all the open WiFi networks are in my immediate area. There's two ways of dealing with the raw deal at the bottom of the network customer food chain. You either give all your money to the ISP and spend all your time begging and pleading with them to not disconnect you. Or you get ready for when the internet is shut off, and you have a contingency plan.
See you all on IRC after the fire.