#oneaday Day 962: Signal to Noise

We’re reaching saturation point with social media. In fact, I think we got past that point a long time ago, meaning that we’re at the “completely sodden and dribbling all over the carpet” stage.

There is too much social media. There are too many possible places for people to share things that nobody cares about with people they don’t know. And it seems that every day some bright-eyed startup CEO decides that what we really need is yet another social network service of some description.

I’ve indulged in a few of these superfluous social networks over the years. GetGlue was a bit of fun, allowing you to “check in” to movies, books, games and even “topics” that you were interested in, leave comments and discuss things with other community members. This was at the height of the “gamification” craze, so there were plenty of achievements to collect, and you could even get some real-life physical stickers sent to you if you collected enough achievements.

Similarly, Foursquare and the now-defunct Gowalla proved fun for a little while. During the period of time when I was unemployed and quite spectacularly depressed, I made extensive use of Gowalla to “tag” various places around Southampton and assist with building up a crowdsourced map of places of interest. I even made some actual real-life friends through it, but since then location check-ins have lost their lustre — what’s the point, really?

Then I tried Path, which promised to be a high-quality mobile-focused social network. But since you can access Facebook, Twitter and Google+ — the biggest social networks in the world — via your mobile phone, why on Earth would you need a mobile-specific one? Sure, Path had a lovely interface and the bizarre ability to track when you woke up and went to sleep, but it was ultimately pointless.

Today, I reviewed an app/social network whose purpose remained completely obtuse to me even as I made use of it — and even as an employee of the company frantically tried to convince me that the service was worthwhile via both Twitter and the service itself. (I’m not going to name it as I really can’t be bothered to be chased further — I gave it a fair shot, I explored it, I found it to be a complete waste of time. Sorry.)

The service in question allows users to, like GetGlue, “Like” things. Any things. Like cake? Then “Like” cake. Like Tori Amos? Then “Like” Tori Amos. Not sure whether you like broccoli and stilton soup? Then add it to your “To-Do” list, then “Like” it if you like it. Great. Sure. Fine. One question: why?

This questionable usefulness was only further obscured by the fact that the app also, for some utterly unfathomable reason, allows its users to “plant” “Likes” at actual physical locations, meaning you can claim to have hidden, say, an iPhone 5 in your local McDonalds, or Jedward in your local sewage works. Fun for about five minutes again, sure — and a means of seeing who lives vaguely near you and likes Jedward — but again… why?

There’s too much noise and not enough signal in social media these days, in short, and this fact is a big part of why I stripped back on all “non-essential” social apps a while back. I keep Facebook, Twitter and G+ around because there are people I regularly speak to on all of those, but outside of those “big three”? There’s really very little reason for a lot of these services and apps to exist, but the amount of money being thrown at them by venture capitalists is terrifying.

Kind of makes me think that I should come up with an “innovative” idea for a mobile social network in order to attract several million dollars’ worth of funding.

Okay… give me a minute.


Eureka! I got it. Everyone likes taking Instagram photos of food, right? Well, I propose a social photography network that is nothing but pictures of food with a selection of retro filters (some of which are available via in-app purchase). You can “check in” to the food you’re eating, discuss it with other people and share photographs of your lunchbox. It’ll be a big hit. I’ll call it “füd”, all in lower case, naturally.

That’ll be two million dollars, please, Mr Venture Capitalist. KTHX.

Published by

Pete Davison

Southampton-based music teacher, writer and enthusiast of Japanese popular culture.

6 thoughts on “#oneaday Day 962: Signal to Noise”

  1. Love it, love it, love it!!!! Rolling about laughing – not quite rofl, but not far off! I’m sorry, I should add immediately that it is a serious and valid point you are making with which I agree whole-heartedly. It’s your wit I love. I too keep Facebook only because of family and my blog promotion – but I rarely look at it – it is full of teenage ‘banter’ and Likes and Sharing – erk! And all about nothings. So I don’t go there very often, and then wonder why I don’t know what is going on with my family and why I haven’t heard anything from them. They seem to have forgotten how to phone with their news, or even visit in person. Mind you I can relate to the latter. In my Bah Humbug state I now venture forth a whole lot less – mostly due to the traffic and stress caused by the not so considerate drivers causing it. Bah Humbug! lol

    1. Right. I’ve commented on it before, but Facebook has changed a lot over the years, and not really for the better. It used to be a very “personal” network — you used to have to explain how you knew every new friend you added! — but over time it’s become a real mess of brand pages, “LIKE AND SHARE THIS!!” crap and all manner of other noise. And yet I can’t quit it. Granted, this is primarily because my job revolves around using it, but still.

      1. I know just what you mean. It seems to be mostly full of crap – with just little bits here and there that are relevant for you. I visit it very reluctantly – when I get nagged by facebook nudges via email. S i g h
        Did you get my comment on your GrE site? I was wondering if you’d be interested in blogs on SciFi/Fantasy/Crime Adventure & HO games. I could focus on their more ‘evil’ side if you’d like. I got a message saying that before it was posted my comment would need to be vetted by you.
        If you are not interested in having these gameson your site that is fine – I am not pressuring you, but offering my services as a possibility. Your new site shows great imagination and finesse. Wish I could make my site more professional, but am still working it all out. It’s a bit of a mine-field.
        Any news on your turning your Wasteland Diaries into a game?? It would make a great Adventure game – could have amazing graphics.
        You probably don’t give a stuff what I think, but I am proud of you, filled with admiration for your tenacity and your ‘one door closes well open another damn door’ attitude – much like my own!
        I try not to comment too much in case you think I am intrusive, just a nuisance. But I do like to get comments on my blogs whether I agree with them or not as it means someone is reading them😀
        Hope you reply one way or the other re GrE – which I am following.

  2. I agree with you that the market seems to be more than saturated with social media platforms. However, it might still be possible for some to come in and take market share from the old ones if they are compatible enough (so they can connect to the networks within existing platforms) and have a more appealing interface, better features et.c.

    E.g. Pinterest seems to be doing very well and (just guessing) may have snatched market share from Flick, which is a big one within photography platforms. Pinterest can do the same as Flickr and has a slicker, handier interface.

    1. Right, I have no issue with sites that are successfully distinguishing themselves — Pinterest is a good example, as it has a clear, specific target demographic, and it’s doing well as a result.

      What I was particularly taking aim at in this blog post was the hordes of startups that seem to appear every day with some “great” new idea for a mobile social network that doesn’t seem to have been thought through at all. If, after a few minutes of use, you are still wondering “what is this for?” then it has failed.

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