A Few Thoughts on Ello & A Free Ride

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If your Facebook newsfeed is anything like mine today, there's a fury about Ello happening within it. "Anyone have an invite to Ello?" "I'm leaving Facebook! Join me on Ello @...", "How do you search on Ello?" "Is it tacky to talk about Ello on Facebook?" etc. I am definitely in there talking it up. Are you?

Ello is the new social networking site that just launched in beta this week. And by the looks of it (including myself) many of us are hoping its the answer to a mass exodus off of Facebook. We've all been over Facebook for a while. The creepy psychological experiment, the jacking of our newsfeed, the minimizing of brand pages whose content we actually want to see, the ads (oh the ads!), the fact we don't see the things we would like to see, and on and on.

So, we're all a little excited. All of this fervor, the status updates, the clamoring for invites, and talk got me thinking today over breakfast about our attitudes and opinions towards social media, online platforms, and apps that for the most part we all use for free every day.

I wrote this originally as a Facebook status update today (oh so meta!), but I wanted to expand further on my thoughts in a blog post, because I think these things are worth being discussed and talked about.

A few thoughts on Ello and using platforms online:

  1. Be patient with Ello. It's been overloaded with new user sign ups, so most likely the platform is overwhelmed, and the growth is stressing their servers, their devs and product team, and the overall platform. Making it very buggy and hard to use. Cut them some slack, they'll figure it out.
  2. Be realistic about what Ello can be. Yes, they say they will not sell your info (although they do ask if they can share your info anonymously - which is totally opt in). They say that they will not have advertising, which is fabulous! But here's the rub, anything that takes time, energy, and resources (ie: people doing lots of work) costs money. Make no mistake about that. I truly hope they have come up with a solution for the main issue everyone on the Internet has been and is trying to solve. I really do.
  3. Everything changes. Just like any other site, Ello will change. It will not be what it is today, a year from now. That is one of the hardest things for online communities to tolerate and weather: change. Changes in a platform can decimate a community. Look at Flickr. But, like any good product it will evolve and grow with time. It may flourish, it may not. This just happens. Expect it.
  4. Hate the player, not the game. One of the things that has always puzzled me, since I have started working within tech, is when people hate on technology by making sweeping generalizations about how bad tech is or what it's doing to us as humans. Technology has made my life and livelihood so much better than it ever was just 9 years ago. I understand some of the fears, but for the most part I absolutely love technology and all it has brought into my life. As with anything, there is good and bad in tech. Yes, there are the tech bros out there trying to make as much money as humanly possible, and they may not care how they impact a city or a community, nor do they understand people unlike them. However there are many, many people just like you and me, who use technology to connect with other like minded people, to make things, to create and feel a part of, and to do good. This has been my experience more often than not.
  5. Facebook is not a representation of what tech is or what it can be. (See above)
  6. Educate yourself about the sites you join. The Internet is getting older, and with it we are too. Take time to read a site's Terms of Service or Terms of Use. Know what you are signing up for so there are no surprises.
  7. The way in which we think of the web now is not scaleable. If you take anything from this, take away this: creating content, making websites, making games, creating apps, making all of the things that we use, read, play with, and love everyday online all utilize resources. These resources need money, eventually. Whether it's time, or server expenses, or what have you, it all boils down to money to keep something going. That's just the way things work in a capitalist society. The way many of us currently approach the web is not sustainable long term. It's just not. It's also making us insane; we all hop on a free platform and freak the eff out if and when they try and monetize in some way. I think it's clear that we can't go on this way. This should be the main takeaway from this giant Facebook experiment. The next time an app asks for 1.99, or a product you use every single day online offers a premium version, pay for it. Don't buy that coffee one day to help support a business you use and love. Give back to something that makes your life easier, enjoyable, or gives you some semblance of satisfaction. Who knows, you might just be helping out someone that's trying to build something they love.

These are just my thoughts. Thoughts that I need to keep in mind as well, and I felt it was worth sharing them. The web is still so new, but it's up to us to be realistic and smart about how we continue. I really do hope that Ello is our next answer to Facebook, but this time I'm keeping my expectations low and if they offer a premium service, I will use it if I value the product. Will you?

Further reading:

Here's a great article about the founder of Ello, Paul Budnitz. He's the man behind KidRobot.

Andy Baio has some interesting thoughts on the $435,000 in funding Ello took in February.