Category Archives: It’ll never work

Pointless, again

Grant and Tom both dispute this article by Lance Ulanoff: MySpace, Second Life, and Twitter Are Doomed.

Ulanoff begins:

Don’t get too attached to MySpace. You might want to pull up stakes from Second Life, too. And you’ll probably want to stop posting inanities to Twitter. Why? All of these sites will be gone before the end of this decade.

Already, I think Lance is missing the point. I’m not posting to twitter based on some notion of payback at some future date, I’m doing it because it satisfies me right now. As Tom says,

[T]here is something deeply compelling about social-networking…not the specific software or approaches we’re seeing now, as Grant points out, but about the desire to be in contact with other people.

But Ulanoff really goes off the rails here, describing MySpace:

It’s huge, ugly, unmonitored, unrestrained, and pointless.

Yes, it’s that pointless point again. MySpace is pointless to Ulanoff so he seems to assume it’s pointless to all its participants. But clearly it’s not pointless to them or they wouldn’t be there. It’s a shame he responds to this by dismissing it, instead of asking himself: hang on, what am I missing here?

What I think he’s missing is that most of our social discourse is, on one level, trivial – but the trivia are actually the little bits of interaction around which we build relationships. I wonder if Ulanoff thinks coffee shops and pubs would do better if they banned all that pointless conversation so that people could get on with the real purpose of being there?

Tom pretty much nails it thus:

Focusing on social-networking hype is like looking at the map while driving through Yosemite: you’re so busy trying to figure out where you are that you’re missing the amazing things going on all around you.

YouTube and the end of the world as we know it

I guess that “It will lead to chaos” counts as a high-energy varitation of “it will never work”, which means this item becomes my second post in that category.

Grant McCracken takes the mickey out of Lance Ulanoff for predicting YouTube will lead to the breakdown of society. I’m cheering Grant when he says

Isn’t this the most powerful argument for the emergent, unedited, unconstrained, unpoliced and unapproved nature of our culture.  If we left it to the commentators, every innovation would look like a problem. Every innovation, TV and its opposite, would be forbidden us.  Thank god we have intellectuals to protect us from ourselves.  Thank god we don’t ever listen to them.

It’ll never work

Inspired by a post by Earl Mardle, I’ve added a new category to this blog, It’ll Never Work. I’ll use it to flag stories about experiments carried out in the face of scepticism. Well that’s the plan… though of course the theme of unintended consequences may apply.

Earl tells the story of an Italian prisoners making their own TV show as an example of the potential for democratising the use of media, and talks about his own experiment in this area in New Zealand.

When I managed Wellington Community Access Radio, one of the first things I did was set up a school holiday programme for kids to come in and make a radio programme with the support of the staff.

Some said it wouldn’t work because kids wouldn’t want to make radio, they would want TV. Well, we never had a spare place on the courses and the feedback from the parents ranged from comments that their kid had come home exhausted but elated to one mother who I will never forget.

She brought her boy in because she thought that, being radio, his illiteracy would not be a problem and he could take part with the other kids for a change. Of course she was wrong, radio is mostly about literacy, from research to writing, editing and reading scripts.

But she said that her son had come home that day not depressed, but full of enthusiasm for learning to read because, at last, he had figured out what the hell you could do with it that he wanted to do.