Thoughts On Privacy And Social Media

Thoughts on the membership model:

I liken the current state of social media to television in the 90s. Before HBO took a huge risk and produced high-caliber content for a small target audience TV was forced to be vanilla, forced to cater to the lowest common denominator in order to maximize advertising dollars. HBO proved people would pay for TV, an idea network executives thought impossible. Like TV, social media is driven by advertising, large corporations and stock holders who could care-less about the user’s experience. It’s time for social media to shake the advertising model. It’s time for social media to have its HBO moment.

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Thinking about social media and the constraints we are so willingly succumbing to warrants a reminder of the history of technology and how communication has evolved. Telling stories around a campfire, to etchings on a wall, eventually the printing press allowed for long-format information to be disseminated widely. The same “less to more” road led the way from the photograph to the moving picture to video and digital recordings. It seems that we have now gone backward: now that we can document endlessly we are instead fragmenting our lives to fit into the scattered attention-spans of distracted consumers moving through the world one “like” at a time. The other side to this change is the audience we are talking to, or think we are talking to. Why put a tremendous amount of time or energy into content that might not be read for its entirety, or read at all past the headline?  Naturally we are going to gravitate to only writing the headline if that is all that is going to be read. So, it is up to us not only seek out the outlets for a more serious conversation, but also to cultivate our audience to those that will appreciate our effort and respect our opinions.  We control what social media is, but we need to actively make sure it is not the the other way around.

On Quality over Quantity

Quality over quantity, that’s where this conversation is going.  The novelty of Facebook and Twitter, the 15 minutes of fame that comes from posting something that thousands of people might see,  is wearing off.  Not such great timing for these companies as they go public, but the inevitability that people will find new outlets to connect with one another is unstoppable.  The problem becomes that Facebook and Twitter, by the nature of being publicly traded companies, are under the gun to convince users to accept more “friendships” and “followers”: it is not in their best interest financially to help you cull your following.  They will remain ‘big media” in the social networking field and alternatives will chip away at their market share until they are useful for corporations and narcissists alone.

On Social Media 

In reality, what is the point of trying to re-create Facebook? That would be futile. Facebook is an excellent tool to reach hundreds or thousands of people in an instant, a valuable resource.  Instead we moved forward with the intent of creating an alternative, not a replacement, that could be used in a more personal way, a place to limit the number of connections one has, a place where photos and thoughts can be shared without the distractions of advertising or the concerns of data-mining. The connection process on Connect Fireside has cognitive overhead: it is not a simple “click” of a button. The connection process requires communication outside of the app, something that “acquaintances” are not inclined to do. You cannot search for people in the app, people do not see your posts or any remarks you post unless you are connected to them; no-one will know you are on Connect Fireside unless you tell them. We think a fresh start is a welcome idea in the social media world we have now learned to accept. We now know who our close friends and family really are, and that it is ok to keep that circle tight. This can be hard to do in an open environment like Facebook, which is where something new like Connect Fireside can offer an alternative, a new beginning.

On Trust

How can you trust us? Tumblr was sold to Yahoo!, WhatsApp to Facebook, Twitter is going public and the corporate machine will always find a way to win, right? One of the primary ways we are promising to not sell your information is a 1 GB storage capacity policy. Fireside stores the data you post to share with your connections up to 1GB. Once you have used 1GB of space your data is systematically erased from oldest to newest (kind of like your DVR). This policy allows us to honor our commitment to not store your information for future use, in addition to helping lessen the environmental impact of the army of servers storing social networking data. In full-disclosure we do collect anonymous usage data needed to keep the app running and relevant, but this data is separate from photos and any text you post. Secondly, we claim no usage rights. Period. Additionally our business model does not rely on a corporate buy-out, exit strategy or a gradual move to advertising: a paid subscription allows us to operate the service in an honest and transparent manner.

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