“My play was a complete success. The audience was a failure.” Ashleigh Brilliant
This quote kind of sums up how I’ve been feeling about the web recently. Much as I love all ths stuff I’m involved in around the edges of the social web I just don’t know how much real impact it has on the vast majority of people. Last week when Delicious launched its new version various people I follow on Twitter were less than happy about the changes and had valid reasons for their concerns (even if @dmje and myself did take a bit of a pop at people at the time :] ) but the thing that struck me was how few people I know would even know what Delicious was (and if they had to guess how many of them would assume it a cooking website!).
Most (if nor all) of the people I follow on Twitter are in the early adopter, web savvy category and are quick to abandon services for all manner of reason (though somehow we all stick with Twitter?) and in the most part are pretty dismissive of Facebook. Yet for me Facebook remains a big part of my online life because its where my non-webby friends are – they have never heard of Twitter and (rightly IMHO) think Second Life is a weird, waste of time (well those few people who read about it in a Sunday magazine or saw the CSI episode). Most of these friends are graduates and professionals, they use the web everyday and there is not a luddite amongst them but they have no idea about web 2.0, social media, AJAX, OpenID, RSS, the semantic web and not much of a clue about things like Flickr or blogs or wikis (unless its Wikipedia).
I’m not sure any of this matters – for most people the web is the web minus any version numbers and as long as we remember that there is no problem. That said a lot of stuff these days seems conciously designed for the early adopter crowd with little thought of the mainstream (FriendFeed is my pet peeve for one) and I’m worried that its easy to get blinkered and keep pushing ahead without actually checking to see if there is anyone interested in what you are building.
At Beanbag I’m trying very hard to keep some perspective and not get carried away with the possibilities – which is hard as I love the bells and whistles of the social web as much as anyone – but I am trying to keep dragging myself back to the core proposition of the site and rather than add to it try and find ways to refine it – the simpler the better.
I’m not alone in thinking this as I was inspired to right this post by something on the Common Craft blog in a similar vein. Now Common Craft know of what they speak and sit proudly at the centre of the social media maelstrom and yet even they worry about the assumptions we make about the way people interact with the web.