Share the Love

Every industry has a certain level of insularity. It’s human nature to want to be part of the in crowd and knowing the buzzwords and inner workings of a sector carries cache. The emerging tech industry, though, takes insularity to a whole other level. It’s easy to get caught up in the morass of social services and tools; a day spent immersed in tweets and status updates, FriendFeed links and Seesmic videos can easily cloud one’s mind. Spend enough time in here and you find yourself wondering why the gas company doesn’t just send your bills via Twitter. (On second thought, that’s a hell of an idea…) So it’s always a pleasant surprise to talk to my stay-at-home-mom friends, the ones I dragged kicking and screaming to Facebook. They give me a much needed reality check as to what’s going on in the real world.

I had one of those conversations this morning with my friend Polly, who is marginally tech-savvy, mainly because she’s too busy raising three boys to be otherwise. We talked about several tech-related issues, some of which I’ll post about in the coming days. But perhaps the most interesting talk concerned Facebook, in which she bemoaned the hesitance of some of our friends to join the site. She’s surprised to find that a few of her friends won’t consider a Facebook profile; that there was even a level of disgust at the idea. We threw around a couple of theories but I suspect the answer is pretty simple: ego. There is an air of ego – mistaken in my opinion – around Facebook and social networking in general. From the point of view of my generation and older, Web 2.0 is about ego: telling people what you’re doing at the moment, referring to articles you’re reading, posting pictures of yourself and the parties you go to – all actions that are second-nature to younger generations but anathema to anyone born before 1973 (or so).

Here’s my point: these services we’re building and testing and funding – where are they headed? For what mass audience are they intended? Take FriendFeed. I love it, you love it, we’re all (mostly) in agreement that they’ve built a nifty little service for those of us inside baseball. But how am I supposed to explain it to someone who’s never heard of an RSS reader? Someone who exclaimed, “Wow, you can do that?” when I described Google Reader to her? She wants to know about FriendFeed but I don’t even know where to begin. “Well, first you create an account at six or seven different services that you’ve also never heard of…”

I know I harp on this often but we desperately need to take all this fantastic innovation and share it with the outside world. The fact that many people think Facebook to be an ego trip (and equate it with the less-mature MySpace) is our fault. The fact that RSS still hasn’t made it to the mainstream is our fault. We’re the insiders with a wealth of knowledge and fulfilling tech experiences to share. The point of evangelizing is to win new converts, not to continue preaching to the already converted. Isn’t that the definition of insanity – doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result?

I’m not entirely sure who I’m directing this rant towards. Perhaps it’s to everyone who has forgotten the larger audience – bloggers, pundits, marketing strategists, investors and entrepreneurs alike. We need to broaden our reach, talk to everyday consumers about their technology uses, likes, and dislikes. Think past the TechCrunch reviews while building a product and plan for its uses in the real world.

While there is certainly a stage at which a product needs to be honed first within the industry, we should recognize the point at which it’s time to take it to the masses. Time to take the acronyms off and present it to consumers in a manner they can understand. Time to build products that will extend beyond our secluded little world. Time, it seems, to stop staring at our navels.

**Update: Just after I posted this entry, I came across this on LaughingSquid. A series of short videos featuring people describing Twitter, it’s a perfect illustration of the disconnect between technology insiders and mass consumers. Evan Williams is a brilliant guy who built two fantastic products – but he needs to learn friendlier language that will appeal to mass consumers. Alex North’s description wins my vote – a real-world case for using Twitter.

5 Comments »

  1. Stepwinder said

    Great post, Carla. As a non-techy I had to respond because this resonates with at least one other circle in my world…campaigns. If the voters are so uneducated about the candidates and the issues, aren’t so-called activists partly to blame for that? As you might imagine, the argument hasn’t won me many friends in those circles.

    I hope you fare better and that I can someday join you with the “recovering political junkie” description. Besides, I need help persuading educators and jones-ing political junkies to join me on Twitter and FriendFeed.

    Someday I want to find “my people” there too. I’m a long way from recovery, aren’t I?

  2. Carla, totally agree, which as the PR firm that launched FriendFeed and Twine I’m not sure we can really walk the talk, hehe. But it gets back to our own conversation this morning, about how to launch a company and what that ultimately means, and how inside baseball can become distraction. Don’t get me wrong, inside baseball is FUN — but it is also a bad habit. Cigarettes and coffee taste good! But they’re not healthy, alas. On this I loved Marc Andreesen’s post this a.m. on the psychology of misjudgment, quoting Charlie Munger:

    “Instead, practically every one has a great many bad habits he has long maintained despite their being known as bad. Given this situation, it is not too much in many cases to appraise early-formed habits as destiny. When Marley’s miserable ghost says, “I wear the chains I forged in life,” he is talking about chains of habit that were too light to be felt before they became too strong to be broken.”

    http://blog.pmarca.com/2008/03/the-psychology.html

    A lot of my film school compadres used to talk about “movie magic” — or, as it has also been said, the “strange and wonderful” in a given film. That is, the element that makes or breaks a project, regardless of the talent or money or planning involved. That fleeting moment, that cooperation between the market and a product, that inseparable collision of the right people at the right place and the right time.

    Twitter and FriendFeed are indeed strange and wonderful, and I do believe that they have “legs” in the mass-market.

    But on a certain level, start as you mean to go on. You can’t really “control” the magic. And you can’t create it, and you shouldn’t depend on it. If a company really wants to put forth a mainstream application, they need to start talking about themselves in a way that catalyzes that transition, by stepping outside of themselves, outside of their habits, outside of their presuppositions, and start all over again, courting consumers the same way that you did those first influencers, way back at the beginning.

  3. […] Share the Love :: The Guidewire – this is a new blog for me that came via FriendFeed but it is one that once I finished reading this post I added to my feed reader. Why? – because it made me think and hopefully it will make you think about this whole social network thing. […]

  4. […] Mark Hopkins, Robert Scoble, tech evangelism, Web 2.0 By gum, I think I’ve got it. My post yesterday on breaking out of our insular tech bubble to evangelize to the mass consumer spurred a good […]

  5. […] Share the Love :: The Guidewire – this is a new blog for me that came via FriendFeed but it is one that once I finished reading this post I added to my feed reader. Why? – because it made me think and hopefully it will make you think about this whole social network thing. […]

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: