The Next Big Thing Has Been Cancelled

Thing about these pre-prepared bits of writing is that a) I have to think of a title (which – and if you’ve any experience of writing you’ll know this – needs to at least nod in the direction of the content, otherewise you’d be guilty of mis-selling and no-one wants to be the blogly equivalent of payment protection insurance, no we don’t) and b) I have to think of a preamble, because they’re actually a bit out of time. Which is not the same as ‘past their sell-by’, no it isn’t. Anyway, this piece is a little bit about the fact that, despite many an effort by the gurus and the evangelisers, there actually aren’t any new social media. There’s two – Twitter and Facebook – two is the number, and the number is two. Never shall it be three, although it might become one. Wasn’t that a terrible song – ‘two become one’? Anyhoo, The Next Big Thing keeps being touted but, actually, under scrutiny, none of it ever stacks up, and the dawning realisation is that there are no NBTs, nor never will be. Here I have a look at Anomo and Whisper.sh. What? (I hear you ask.) Nope. Me neither.

(Also in this piece is a brief diversion into my favourite topic of not-words, with a sighting of ‘tunnelised’. Apparently, there was uproar and outrage in the good ol’ US and A a few days ago when they heard two Popes had been canonised. Seems they think lethal injection is far more humane. (Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week.)

I know, I know. I’m an old Luddite, who’d rather be carefully inscribing illuminated script on a wax tablet, to be wrapped in a piece of fine Irish linen, sealed with the reddest of wax, imprinted with a seal (if the seal will hold still, if not, skip this step) and carried in the cleftiest of sticks by the fleetest of footmen, to the office of the Town Crier, in time for its contents to be oh-yea’d all over town. (Life was somehow simpler then.) Which is probably why I’ve only just come across Anomo and Whisper.sh.

Once again, I find myself short of time, patience and wordage – talking of words, as I wasn’t, I heard a perfectly acceptable English person utter the not-word ‘declarate’ just the other day, and read an article by Boris Johnson (Mayor of London) in which he maintained that the M25 would have to be ‘tunnelised’, I despair, truly I do – and I’m not going to bother with source material of references. Believe it, readers mine, or move on.

Anyway, Anomo and Whisper.sh are the two ‘next big things’ in social media. They already have a joint worth estimated to be in the brazillions. (OK, this isn’t true – but then again, I’m writing this now and you’ll be reading it then, and, well, who knows?)

So I thought I could be an early adopter. Finally, my chance to be in at the beginning of something! Sadly, however, it is quite clear that either I am genuinely incapable of grasping the subtle nuance of these two things, the refined essence that lifts them above so much of the mundane clatter that deafens our lives and obfuscates our vision or – and it’s a big one, folks – they’re both further extensions of the relentless ego-driven nonsense that characterises so much of the social space. Guess which I think it is?

So for those who don’t know – and such is my luck that by the time you read this, Anomo will be the médium sociale de choix of Barry, Dave and Helle, and Whisper.sh will have renamed itself SHOUT.grrr – Anomo allows you to interact with others in a similar space without revealing yourself, like Tinder for stalkers, and Whisper.sh, is a forum for selfies with the selfist’s thought written on them.

I’ll give you an example at random: “When I broke up with my ex, she decided to be a whore to try and get me jealous. Honestly I think its (sic) hilarious and I hope she gets an STD.” This charming sentiment attracts responses from like-minded individuals, who in turn, post a picture with their ‘thought’ on it. Eg “Same exact thing happened with me….” Someone shoot me.

Two things spring to mind immediately, one horrifying, one vaguely reassuring. The horror comes from the certain knowledge that it can only be a matter of time before the gurus start claiming that Anomo and Whisper.sh should be key pillars of your marketing strategy.

I read an article recently in which some plank called Gerry Underchuk (or similar) claimed that Snapchat was his main marketing tool right now. (Head in hands, people, head in hands.) The reassurance comes from the almost certain knowledge that these two simply cannot be revenue delivering. (Can they?)

Talking of delivering revenue – and value – I note that nice Mr Zuckerberg (when he’s not selling $1.4bn of shares to pay a tax bill) (or is he?) (maybe he’s simply saying that to cover the fact that he’s taking an enormous amount of money out of the company before it all turns into a rat’s arse?) is developing video advertising for Facebook, because that’s where the money is. Actually Facebook is not the best medium for video, because of the way it’s used, but hey – video works on TV, why not on social?

Hear that click? That’s the sound of something coming full circle.

Another dotcom bubble?

It’s another one from the vaults. I wrote this in November 2013. Shocking, actually, to see how – in the intervening five months – so many things have changed and moved on. What has stuck – and grown, if you like – is the feeling that Twitter and WhatsApp and the rest simply aren’t worth the stupid sums being paid for them. We’ll see.

$11.2bn. As much as $30bn. As I write, now around $20bn. Oh, yes, dear reader, you know what I’m talking about. And still it doesn’t make a profit. Meanwhile, in what was quite clearly an attempt to start making a profit, I receive a promoted tweet from @BMWUSA asking me to show my support for Team USA, as we approach the winter Olympics.

Erm, an’ thank you most kindly, but why, exactly, would a Welshman with English overtones, resident in London, wish to express support for Team Merca? I’m sure they’re all lovely, with their splendid muscles and super hair and dazzling teeth, but – and it’s a small one, I know – nit-picky almost – they’re from a completely different country to which I have no links whatsoever, unless you count my ancestors’ compatriots’ vain efforts to shape it up a little.

So, a poorly targeted promotional tweet – well, I’m not the target market for much of the TV advertising I sit through (too lazy to reach for the clicker, d’you see), and this is simply the socially medieval equivalent.

But, of course, it isn’t. Because social ain’t TV – there’s no Strictly Come Tumblring or I’m a Celebrity Follower, Unfriend Me! – and promotional tweets aren’t big budget, glossy items, with soundtracks and celebrities and (this is most important, pay attention) paid for in advance.

(When I make this point, I’m thinking about the Louis Vuitton ‘L’Invitation au Voyage’ ad with David Bowie (or is it Tilda Swinton) and Arizona Muse. Not the Cillit Bang ‘Barry Scott in a big purple fighter jet’ ad with Barry Scott.)

No. Promoted tweets are cheap as chips for the tweet promoter. As long as I, the recipient of the promotweet, do not click ‘pon said spamulous item, nor neither follow the issuer of same, then the spamuliser pays nowt. Not a brass farthing. Which, clearly, means that targeting simply isn’t an issue, and is why I’m happy to call this stuff spam.

So now Twitter’s under increasing pressure to demonstrate its revenue model and to show some sign that it could, in future, turn a profit and reward the enormous valuation that’s been put on it.

This means, I’m afraid, considerably more of these poorly-targeted promoted tweets. Is it just me, or can anyone else see a flaw in a business plan that relies on the social equivalent of the Nigerian email scam for revenue generation?

Facebook saw an immediate 16% dip in its share price when ‘senior executives’ revealed that young people were leaving the site – in fairness to it, however, its share price recovered once it was realised that the audience hole was being backfilled with the young people’s parents and grandparents.

But the point remains made – young people, the valuable Holy Grail audience, trendsetters, early adopters, rainmakers – don’t like being sold to through channels they consider they ‘discovered’ or ‘invented’.

They don’t like their feeds being abominated with spamulous commercial messages. They – making a little leap here – don’t like promotweets. Which is, arguably, why the current valuations of various social media are a wee smidge on the high side.

Now we hear about £8bn for Dropbox (actually, I can see why Dropbox might be worth something) and Pinterest securing funding that would value the enterprise at £3.8bn, despite the fact that it has only recently begun to clarify its business model.

I think it’s clear that I don’t think much of social media as marketing or promotional tools. There are too many gurus telling you how to do, and not enough do. The Emperor is risking risqué with his lack of vestements.

But what is increasingly scary is that no-one seems to remember the rush of the lemmings into the tech bubble of the late nineties and what happened in March 2000.

When Two Become One – Social Media and the Abuse of Language

Boom, snorkellers mine! Or is it ‘boosh’? Recently I had my faith in ‘boom’ as the young person’s emphatic of choice somewhat shaken when the young person I use as my ‘young person barometer’ opted for the latter. But it is possible that said young person was still coated in fall-out from the Jack Black oeuvre ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, where Mr Black does, in fact, use ‘boosh’ to denote triumph and satisfaction. Which then begs the question, did he use ‘boosh’ because he is American? Or because it was a family movie? Or both?  I will admit to worrying slightly about ‘boom’, as I suspect it has overtones of ‘gangsta’. But, and indeed, hey – that’s the way I roll.

Which digression leads us nicely into the theme of today’s meander down language lane. Oh yes, syntaxmen, grammarians and semanticleers, another excursion into the verbiage. So, those of you who’ve been here before (wind whistles round an empty, cavernous space and a small, adolescent tumbleweed rolls gently into the dusty distance) will know that one of my greatest bugbears is the abuse of language – whether that’s language used wrongly, or words that are made up, slapdash errors or mistakes that have become so commonplace that they are now practically accepted as part of the language they undermine. I refer, of course, to apostrophe’s.

The other thing that makes me seethe, of course, is social media. Now – and before anyone starts – I am not a social media denier. How can anyone be a social media denier? I am someone who does not believe that social media is the be-all and end-all. I see no reason for there to be a social media industry. I have no time for social media gurus. I do not believe that social media add any real value whatsoever, and I remain convinced that they are practically useless in any sort of commercial (sales and marketing) environment. At best another set of media for communications purposes, at worst, dangerous, misguided and damaging (for a brand or organisation, anyway). Shallow, one-dimensional and self-obsessed – that’s social.

So imagine my joy when I came across this: “We have learned through experience tweeple don’t like brands jumping in if they have chosen not to include them. It could cause a black lash especially if they are out spoken. It is strange but they don’t like being watched even though
it’s public forum.

Do the users of Twitter know they’re being called ‘tweeple’? Do they call themselves ‘tweeple’? Are the Tweeple the inhabitants of Tweetville? If there are many Tweeple, are there individual Twersons? Does anyone have any idea how much this makes social media seem like a figment of the imagination of Dr Seuss and one that makes even less sense than a portion of green eggs and ham? What, social medians, are you thinking of?

I am a guardian of corporate reputation by profession. Something I’ve learnt is that, if you want to be taken seriously, you don’t give yourself a ridiculous name. It takes a long time and a lot of effort before you can start being jokey with your brand, and even then, the jokes have got to be clever and make people think. Or, of course, you can start out with a ‘whacky’ personality (Innocent Drinks) but even then it needs to be thought through to the nth degree. In this case, you’ve got a case of the whackies without any longevity or substance. And it is value and reputation-destructive.

But, hey (again), go with the flow. In the spirit of entente cordiale, here are a few generic nouns I’ve come up with for the users of other social media. These are free and anyone can use them without even thanking me. (Although it would be nice, obviously.)

Faceboks. Tumbleers. Foursquats. Instagrates. Youtubigrips. Pinteresticles.

And, of course, it’s not Tweeple.

It’s Twats.

Social Media Are Now Addictive – Official

I’d often wondered what they were cutting that Facebook with. All that inanity, and insanity, and lack of self-control and propensity for sometimes career-threatening embarrasment, and morals out the window and sheer filth – it’s all so clear now.

The inability to walk away from it, to leave it alone – an itch that has to be scratched, a digital open wound – the tippity-tappety of fingers on device, from morning ’til night – why couldn’t we see it? The Evil Boy Turd, Zuckerberg, is obviously lacing his product with something with the dependency-generating qualities of crack, or scag, or meth and the mind-to-cheese-turning properties of e or mephedrone.

Rather like the creepy bloke hanging around outside the campus gates, handing out sweeties for free, and promising to hand out more on demand. Which then turn out to cost something.

What’s that? Sorry? Oh. You mean you can’t adulterate a website with an addictive substance? So what’s going on then?

Oh.

So you’re saying that the compulsion to get on to Facebook or Twitter or MyTumblinstagram at every opportunity, the inability to carry out seemingly simple tasks without checking your alerts, is – in fact – just the failure of those with weak wills or limited self-control to get a grip?

And, further, that the flood of rubbish content found on social media is not the result of substance raddled minds, but simply of the fact that the vast majority of people using these media are self-obsessed, sub-standard mutants with barely an original thought to share between them?

In summary then, this new ‘addiction’ is not really an addiction at all. It’s an excuse for people not to put their devices down. It’s an excuse for them to behave badly and justify their rudeness? It creates a new industry – people who treat social media addictions – and it breathes the oxygen of publicity (once again) into something that is purposeless and (so far) valueless?

Ah.

So this article (from the Evening Standard) is hardly worth reading.

It’s Not a Conversation, Stupid

Heads up chaps. While this post is to do with something that’s ongoing here, in the good ‘ol UK of GB’n’NI (although, if anyone’s feeling radical, I’m not horribly possessive about NI and, quite frankly, think it would probably be best if we just quietly gave it back, without much of a fuss, d’you see), there’re bigger issues up for grabs here.

I am, of course, talking about what we might call (and probably will fairly soon) McAlpinegate or Twittergate, which, for those who don’t follow current affairs in the UK, and I suspect there may be a few, is the threat, by lawyers working on behalf of Lord McAlpine, sometime Treasurer of the Tory Party and all-round Big Beast, to hunt down and punish those Twitter users who promoted and furthered certain recent (and unfounded) allegations about aforementioned former Treasurer. (And breathe.)

Be that as it may. It’s a lead in to a couple of issues. The first is one that I’ve posted about before – and I know that linking to oneself is the height of vanity publishing, but, hey, I’m flexible enough – and is the propensity for ostensibly sensible people to go all yoghurt-brained when confronted by social media in all their myriad forms and with all their myriad possibilities, and to start publishing things that are either inappropriate, or offensive, or cringeworthy or simply just cretinous in the extreme. I called it Twitterette’s Syndrome. (Thank you. Yes. I thought it was brilliant also.) It is this, in part, that has lead to certain Twitterers leaving themselves open to a right royal suing for libel. Ouch. Costly.

The second is an issue that is raised in this rather edifying piece from yesterday’s Evening Standard, a widely-read (and quite informative) newspaper, based here in London. The issue is that social media, by their very natures, encourage people – if not into full-blown Twitterette’s, at least into unguarded and unwise commentary. As the author, Sam Leith, rightly points out – social media, through their informality, lead us to believe we’re engaging in conversation.  By dealing in the moment-by-moment, that all is temporary. By being streams of content, that they’re transient.

None of this, of course, is true. If you Tweet something, you are publishing.

And what was it someone once said? ‘Publish and be damned’? How, I sincerely hope, very appropriate.

Not just me, then………

Good morning, dear blog snorkellers all, and welcome to the bloggy equivalent of diving for meal stars in a tank full of spiders and cockroaches but, thankfully, without Ant and Dec. For those of the faithful that haven’t got a clue what just went down there, it’s a knowing and thus quite irritating reference to the current expression of the Great British zeitgeist, ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here’ only, of course, they’re not and everyone (secretly) wants them to stay there. Especially Nadine Dorries and Helen Flanagan, two people without whom I am absolutely certain the world would continue on its merry way, not in the least bit troubled by their absence.

So, you must be whispering amongst yourselves, ‘why has he called us here’ – on a day like today, as we barrel headlong into a gripping British winter. Well, since you ask, it’s for reasons social mediaeval, trotters mine and something that you may be interested in persuing yourselves. It is this – see – an article by one Charlie Brooker, reproduced here by linkery to t’Guardian newspaper of this parish, without so much  as a ‘by its leave’ or, indeed, permish from Brooker himself. I do hope he’s not overly bothered and decides that it’s a) too much faff and b) uneconomical to get all McAlpine on my ass. As the Mercans might say if they knew who McAlpine is and were as able to bend the English language to their will as I am.

I’m in agreement with this train of thought because it suits me to be so. Anyone who knows me will know I’m not a great fan of t’social, and this article posits that “Like the wheel, social media is another invention that is starting to resemble more of a millstone than a breakthrough.” It also suggests a few simple rules to solve a problem like the internet. Unlikely, you may say. P*ssing in the wind, you may say. Important, I say, and eminently necessary as we spiral headlong into a digital despond where, OMG, everyone is LOL, or worse, ROFL, or even, at the extremes of society, RAOTFLMFAO.

I think it’s code for ‘I’m a Luddite, Get Me Out Of Here!’ And I’m waiting for my request to be granted.

Some More Thoughtful Social Media Commentary

You know me, not much of a socio-mediavelist on the whole – but, still, I bet you thought I’d gone a bit Southern (for my friends from the United States and America, ‘southern’ in this context means ‘effeminate’, not ‘toothless, hairy, armed and smelling of bourbon’) (and for my UK fans, yes, I am a southerner, so it is perfectly alright for me to use the word ‘southern’, as it is not offensive. In the same way I could use the word ‘gay’, if I wanted to) (which would be offensive) when I stopped ranting about t’social and how it represents a direct road to hell for civilsation as we know it.

Anyway, rumours of my descent into southernness have been greatly exaggerated, as demonstrated by this article from that stalwart bulwark of editorial honesty (on matters communication), Communicate Magazine. I cannot tell you how much I echo the sentiments in this article – not all of them, obviously, there is some very Southern thinking contained within – and how I am in complete agreement with the school of thought that says social media are completely irrelevant. (OK, that’s not EXACTLY what it says, but near enough as makes no difference. To my mind.)

I also admire the (again, to my mind) extremely clever way that one of the authors – the one in the right, obviously, the one on the side of truth and justice – has designated social media ‘SM’, which, of course, is simply shorthand for a very Southern practice indeed.

Yes, I am wholly in favour of one half of this article.

The one that I wrote, clearly.