Caterina Fake on the fear and hope that underlies social media.
FOMO -Fear of Missing Out- is a great motivator of human behavior, and I think a crucial key to understanding social software, and why it works the way it does. Many people have studied the game mechanics that keep people collecting things (points, trophies, check-ins, mayorships, kudos). Others have studied how the neurochemistry that keeps us checking Facebook every five minutes is similar to the neurochemistry fueling addiction. Social media has made us even more aware of the things we are missing out on. You’re home alone, but watching your friends status updates tell of a great party happening somewhere. You are aware of more parties than ever before. And, like gym memberships, adding Bergman movies to your Netflix queue and piling up unread copies of the New Yorker, watching these feeds gives you a sense that you’re participating, not missing out, even when you are.
The last paragraph nutshells why I love the web so much. (via @bryce)
So says Caterina Fake:
We agreed that a lot of what we then considered “working hard” was actually “freaking out”. Freaking out included panicking, working on things just to be working on something, not knowing what we were doing, fearing failure, worrying about things we needn’t have worried about, thinking about fund raising rather than product building, building too many features, getting distracted by competitors, being at the office since just being there seemed productive even if it wasn’t — and other time-consuming activities. This time around we have eliminated a lot of freaking out time. We seem to be working less hard this time, even making it home in time for dinner.
I would likely give the same advice, but I wonder if it’s actually true. Perhaps working hard/freaking out was exactly what was needed at the time, whether or not it seems efficient or correct in retrospect. You need to travel that road so you can find a better way the second time around.
Nice little interview with Stewart and Caterina about how Flickr came about. “George Oates [a Flickr employee] and I would spend 24 hours, seven days a week, greeting every single person who came to the site. We introduced them to people, we chatted with them. This is a social product.”
In this interview with .net magazine, Flickr founder Caterina Fake likens building an online community to throwing a party:
According to Caterina: “The most difficult part is not the technology but actually getting the people to behave well.” When first starting the community the Flickr team were spending nearly 24 hours online greeting each individual user, introducing them to each other and cultivating the community. “After a certain point you can let go and the community will start to maintain itself, explains Caterina. “People will greet each other and introduce their own practices into the social software. It’s always underestimated, but early on you need someone in there everyday who is kind of like the host of the party, who introduces everybody and takes their coat.
I recall those early days of Flickr…Stewart and Caterina were everywhere, commenting on everything. A core group of people followed their example and began to do the same, including Heather Champ, who now manages Flickr’s community in an official capacity. Matt did a similar thing with MetaFilter too…he spent a lot of time interacting with people on there, taking their coats, and before long others were pitching in.
Following the lead of the Six Word Story group on Flickr and Caterina’s prompt, Wired asked some prominent writers to pen their own six word stories. “Hemingway once wrote a story in just six words (‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn.’) and is said to have called it his best work.” Got any good ones?
Rebutting Caterina, David says it’s a great time to start a business. Good points by both, but they’re ultimately arguing different things. ps. Staying small isn’t the answer to everything, guys.
“It’s a bad time to start a company”. Amen. It’s kinda what I was getting at in this post…”if you’re buying low and selling high, the time to buy optimism was two to four years ago, not now”.