Couple of examples from the past month on how the internet is not working like it should.
More groupthink instead diversity. Over the past year or so, I’ve been taking my funny picture collection, which has been threatening to take over my hard drive, and moving it to the net. Nothing special or fancy, just a bunch of pictures tagged up so that I (or others) can find them. So if you’re looking for a funny picture of a turtle or a poster you might could put up in your cube, you can find it easily. This is turning out to be a lot of work, so I decided once a week to do 16 and post them on my feeds. That way my friends can get a good laugh — and I can make sure I’ve spread the word as much as possible. It also makes me accountable to others so I can be motivated to get them all moved over.
I ran into this graph of site traffic, which took me a bit to figure out.
As you can see, I keep adding stuff and people keep slowly coming by and using it. But why would traffic level off? After all, I’m continuing to add more material. And it’s the same kind of material. The problem, best I can figure, is that I have several thousand followers on Google+. Even though each week I clearly post something along the lines of “Hey guys, this is my thing. Each week I post funny pictures on Friday. Please ignore if you don’t like” Some folks don’t get the memo. When they see a picture of a cute baby that they don’t like because it’s trivial or just noisy, they click the spam button. So Google marks spam as coming both from my account and my blog site.
This effectively means if you have a lot of followers you can’t continually post things from your site that some of them might find worthless and/or annoying. Google is “helping” you conform to groupthink, i.e., basically rewarding (or not punishing) you only if you think and say the right things. Yay Google.
Empty wastelands of groups. I’m a member of an Agile group on LinkedIn. It has hundreds of members, but oddly nobody posts there. I really don’t know why. One guy last week asked a question about Agile architecture. I asked a clarifying question, hoping to draw in others, but there were no takers. There are several other LinkedIn groups I am a member of which are like this. Why have a group where nobody posts? I felt sorry for the guy. You’d think a large group on X would be the place to ask questions and start discussions around X, right?
Along those lines, I’m a member of the HackerNews Facebook group. It also has no posts — maybe one every couple of days. And it has thousands of members. So a few weeks ago I took to posting my blog entries over there. Who knows? Maybe it’ll start up some conversation. And it did — I got one guy posting that he hated people putting their blogs in the group and another guy telling me that I should strive for posting higher quality material to the list. The second guy said he almost clicked the “spam” button, but decided to comment instead. Thank you!
To me, the purpose of the “like” button is to take a large stream of things and help sort it out based on your preferences. What I was hearing (and what I a suspect is going on over at LinkedIn) is folks only wanting to post the very best material in a group. There’s a lot of self-editing. So nobody posts anything. But the system only works with lots of data. You shouldn’t be trying to write an encyclopedia. Every post shouldn’t be a special snowflake. Instead you should be letting it all hang out and letting the system do it’s job. So instead of active boards centered around user interests, we get these thousand-person groups where 2 people may post each month, and that’s considered too much.
I fully understand and support the idea of having group standards — you probably don’t want my funny pictures of cats in your Agile group. However if the standards (self-imposed or not) are such that two thousand people can be there and only one person posts each week, something is broken. At such a low volume, I don’t even see or notice any of that small volume when it finally does appear. There’s too much other stuff going on in my feeds. And if it’s going to be like that, what’s the point of even having the group?
Not trying to rant. Forum designers set out to do one thing, but then they try to avoid one kind of failure so much that they end up falling into other traps. Good to point these out. Can’t fix what you don’t see is broken.If you've read this far and you're interested in Agile, you should take my No-frills Agile Tune-up Email Course, and follow me on Twitter.