Thursday, August 31, 2006

Social software is too much work

Nick Carr has a good post today, "Social software in perspective", where he quotes from two posts ([1] [2]) critical of social software and then he says:
The crux of the problem is that, in most cases, social software is an extremely inefficient way for a person to get something done.

The crowd may enjoy the product of other people's inputs, but for the rather small group of individuals actually doing the work, it demands the investment of a lot of time for very little personal gain. It's a fun diversion for a while - and then it turns into drudgery.

It's very easy to confuse fads for trends ... Out in the real world, hardly anyone has even heard of Flickr or Digg or Delicious.
People are lazy, appropriately so. If you ask them to do work, most of them won't do it. From their point of view, you're only of value to them if you save them time.

See also my previous posts, "Yahoo gets social with MyWeb", "Implicit vs. explicit sharing", and "Summing collective ignorance".


Anonymous said...

People are lazy, appropriately so. If you ask them to do work, most of them won't do it. From their point of view, you're only of value to them if you save them time.

I don't think time is the only measurable, significant value here. Quality of experience/information obtained is also a significant factor.

People might be willing to spend more time, if you assure them more quality. Especially when that level of quality is not available from not available from the other, time-optimized sources.

Greg Linden said...

I agree, but I think assuring users of high returns -- a higher level of quality -- is hard. If the value of the future reward is uncertain, it will be heavily discounted.

For people outside of the early adopter crowd, to get over the hurdle of paying an up-front cost in terms of work, the gains will have to be clear and obvious.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Nick and the critics on this. It's not even about quality, it's about "why"? Why do I need to use these sites? And even if I do use them, why would I use them every day?

Most people want to spend less time in front of a computer, not more. They want to find a way to spend more time actually interacting in-person with their current friends, not more time making lists or finding new friends via a web site.

I think outside of the sites that help you do things you already do more efficiently (read news, post pictures, find new music, stay in touch with business contacts), there's little value to the social networking sites.

Less than 2% of people have ever even heard of or use RSS (something I find valuable, if only because I read a lot of news). Let alone a site like or 43things.

Geeks need to get outside more often. It's almost depressing how much people think that building and maintaining content/lists of information online is going to make their lives better.

Mark E Seremet said...

I agree with Nick. It requires a lot of time to engage yourself in social networking which really isn't social networking anyway. MySpace and the like are places to put on a mask, communicate with REAL friends, and mark a bunch of unknown people "friends" so you can feel important. It's very strange...

Dimitar Vesselinov said...

Myspace has 106,251,544 users.

Greg Linden said...

Dimitar, I think sites like MySpace and Facebook owe much of their success to being used for dating. Sex is a powerful motivator. It will get people to do work.

For sites that are not about dating, the idea seems to be to have people explicitly label and share data just for the value of labeling and sharing data. It is that that I am claiming that is too much work for too little gain.