Vine is not Video – The Real Challenge of Instagram

I really don’t want to write this in a high-minded way, with references to Friedrich Nietzsche and the film making of Tarkovsky, but I’m afraid that is the way it is going to come out. What I really want to write about is how Instagram (nearly) ruined Twitter’s new “video app” Vine for me. But also I want to brush up against just what it is that Vine is, to think about it in a much larger context than the Facebook vs. Twitter platform user war that conditions most of the conversation. I want to think about what Vine could be, what it was that Twitter stumbled into, and maybe get a view toward a future for Vine that probably will never be.

Why Vine is not Video

Look at the Vine at the top of the page and I think right away you’ll grasp why Vine is not video…if this were a video (a still image with an arrow that you clicked on to to play, or worse, a video that started playing automatically), this would be a very bad video. In fact I’m not even sure that it is a very good Vine. But what it is is something different. It is an aesthetically new class of thing, because of its edits, its compression, but mostly because of its closure upon itself. Our e-eyes have been conditioned to be able to read these kinds of images easily due to the endless gifs that have populated forums, websites and social platforms for years, but this isn’t even really a gif, I’d argue, largely because it is shot as an mise-en-scene expression, a communication. Vines force a kind of dense rendering of a 6 second moment, short edit decisions (that can be exhilarating), a grasping of a scene in a kind of purity…because it is fated to loop endlessly ad infinitum. Of course Vinists don’t have to use them that way, but the form of the Vine invites it.

This is where we get the Nietzsche reference. Nietzsche had an idea he liked to think about called the Eternal Return, the notion that each and every moment of one’s life – given the infinity of Time – is bound to be repeated again…and again, and again, and again. He drew a kind of moral lesson from this, that one had to live one’s life with the bold affirmation that each of your life’s moments, even your weakest ones, were WORTH being lived eternally…

What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more’ … Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.’ [The Gay Science, §341]

This, at least for me, is what is so beautiful about Vine. It asks you to select 6 seconds that will be replayed like a prayer wheel in a kind of aesthetic eternity. Just as a photography magically seemed to capture the soul of a person, a moment…in a layer of frozen silver, Vines cup together seconds and circles them, creating an odd sort of energy that seems remarkably consonant with Twitter’s very abbreviated blogging itself. Twitter found something. If you make and experiment with Vines I think you’ll see it. In Vine you are clustering together motion, moments, compression and release, a constellation, and if you are doing it with Vine in mind you are doing with an eye towards eternity, how they fold back on themselves. You are not creating a linear exposition.

Edits in Vine

I mentioned it in passing, but there is also something going on in edit choices in Vine, the (also) compressed way in which edit choices have to be made with the live and lived subject right there with you. You have to feel its “time”, and dialogue with it in a way. What does that mean? This is where Tarkovsky, one of my favorite film directors comes in. I’m pasting this from their Sculpting in Time source, so I lowered the font color to ease the eye on the caps:

EDITING BRINGS TOGETHER THE SHOTS THAT ARE ALREADY FILLED WITH TIME. ALTHOUGH THE ASSEMBLY OF THE SHOTS IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE STRUCTURE OF A FILM, IT DOES NOT, AS IS GENERALLY ASSUMED, CREATE ITS RHYTHM. THE DISTINCTIVE TIME RUNNING THROUGH THE SHOTS MAKES THE RHYTHM OF THE PICTURE; & RHYTHM IS DETERMINED NOT BY THE LENGTH OF THE EDITED PIECES, BUT BY THE PRESSURE OF THE TIME THAT RUNS THROUGH THEM. EDITING CANNOT DETERMINE RHYTHM (IN THIS RESPECT IT CAN ONLY BE FEATURE OF STYLE); INDEED, TIME COURSES THROUGH THE PICTURE DESPITE EDITING, RATHER THAN BECAUSE OF IT. THE COURSE OF TIME, RECORDED IN THE FRAME, IS WHAT THE DIRECTOR HAS TO CATCH IN THE PIECES LAID OUT ON THE EDITING TABLE

TIME, IMPRINTED IN THE FRAME, DICTATES THE PARTICULAR EDITING PRINCIPLE; & THE PIECES THAT ‘WONT EDIT’ – THAT CANT BE PROPERLY JOINED – ARE THOSE WHICH RECORD A RADICALLY DIFFERENT KIND OF TIME. ONE CANNOT, FOR INSTANCE, PUT ACTUAL TIME TOGETHER WITH CONCEPTUAL TIME, ANY MORE THAN ONE CAN JOIN WATER PIPES OF DIFFERENT DIAMETER

Tarkovsky is talking about editing with real pieces of film laying on a table. He sees pipes filled with water under pressure (a remarkable analogy) when he thinks about joining them. The cuts in a Vine are experienced slices in an expressed scene or moment that one feels would give it enough life to live in a 6 second loop. The cuts are accomplished by feel. You have to create the time pressures, the hydraulics as the river of it is rushing past. A beautiful thing.

Hulk Vine

How Instagram (almost) Ruined Vine for Me

Back to the more personal story. I began experimenting with Vine partly because that is just what I do. I want to have first hand experience of new tools and feel their potential and limitations before making recommendations. I really don’t want to critique the app though, plenty to critique. Mostly I just wanted to play and discover, and what intrigued me the most at first for business was its embed feature. For those that don’t know, I live in Thailand and my wife Sylvie is a professional Muay Thai fighter here. So I get to experiment a lot with her social media in test runs before I bring stuff to clients. So I messed around with the app for about 2 weeks, and we put up a blog post that was just a variety of Vines, using different subject matter and techniques. I think it gives a kind of montage effect of what she does during the week: My Muay Thai Week: Experiments in Social Media and speaks to some of the blog embed potential for the app, though the post is a little extreme. The Vine at the top of this post is from a few days ago. For a little context it’s of Sylvie just after getting out of the ring after 10 rounds of serious work. It was meant to produce a kind of fragmented expression of her strength (she’s very small, but very strong), and some of her fans know about her Hulk and Wolverine Marvel character shirts as a point of reference. It was tweeted out mostly as test, without text. She only recently began her twitter account as Facebook, blogging and YouTube have demanded a lot of her non-training time, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to invest in another platform.

But the Vines were fun. They were easy to produce. They made novel content…and most importantly – as you can tell from the length of this post – they were aesthetically interesting. So what happen? Instagram. When Instagram swooped in with their video challenge the Social Media consultant in me had to use it. It had the well-known “improvements” to Vine (re-edit, longer play, etc). So we played with it. It was okay. The upload was murder on the 3G we have here in Thailand, it was something of a pain. But the biggest thing that happened was that Instagram made me lose interest in Vine. In fact it made me lose interest in both, which really surprised me. Part of it was that I really didn’t want to be part of an app war, even at the level of a user. I just don’t enjoy that aspect of tech and I read so much of it in the blogs I follow. But it was deeper than that, I think. Instagram video did something else. It convinced me that Vine was merely video…that when I was deciding to shoot a message that we might send to Sylvie’s fans I was choosing between two different video platforms. Do I want 15 seconds, and Facebook integration or do I want embeddable video and looping? Instagram made it a choice of video options, and for whatever reason the whole thing went yuck for me.

I’m not really sure what is going to happen. We’ve moved the Vine app on our phone over to Sylvie’s Twitter account instead of mine, so we can make use of it better. I’m still deeply intrigued by Vine’s aesthetic choices and project, but remain affected by the Instagram move. I suspect that Vine too will be fooled into thinking that Vine is video and we’ll be heading towards the video app wars (sigh). What I hope and think is that Vine should realize that its Twitter DNA is where it is at, compressed, shareable, consciousness-altering communications and processes. They had and have a chance to change thins. Move AWAY from video (linear, length), and towards the cycle.

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The Medium Isn’t Built for It – Google Plus Blogging Failure

Blogs are islands

Blogging and Not Blogging

It has been just about a year and a half since I began my blogging-on-Google-Plus experiment in outright earnest, leaving behind the sketch pad that is this blog and throwing myself into a Social Media future. As you might be able to tell from this blog I was never after “traffic” in the first place, or even “follows”, I just wanted a place where ideas could be ferreted out, and then hopefully discussed in the comments below. I’m very interested in pushing the envelop of what is conceptually possible in social media, and new tools are definitely part of the equation. I thought that the clever amalgam of Twitter, blogging and Facebook features that are somewhat absurdly (at least over-positively) expressed by Mike Elgan in the image below…

Image

…would somehow carry blogging to a new place. The truth of the matter is that Google Plus is none of those things that Mike Elgan says it is the equivalent of. It’s a completely different platform with its unique strengths and perhaps even more importantly, weaknesses. But most particularly right now, it is not a blog.

I’ve had a great many idea exchanges on Google Plus in my more than a year and a half there, and I’ll definitely remain there. But there is something to the Google Plus interface – perhaps it is its reliance on and an architecture built around a “stream”, perhaps it is because no comment has a permalink, and cannot be easily shared so there is no silent “listening in” by interested others, perhaps it is because posts themselves just wash away and very smart people just end up reiterating themselves instead of building on what they wrote previously, like a vast prayer wheel – there is something about Google Plus that is just not additive. Blocks (ideas, concepts, dialogues) just do not “stack” there, and as far as I can tell they don’t work deeply into concrete details, or propagate in rich variations. None of the things that I love about thinking and investigating happens there. Links aren’t really read, buzzwords buzz more like flies than like bees, and images saturate in a bombardment. The new layout didn’t help matters – I know why they did it – but it has been the case nearly from the start. This is not even to go into the inability for Google Plus to address all the other reasons a person might want to blog like SEO, brand discovery, domain authority, things I’m not interested in for my person. I should have much more to write about the Google Plus design weaknesses in the near future, I’ve thought a lot about why it just isn’t cutting the right swathe of cloth. But for now…

Blogs are digital islands, like coral atolls built up over 1,000s of years (words, titles, comments), they are archipelagos of digital life.

When I stopped blogging I also stopped most of my Twitter visits as well. I had a very nice community of thinkers and conversations going on in Twitter which I deeply enjoyed, and initially my hope was that the speed of Twitter and the richness dynamism of Google Plus would make a perfect pairing. But cross-posting was a pain, unwanted by many, and while in the first months I was able to transfer some of my Twitter community over to Google Plus and get more lengthy commentaries going, in the end it proved a drain. Twitter at the time was also under the assail of Triberr and other link spamming reach techniques as the Age of social media top 10 advice had come, it just seemed better to dive into Google Plus. Now that I have returned to Twitter I find it a link Land, perhaps the link Land I feared it would be, though already I’ve found some fast, informative conversations (one leading to the writers’s software Srivener that may just change my and my wife’s life – ty Brian Meeks & Rabab Khan) that simply could not happen on any other platform on the planet.

So this post is just to re-announce the opening up this concept space again. I just need it. I’m reading a fascinating book “Reading in the Brain” which I believe gives key insights on how the visual brain digests written material which may prove important for digital designs. That should be something worth sketching out. It may well be that I should take this blogging seriously enough so as to get my own domain, it always before seemed like just a private investigative thought corner, but perhaps things have changed.

I still direct social media for Tonner Doll though I am doing so from Thailand having moved here so my wife Sylvie could pursue her art to the nth degree. It is a superlative perspective on social media, as I am strategically engaged, though often I am operating at “off” hours from the west. It has given me a unique perch.

Invasive Species and Social Media – micro post

There was some resistance to the analogy of “invasive species” to possibly describe Triberr on Twitter today. It was a very interesting thought offered by @Karen_sharp in comments to my Ecological Argument post yesterday. I just wanted to be clearer on just what invasive species are to me.  Karen has pointed out that they are species that lack natural predators and therefore have an advantage in the competition over resources – in this case attention in the social media sphere.  And some expressed concern over the moral sense, the accusation that something or someone is trying invade or takeover. Both are interesting aspects. For me, I find invasive species scenarios fascinating. When a species simply overruns an ecosystem simply due to circumstance, through radical and unexpected introduction, issues of functionality and systemic cohesion really come to the forefront. Many of the great “successes” in culture, and crazes or trends can be considered invasive species from a certain perspective. It only gets complicated when we start valuing what has been changed by these great sweeps. Sometimes even ideas can be considered invasive species, perhaps necessarily so.

The Ecological Argument applied to Twitter

I had a great mid-afternoon twitter conversation – fast-paced, full of idea exchange – with Triberr founder Dan Cristo @dancristo today, one of the nice time where people can fundamentally disagree but still find a lot of interesting things to talk about. Mostly Dan was feeling his way around my objections or concerns over his product, apply the arguments he has developed in his defense. We ran the gambit, from his appeal to cultural relativism to the claim that Triberr may transform the ineffective “social” aspect of Twitter in a way inspired by how Google radically improved search by turning it over to algorithms. He wants me to read his post on Triberr Quality Scores especially the comments – I won’t get that til this evening. But what I really wanted to put forth is this. There is an Ecological Argument for why we might object to Triberr technology and use. That is: The common retort that some Triberrists hold out, “Hey I’m just doin’ my thing, this is a free world, just unfollow me” just may not be the whole story. There is a level at which, what I would call the Ecological level, where we all have an interest in the entire realm of Twitter. When something proliferates that changes the norm of what is expected, when the medium itself is changing, at the very least we can prick up our ears and think about it.

Addendum: there is nothing ecological about Dan’s Quality Score post (just read).

consistent use of DM can be corrosive to Twitter openness – micro post

 

I’ve never been a fan of Direct Messaging in Twitter. I use it more than I once did, but I as I use it I am ever aware of what I intuited when I first started with Twitter: DM is opposed in spirit to the openness and transparency that gives social media its value. The best use of it I’ve noticed is when slipping into actually business discussions that should be a bit private, but again and again it seems to be used as a kind of “commentary” channel to the public discourse. The temptation is to be even unpleasant, or at least judgemental to those we are otherwise exposing our smiling face. I have seen relationships significantly changed by the move from genuine public discourse to private DM, and I have seen my own social media be affected. DM seems a little like the Ring in the Lord of the Rings. It has powers, but as you use it it distorts your social media and the temptation is to use it more. When I no longer strain to get my point across in a public fashion, when I stop trying to include others in my conversation, I am no longer doing the “social” of social media, I’m no longer transparent.

making catalysts – the roots of social media and network building

Getting Oriented

I have been wanting to write a post about the social media work we are beginning at Tonner Doll Company ever since a discussion began with this post, a different kind of Social Media – finding a language. There several interested others and I started sketching out what is necessary if we wanted to openly blog about social media strategy and tactics such that the honor of customers was preserved, so as to bring social media professionals and lay persons into a single possible engagement. What would it mean for social media marketing discussions themselves to be transparent? What would it mean if the way we talked about social media took on the values of social media? It is hard to resist not pursuing such a large idea, so part of this post is set in that direction.

The other portion of what I’d like to talk about grew out of Ric Dragon’s growing series of posts thinking about the nature of “groups” in online communities, the latest of which is Groups, Teams, and Communities in Online Marketing. Something of this series grew out of our initial blog post discussion it seems, but it is focused on a kind of sociological/anthropological understanding of online behavior, mapped from interesting existing models, all with an aim towards practical strategies in social media. Engaging with Ric just as I’ve begun building social media strategy, laying the foundations for Tonner Doll, caused me to focus on essential features of what makes social media work, and how groups are made. Hopefully I can tie the two threads together.

Beginning Strategy

Two weeks ago I was hired as Director of Social Media for the Tonner Doll Company in Kingston NY. The company has been undergoing a deep transformation on several levels for some time, from product line development to a much-needed full website redesign due to be launched in the Fall. The opportunity to work with a small company with a deep pre-internet history, yet with such impassioned and devoted fans, and an iconic artistic voice is a social media dream. In many ways the Tonner Doll Company culturally finds itself in the place that a lot of businesses do, an internal marketing awareness not geared towards the speed and complexity of the social media environment. Yet spiritually, they are in full embrace of the change. Tonner Doll is leaping both feet into social media knowing that this is the one place for demographic growth, and it is a blessing to be a part of that. The additional very compelling aspect of this is that Tonner Doll has something many businesses would sacrifice an arm for: an extremely devoted, enthusiastic and creative-minded fan base, collectors that in many ways embody everything that Tonner Doll is all about. Robert Tonner who is the artist and designer of Tonner dolls is perhaps a collector first. Tonner Doll, and its highest-quality figures,  in a beautiful way expresses as a company the very customers who purchase from them.  There is a symbiosis of art, imagination, curation and commerce that is very rare, though perhaps ideal, in the Tonner Doll Company its dolls and the fans.

Social Media Foundations

I wrote not long ago a post on how blogging is voice gifting. The point was that when we blog we are changing the status of people (and ourselves) though several often overlooked “gifts”, the way that the very space of a blog is itself a space of gift exchange. The background to that post was my idea that social media is driven by Gift Economy logic instead of Market Economy logic, and that there is need of a kind of “translation” between the two cultures of business and social media. But I would like to pick up on another aspect of blogging and giving other than social ties and status change.

The first thing we are doing at Tonner Doll – other than the “best practices” training we have been focusing on, like how to triangulate communications and adopt guerrilla-like dexterity to campaigns and media content – is to start identifying voices. As one might imagine one of the best places to find voices is blogs. Tonner Doll has an unusual advantage in this though, in that a great deal of an impassioned community already visits their Facebook page and shares inspired creative content; but we are looking for blog voices because there is something about blog investment that tends towards the substantial. It gives anchorage to both thought and community and this happens to be something that Google has come to realize and reward in the last year. If Google stopped rewarding blogs, I would still be focusing on them just the same, because I believe in blogs. Blogging is the very nerve center of social media, and the social media explosion would never have gotten off the ground without the real move of content from established institutions of press to there. Google was just a little late to the game.

Where the Game Turns

The usual approach is to find the “mavens” –  that is often bloggers that already make up the substantive community voice of the Doll and Figure movement. These would be people you want to build relationships with. As it happens blogging is not where most of this community lives and communicates. It lives in forums, groups, or on Facebook (our page), or Flickr as we are finding out, to name a few. But I don’t want to just find mavens or connectors. Real social media is not just hub-hunting in order to increase network. It is about producing changes in people’s lives, no matter their place in the network, such the then entire network becomes enhanced. It is about adopting a Liberation approach to personal expression and creativity, I believe.

As it turns out, the very first hidden person we discovered – by looking at reference links to our new blog – was an amazing person in Mexico city who has a small website selling repaints and hand-crafted furniture for our dolls. The quality of work done by Tonner Doll collectors is quite striking for those not familiar with the world of doll collection and curation. Near museum quality. But Tamara is special, to call her a maven would be to miss something. She not only started a previously unknown to us collector community in Mexico, she happens to be Czech and was on the ground floor of a Tonner collector community in the Czech Republic where she lived previously. In a person, what in network theory would be called a “node” – two different communities span out. In one person Tonner Doll has suddenly changed as a company. This is the secret to social media: Treat each person as if knowing that that person could change your company, because it is true.

As it happens, Tamara did not blog;  she has always meant to, in fact I believe had written some posts never published. She is very busy with a 3 year old boy. She runs a small website and custom doll-resale business. She collects. She is not a discovered blogging voice. This is where I think people miss what is important. Businesses in social media are always looking for where there are already rich connections. They are not looking for opportunities to start building them. Everyone we reach in social media has rich connections, but what social media is about is the transition of everyone you meet from the place they are, to the place they could be. It is about expanding potential.

I don’t want bloggers that we can then influence. I want people who might want to start blogging. I want people to find the place from which what they have to say feels like it has the tools and stage to get said, such that that too spurs creativity. Ultimately, I want bloggers that can influence us. Social media marketing is about transition, not harvesting or mining. It is about expanding the power of the network you are building through the liberation of each “node” person. Whatever you find in social media, raise it up. As it happens, Tamara is now blogging in part perhaps because she realized that her audience is bigger than it was, and the doll world is richer for it. And hopefully she is blogging because we in our blog we shared how great it was to find her.

Not Mavens, Catalysts

There is something about the word “maven” in marketing that seems just off. It captures important concepts, but it seems to get the eye valuing in the wrong way, as if certain people are a “kind” like a species and you are just interested in them. It isn’t like that. It is very gradated, and the way we treat mavens should be the same way we treat people with few connectors. There is an underlying principle which I believe guides us no matter who we engage. I’m going to have to take a detour into a theory about the first moments of Life on earth and organic chemistry to sketch this out. It is important though.

Complexity theorist Stuart Kauffman has an elegant theory about how Life could possibly start out of the primordial soup molecules on Earth – At Home in the Universe. It is that given enough time something called autocatalysis starts to take place. Which is to say the perfectly random interactions between molecules because of their properties can start to have an emergent and dynamic interrelation. If two molecules tend to combine to produce a new molecule this new molecule if in high enough concentration may start this soup tending towards other combinations, which in turn tend to produce this same new molecule. The pattern becomes closed and suddenly entirely random soup starts to emerge with new self-supporting properties. This fundamental catalytic closure is what is at root of social media network building. And at root of social autocatalysis is I believe the primary social values and ethics that govern “this is for you” giving.

The Summation below is taken from the business application of Kauffman’s autocatalytic theory by Brian Coffman. I provide an excerpt at length for anyone who wants to get a grasp at how real chemical beginning-of-life interactions are theorized. To me it is interesting stuff. Hopefully for you too:

read the rest of that post for application of this to business Start up ventures.

Now Think of Twitter

Instead of soup of organic molecules millions of years ago, see the vast space of 140 character limit nodes. There are several directions we can go on this. Ideas of necessary diversity in any topological communication space certainly are in play. But I would like to talk about the very notion of catalysis. What it means for one element to tend to produce a dynamic change in the possibilities of other elements, and how that relates to the social values that govern social media. What I propose is not a strategy of growing your network bigger and bigger, with nodes connecting to more nodes as if volume, or even inter-connectivity (the two called “reach”) was the important factor in success. Instead, whatever network you currently have, no matter how meager, the strategy should be to catalyze it.  That is, start with whatever node is immediately your neighbor and raise it up. Turn that node into something else, something that itself can change the potential of the nodes around it. It isn’t about numbers – that is the old impression thinking of broadcast advertising – it is about transition, finding ways of increasing the potential of everyone your social media comes in contact with. You want to change the internal network dynamics of everyone you can.

I’d like to take an example of autocatalytic-like behavior in Twitter, for illustration. My friend @67tallchris and I came up with an idea of how to train people brand new to twitter. And that was to like dive guides with students of scuba to literally escort them out into the ocean of it, helped along with a hashtag and fundamental Tweetdeck knowledge. If we could group together we could practice best Twitter practices in a real time somewhat controlled environment, and people could learn by doing. What was interesting though was what happened the first time we went out on our little excursion. We actually were discussing what would be a good hashtag to use, and our good friend Jacqui @GoSocialSA overheard and proposed #twaining, not realizing that our entire experiment was about to ensue. Adopting the tag suddenly Jacqui found herself in the middle of a #twaining session, escorting two relative newbies through the space of Twitter. Suddenly she was a guide with us. This was made of nothing. All that produced this closure was the grammar of hashtag use in Twitter, the capabilities of Tweetdeck, the practices we began teaching these two Twitter students, and the history of our goodwill relationships between Chris, myself and Jacqui…and the Twitter soup. Chris and my leadership actions, and the interactions of the “students” suddenly catalyzed Jacqui into a leader, and as the small school of us fish swam along, people started noticing and being pulled towards the recursive closure. The instructor/student roles had begun to draw upon the diversity of the soup of Twitter. It was over before anything more would develop, but there was for me a very strong sense that a new thing had happened in Twitter, something with emergent properties, and that there was an autocatalytic element to how it was starting to spread, not just to Jacqui, but to lurkers.

What I suspect, and what I strongly encourage, is that it is from the intent to empower others, give to others socially, that social catalytic growth occurs. The story of simple molecules when it is analogized to social networks becomes a story of liberation. When I empower my neighbor in a Gift Economy culture I have given them the power catalyze someone else, change the dynamic of what is possible. So going back to Tamara who is now blogging her passion. What has changed there? What changes as Tonner Doll takes on a message that doll collectors should start beginning to blog? What chemistry is beginning? Is it not that the entire loose network is becoming enriched? Not just be node numbers, or connectivity numbers (yes, that t0o), but by qualitative differences, the way that each person now values what they are contributing, and power with which others can be transitioned.

There are best practices, ways of bringing out what is best in others. There are ways of gifting voice and space to those that need it. And there is something to social media that makes of these practices the very stuff of network building. It is not just about content sharing, but rather changing the capacity for the network itself to share. And this takes a giving and personal touch, the ability to feel when others have been raised up.

A catalytic view involves asking the question, What exactly is it that you or others make possible?… Instead of the questions: Whom are you connected to, and whom can you connect me to?

addendum:  This post also owes its debt to the brief #usguys conversation between @ricdragon, @josepf, @67tallchris and myself (among possibly others) on Dunbar’s number, the limitation of maintainable relationships to 150 persons, and what this means for social media.

This is what is wrong with Triberr

What Could be Wrong with Binding Together?

It has been heralded as the great equalizer. Suddenly people with only modestly very high Klout can compete with the Big Dogs of social media by banding together in a tight circle of pre-approved curated blogging. Which is to say, we will all auto-tweet each other’s blog posts to our own followers. Suddenly, not only is my “check my post out” reach isn’t constrained by what meager following I might have, but amplified by to all those follower numbers in my circle. Banded together, we become a composite “impression” force.

This is what is wrong with Triberr. In a social realm, all we have is our reputation. But there are two kinds of reputations at play. There is a kind of “authenticity” reputation which is the real response I produce when my avi pic and tweets appear in the stream. It is the impression of my brand, so to speak. We want a high authenticity mark each and every time our profile floats by in the stream. This could be based in anything from our profile picture that has an immediate emotive effect, to the history of our past interactions, or the quality of our tweets. But there is a second, often competing reputation, and that is the reputation we have with other tweeters like us. There is tendency to need “status” and to mix with people of a perceived high class. This second kind of reputation can color the first, our group status can influence how people perceive our flash appearance, but the two are very different. The problem with Triberr is that it can significantly reduces the first kind of reputation (the reputation of authenticity) for the sake of the second.

This is my visceral experience when I see Triberr auto-tweet recommendations of others in their circle. These are often people that actually have a very high personal reputation with me. Lots of my best Twitter friends are in Triberr circles, in fact this post came from seriously considering the generous offer from someone I value. Through personal interaction I have come to both like and respect my friends in Triberr. But, and this is a big but, when that friendly face appears there, and I am draw to it for a micro-second, awash with a warm instinctive response of nonjudgmental embrace, I am suddenly dashed by the realization that this person is not there tweeting this. In fact, there is strong suspicion that this person has not even read the blog post being tweeted to her or his waiting followers. There is, and I can feel it, a devaluation of that person’s brand. Not because I don’t like them, or even respect them. It is because they are offering me under the guise of a social moment, a canned, impersonal communication about something that should otherwise be valued – a blog post. Over time I start to grow insensitive to this person’s tweets. I become conditioned to expect the commercial. The value this person worked hard, or even not so hard, to achieve with me such that in the stream I pick them out with confidence, is eroding tweet by tweet.

“Like tears…in rain”

Twitter is like this. No tweet generally matters. They are light. They nothing. Except in cases of close social interaction they just seem to vanish. But they add up. Over time the direction of their effect begins to accumulate. Either you are building value micro-tweet-moment by micro-tweet-moment, or you are eroding it. The problem with Triberr is that it is a systematic erosion of social value, quietly over time, traded for a status achieved within a tribe whose doors are closed. Everyone in the tribe cannot feel this because they have already established their affinity and respect for each other. The tribe contact just builds as everyone exports each other’s blog post titles to higher impression numbers. But Twitter is not insular. The reputation gained between us is at the expense of the value of your tweet themselves.

The hope of course is that in trade-off of the gradual devaluation of tweet recommendations among those that already follow you, and respect you, you instead are reaching people you could never have reached before. Triberr proudly calls itself “The Reach Multipler” as if it is some kind of reach machine. Suddenly your follower numbers are climbing. Your mentions are rising as is your Klout (!). These new people hopefully at some reasonable conversion percentage, will supplement the value you have lost elsewhere, but invisibly.

What is wrong with Triberr is that the important reputation, the reputation for genuine thought and engagement, is being traded in for the illusion of engagement. If six people tweet out my blog title I must REALLY be engaged, right!? Not at all. And over time people can tell. As I said I have people I really like in Triberr. But when I see their titles mutually flowing across my screen in auto-fashion, I have absolutely zero impulse to actually click on a blog title link. Zero impulse to read, or comment on what lay behind the systematic trolling for new followers.

I also have close people who I would in advance pretty much say that I would recommend their blog posts. @67tallchris, @ricdragon, @pegfitzpatrick are some. I stand by my friends, so I can see exactly what such an agreement seems perfectly reasonable to do. I would be just automatically doing what I would likely want to do anyways. But there is a huge difference. The value of my tweets to the people that follow me is – hopefully – that I have however fleetingly engaged with the material. My curation is a expression of the social capital I have established in piece by piece interactions. It is hand built. If I start systematically placing low-value, socially imitative tweets in my stream, I am working against myself. I am exchanging the coin that you and I have earned together for the chance to begin new connections with those I have not yet met. I am lowering the overall substance of my exchange, for numbers.

I have news, you already have enough followers! Do more with what you have, don’t trade “up” fast using the social currency of authenticity for the “stamp” of authenticity and lose something genuine. I know this won’t stop. The status gain and the number love is big in social media marketing circles. But at least it is worth saying.

Yesterday’s post likely contains some of the deeper reasoning against Impression-driven “reach” social media thinking.