There was a write-up about Tagged yesterday on TechCrunch.
We’re profitable! *Pats self on back*
The most interesting part is the comments. My reply hasn’t changed in the last six days:
You cannot single out one Web 2.0 company for doing viral marketing and not be a complete hypocrite. Either bash them all or none.
[More musings after the jump]
The funniest comments were the ad hominems about Greg being a “convicted spammer,” especially since there is a certain irony in that is overlooked when these same people have “big warm fuzzy secret <3” for Facebook.
No, I’m not talking about how ad hominems are logically flawed.
No, I’m not talking about the hypocrisy in Facebook running importers for the same sites as Tagged.
No, I’m not talking about the obvious inconsistency and myopia in anecdotal statements like this: “Why is it that I am not receiving invitation to join facebook yet I have invitations to join Tagged on almost every email account? Why is it that almost everyone I know on facebook logs into their account daily?” (Because you’ve joined Facebook and haven’t joined or unsub’d Tagged?)
Things like logic and common sense slide right off their teflon convictions.
Plaxo is founded by a Napster co-founder, Sean Parker. Based on Napster’s interesting concept of “fair use” and property ownership, I will never trust an ex-Napster exec with anything, especially not my personal data. Plus, as far as I’m concerned, any money made from Napster is tainted. Yes, I do think businesses should pay attention to ethics, and there should be penalties for those that don’t.
You couldn’t write better comedy. Really.
Yeah but Facebook is better than you
Look. Tagged really does have more registered users than Facebook. Tagged really does register more users a day than any other social network out there. Tagged really is profitable (so is Facebook). Tagged really does implement controls (like CAPTCHA and message limits and customer support) to ensure those users are humans and not programs (how is spam messaging users on Tagged’s social network good for Tagged)?
But instead of hacking the numbers to prove that Tagged not successful, or that Tagged is evil, or that Greg is a bad man, ask me this question:
Would I as the Software Architect at Tagged rather have Facebook’s problems:
- A vocal but nichey userbase?
- A gorgeous but complicated and cold user interface?
- A high daily unique count and phenomenal engagement with a shitty CPA?
- A wonderful network updates architecture with an incredibly high infrastructure and operational cost?
Uhh. Hell, yes.
I follow sports. It’s some male dominance aggression thing. The difference here is I may say, “Yes, it is sort of silly I root for the Pittsburgh Steelers.” When you hold up Facebook and push down Tagged, you’re no different. It’s just a team with benefits (They pay me. Given our original target market, I’d be arrested if I got any “benefits” benefits). Tomorrow Tagged could go under and I could be working at Facebook or wherever.
I’m really damn good at my job. I honestly try my best to make things better. I realize some things are outside my control. I try all the time to tell the difference.
Facebook is a competitor. I know a lot of people at Facebook—they’re really cool people. I go to any of their events I am invited to and I write many good things about them on this blog. But at the end of the day, I’m my own person and so are they. We’re not machines, but people full of contradictions like this.
I can tell you with all honesty, as a person I have no trouble looking at myself in the mirror every day.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the rightness and wrongness of what I do or what the company I work for does.
I ask no less of everyone else.
I don’t <3 you
If you’re a tad hurt and want to say, “but… but…” I understand where you are coming from.
In fact I wrote a huge braindump about trying to understand not too long ago.
I’m not saying people don’t have a right to bitch about being “spammed.” I’m just asking them to stop starting with prima facia Santa Claus assumptions and then changing their facts to fit their “reality.” Because there is no “naughty” and “nice” list here; no “good” and “evil.” They’re either all naughty or all nice; all good, or all evil; or, all none of the above.
What I hope we can agree on is:
There is a problem.
And it’s the elephant in the Web 2.0 room.
Web 2.0 is about using viral marketing to substitute the bulk of traditional advertising and PR and payola. And by viral I mean “e-mail” and by marketing I mean “spam” and we need to decide if it’s all spam or it isn’t at all. We can’t pick and choose and say LinkedIn helped me get my job so it’s not spam, but I dislike the slickness of Plaxo’s e-mails so it is spam.
I’m saying we have a problem. The problem is we have a method of communication (e-mail) that is both incredibly cheap and incredibly efficient, but because we’ve engage in the fiction that it’s “free” (it isn’t), we created an externality (spam) that causes an overproduction of that good that is completely outside normal market controls.
And we’re too much libertarians or making too much money off this to really be honest that this is broken.
(And things like CAN-SPAM aren’t going to solve it because it puts enforcement before identity and fights the last battle. When Greg Tseng “spams,” you know you can sue him because he’s running a legitamate business; the real King of Spam spams, you can’t do squat but suffer and hope operations has created a really good spam assassin and the cost is outweighed by the necessity and advantages of the good e-mail you’ve received.)
I understand the suffering—you don’t think my e-mail box isn’t littered with penis enlargements, commercial messages, and invite requests? I work at a #&$ing social networking site! But that’s no reason to do transference onto Tagged or Plaxo or on whomever is the congnoscenti-declared punching-bag-of-the-month. Pushing them down doesn’t solve the problem, it propagates it.
Who among us will cast the first stone?
Instead, realize we have a problem with Web 2.0. It’s a big one. It’s not going to be solved without some serious self reflection.
The first step is to admit we are powerless over our addiction (to e-mail).
Another blog start story
When I first started this blog, I bought myself an iPod to record my thoughts. I had it engraved with a note to my future self:
Write to create context for another to think.
I’m not asking you to put the hate on LinkedIn or Facebook after reading this. I’m not asking you to have a warm fuzzy secret heart for Plaxo or Tagged after reading this.
I am, however, asking you to think.
…only bad part is that many of the comments remind me of the “Plaxo is evil” arguments. Does aggressive-viral marketing attract you or is it the other way around?