Spreading Myself Thin
If you’re like me — I’m sorry. But then again if you’re like me, then you’ve probably signed up for more online accounts than you can remember. You might only recall them when your birthday rolls around and you find your inbox flooded with greetings from networks you didn’t even know you signed up for.
Aside from the promise of some really sweet deals, I will usually sign up with a network for the express purpose of reserving my screen name — Scopique — so that no one else camps it. I consider this name to be “mine” (even though it’s obviously not), and I want the people who might be on the same, network to be able to quickly associate this new account with the same account they might know from other networks. At the very least, I don’t want people to assume that someone else with the name is me…or to have some asshat squatting the name and doing me an injustice elsewhere.
So I sign up for a lot of networks that I actually don’t use. Player.me. Ello. Probably others that I cannot remember (and my birthday isn’t for another seven or so months). My main goal is always to at least reserve my name, because in reality I can’t possibly split my attention between all of these networks.
I primarily stick with Twitter and Google Plus. Twitter is a lightning round of communication, mostly pithy, but sometimes I luck out and find some actual information buried in there. Gone are the days when we’d have raging conversations in 140 character bites, because it was that kind of behavior that drove us to Google Plus. The ability to pick up Twitter’s slack was the big draw, and the option to attach more images, and because it’s the All Seeing Google (and we all had accounts anyway). Basically, Twitter and Plus cover the two aspects of what I think I need: rapid fire “real time” communication via Twitter, and long form, thoughtful discussion via Plus.
Why do we need another network? When a new network pops up and everyone in our circles passes the info along, there’s always those who ask that question. The answer is all the same: we don’t, but we reserve our names for the reasons listed above. And who knows…maybe a new network is actually better than what we’re working with now. Better how? No idea. Like a lot of aspects in the modern age, we don’t always know what we want until we see it in action.
Take Forge.gg. It’s a “passive-streaming” application-slash-social network for gamers. It’s and app that runs in the background, recording your supported game session while also broadcasting it live to other clients and on the Forge.gg website. When you’re done, you can clip short segments of video to create “highlights” of action for posterity. You can also use the Forge client to take screenshots, removing the need to remember each game’s screenshot key and folder location. Beyond this value-added ability, Forge is also a social network of sorts. You can friend people, post status updates, and comment and like people’s activities.
Another network is Anook. This is a pure gaming social platform. Users can create “nooks” which focus on specific games. These nooks provide their members with access to individual blogs, a forum, gallery services, video visibility, and scheduling. It’s almost like a combination between Facebook and those guild hosting sites that were all the rage in the early 00’s.
I have accounts for both, but I use Forge far more than Anook because Forge offers me something that I can’t get from my Big Two networks, whereas Anook is really just focusing on what I can already do from where I have an established presence. All of my friends are on Twitter and Plus, and while they may also have Anook accounts, there’s no reason for us to use Anook when it doesn’t differ significantly from the features we get on our established networks. Forge, on the other hand, allows us to do a lot of what we can do elsewhere — video, stream, and take screenshots — but encapsulates it into one location, as opposed to having it strewn across an ecosystem of per-game configurations and a third party applications. Technically I use Forge more for its streaming and screen-shotting than for it’s social aspects, but because I am passively routed through the social gauntlet in order to use the important features, I find myself spending more time posting status updates, comments, and checking out other people’s content. This isn’t to suggest that Forge is superior to Anook, or that Anook itself is a bad option: I just don’t have a need to be anywhere else right now. If one of my existing networks went belly-up (which is always a possibility for Plus), then I think Anook would easily fill it’s shoes.
The Internet allows anyone with an idea — or an idea on how to improve or refine an existing idea — to just make it happen, and that’s a good thing. Options are always a good thing. The downside is that it will probably be tough to get people to give up what they’ve got in favor of something else. In the case of social networking, it’s a lot more complex: there’s the entire social graph that would need to be uprooted and moved, and if it’s an analogous offering that involves convincing everyone that the pain of leaving an established network behind is significantly worthwhile. Unless the new network fills a void, then I’m not sure how it could be. The good news, though, is that there’s a lot of people still out there that find the current offerings lacking, or are looking for something more targeted than general purpose networks. For every niche, there’s a place to congregate.