I have to admit, I’ve been sucked in by the hype and the press of the join.app.net movement (and your blog posts) over the past month.
It’s a bit like watching the first season of ‘Survivor’ when reality T.V. wasn’t actually a 'thing’ yet…I know it’s adding no value to my life, but I’m still completely spell bound by it all and can’t seem to miss an episode (or any of the back-and-forth).
On the surface I really believe in what you are trying to do, and especially as a developer, I so very much want to be on your side and see you change the world here…but through it all, I’ve had a few things knaw'ing at my gut.
Stuff that I just can’t shake…and it’s really been preventing me from going all in…and now that I’ve had some time to really think about it, I’m going to try and explain my issues to you as well (hopefully it’s useful to you – and if it’s not, well, sorry, but at least it was helpful for me to share).
OK so really my problems sit primarily with this core statement you’ve got about join.app.net
“We’re building a real-time social service where users and developers come first, not advertisers.”
There are two big things I just can’t get over here.
#1 How do advertisers stand in the way of users? Seriously, what can’t a user do because of advertising? Better question, what *can* a user do because of advertising?
hint: just about everything - for FREE.
And the real problem is that the trade off users make to get all this FREE stuff is basically insignificant to them. People are adaptable creatures…once we’ve identified them and accept there is value in dealing with them, we’re very good at accepting and ignoring the little annoyances throughout a given day.
For example, ever try to open a kids toy these days? Seriously difficult stuff, but the kid wants to play with that toy and so you’re going to do whatever it takes to get it out of the box.
Or ever try to buy anything at fast food recently? “Would you like to super-size this?” “no thank you.”…“How about donating a dollar to charity with your purchase?” “Not today thank you”…“How about adding a desert to your order today” “JUST GIVE ME THE DAMN FOOD I ORDERED, please.”…and this is all around attempting an actual purchase (that I *know* is bad for me)…don’t care, still do it…and so do millions of others constantly.
#2 I’m a developer, I would even argue I’m somewhat of an uber-developer, and even I don’t really care about developers. This is just how life works. Things are hard. the chips are stacked against you. Nobody is out there really trying to make your life easier.
But it’s not all bad. As a developer I actually have the freedom and power to build anything I can dream of.
In doing so, I can take short cuts and piggy-back off social platforms if they’ll let me, but it doesn’t mean I have the right to be upset if that shortcut gets taken away…and it doesn’t mean I can’t just go about the original long path we all used to have to take (Remember when we all had to build up a user base from scratch, getting every new user to set up an entirely new identity with our shiny new service? Remember when we had to spread the word on our own? Remember when, yes sadly we even had to advertise ourselves at times because there was no other way for new people to know about our shiny new service.)
Think of it this way, if I’m cutting through old-man Grimmy’s back yard every day to get to the playground (in the process creating a nice worn down dirt path through his pretty green lawn)…and then one day he decides to put up a six foot fence that I can’t easily climb…what do I do?
You got it, I begrudgingly go around it.
And how does old-man Grimmy feel about this?
He’s thrilled because his grass looks beautiful again and it doesn’t really bother him that a few kids from the neighborhood are a bit annoyed and now have to walk a bit further (in his mind they should have been doing that even before the fence was up anyway).
The situation is the same even if it’s a public park (come to NYC and see how many public parks you’re allowed to actually be on the grass for – I can only assume these fences and rules are around so that the 'general public’ has nice green grass to look at when they are in the park and not lots of dirt patches and paths).
As a developer I will concede that, yes, it sucks that the easiest path to success right now is by piggy-backing off others…but an open system won’t change that fact (it will just be a different 'other’ paying the bills and setting the rules).
In the end, the only way to truly own the system is to *own* the system…and ownership in any form, be it by advertisers, clients, users, or developers, still actually means closed.
So while I like the overall ideals of what you are trying to do with app.net, I just don’t think it’s the proper target or approach at the moment (and based on the current funding status, it looks it’s not going to happen anyway).
But from everything I’ve been reading and hearing, you’re a very smart guy…you’ve got a great team…and even better, you’ve still got some money in the bank.
So you’ve got options and opportunity. You can still do something really ground breaking and interesting (and you can charge for it instead of taking ad dollars if you want). You can make a difference for users and developers by making (and keeping) whatever it is truly open (letting us all create as many dirt patches as we want, wherever we want).
Just don’t try to do it by creating 'yet another Twitter’ or 'yet another Facebook’ or really 'yet another anything’. We don’t need open clones. Actually we don’t need clones period.
What we need are fresh ideas. Real innovation (and I don’t mean on the business model, I mean on the product and service level).
Basically we need truly useful shit.
And you can give it to us just by focusing all those great things you’ve got at your disposal on fixing the real problems we’ve still got. And trust me there are gobs of them still out there just ripe for smart people like you to dive into and fix.
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Kevin has a day job as CTO of Veritonic and is spending nights & weekends hacking on Share Game Tape. You can also check out some of his open source code on GitHub or connect with him on Twitter @falicon or via email at kevin at falicon.com.
If you have comments, thoughts, or want to respond to something you see here I would encourage you to respond via a post on your own blog (and then let me know about the link via one of the routes mentioned above).