Creativity Culture

The strength of signal

Everything to everyone is like nothing to nobody.

Imagine owning all the music in the world — such profundity reveals nothing about your interests or your identity. Unless of course, you’re passing on knowledge about the items in the arsenal.

The internet too is the greatest copy-paste machine of all-time. Technology augments communication and connection. But what does all the information mean without chopping it into genres and niches?

Making sense of your interests and surroundings depends on the rigidity of your signal strength. The ability to collect artifacts and sift through the noise to present a packaged story is the rarest skill of them all.

Cut information into pieces and give it way. What happens next is up to the magic of the network.

Culture Social Media

This is the place 

Photo by Lin Zhizhao

Social networks are unique places. They are no different than hangout spots; the bar and the coffee shop each contains its own set of memes and culture. However, using the same language from one into the other could make you look like a tourist.

“One user’s home platform is another’s foreign land. A point made by a subculture at home on Facebook might look funny to another on Twitter, which can read as evidence of a conspiracy to yet another on YouTube, which might be seen as offensive on Tumblr, which could be a joke on Reddit.”

Knowing the ins and outs of each channel comes with frequent use. And while most sharing is trial and error — virality is mostly luck — replicating content between environments is a bound to fall flat. Posting a witty tweet makes no sense in the feed of a Facebook friend who’s looking for something with sticky emotional value.

The old adage rings true: the medium is the message.

Good social media contributors are tweakers. They tailor a message to each network to maximize engagement, down to the file type. They may upload an image to Instagram but a similar video version to Facebook and Twitter, and a GIF for Reddit.

Social media is still the Wild West. You must pick and choose an audience carefully or risk being misunderstood, which happens to most people anyway, even on their own turf.


Stop Sharing

It used to be that everything you did on social networks showed up in your Facebook newsfeed, including

  • the most recent song you played on Spotify and SoundCloud
  • where you checked in on Foursquare
  • what you just read on Flipbowrd
  • what you just pinned on Pinterest
  • the image you just liked on Instagram

The whole idea of frictionless sharing was big brotherish to begin with and then we accepted it as a natural progression in social networking. But shit got weird. People shared things they didn’t want their friends to know anything about or their kids just to listened to. Do you actually like Britney Spears or was that a mistaken click?

Frictionless sharing was fraught with embarrassment. While it still exists, most prominently in the Facebook homepage ticker (on desktop), Facebook has done a way with broadcasting it front and center in the newsfeed. Facebook had tweak it; most people don’t know how to turn off automatic sharing, which is in an app’s setting and not in Facebook’s.

If you really want to share content today, you have to do so willingly. Permission rests at your fingertips. But even that’s a problem for most people who happily share everything.


Sunday Social Roundup

Below are some of the more interesting and innovative social media developments from this week.

  1. Facebook released a new app for approved celebrities/influencers. The best part about it is that it doesn’t have ads. Why can’t Facebook offer its regular users an as-free option? I’d pay $1/year for a clean feed.

  2. Another week, another tech story on how to go on a digital diet and escape social networks. Here’s a little post I wrote in 2013 about the fallacy of escaping social networks.

  3. The statistics show that social networkers are actually consuming long-form content despite scanning short-form snacks. In other words, nothing has really changed. You engage longer with content you actually like.

  4. Private, ephemeral sharing is the new public. Even analog photobooths are getting in on the new obsession with disappearing content.  The Eraser does just that. It takes your pic and quickly erases it.

  5. Customers are staying longer in restaurants because they’re wasting time on their Smartphones. That’s good news for restaurants that need the crowds but bad news for restaurants that need you to get in and out.


Can I share this?

Here’s a frightening thought: once you send someone a digital item (text, snapchat, etc) it’s theirs to keep forever.

Sure, they don’t technically own it but there’s nothing you can do in preventing them from sharing your content further, even after they’ve manipulated it.

The age of flying files and texts is also one of incredible trust. In principle, we shouldn’t share each other’s content or forward emails without the original provider’s consent. Anything we share publicly via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram however is fair game to be reshared or talked about.

Content is king. We use it to communicate on the web. Images and emojis or images with emojis embedded are becoming the new status updates. But within the excess of sharing comes context. Where and why a person shares something is squally as important as who they share it with.

The 5-3-2 rule of social media. In other words, create as much as you consume.
The 5-3-2 rule of social media. In other words, create as much as you consume.

Don’t Share This

I refuse to publish something just because it’s trending. What people are talking about is usually the stuff that doesn’t matter. It’s waste. This is why I avoid watching TV and am good at skipping the repeated noise in my Twitter and my RSS feeds – I only need to read most pieces of news once.

Originality is scarce. All news publications are talking about the same shit. Regurgitated information makes you fat.

It’s time to slow down as producers and readers, to focus more on interesting stories, and highlight the everyday things that people now miss.


Self-congratulatory Tweets as Link Bait

A tweet usually goes like this:

“Hey, I just read this great article and watched this captivating YouTube video and now you must see them too.” Tweet.

Your Tweet may even include a key quote or highlight from that piece of content. Same difference.

But unless you’re an influencer, the tweet is topical (based on a trending hashtag) or contextually relevant to your audience, no one is going to click the link. And that’s where provocative copy comes in.

The tweet has to have an engaging headline in order to get people to click. Naturally, this leads to a lot of link bait to shitty articles. Avid Twitter users know when to click and when to ignore certain Tweets. Link bait often leads to unfollows.

Twitter users are more wary than ever before of their streams. The perpetual influx of noise means they are judicious with the Tweets they actually engage with.

There’s nothing wrong in sharing something you think others would also find interesting. But do it because it’ll help shape their perspective, not to show off that you just completed your one article for the day. Try to share only the good stuff.


Because I’m Happy….

People share more when they’re happy. They talk more, blog more, and tweet more.

That’s why when people go silent on social media we get worried. An inactive profile screams anxiety, confusion, or life changes.

It’s true however that a dormant account could also signify busyness or burnout. We all know someone who’s given up Facebook and Twitter completely. Even Jack Dorsey tweets less frequently today on Twitter.

People generally share less offline and online when shit hits the fan. We’ve all been stuck in the doldrums. It’s just amazing that life’s transitions can be seen with so few clicks.


How Airbnb and Lyft Finally Got Americans to Trust Each Other

We are hopping into strangers’ cars (Lyft, Sidecar, Uber), welcoming them into our spare rooms (Airbnb), dropping our dogs off at their houses (DogVacay, Rover), and eating food in their dining rooms (Feastly). We are letting them rent our cars (RelayRides, Getaround), our boats (Boatbound), our houses (HomeAway), and our power tools (Zilok). We are entrusting complete strangers with our most valuable possessions, our personal experiences—and our very lives. In the process, we are entering a new era of Internet-enabled intimacy.

We’ve gone from swapping songs on Napster, to buying someone else’s goods on EBay, to renting our goods and services to complete strangers. Except these strangers have Facebook profiles. We can see people and examine track record before we do business with them. The Internet facilitates the sharing economy while the social profile validates it.