What I don’t want: Chatroulette is interesting. I’ve sort of refrained from talking about it until now because I hadn’t known what to say/think about it, and based on the primary use cases (I think of the “Comic Book” guy archetype looking for a good time) or teens that frequent the “Most Viewed” section on YouTube.
Today, I was thinking about the core idea/benefit behind Chatroulette, and how it’s almost like drunk dialing (As a sidenote, did drunk dialing really start after Slaughterhouse Five came out? I didn’t know that). Drunk dialing is a nuisance (at least, to the recipient). And most of the time, people know the recipient.
What I want:
Where I really think something like Chatroulette could be cool is to reconnect with old friends in a short, 5 minute time frame. Imagine taking (at least a subset) of the hundreds (or thousands) of Facebook “friends” you’ve been out of touch with and reconnect through “speed” chats. It wouldn’t be weird or socially awkward to just talk for a bit, then move on… because that’s just what people would use the service for. Using the service on a larger webcam enabled HDTV with a remote control would give it broader consumer appeal.
I don’t think this means that people would have short, cursory conversations with their friends (And even if they did, what’s wrong with that? As it is right now, people have almost NO time for loose connections and acquaintances). Chatroulette, with its simple “Next” button has taught us that switching to the next person is like changing the channel on the television. It might seem crass to think of old friends as “channels” but might lead to an interesting experience. Random (by definition, roulette is random) people on the internet in a chat window is far less important than real friends and people in my social network from past schools/jobs/events.
Living our daily lives touched by Boxee, Netflix, iTunes, Hulu, and YouTube, it’s easy to think that we are on the cutting edge of media consumption. That the business exchanges that we partake in, whether it be paying subscription fees for entertainment [Netflix], or piecemeal for atomic units of media [iTunes] will be what everyone does in a few years.
Leave it to Kevin Kelly to remind us that copyright and media might be headed in a different direction. In his Technium post, How to Thrive Among Pirates, KK reminds us that the largest movie industries in the world are China, India, and Nigeria (I hadn’t realized how large Nigeria’s was until reading this). All three places are hotbeds for copyright “violation” and piracy. He goes as far as to say that these regimes are synonymous with piracy. How can one reconcile this paradox? The three largest producers of films, the three largest centers of piracy? Wouldn’t media production come to a grinding halt if prices were zipping to “Free” as they are in “YouTubeland”?
Here are some of the reasons why it works:
- Costs: Low budget is effectively “No” budget in Nigeria, and not far off in India/China. Since the costs are so small, it’s much easier to break even. The filmmakers and producers have reduced the prices of their legitimate discs to the same prices as fakes and used the relatively inexpensive duplication of the media (VCDs) to their advantage. Rather than selling higher priced DVDs, they stick to VCDs because they’re “good enough” for most consumers.
- Air Conditioning (& associated Fancy Schmancy Technology): Lots of people in India still don’t have (or don’t want to pay to turn on) their Air conditioning units. This is a boon to the theaters that can couple the media with a “3rd space” for consumers to come to and be entertained. To some level, the theaters that are investing in 3D and fancy audio equipment are doing this now. I’m not sure this is sustainable for very long, because there will surely be an arms race for fidelity + convenience that technology brings into the living room. If you are not wearing 3D glasses watching a movie at home in 4 years, I’d be shocked.
- Television still works – Ad supported mass media still works. Advertisers still perceive that there’s a positive ROI on eyeballs with a mass channel. And with the demographics in these countries, even a “small” audience on a cable channel is enormous.
Kelly finishes with three big learnings for media distributors: 1 Price media near the cost of pirated copies. (Leverage scale economies in production). 2 Milk the uncopyable experience of theater for all its worth, and 3 Films will migrate to ad supported free copies.
For a long time, I was guilty of looking at the models of production/distribution/copyright protection here in the developed world as “the evolution” that someday India, China, and Nigeria would adopt. It’s now clear to me that the natural order of things is likely reversed.
As Kelly says, “Contrary to expectations and lamentations, widespread piracy does not kill commercial filmmaking. Existence proof: the largest movie industries on the planet. What they are doing today, we’ll be doing tomorrow. Those far-away lands that ignore copy-right laws are rehearsing our future.”
I just listened to this 4 year old piece from NPR and found its implications interesting for designing experiences and things.
When people say “The novelty wore thin,” it’s entirely possible that they’re not talking about a particular novelty, but novelty altogether.
Reading You are Not a Gadget has introduced me to the user/human idea of “lock-in”. People collectively get locked in to using certain experiences and behaviors. I have a rough diagram surrounding behaviors that I plan on turning into an infographic when I get a chance.
I’m starting to think that people’s desire for novel experiences and behaviors calcifies at a certain age. I’ve noticed sometimes when I ask people past a certain age, “What are you trying to Get Better At?” they tend to offload their passions and curiosities to their children. I’ve even heard “Well, I don’t know what I’m trying to get better at, but my kids are getting better at _______, and I go to _______ practice every 3rd day.” The notion is that they somehow live their curiosities vicariously through their children.
I can understand that curiosity may come in ebbs and flows and interests can be ephemeral in nature, but I can’t imagine there’s a lot of satisfaction in life without a spirit of adventure and a penchant for learning new things.
Lest we forget, as Krulwich says in the NPR piece: “An open mind is a prerequisite to an open heart”
“The central mistake of recent digital culture is to chop up a network of individuals so finely that you end up with a mush. You then start to care about the abstraction of the network more than the real people who are networked, even though the network by itself is meaningless. Only the people were ever meaningful.”