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A C*nt and His iPhone
April 30, 2013 3:51 PM   Subscribe

Continuously exasperated Tumblr Jesus Christ, Silicon Valley really lets loose [NSFW] at a Vanity Fair profile of Dave Morin, creator of the hip alternative social media app Path.
posted by Joakim Ziegler (112 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 


Cocktastic.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:58 PM on April 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


And Path just settled with the FTC over "...Charges it Deceived Consumers and Improperly Collected Personal Information from Users' Mobile Address Books": "Company also Will Pay $800,000 for Allegedly Collecting Kids' Personal Information without their Parents’ Consent"
posted by jjwiseman at 3:58 PM on April 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


Someone forgot to take their sedatives.
posted by zarq at 3:58 PM on April 30, 2013


Good god. Look up wanker in a dictionary...
posted by stenseng at 4:00 PM on April 30, 2013


There's something fitting about the name "Gentry Underwood."
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:01 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Always looking for new Silicon Valley snark I was excited for this blog. Then I read this: Look, Quora’s the little faggy bitch company of the Valley and now I'm not excited.
posted by wemayfreeze at 4:05 PM on April 30, 2013 [14 favorites]


See, now I'm glad I didn't use up all my reserves of internet hate on Amanda Palmer yesterday! I still have plenty left for this guy!
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:05 PM on April 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


prize bull octorok: "See, now I'm glad I didn't use up all my reserves of internet hate on Amanda Palmer yesterday! I still have plenty left for this guy!"

ask culture vs tell culture, my friend.
1) "Hey, can we email all of your contacts?"
2) "We just emailed all of your contacts, or apparently sent them weirdo automated voice messages."
posted by boo_radley at 4:08 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Christ, what an asshole."
posted by Tomorrowful at 4:08 PM on April 30, 2013


This Internet thing, what with all the swearing? I don't like it.
posted by Pecinpah at 4:09 PM on April 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


But Path disrupted the space by offering an engaging user experience and presenting a clear and concise call to action. They offer a best in breed vertically integrated full stack product which meshes well with today's use cases. Their technology stack, in addition to tackling big problems...... fuck it, my heart just isn't in this. Path kinda sucks.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:09 PM on April 30, 2013 [51 favorites]


Well weapon.
posted by Artw at 4:10 PM on April 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


"Christ, what an asshole."

bastid! you beat me to it
posted by lampshade at 4:10 PM on April 30, 2013


Someone is really really disappointed he didn't get invited to the cool parties and beta programs.
posted by humanfont at 4:12 PM on April 30, 2013


I really am not sure who or which is more objectionable--Dave Morin, Path or Jesus Christ/Silicon Valley. Exploitation and deceit versus self righteousness and extreme indignation. I really do not want to spend time with either. On to the next post
posted by rmhsinc at 4:15 PM on April 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


A perfect storm of suck.*

*not as much fun as it sounds
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:15 PM on April 30, 2013 [12 favorites]


All doubt about Path's shitacularness was erased for me when the FTC settlement hit and they posted: The gist of the FTC’s complaint is this: early in Path’s history, children under the age of 13 were able to sign up for accounts. A very small number of affected accounts have since been closed by Path.

Yet, the FTC release opens with "Path Social Networking App Settles FTC Charges it Deceived Consumers and Improperly Collected Personal Information from Users' Mobile Address Books, Company also Will Pay $800,000 for Allegedly Collecting Kids' Personal Information without their Parents’ Consent"

And of course, my reblog highlighting this disparity ended up appearing on in the notes of the original post as "Great job rebuilding trust, Path." ...without the strikethrough. D:
posted by frijole at 4:16 PM on April 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Hahaha, Jesus Christ, where to start. Who the fuck uses “bespoke” in conversation?
This must be dialectal because "bespoke" is absolutely normal in some countries. Nothing cuntish about it.
posted by Jehan at 4:18 PM on April 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


frijole: "...without the strikethrough. "

This is surely a sign of sociopathy.
posted by boo_radley at 4:18 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


In defense of Path, it's quite pretty.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:20 PM on April 30, 2013


I always wonder if douchebags dubbing people who try douchebags realize that they are the real douchebags themselves.
posted by fatehunter at 4:23 PM on April 30, 2013


Who the fuck uses “bespoke” in conversation?
Tailors.
posted by unliteral at 4:24 PM on April 30, 2013 [20 favorites]


This Internet thing, what with all the swearing? I don't like it.

the fuck are you talking about?
posted by lumpenprole at 4:26 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Photo with 2, maybe 3, popped collars? Has an "assistant"? FTC settlement over some basic stuff? ASSHOLE ALERT.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:28 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


A previous incarnation...
posted by Artw at 4:28 PM on April 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Who the fuck uses “bespoke” in conversation?
Tailors.


And nobody else on this side of the Atlantic. Not even me, and I have definite douchebaggy tendencies.
posted by gimonca at 4:28 PM on April 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Damn, we are on Dave Morin's side here? I mean look at his picture, how many collars does one guy need. I guess I'll go along, but I'm not sure I like it.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:28 PM on April 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


Artw has already beat me to the perfect reference.
posted by gimonca at 4:29 PM on April 30, 2013


When someone sent me a link to the Vanity Fair interview, I thought it was a hoax piece, like a Onion-esque thing mocking the pompous internet CEO in a ridiculous manner. Took me a while to realize it's actually real.
posted by mathowie at 4:32 PM on April 30, 2013 [30 favorites]


Why does the path logo look so much like the pinterest logo. Which one came first. That's annoying.
posted by thylacine at 4:32 PM on April 30, 2013


I use "bespoke" in conversation, and I live on the same side of the Atlantic as Silicon Valley - that is, next to the Pacific.
posted by thedaniel at 4:34 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


So the popped collar is still an infallible sign that its wearer is someone I have no interest in ever speaking to, with, or about. Good to have that confirmed.
posted by ook at 4:35 PM on April 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Damn, we are on Dave Morin's side here?

Who said anything about sides?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:36 PM on April 30, 2013


For some other context, Path is currently #5 on the iOS App Store, are adding a million users a week, and just topped 10 million users. I actually like and use the app, but their contact spamming just *has* to stop, for their sake and their users'.

I actually know multiple people who refuse to ever use Path because they installed it and then had it accidentally mass-spam their entire Facebook friend list or contact list. Personally I think that the mass spamming is the result of some bug on their end, and not entirely intentional, since it's so boneheaded otherwise.

Also, that Vanity Fair piece is totally ridiculous but Dave Morin did say a number of quotes were taken out of context.
posted by Hello, Revelers! I am Captain Lavender! at 4:36 PM on April 30, 2013


Also, that Vanity Fair piece is totally ridiculous but Dave Morin did say a number of quotes were taken out of context.

Who wouldn't?
posted by justgary at 4:37 PM on April 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Who wouldn't?

I don't know. I'm not saying I believe him, just that he's on twitter record as pointing that out, and it's not totally crazy. I think the two phone thing at least, he said he explained to the interviewer that he was doing that as part of an experiment where he didn't use any apps on one of the phones or something, and they cut that part out entirely.
posted by Hello, Revelers! I am Captain Lavender! at 4:40 PM on April 30, 2013


You know who else uses "bespoke"? My Rolls Royce monger. "Drive right or left today, sir?", he'll enquire. "Would your buttocks like to be caressed by the rarest extinct Amazonian python skins or the hides of children of various Irish smallholders?"
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 4:44 PM on April 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


In an article like that, blame the Vanity Fair editor, not Dave Morin.

I love the idea behind Path, and when I downloaded it and gave it a whirl like the UX nerd that I am, it came off as one of the best-designed apps I'd ever used. Seriously, the Path design team is top notch. I get the same vibe from them that I got from early Tumblr, and I'd love if Path became as big a thing as Tumblr – it takes social networking in a direction that I really like to see social networking go.

The problem with Path, though, is its reliance on smartphones. My friends don't all own smartphones. Many of my friends own smartphones that can't currently run Path. The latter will change, over time, but will the former? Phones aren't quite prevalent enough that a phone-only social network can contain all my friends at once.

That said, I'd love to be proven wrong, because if I could move my 50-odd actual Facebook friends over to Path I'd dump Facebook in a heartbeat. Their time's almost up and good riddance to that. Dave Morin, from what I know of him outside this piece-of-shit article, seems like a pretty decent guy, so good for that too.

This "Jesus Christ, Silicon Valley" is like a less well-written version of Ted Dziuba's old site Uncov, which in turn was a less well-written version of Fake Steve Jobs. And Fake Steve Jobs sucked.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:46 PM on April 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I like the Brit + Co. app, though.
posted by girlmightlive at 4:47 PM on April 30, 2013


"Bespoke" in this context is basically just bullshit marketing nomenclature of the type favored by "product visionaries" or whatever in their never-ending quest to sound like they have some sort of actual plan to deliver something of real value.
posted by feloniousmonk at 4:48 PM on April 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


hi my name is Rory Marinich and for a year of my life I read nothing but Silicon Valley gossip blogs. and I lived in New Jersey at the time.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:48 PM on April 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


Anybody wanna read my snarky Tumblr blog where I complain about bloggers who can't write persuasively without resorting to hateful apoplectic bloviating?
posted by trunk muffins at 4:52 PM on April 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


Not that I want to defend this guy, because Path sounds like it sucks (I've never used it), but anyone would sound like a self-important ass in a "my phone" profile.

Does Jesus Christ, Silicon Valley only have 7 posts or do I not know how to tumblr?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 4:53 PM on April 30, 2013


Who said anything about sides?

True, there are really no winners here.

"Bespoke" in this context is basically just bullshit marketing nomenclature of the type favored by "product visionaries"

It is kinda weird in this situation because it implies he and he alone will ever use it. "I've got this awesome app, could probably sell it and make a few bucks, but I won't cuz fuck you that's why."

I mean he should have called it an alpha or something.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:55 PM on April 30, 2013


The title of this article is "A Cunt and His iPhone". Not "A C*nt and His iPhone", as the Metafilter topic reads. The entire point of this blog is to be offensive and insulting, no point in bowdlerizing it. "Cunt" is a particularly offensive word, at least in American English, and I guess I'm supposed to be shocked. Mostly I'm just bored. I wish someone wrote more thoughtful criticism of the Silicon Valley hype cycle without such silly rhetoric.

(Speaking of which, Valleywag is back, written by Sam Biddle. And so far it's proving to have more substantive comment, not just gossip about CEOs and their mistresses.)
posted by Nelson at 4:56 PM on April 30, 2013


My guess is that he referred to it as bespoke because that is what the consultant who built it used as part of the sales pitch.
posted by feloniousmonk at 4:57 PM on April 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


(Speaking of which, Valleywag is back...

oh god: http://whitemenwearinggoogleglass.tumblr.com/

posted by 2bucksplus at 5:00 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


their contact spamming just *has* to stop

You continue to use an app, and talk positively about it to people, even though it repeatedly spams all your contacts? I don't understand. "I love my new car, I just wish the accelerator wouldn't get stuck and mow down a bunch of pedestrians every day."
posted by Fnarf at 5:03 PM on April 30, 2013 [31 favorites]


Maybe I was unclear, it didn't spam my contacts. It doesn't spam most people's contacts, but it happens to some people. I think it sucks and yeah if it happened to me I might stop using it, too. I'm sure most people use products that others have had terrible experiences with.
posted by Hello, Revelers! I am Captain Lavender! at 5:06 PM on April 30, 2013


Also, "bespoke" is a perfectly good word, which means something. That something is not how the douchenozzle in question is using it, alas.
posted by Fnarf at 5:09 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


a custom-designed, one-of-a-kind bespoke app

Thank you for clarifying, elucidating, throwing light on that.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:10 PM on April 30, 2013 [31 favorites]


I mean look at his picture, how many collars does one guy need.

I dunno. Just one more collar might help to obscure his smug, punchable face. This needs a KickStarter.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 5:11 PM on April 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's unique and exclusive.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 5:12 PM on April 30, 2013


*starts INFINITE COLLARS KickStarter
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:13 PM on April 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


So sexy sexy that I have to pop five collars.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:13 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Even his collars have bespoke collars.
posted by vidur at 5:14 PM on April 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm waiting for the MLB/Philadelphia Phillies trademark lawsuit. Or Pinterest at least.
posted by tservo at 5:15 PM on April 30, 2013


bastid! you beat me to it

Don't worry. You can say it as well. Like this.

Christ, what an Asshole.

Touch my address book? That's a paddling.
posted by eriko at 5:19 PM on April 30, 2013


Bespoke. I had to look it up a year or two ago, because I was seeing it all over the place in tech-y media.

It seems to be a very useful word sometimes. But something about it reminds me of people who always say "peruse" for "read", and "erstwhile" for "former". It's a bit gaudy to use overuse these words, in my opinion.
posted by thelonius at 5:34 PM on April 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


The guy is kind of arrogant, sure. But really? Is he worthy of that much bile?
posted by zardoz at 5:50 PM on April 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was trying to find a better pic of this guy, but ... ok, here (pick either one)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:52 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


For some other context, Path is currently #5 on the iOS App Store, are adding a million users a week, and just topped 10 million users.
Does nothing in that sentence strike you as the least bit, well, curious?
posted by hoople at 5:53 PM on April 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Too much hate.
posted by banal evil at 5:54 PM on April 30, 2013


Wow, this actually made me feel sympathetic toward Dave Morin.
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:05 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


a custom-designed, one-of-a-kind bespoke app

I was just wondering, is this available in the app store, you know, for anyone to use?
posted by bongo_x at 6:06 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


The guy is kind of arrogant, sure. But really? Is he worthy of that much bile?

Maybe, maybe not. But as a stand in for that whole part of the world, the focus of the site, yes. Definitely.
posted by bongo_x at 6:08 PM on April 30, 2013


Yeah, this guy is awful, but not in a way that calls for spleen to be vented all over him.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:09 PM on April 30, 2013


Nelson: "The title of this article is "A Cunt and His iPhone". Not "A C*nt and His iPhone", as the Metafilter topic reads."

I thought a bit about whether I should censor the title, I generally think that kind of censoring is silly. But, as I understand it, "cunt" is one of those (few) words that are frowned upon on MeFi in general, and especially now that post titles are shown on the front page, I figure it was better to be safe than sorry.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 6:15 PM on April 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


AMEN BROTHER! PREACH IT TO THE CHOIR!
If it hurts their ears they missed the point.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 6:21 PM on April 30, 2013


I was gonna laugh at all the buzzwords, but then I found out that 10 million people use Path, and I've never heard of it. I was assuming the joke was this guy was full of hot air with some vaporware app, but seriously, I feel like I did when i found out "ice-chewing" is not only a thing, but like, a MAJOR thing.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:23 PM on April 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Get a brain, Morin!
posted by hal9k at 6:27 PM on April 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


I did a little digging and found that no, it is not a case it is an actual iPhone back replacement. Get your facts straight Jesus Christ, Silicon Valley.

I don't know if anyone has mentioned it but these dudes were busted downloading users's entire address books about a year ago. Dave Morin apologized and everyone I guess was cool with it but it left a bad taste in my mouth so I may have been a bit harsh re the fact that his collars have collars.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:29 PM on April 30, 2013


This Jesus fellow may be offensive but man, he nails Quora to the cross real good.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:29 PM on April 30, 2013


Does nothing in that sentence strike you as the least bit, well, curious?

No? It's hard to game the App Store rankings, I imagine.

As I understand their growth has picked up big time since they release Path 3.0 in March, and their growth is now at 1,000,000+ per week.

I'm curious to know what you meant.
posted by Hello, Revelers! I am Captain Lavender! at 6:32 PM on April 30, 2013


The Verge on this.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:38 PM on April 30, 2013


I find it weird when people seem to be able to spout marketing-speak about something they're just a consumer of. And then say they're not really hot on it, or anything. Anyway.

I will definitely never pick up if I see "David Morin" on my caller ID, would hate to have him think I'm playing defense.
posted by maxwelton at 6:40 PM on April 30, 2013


That's about what I meant. I mean, I suppose it's *possible* that it had a sudden, radical, but also *legitimate* uptick in uptake recently, but I was just expressing skepticism that both figures could be true simultaneously (at least without some definitional fudging).
posted by hoople at 6:48 PM on April 30, 2013


Bespoke...This is going to be like when every fuckwad with a tumblr started using the word "curate" a few years ago, isn't it?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 6:51 PM on April 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm really hoping the tumblr author is an angry Stanford humanities grad student.

I say this as a former angry Stanford humanities grad student.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 6:53 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


this is pretty decent
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:06 PM on April 30, 2013


...are soon parted?
posted by uosuaq at 7:15 PM on April 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


I find it weird when people seem to be able to spout marketing-speak about something they're just a consumer of. And then say they're not really hot on it, or anything. Anyway.

I think it's pretty easy to assume that people who spout marketing speak in defense of a company might actually work for said company in some way.

That's what I'm thinking, anyway.
posted by winna at 7:46 PM on April 30, 2013


And, like, he has this custom-designed, one-of-a-kind bespoke app to communicate with his assistant?

I mean, he knows it's a phone, right? Pretty sure it can do that already.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:58 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Commissioning a custom, one-of-a-kind, bespoke app for your assistant seems something Mr. Diamond from Trevanian's Shibumi would do. But since it was written in the 1970s he had to settle for his assistant wearing a microphone on the frame of his glasses, the better to catch any thoughts he might dictate at any given moment.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:24 PM on April 30, 2013


I think it's pretty easy to assume that people who spout marketing speak in defense of a company might actually work for said company in some way.

For some people marketing speak is just a part of their vocabulary. I remember meeting my first Person From Hacker News offline and realizing that all of those awful start-up phrases were just the way they saw and interpreted the world.

Which is kind of neat! Also, kind of dystopian! But neat!
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:32 PM on April 30, 2013


I think it sucks and yeah if it happened to me I might stop using it, too. I'm sure most people use products that others have had terrible experiences with.

Cigarettes ??
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 9:37 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I had a job offer from Path. I think I was going to be around employee ~5 or 6 (back when they were based in Shawn Fanning's penthouse). I accepted the job but at the last minute got cold feet and decided to refuse it (unprofessional I know to accept and then decline a job offer but hey).

In retrospect - very glad.

That's my story, but if plied with alcohol I'll tell you about the goats in limos too.
posted by schwa at 9:58 PM on April 30, 2013


Vanity Fair had to know they were making him look like a colossal asshole. I can't imagine anyone is going to volunteer for one of those profiles again.
posted by empath at 10:30 PM on April 30, 2013


Morin is a Helena (Montana) native apparently. For that he gets the benefit of doubt from me at this point.
posted by davidmsc at 10:31 PM on April 30, 2013


This must be dialectal because "bespoke" is absolutely normal in some countries. Nothing cuntish about it.

We call them 'sideloaded enterprise-only apps' in these parts.

I have a few of them on my phone and tablet, mostly odd flights of fancy or something to get clients/ recruiters interested. In fact, am writing one that gives me a big-screen display in red or green if and when a certain build is broken. Nothing fancy, just something I cooked up while waiting for a build to compile. Wouldn't call anyone of them as a "custom-designed, one-of-a-kind bespoke app for my desktop and me to communicate through."
posted by the cydonian at 10:52 PM on April 30, 2013


Heh, I was typing my last post in my phone, which I suppose accounts for its stilted marketing speak qualities. Anyway I don't work for Path if that's what some are implying. I know their growth figures solely because they've been bragging about them lately and as a result the number of users and rate of growth has been covered in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere.

Was just chiming in mostly to say that Path isn't total BS, they really are attracting a lot of people who like to use their app, and I think it's unfortunate for them from a business perspective that they keep having these spam/privacy scandals since the success of Path as a service that people like is (IMO) not based around harvesting contacts and spamming them.

Really have no opinion of Dave Morin. Just think it's far fetched that anyone is as ridiculous as that short VF piece makes him seem.
posted by Hello, Revelers! I am Captain Lavender! at 11:05 PM on April 30, 2013


ShutterBun likes this.
posted by ShutterBun at 11:19 PM on April 30, 2013


In the few weeks since I first saw this, I’ve started to feel bad for Morin. There’s no way that Vanity Fair’s editing wasn’t calculated to make him seem like a douche, and I can imagine a context for every one of his answers less damning than it sounds.







Except the offense/defense thing.
posted by migurski at 11:22 PM on April 30, 2013


Without changing a word, that piece could as readily been an article in The Onion.
It reads like a full-on troll.
posted by Fupped Duck at 12:29 AM on May 1, 2013


I was an early adopter of Path but gave it up when the news about it downloading all your contacts came out. I loved it, but there's no point looking for a Facebook competitor that just does the same shitty things that make you want to leave Facebook. Also I'm not sure how they're going to make money from it and I'm not sure they know either.

The Vanity Fair profile just confirmed my existing opinion that the people behind it had a great design team but no idea about business models.
posted by harriet vane at 12:45 AM on May 1, 2013


I can imagine a context for every one of his answers less damning than it sounds.

Do it! Start with the mountains speaking to his soul thing. And you can't just append "Just kidding" to every one.
posted by theuninvitedguest at 12:57 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


The "playing defense" thing was perhaps (I hope) him joking around
posted by thelonius at 1:55 AM on May 1, 2013


Would have been funnier without the cliched misogyny.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:11 AM on May 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also I'm not sure how they're going to make money from it and I'm not sure they know either.

The Vanity Fair profile just confirmed my existing opinion that the people behind it had a great design team but no idea about business models.


Why is this seen as completely ok? because it almost feels like the answer is "they don't, and they don't care, and they have absolutely no intention of ever seriously monetizing this" which is just... why is this sort of "oh, you don't have to make a profit, you're obviously sooo successful lets pile more money on you keep doing what you're doing!" thing so prevalent? it started with amazon, and of course the dot com boom companies... but why the hell is it still alive?

Tumblr is one of the most blatant examples of this, but there's seriously tons. There's this huge conflation of popular and successful that i just completely fail to understand.

What troubles me with this is that it seems the value of these companies to the investors is essentially "oh well, if they fail they still have all that user data which has gotta be worth a shitload on the open market". Because as you mentioned with path, one of the main things all these web 2.1 companies seem to be doing is just squirreling away as much data as they think they can possibly get away with, and then moving on to the ??? step but not ever actually moving on to "profit".

Is everyone really just hoping for the next instagram? because an awful lot of these companies seem to be popular for a while and then just fart out.

Seriously just a completely failure of understanding here. It always feels like a bunch of rich investors and VC funds acting like children hearing about the new pokemon-esque fad of the week.
posted by emptythought at 3:46 AM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think you understand it perfectly well.
posted by fullerine at 4:13 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


The last fucking thing I need is yet another social medium to keep track of.
posted by octothorpe at 5:01 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


hoople: "That's about what I meant. I mean, I suppose it's *possible* that it had a sudden, radical, but also *legitimate* uptick in uptake recently, but I was just expressing skepticism that both figures could be true simultaneously (at least without some definitional fudging)"

Yeah, I don't know. Those numbers sound like complete bullshit to me.

1. A million users a week, or a million downloads? Because they are not really the same thing.

2. The fifth app in the top ten gets (at least) a million downloads a week? Really? That seems.. remarkably high.
posted by graventy at 5:03 AM on May 1, 2013


WUPHF.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:21 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seriously just a completely failure of understanding here. It always feels like a bunch of rich investors and VC funds acting like children hearing about the new pokemon-esque fad of the week.

Nerd answer time:

What's really going on here is a search for new models of interaction between large groups of people. Such models are unpredictable, hard to plan out in advance, and subject to all sorts of minor fluctuations in interface and user experience.

When you join Facebook, it asks you to add a handful of friends, and doesn't stop nagging you until you've done so. Plenty of web sites do this now (Twitter and Tumblr both do). Why? Well, partly it's because Facebook knows that having a certain number of friends is the threshold where you'll get "hooked" and feel the need to come back every day. But it's also important because Facebook wants to map out networks between groups of friends, and once you create a network of your own they can use that to, say, recommend your friends to other people, or recommend new people to you, and generally keep their service growing and increasingly useful. Facebook's UI is always kind of a mess, but over the years they've developed clever ways to fit events, photos, notes, apps, and a whole mess of other things into your "experience".

Leaving aside questions of how nefarious Facebook is, why does it matter that you use all these things? Because Facebook wants to be your comprehensive social coordinator. It wants to be where you find parties, how you share news with friends, and, yes, how you decide which products to consume. It didn't have to do all these things; it didn't do these things from the start. But Facebook's decided, for the sake of its survival as much as for anything else, that it wanted to be this grand social stinkpit into which everything else falls. So that Facebook becomes a life support system for your friends and relationships.

And you know something? It works. When you go without Facebook (I did for a year), you don't get invited to things. People don't write you, because Facebook messages have replaced email for a ton of people. That layer of small trivial interactions, poking and sharing funny photos and leaving silly comments, disappears. Maybe they didn't exist before Facebook, but the point is that Facebook created such a comprehensive space for all those things to happen that plenty of people stopped doing invitations in any other way.

That's not the only model that works. Twitter models something else entirely – ambient social chatter, I heard it described once, which sounds apt. Tumblr completely abandons the self-identification aspect of those other two sites, and instead shares an absurd glut of curated content. On Tumblr more than anywhere, the good users are the ones who are very talented at curating a stream of seemingly unrelated information that somehow fits together; my roommate's boyfriend is absurdly good at this, to the point where we marvel at how he keeps his signal-to-noise ratio so good. And we're talking about the signal-to-noise ratio of what's essentially all noise, which makes it even more baffling.

Pinterest works through collections of collections, or so I gather. Instagram was exciting in part because it was a big social network based entirely around cell phones. Kind of like Foursquare but with a way wider appeal because Foursquare is creepy. Facebook may have a mobile app, but it's hard to do a lot of Facebook things via mobile; it's a tough squeeze. Instagram was more of a replacement for text messages and Twitter than anything: lighthearted, fun, visual (which is always big), and still social in a big way. Not $1 billion big, but that buy was Facebook killing off a would-be competitor as much as anything.

These don't follow any real pattern. There are design trends within them – movements towards smaller individual bits, towards cell phone availability, towards looser and more fluctuating networks – but even there you don't have a solid pattern you can readily point to. And there are perpetually a dozen would-be networks vying to become the next top dog, and it's difficult to predict which one will actually make it. Facebook was as close to predictable as they ever came, and even then it wasn't certain if youth types would make the leap from MySpace. Tumblr was an utterly niche site for years, through 2009-2010 really, and the thing that pushed it to the mainstream was less teens using it and more people realizing Tumblr could be used for "theme" blogs really easily.

For investors, the big billion-dollar question* is: what's the next network that's going to make it big? It's hard to predict, and there isn't really such a thing as network intuition. We all have our biases. Something that strikes one person as the wave of the future might not vibe with anybody else. And because success is based not only on the abstract but on the ultra-micro-specific – slight variations in user experience that might snag a hundred thousand people here or there – you can't even assume that the concept you have high hopes for will be executed the right way.

The phrase "betting on people" comes up a lot. You can look at a founder and see ambition, drive, a willingness to work hard. Those all up the odds of an idea paying off. Not by a lot; Paul Graham, whose YCombinator is one of the biggest names in Silicon Valley seed investing, was going around calling Sam Altman, founder of Loopt, the biggest guy in tech since Bill Gates, by the virtue of his intelligence and drive alone; Loopt lost the "location network" fight to Foursquare, which in turn is losing it to Facebook, and Altman hasn't done much of anything for a while now. That's not a dig against Graham or Altman, it's just to say that no matter how good you are or your people are, these ideas are very hard to figure out.

And the question specifically of what's going to replace Facebook is even tricker, not in small part because Facebook has been very, very good at not being replaced. They've been Number One for twice as long as anybody else has, and right now, with more people gunning at them than ever before, they're still holding their own. Google's sacrificing half their services by incorporating them all into Google+, and that's still not enough. So what's the secret to beating Facebook? What's Facebook's big weakness that can be exploited?

Path is particularly promising to investors because Path still buys into the illusion that social connections can be an intimate thing. That's what Facebook modeled itself on, but that part of Facebook has been rapidly eroding. The idea that an online network can mimic your network of actual friends and still be meaningful means that network will appeal to a lot of people who are scared of the Internet otherwise. It's a conservative idea. And if Path succeeds – it seems to be doing not-horribly right now – it'll be because Path has fine-tuned its interaction model to a ridiculous extent. I mean, it allows you to post when you wake up, when you get onto an airplane, what song you're listening to; it tries to to the ambient thing Twitter does, only way more personally and not quite as creepily. (Path does not sell ads, which means it doesn't have to be creepy in that sense; it sells stupid baubles to users who like cool smileys and stuff like that.)

There's a chance, though, that Facebook's weakness is how limited its connections are, in which case Path is the last of a dying breed of networks. It's possible that Tumblr's the site predicting the future here, and that what the Internet wants are connections that make less and less sense in terms of modeling the real world, and more and more sense in terms of finding people content they want. The success of Vine, which is getting weirdly big right now, might point to this: people didn't know they wanted 6-second-long looping videos, but now they've decided that they do. That has nothing to do with reality as we knew it. That's something new and unusual.

In that model, "friends" are almost superfluous, because what matters are actions rather than connections. There's a whole realm of actions which people aren't yet comfortable doing without relying on their friend networks; Facebook events and messages are big because those are the sorts of things that you generally want to do with people you actually know. But what if that won't always be the case? What if there's a way to make event-finding easier by doing away with friends? Or making back-and-forths with strangers somehow meaningful (in a way that Omegle is not)? The Internet allows for a whole bunch of possibilities, all of which are strange and unknown. Given that, it makes a lot of sense that investors are simultaneously crap-shooting and praying for a smaller, more conservative model like Path to take hold.

* Some social networks, by the way, are moderately sensible in that they aim to be a small network rather than a millions-encompassing one. Pinboard is a good example of that. App.net too, though they want to replace Twitter eventually. If you have a money-making model, you can sustain yourself with a small group of loyal fans. But if you have a money-making model, you don't need a ridiculous amount of funding, either. So we don't hear about you so much.
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:31 AM on May 1, 2013 [19 favorites]


Path is particularly promising to investors because Path still buys into the illusion that social connections can be an intimate thing.

Which is what makes is so interesting (as well as douchey) that they're so tone-deaf about this, and blunderbuss spam to everybody they think is remotely connected to you.
posted by bonaldi at 7:24 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a plastic-back, I thought it was funny. Dave whatever-his-name-is is a pretentious idiot.
posted by AnnElk at 8:03 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


>Rory Marinich

I’m always amazed that, even within just the subset of people that use this site, we can live in such totally different worlds.
posted by bongo_x at 9:26 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


And you know something? It works. When you go without Facebook (I did for a year), you don't get invited to things. People don't write you, because Facebook messages have replaced email for a ton of people.

Yep. I managed to keep my Facebook account dead for two years, but I signed back up again a month or two back because I got tired of not being invited to things. I hate Facebook and everything they stand for, but they have succeeded at what they are trying to do, and that means that I'm the only one who suffers when I boycott them.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:58 AM on May 1, 2013


I've had this article in my e-mail for years, because it is such a perfect expression of douchebaggery. I link to it here because it is very similar in tone to the Vanity Fair profile of Morin. Here ya go:

The Insiders: Ben Leventhal and Lockhart Steele

A choice reader comment below the article: "I’m having a hard time deciding whether these guys punked the New York Times, or whether they really are this insufferable."
posted by Unified Theory at 2:26 PM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


What troubles me with this is that it seems the value of these companies to the investors is essentially "oh well, if they fail they still have all that user data which has gotta be worth a shitload on the open market". Because as you mentioned with path, one of the main things all these web 2.1 companies seem to be doing is just squirreling away as much data as they think they can possibly get away with, and then moving on to the ??? step but not ever actually moving on to "profit".

Exactly. And I know I'm a dirty hippie but a lack of a sustainable source of income is why cool things never seem to hang around long on the internet - because the seed money dries up and the VCs move on to the new hotness and the users are left wondering why a formerly great website is now full of ads and spam. I've been burned too many times (still grieving for Reader!) to want to sign up for anything else that doesn't have a long-term plan.
posted by harriet vane at 2:19 AM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I liked it.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:31 PM on May 8, 2013


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