The Internet With A Human Face
Joyce Park stashed this in Tech biz
Real talk about privacy, data, and how we need to fix the Internet. He cuts the scary with cute pictures of baby animals!
Our lives have become split between two worlds with two very different norms around memory.
The offline world works like it always has. I saw many of you talking yesterday between sessions; I bet none of you has a verbatim transcript of those conversations. If you do, then I bet the people you were talking to would find that extremely creepy.
I saw people taking pictures, but there's a nice set of gestures and conventions in place for that. You lift your camera or phone when you want to record, and people around you can see that. All in all, it works pretty smoothly.
The online world is very different. Online, everything is recorded by default, and you may not know where or by whom. If you've ever wondered why Facebook is such a joyless place, even though we've theoretically surrounded ourselves with friends and loved ones, it's because of this need to constantly be wearing our public face. Facebook is about as much fun as a zoning board hearing.
"Facebook is about as much fun as a zoning board hearing." <--- good analogy
Even if you want to avoid Facebook, other people will take pictures of you. There's no stopping it.
I did like the cute pictures of baby animals in the original article.
Let's compare this to investor storytime.
Recall that advertising is when someone pays you to tell your users they'll be happy if they buy a product or service.
Yahoo is an example of a company that runs on advertising. Gawker is a company that runs on advertising.
Investor storytime is when someone pays you to tell them how rich they'll get when you finally put ads on your site.
Pinterest is a site that runs on investor storytime. Most startups run on investor storytime.
Investor storytime is not exactly advertising, but it is related to advertising. Think of it as an advertising future, or perhaps the world's most targeted ad.
Both business models involve persuasion. In one of them, you're asking millions of listeners to hand over a little bit of money. In the other, you're persuading one or two listeners to hand over millions of money.
I like to think of the quote from King Lear:
I will do such things,—What they are, yet I know not: but they shall beThe terrors of the earth
That's the essence of investor storytime. Give us money now, and you won't believe how awesome our ads will be when we finally put them on the site.
King Lear would have killed it in Silicon Valley.
Investor storytime has a vastly higher ROI than advertising. Startups are rational, and so that's where they put their energy.
Take the case of Quora. Quora is a question-answering website. You type a question and a domain expert might answer it for you.
Quora's declared competitor is Wikipedia, a free site that not only doesn't make revenue, but loses so much money they have to ask for donations just to be broke.
Recently, Quora raised $80 million in new funding at a $900 million valuation. Their stated reason for taking the money was to postpone having to think about revenue.
Quora walked in to an investor meeting, stated these facts as plainly as I have, and walked out with a check for eighty million dollars.
That's the power of investor storytime.
Let me be clear: I don't begrudge Quora this money. Anything that removes dollars from of the pockets of venture capitalists is something I favor.
But investor storytime is a cancer on our industry.
Because to make it work, to keep the edifice of promises from tumbling down, companies have to constantly find ways to make advertising more invasive and ubiquitous.
Investor storytime only works if you can argue that advertising in the future is going to be effective and lucrative in ways it just isn't today. If the investors stop believing this, the money will dry up.
And that's the motor destroying our online privacy. Investor storytime is why you'll see facial detection at store shelves and checkout counters. Investor storytime is why garbage cans in London are talking to your cell phone, to find out who you are. (You'd think that a smartphone would have more self-respect than to talk to a random garbage can, but you're wrong).
We're addicted to 'big data' not because it's effective now, but because we need it to tell better stories.
Telling better stories is not in an of itself a bad thing.