Dear Drupal: Stop Turning Me Into A Jerk

February 4th, 2009 · 2 Comments

Drupal Is...Taking Over

Drupal Is…Taking Over

I’ve written before about my love/hate relationship with Drupal.  It has always seemed like if I just learn one more thing I will suddenly have complete mastery and be able to create fantastic sites with minimal effort.  I’ve always been frustrated by the lack of help and the lack of intuitiveness in the application itself and in its community, and I’ve always been convinced that it is a result of perverse incentives.

Right now, Drupal is a great and interesting piece of software that is free.  All the people who work in the community to expand and support it basically get bupkis for their time.  In fact, it is my (completely unresearched) opinion that most of them make their money through Drupal consulting.  The obvious power of Drupal convinces some hapless soul to use it and then they find out they are over their head and call in the cavalry.

Obviously you can see how the incentives here are bad.  If I’m a Drupal contributor, I want my software to be powerful, but I actually want it to be hard to use. Now if you ask me, I doubt very much that any of them think of it in those terms and are actually really awesome people who contribute their time to make a really cool product.  However, I think that their incentives are such that they’re going to be motivated to do some things and not others.

I’ve repeatedly considered making an external wiki, not subject to the peevishness of the Drupal forums.  Where people don’t like to tell you why you shouldn’t want to do what you want to do and just help you do it.  However I’ve noticed a horrifying transformation coming over myself.  As I slowly learn how to do things in Drupal, I don’t want to share.

I think to myself, “If I can patch X, Y and Z together it will make an awesome site and it won’t be hard at all.”  But I’m suddenly overcome with a desire to keep that information to myself in order to maximize it’s benefit for me.  I mean, I’ve struggled forever to gain mastery over this evil program, why should I share the fruits of my labor.  If I share how easy it was to make my super-cool site, everyone will do it…terrifying.  I think the Drupal is taking over…

Photo by: nevet5

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Facebook:Internet::Socialism:Free Markets

January 21st, 2009 · No Comments

Photo By: Henrik Bejke

We were discussing the other day about future ventures and Annie basically put forth the contention that “forums were dead.” She said they seemed “archaic” and she didn’t know why anyone would bother making a free standing forum, when they could just make one on Facebook. This was troubling to me for a few reasons:

I Know Diddly About Facebook

One of the first things that troubled me about the whole thing is that I know nothing about Facebook. She is clearly the Facebook master in the organization. I’ve never even bothered to give it the rudimentary attention that I’ve given MySpace (which is next to none). I have no real reason to justify why I’ve been ignoring a huge social change in the area I’m hoping to build businesses in, but there you have it. I’m ignorant. That was the first troubling bit.

She Seemed Right

At first blush, the second troubling fact was that I could totally see her point. We’re out there trying to build communities, when Facebook is basically making all the same tools available to people who aren’t savvy. As Annie puts it, “Grandma won’t join a forum, but Grandma will get on Facebook.” There’s also all the advantages that come from the components being integrated so well. I can go to one control panel and see information about my whole online world. That’s very compelling.

Why Facebook is like Socialism

Finally I hit on why I think Facebook is not destined to take over the Web. It comes down to two things: Efficiency and Innovation.

Facebook is like a centrally planned economy. It’s clean and sanitized and easy to use. It sounds great in theory. Big brains in the sky make the decisions about what tools you need, how you’ll get them and how they’ll be delivered. The bad guys don’t get in and everything is great. In theory that all sounds great.

But just like Socialism, Facebook discourages efficiency. Why? Because no one really has much of a profit motive. They don’t really own their content there. It’s just as hard to compete with someone else’s forum there, but you don’t get any big prize when you win. In the early days that’s not a big problem as you see who the best early adopters are. But once you’re established, it’s really hard to displace the leaders, no matter how fat and lazy they’ve become. Moreover, there’s much less incentive to do so.

Also, Socialism and Facebook inherently deter innovation. On Facebook there’s a simple, “master planned” list of things I can and cannot do. All the innovation has to come from the big brain in the sky. While that helps have a orderly, sterile, nonthreatening environment, it’s bad for innovation. If only Facebook can think of things to do with Facebook, then they will always be trailing in the feature wars.

Thus it seems likely to me that while Facebook can get off to a start with “good” planning. Ultimately they will eventually make mistakes and as long as you are the only one making decisions, you will be the one penalized by your mistakes. I ultimately don’t think there can ever be a “super app” that replaces the Internet as a whole, for those two simple reasons: Efficiency and Innovation.

→ No CommentsCategories: Theory

Why Digg is better than Stumbleupon

January 20th, 2009 · 2 Comments

Photo By: NightRPStar

A while back we were mystified by the results we found with our tests of Stumbleupon. We’ve since concluded that our results stemmed from Stumbleupon’s advanced utilities to prevent people from “Stumbling” their own content.  The question that arises in my mind is:

Why Have Functionality To Prevent People From Stumbling Their Own Content?

So clearly Stumbleupon identified that the same group of people Stumbled our first and second submissions, so they didn’t show it to many, or maybe even any, other people. The pivotal question is: why? Why are they so concerned with preventing people from Stumbling their own work. Isn’t the whole point of their service that people in the aggregate decide if the content is worthwhile? If I submit several pieces of content and they aren’t any good, they shouldn’t go very far. Perhaps they should have spent less time discouraging self-submission, and more time making their promotion algorithm more advanced?

What’s Better About Digg?

It should first be noted that both Stumbleupon and Digg suffer from the same downfall, users who have ADD. Stumblers or Diggers might read your article, but the potential for them to become avid readers of your blog is pretty low. If they got their entertainment from reading just a few blogs they wouldn’t be on those services in the first place.

So why use either? Here’s a simple experiment. Go Digg one of your deep pages and wait a few weeks. Then search for the title of the article. There’s a good chance that the Digg page will outrank your original article. Moreover, in that Digg page, there is a Do-Follow link to your original article. While it kind of sucks that it’s outranking our article, if you could get some more inbound links from elsewhere you’d be moving.

Is This Another Anti-NoFollow Rant?

I will spare you the “nofollow” rant today. Everyone should know my feelings about “nofollow” by now. Instead I will convey an interesting anecdote about Digging your own pages. During my article marketing test I wrote an article titled “Learn To Read Stock Market Quotes.” If you search for it, my article currently shows up as results 2-4. Your milage may vary. Not long ago a spam blog “syndicated the story” (stripping the link back to me as spam blogs are wont to do) and dug it. The digg page ranked 5th and the spam blog was nowhere to be seen. So you can see that there is some benefit to be had by digging your own story.

Secondarily, your Digg profile can also have dofollow links back to your sites. So they actually reward you for participating in their community (a lost concept these days.) They also do not frown on submitting your own story, although you’ll usually do better if someone else submits it. While Digg has it’s own set of problems, it is vastly superior to Stumbleupon for promoting your work.

→ 2 CommentsCategories: Applied Use · Theory