My take on Slingshot

Yesterday Facebook announced and released Slingshot, a mobile app for iOS and Android, which is presented as their answer to Snapchat, plus more.

It's an instance of what I was talking about in the Wired interview. "There are a lot more possibilities with media now than there have been for the past few decades, and so the question is: what combinations of media actually work, and which don’t? It’s a process involving experimentation, learning, feedback, verification. Sometimes you try an idea out and it doesn’t work, and a few years later it does, because the environment is different."

Slingshot is a combination of media that as far as I know hasn't been tried before.

Key: In order to view a friend's picture or movie, you have to post one of your own. You respond without knowing what you're responding to. This network has a different kind of symmetry, and I'm not sure I understand the theory of it, why it's supposed to work, but it flies in the face of something I learned in the early years of blogging. There's a reason only a small percentage of people blog. It's because most people aren't bloggers. I know that sounds circuitous, but it's so pervasive and inexorable that I came to think that there must be a gene for blogging.

Most of my friends are literate and intelligent people and all of them have something to say. I thought the reason they didn't blog was it was too hard. So I hacked at the complexity until it was easy. Blogging got as simple as it could be. Yet most of them would post an item or two, just to show they cared I guess, and then the blog would lay dormant.

A very small number would keep at it. People like Doc Searls, Dan Gillmor, Scoble, my uncle, eventually my mother. Me.

Julia Child, media star of the 1960s who felt everyone could learn to cook well, was a blogger before there was blogging. "Americans should understand French cooking, says Julia. It's hard, she says, but you can do it. So, did she just wring her hands and wish for it? No, she took matters into her own hands and made it happen. That's the spirit we love!"

I came up with a term for this phenomenon: NBB or Natural Born Blogger.

These people were blogging before there were blogs. Highly motivated for some reason to speak publicly about what they see. "Everyone must know this," they say to themselves. And they shout whatever it is loudly, repeatedly, from every corner and window. They bore you, annoy you. They care what you think, up to a point. They want you to see something the way they see it.

I learned that I have to make tools for these people, and devise easy ways for the rest, the watchers and kibitzers, to participate. That's probably why Twitter has so many participants, relative to blogging. It became trivially simple to grunt or snort approval or disapproval. Twitter is the ultimate "Let's Go Mets" medium (or Knicks, Heat, Spurs, Snowden, feminism, etc).

What's missing now is a good connection between Twitter/Facebook and blogging, so the NBBs can entertain the rest effectively. We're doing it with both hands tied behind our back. The first network to really make this work will clean up, imho.

Now back to Slingshot. It seems to be saying that symmetry can work. That I will be sufficiently motivated to see a picture of what Scoble is eating, or what James is watching, or where Ann is flying, to show each of them What I'm Doing. I'm really skeptical about this and believe that if they want this to work they'll have to relax the rule. But let's see how it goes.

The good news: they're doing some first class media hacking at Facebook. At least we'll all learn if in 2014 there are enough blogger types to fill a network like this. And if they've put the hurdle low enough that fans, the grunters and snorters will be able to get over the bar.

Last built: Wed, Jul 9, 2014 at 11:23 AM

By Dave Winer, Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 8:45 AM. Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends.