About two weeks ago and with 12,000 followers of methodeva on Twitter, I got asked the question of why I don’t follow anyone.
The question came (twice) from a zealous “social business manager” from IBM who, I surmise in her newfound social-media wisdom, must have been taught by its “best practices” to research Twitter users with a large number of followers to rub off a few social stragglers that can increase their social relevance.
One of the many glorified tactics of the “technology economy” that makes social media marketing such a sought-after skill, I guess.
The problem with many technologies today is that they are sold as universal in applicability and infinite in value, while they are often quite the opposite: narrow and finite. So is Twitter today. The perfect trap for the unsuspecting greater-fools.
Subservient systems of technology
The authentic value of a technology system (and thus shareholder value) has little to do with the flavor of which it is built, and everything to do with the economics it enables.
Many technology companies fail because they believe they can ignore or dictate the economics by which evolution happens, a foolish mistake. But a mistake an emerging technology company can still sell to clueless venture investors and subsequently to the public as the unsuspecting greater-fool, and be branded a successful investment before (often public) reality hits the fan. Such is now the “core competence” of innovation arbitrage deployed in Silicon Valley, that should have shielded the public from incurring the risk subprime investors just kicked down the road.
In reality, technology merely acts as an instrument by which human evolution can be made more efficient. Like water is the essential ingredient to the making of soup, bread and many other foods we consume, technology is the crucial tool in support of many kinds of processes by which people can provide better efficiencies and value to each other. The opportunity for technology innovation remains fantastic, if not held hostage by the debilitating arbitrage we falsely promote the pride of the world.
Technology is subservient to our needs, and thus technology, like Twitter’s, must be measured against the modern economics (as in rules of the household) it supports. That is if it wants to do more than extract money from the public, and instead, contribute in a meaningful and lasting fashion to the evolution of humanity.
Renowned Facebook investor Peter Thiel openly criticized Twitter before I did here, but to whack the company down with “We wanted flying cars. Instead, we got 140 characters” does not quite do Twitter’s real fallacies justice. Nor do the comments Peter endorses adequately highlight the responsibility of venture investors in the selection of innovation, known to shun the responsibility of investing in driving, renewable value.
Because honestly, much of the inability of innovation to reach tangible socioeconomic value comes from investors picking the wrong ideas, at a lost opportunity cost twice the invested amounts. In the words of Einstein, the investment theory of venture investors determines what they can discover, and their subprime thesis (stuffed with ten levels of self-induced embedded risk) systematically prevents them from identifying the real socioeconomic outliers.
For those unfamiliar, Twitter is a peer-to-peer internet communication tool by which a person can use text (limited to 140 characters per message) to communicate directly with another over vast distances, regardless of the type or brand of device. A form of universal, device-independent, SMS if you will.
After explosive initial growth and adoption, Twitter has added picture hashtags, lists, networks, picture postings, and now video to its repertoire, to expand its communication capabilities from one-to-one to one-to-many.
Twitter’s barking dog syndrome
The reason why Twitter will lose significant steam over time (and is forced to diversify now) is not that of the technology it did build, but because of the technology, it didn’t. Twitter deploys ignorance of the fundamental economics of renewable value.
But an excellent understanding of modern economics is not bestowed on all of us (read classical economics must die), so perhaps the best way to describe Twitter’s finite proposition is an example closer to home.
From the start, I have always likened Twitter to the “barking dog syndrome.” Let me explain.
We people love our dogs, an estimated 78 million in the U.S. alone. But arguably because of our laissez-faire implementation of households and lack of leadership (right Cesar Milan?), many of our dogs control us, rather than the other way around. This means our dogs bark a lot to defend “their” territory since, in their eyes, we don’t seem capable. Without a strong and decisive leader, every dog has been preprogrammed by nature to become one.
Now, one dog barking frequently is what many of us appear to be able to deal with, albeit in ignorance. But a pack of dogs, consisting of 2 or more dogs by 40% of U.S. dog owners, barking at every leaf hitting the ground will get on our nerves. Despite the fact, we may love every one of your dogs.
Now replace a few dogs with about half a billion users currently on Twitter, who in Twitter’s default mode, without leadership hierarchy, can all bark at each other in their quest to establish the dominance of the pack. To the tune of 58 million barks per day. A living nightmare, in which the sheer cacophony is sure to drown out any music.
In our rush for “gold” to reach the treasure at the end of the rainbow of capitalism, we do a horrible job of building economic systems that employ a meritocracy.
We, as I discovered in the research for my first book, consistently build systems that pretend to be free, yet because of its lack of punishment at the abuse of freedom, become quite the opposite of free. Manipulation rather than merit has become the guiding principle of our newfound “success.”
So, we can’t blame Twitter for deploying the improper pretense of “freedom of speech” in its communication technologies. Its technology founders have never thought about economics that secure lasting success. They don’t need to appease the public in their unending hunger for freedom.
We, as a country, after 237 years of independence, still struggle significantly with what universal freedom means. And suddenly, because technology companies have immediate worldwide applicability over the internet, the old economics borne out of geographical, constitutional, legislative, and political confinement is, without further consideration, unleashed as mold and example to the world.
Former President Bill Clinton said it right one day:
“The great thing about America is we have a democracy. The bad thing about America is we have a democracy.”
The real problem, of course, is that any democracy without a meritocracy is precisely the barking dog syndrome I referred to earlier.
We do not have a meritocracy because a meritocracy can only exist as a product of a free market, and a free-market can only exist with leadership that defines the rules of engagement (not the destination) of its participants. And our leaders have no idea how to set or establish such free-market rules.
Neither does Twitter. Not all the opinions or tweets of users on Twitter matter, because a democracy without a meritocracy – at scale – will give undue credit to popular belief. The sheer noise of the unbridled socialism of “freedom of speech,” drowns out the merit of the opinion of outliers that can ensure our renewable evolution.
So, I am not of fan of Twitter because of the economic fallacies that predicate its value. But I also do not like Twitter because of my merit.
I am not recognized in the technology industry as widely popular, but rather profoundly renowned for my unique and highly regarded criticism to the economic fallacies of technology arbitrage (and will soon publicly question and reinvent its grandfathering economics).
As a 17-year participant in Silicon Valley as an entrepreneur, CEO, and part-time venture capitalist, I have seen it all. I publicly question not the propensity of innovation to change the world but deliver proof of how innovation arbitrage by the flawed deployment of risk deployed by its investors has fundamentally eroded the “game” of innovation.
The criticism that predicted the demise of venture capital well ahead (ten+ years ago) and now in line with the deploring socioeconomic impact of the spawned “innovation.” Criticism meant to serve as the new beacon of trust in the performance and a realistic opportunity for technology innovation.
Not by mimicking or colluding with the many bottom-feeding populists who glorify and reverberate the mindless gold-rush for purely selfish gain, and in the process willingly tarnish public trust. But by standing out in formulating a more realistic and systematic approach to improve the systems by which technology’s socioeconomic impact can support our evolution in a meaningful and authentic fashion.
Hence, my viewpoints disturb the false positivity disguised as a popular opinion that has been responsible for our self-induced mediocrity. And Twitter, under the dysfunctional freedom it deploys, is therefore not a medium that attracts outliers worthy of my “follow.”
Follow a fool to become one
Instead of this now elaborate write-up, I must admit I was tempted to reply to the “social media expert” in line with the t-shirt (displayed above) we made a while ago, and in the only way, I could envision Twitter’s 140 character limit work to form a decent summary response. My snappy response on Twitter would have been:
“Real entrepreneurs don’t follow, they lead.”
But that response would not have served many who are trying to make sense of this relatively new beast the technology industry has dreamt up.
The truth is, regardless of social media:
“I don’t follow anyone.”
That may sound arrogant, but it has been my life’s guiding credo. A credo was starting to form when I was very young, in defiance of some odd (if not abusive) paternal dogmas I was subjected to.
I have since honed the discovery of similar impending attempts of control to perfection. My belief in that credo has gotten much stronger over the years as I discovered how many commercial “truths” cannot convincingly be defended either, and are in actuality merely blatant lies, disguised to either impute control or a cunning ploy to reel in the next customer at any cost. Even, should quota demand, at the expense of trust.
Outliers don’t socialize
I became successful in companies and created outlier success in each instance because I never submitted to dogmas, despite their enormous popularity. The many employees that do (for a paycheck) often become the company’s worst long-term enemy, preventing it from evolving at a constant pace. Avoiding a company from reinventing itself in and on time.
As tempting as it may seem, I never believed in a grand conspiracy theory. Neither do I think Twitter intentionally skewed its relevance or appeal. They don’t know what to do to ensure renewable value. Mind you, its founders are just technologists behind a keyboard, with arguably the same merit as your average general contractor. Nothing to sneeze at, but don’t ask the contractor why he built the house where he did. The lot was available.
I believe we consistently create flawed systems, grandfathered by dysfunctional economic religion, that allow individual participants to cunningly, systematically and under cover of complexity, take control over others under the pretense of freedom.
What happens today on Twitter (and many other social media technologies) is irrelevant, because popular opinion is, well, socialism. But the good news for Twitter is that it does not quite have to be that way, it can and should deploy a meritocracy that exposes the values at the fringe of what is humanly possible, not regurgitate the spiraling mediocrity of ever-increasing commonalities.