Tag Archives: twitter

Periscope Isn’t airbnb, Or: Don’t Suck

Can we all agree that Periscope is a sad train wreck? I think we can.**

I was on vacation last week. I checked Twitter on Wednesday, saw that CoLab had tweeted that they were broadcasting XpoWednesday LIVE! on Periscope, and didn’t consider for even one second wasting data clicking the link.

No reflection on CoLab or XpoWednesday…it is just that watching anything on Periscope is boring and painful. Meerkat isn’t any better. The technology promises to put you LIVE! in the experience, but it doesn’t and can’t.

The problem is one of curation. A live feed is inherently boring.

Consider this anecdote about airbnb: when they first launched, they had real trouble attracting users. And what they realized after soliciting feedback is that the site was unappealing because all the posts of available lodgings featured poor quality cell phone photos. So, they took a chance and hired professional photographers to go around and photograph available places. A few multi-billion dollar valuations later, that gamble seems to have paid off.

At the time, though, hiring professional photographers could have appeared like throwing good money after bad. Which is to say, airbnb sucked and pouring more money into that “bad” idea was sort of crazy. Yet, it worked. Not because the concept or technology got better, but because the content did.

The analog to Periscope? Actually, there isn’t one. Sorry, Periscope, your technology isn’t worthwhile. Because what is needed to save Periscope is an editing suite to merge multiple live streams into one coherent whole. We call that “television.” And while live streaming is cheap and boring, live television is compelling but hella expensive, y’all. That expense doesn’t come in to the equation because of the technology, it is because you need talented professionals to do the editing, in real time. Talented professionals are precisely the people cut out of amateur live streaming.

So why this discussion? Because I think it illustrates a really simple, basic (and you would think obvious) truth of the new online economy we find ourselves navigating like Vasco da Gama, with confidence and purpose yet without certainty as to exactly where it is we are going to end up. If you want to make it, your content MUST be either wanted or needed, and it must be good.

It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that Periscope does such a bad job providing a good version of something people want (a live experience) given its association with Twitter, considering Twitter’s bad job of providing a good version of something people need (a real-time news outlet).

“Need” is an elastic term, but think about IMDb. IMDb is the gold standard, a site everyone uses and treats practically like a like a public utility. You’ve got a question about who was in a movie? You go to IMDb. You don’t go anywhere else. Ever. They are accurate and reliable and everyone knows where to go. Easy. They provide exactly the service you need for the specific purpose for which they exist.

Compare that to Periscope. Why would you open Periscope? That is not a rhetorical question. You go to IMDb with a purpose in mind. You go to Facebook with a purpose (baby pictures and vacation pictures, amiright?). You go to Reddit with a purpose (kill time/learn weird shit). And then you visit those 10 different sites you check because they feature your other interests (ESPN for sports, Car and Driver if you are into cars, whatever…you know what your interests are).

Ok, so, why would you use Periscope? The promise is compelling live content — in a nutshell, whatever you click on should be interesting. However, the reality is almost NOTHING on Periscope is interesting, and even those events that could be interesting are poorly shot and have bad sound quality.

Some people might say YouTube started out with bad quality content and turned out pretty okay, and they’d be right, but the technology already existed before the site launched to create good content, e.g. editing software. You can’t make live content “good” in the moment without a trained team of editing professionals. You know, like tv.

A really interesting comparison is to Twitch. Twitch is also a live streaming platform, but with a built-in content advantage: video games. There are millions of gamers around the globe, whereas all the streamers on Periscope who broadcast the contents of their refrigerators (really, that is a thing) have no built in audience at all.

Nobody wants this product.

And that is why I wanted to write about it. Sadly, there are a number of start-ups locally that are facing this problem. There isn’t any need to name names. But there is a need for soul searching. These local guys don’t have API problems or UI problems, they have “why?” problems. “Why would anyone visit your site or use your service?” is a much more clarifying question for a start-up than “Is there an unmet need?” Even if you are correct that there really is a need, that doesn’t mean the product you hope to build is going to properly address it.

Took me almost a thousand words to come around to the point…maybe I’m a bit too polite. I don’t want to just come out and say, “hey bro, everything you’ve been working on is kinda shitty.” So I’ve illustrated the point with a big dumb startup far away from us. The idea that if you build something “cool” people will show up just isn’t true; there are simply too many options out there. Cool is a starting point, not a destination.

**So, in an interesting twist, just an hour after I originally posted this, I got some feedback from a regular reader letting me know that she sometimes enjoys watching the occasional stream on Periscope, specifically from people working in television and radio. Let me therefore slightly revise my thesis: Periscope can be used to some decent effect by media professionals, especially when supplementing their other media efforts, like a radio host broadcasting what is going on live in studio. It can be done. However, that isn’t the norm and is in fact a very small, very specific subset of streams.

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Filed under Blacksburg Start-ups, Pointless musings, Roanoke Start-ups

People Are Weird: Xperience2015 Edition

It is hard to know whether weird people feel empowered by social media to be themselves, or if normal people are compelled toward awkwardness in their use of same, but either way, Twitter can produce odd outcomes in what outwardly seem straightforward exchanges.

Case in point: had a fella take the time to delete his depressed, cry-for-help tweet and respond to my response by telling me that responding to me wasn’t “worth his time” and then HE called ME weird. What?

Totally and completely beside the point, except I wrote him because he tweeted that he felt even more isolated in Roanoke after attending Xperience2015. Assuming that was a genuine statement, I responded like Daniel L. Crandall, with care and compassion. That didn’t work out so well.

None of that matters at all beyond the fact that I was following #xperience2015 and other related tags because I was really curious how this “Xperience” xperiment was going to work out. I want to be supportive of efforts to recruit and retain young professionals, but I’m just not sure they work. For instance, the premise of Xperience 2015 seems to have been that there are young professionals here in the Valley who need to be convinced to stay, and that an inclusive conference setting is a way to introduce them to people, ideas, and activities they didn’t already know about and which might help anchor them here in Noke. That doesn’t sound like an outrageously good time to me, and I have at least one really close friend on Twitter who thinks slitting his wrists would have been a more profitable use of his time.

Seriously, though, consider the example of Mr. Twitter. He is apparently a local young professional, and he made an effort to connect, giving up his Friday night and Saturday to do so. That is not nothing; that is a real commitment and a real attempt. What happened at this event that so badly backfired for this guy?

Were this a standard “networking” opportunity, I would first question whether this guy tends toward a wallflower personality, and second whether he knows himself well enough to know that he was not going to enjoy mingling at a cocktail party.

But I’m going to defend him and say (regardless of his personality type) the event certainly should not have been structured like that, and if it was, shame on the organizers. Folks who know how to schmooze and network don’t need a big dumb networking event to expand their network of people with whom to network. While I’m not opposed to that kind of crap generally, if the purpose of your event is to retain young people who are having a HARD TIME CONNECTING, then you have to make it easy for them and not herd ’em all into a room and just expect magical connections to start forming. If they were good at that sort of shit, they’d have already done it.

But on the other hand!: Yeah, so, on the other hand, we’re talking about a guy who tweeted his isolation and turned on the one person who responded with real empathy. So there’s that.

I’m willing to give this guy all the benefits of all the doubts – because it is my blog and I can – and say it is entirely possible he was joking about his isolation, or maybe he just got dumped by his girlfriend and so wasn’t in a great state of mind either at Xperience or on Twitter, or maybe he just thought I was trolling him. The force of my sexy baller persona is extremely intimidating; perhaps he couldn’t handle it. There are many possibilities.

To sum up, Xperience2015 may or may not have been a success/train wreck and people on Twitter are bitter/compassionate/weird/hopeful/confused.

Solid post.

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Filed under Pointless musings