My friend Holly wrote a piece yesterday about the rather small number of motifs that all fiction can theoretically be reduced to. I’m familiar with the point and it is a good one– there really is nothing new under the sun and most all novels tell one of the same old stories, in a unique new way. And the idea of the same old stories being endlessly repeated certainly resonates with me in my social medial activities these days. Sometimes it seems that every other thread I read deals with one of a handful of seemingly endless arguments.
The “Google + is the greatest thing since sliced bread” threads (now numbering 12,344,963,021 as of 7/14/2011 05:29 GMT) aren’t really arguments. While I am definitely underwhelmed with G+ and very frustrated at Google’s inability to let me use one account to access all of their services I desire, I am hardly a strident critic of Plus itself– it seems to me ridiculously early to be passing any sort of judgment about a brand new product still in beta.
Another debate, which is a bit livelier is over whether it is okay to Like or +1 your own material. Some argue that it is simply basic SEO, while others feel that it is silly, tacky or even unethical to to Like yourself. I don’t see it as an ethical issue, really, and I’m sure the SEO advocates have a valid point. But I am so trained by years of using StumbleUpon to be very restrained in giving thumbs up to my own material (like yourself often on SU and you get sent to a kind of purgatory– click up all you want, no one will Ever see those posts) that I really just can’t bring myself to Like and Plus myself. Luckily I seem to have friends who are willing to do it for me.
The question “what is spam” certainly brings out strong feelings. Most everyone hates spam. Most everyone is certain that they themselves do not spam. Yet the beat goes on. Those who have things up so that every time they type 140 characters they score 1 tweet, 1 blog post (on Tumblr), and 1 Facebook post certainly don’t think of themselves as spammers, though other folks certainly do. There are lots of gray areas, reasonable arguments about different audiences on different sites and it seems to me the chances of this question being definitively resolved within the lifetimes of anyone who will read this are, pretty much, nil.
The most contentious perpetual argument on Empire Avenue is, I have come to believe, “What IS A Blog?” Those who read my earlier piece with that title will recall that it is not a simple question, but rather a sorting mechanism that pits creators against curators against copiers. And which participants may accurately be sorted into which of these categories and when generates, I have come to believe between a third and half of all conversation on the Avenue, in the communities and in the Facebook groups. (The G+ crowd is so busy crowing about plus, that they ignore even this most insoluble of the endless social media arguments.)
While I can at least hope that some of the hype around plus will eventually die down and we can have a chance to use it and work with it and see what it can and can’t do and importantly how Google handles the issues that will inevitably arise as they roll out Plus to the entire planet. I quietly point out that Google does not have an especially enviable record for user satisfaction, and is very Facebook like in making it pretty much impossible for users to contact a human been for support when something goes wrong. There isn’t really anything new in social media. Only people clever enough to have the same old discussions in ways that seem new all over.