December 26, 2008

Never Say Never Online. We're Keeping Records, You Know.

Two integral characteristics to the Web are that it is first, constantly changing, and second, practically everything is saved. So if you, like me, and many others, have ever said you will "never" do something, or will "quit" doing something never to return, you're just setting yourself up to be wrong. And once you undo that promise, you can look pretty silly in the process. So, if you are wavering in whether or not you will use a product, or if you're thinking of walking away from one you have already tried, it probably makes sense to keep the dialog internal, instead of sharing with the masses.

First, let me point out how dumb I was for trying this.

In January of 2007, I said, Why I Stopped Using IM and Won't Use Twitter. I wrote:
"What is said over IM is very rarely business, and prevents people from getting work done. It's a significant time-waster, and a technology whose time has come and gone. The idea that I would take it up a notch and tell Twitter my every step is yet another task that would get in the way of my actually working, so we're not interested."
So... yeah, how did that go? Well, a full year later (a long time hold out for me), I announced I "jumped the shark" on Twitter, and started using it. Almost a year later, I've now updated my Twitter account more than 1,400 times, and am following or being followed by about 4,000 people each direction.

In March of 2007, I took things a step further, and thought I'd be smart about saying not just one but TEN services I would "never" use. In a post titled, "Ten Geeky Technologies Not Coming to Our House", I listed Skype, Twitter, Linux, Plaxo, MySpace, BeBo, Piczo, XBox, PS3, the Wii, AIM, ICQ, Jabber, Yahoo! IM, GTalk, Delicous, Flickr and EV-DO as things that would never make it in our home. In case you were counting, yes, that's more than 10 items, but I had grouped the game consoles, IM clients and social networks, for example.

So where do we stand? I have a Skype account, which I've used maybe three times in total. I have a Plaxo Pulse account. I signed up with a MySpace account, just to search for times my content was being used or linked to, we are big fans of the Nintendo Wii in our home, I've used Google Talk several times from within GMail, and I bookmarked almost 2,000 different Web sites on my Delicious account this year alone. Add onto that the fact I use my Flickr account for some photos of the twins, though I prefer SmugMug, and I look like a complete fool. Clearly, the mistake was mine to even say I was going to ignore these products, because in the interim, not only did those products get better, but I found more than an edge case to use them.

The same rule applies for those who might be using a service, and then loudly say they are quitting, never to return. Why do that, unless you're either looking for attention, or hoping others will join your cause?

For example, Mark Hopkins (formerly of Mashable) quit FriendFeed back in October, during a very political time for the site. He is back, of course, after a two-month hiatus. Similarly, when directeur, the creator of NoiseRiver, said he was going to leave FriendFeed (which we covered in October as well), the vacation didn't last all that long. He was back and active on the site within days.

More visibly, Jason Calacanis claimed in November that he was retiring from blogging, preferring to use an e-mail list to get his word out. While the e-mail list is alive and kicking, and growing, he has started posting to his blog again, practically every day, even if just to post pictures, or add a copy of his newsletter. It happens.

In May of 2007, we covered a topic I called "blog fatigue", specifically pointing to a few folks who were taking a breather from their sites. Truth is, we could all use a breather sometimes, be it from the blogging, or any services, but rather than say we're never going back, or never going to use something, it makes more sense to both keep an open mind, and probably, a closed mouth. I've proven I can be a leading indicator of nonsense, so don't expect me to tell you what I'll never use. I just might change my mind later.