September 6th, 2011


The Silence of the Adults

A few of the posts made in response to yesterday's post indicated that the writer didn't feel comfortable posting about their life because either it wasn't interesting, or because the only things they had to say were negative, and writing negative things made them feel like teenagers.

There is clearly something pervasive in society which makes people feel either that adults do not have problems, or that adults do not talk about their problems.

Needless to say, I do not agree with either of these opinions.

Everyone has problems, that's just the way the world is. Adults frequently cannot turn to parents in the same way that children did, and so if anything it's _more_ important to turn to other adults, talk about your problems, and get feedback from other adults, either with useful suggestions, or simple acknowledgement that your problem is a common one, and you are not alone in having it.

In addition, it seems that if people don't talk about the negative stuff that's going on then they get out of the habit of writing at all, and I don't get to see cool posts about the interesting/fun things they've been up to.*

Which leads nicely into the other point - the idea that your life is not interesting. Fundamentally, it's probably not, in a global sense. The chances of you being someone whose biography I would read if I'd never met you is pretty slim**. But if we have any connection (friends in meatspace, met you at a con a few times, enjoyed chatting online) then what you're up to _is_ of interest to me. I loathe the attitude I've seen from anti-Facebook/Twitter people of "Why do people think that their every movement is of interest to posterity?". Because posterity can go &$&^ itself, people's lives are of interest to their _friends_.

So if you have negative stuff in your life then feel free to share it, anyone that's not interested can unfriend you (or move you off their default view). And if you have nice, normal, stuff in your life then feel free to share it, and uninterested people can hit page down. And if you have awesomely cute kittens that you can photograph then feel free to share them, and frankly that's what the internet was designed for.

*Yes, it's all about me.
**Not least because I don't tend to read biographies.

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The death of a thousand cuts

Something that successful startup companies do well is to throw ideas out at high speed, see what sticks, and then build on that, iterating rapidly towards a product that people actually want to use.

It's something that large companies do badly, which is why they are frequently disrupted, eaten alive from the insides by faster moving, more flexible competitors.

William Gibson came up with the phrase "The street finds its own uses for things."* and it's a lesson that you'd think any designer of tools would have learned by now. If you designed what you thought was the perfect egg de-whiter, and then discovered that it was selling in massive amounts to motorcycle owners to be used as a rear-view mirror then the _last_ thing you do is tell them that they're using it wrong - you design some new boxes, stick some adverts in the motorcycle magazines, and work out a way to make it an even better rear-view mirror.

Sadly, illustrating how badly large companies do this is the perfect example of Google Plus. Where a site with potentially awesome functionality was launched, and then people started using it wrong. Leading to Google throwing people off the site, and causing endless bad blood. People who would have happily used their real names are now upset at Google for removing the option from others, and traffic has fallen 37% over the last couple of weeks.

There was another case I saw, where a webcam video feed site decided to throw off their porn users, because they were only a small proportion of the userbase, and the site didn't want to be associated with that kind of thing. And then discovered that the adult content users were a massive proportion of the _paying_ user base. Thankfully, they realised this in time to turn things around.

I suspect I'm being optimistic if I expect Google to be that smart.

*in the same short story that laid the paving stones of his Sprawl trilogy and coined the word "cyberspace". He was clearly having a good day.

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Interesting Links for 6-9-2011