And I've been asking myself recently - how do I feel about offering another social networking website to the mix of those on the web, by-product or not?
An optimistic, competitive part of me says "Mine will be better!" But another, slightly quieter part of me feels uncomfortable, raises his hand and thinks that that may be missing the point. He asks the question - do people really need another one. He sometimes wonders if we, people who are making new services, respect our users enough.
In fact, we call them 'users', when that term has become so dead and one-dimensional, meaning 'entity that clicks buttons while using websites'. I've taken to calling them Humans (when I remember) which although a bit of a grand, odd term, helps remind me that they don't exist just to use my website.
When I think of them as humans I feel that I'd better offer them something that matters to them, that doesn't take their time without returning something really worthwhile. That my site is not 'sticky' for sticky's sake.
Sites like Netvibes and Last.fm please me no end, funneling my blog reading to manageable chunks and connecting me with other people and events over musical taste, is something I really appreciate and happily get stuck on. Elements of mySpace and Facebook etc also really work, and when they do, by connecting people, they work well.
But life is short. How many people are besieged with unrelenting emails, text messages, friend request alerts, ads for sites, endless new services to sign up for? Do I want to add to this distraction? If so - can I honestly feel justified in doing so?
Bizarrely, I think this is kind of liberating.
Let's look at how users are, how they are as humans. Is having access to and using all these wonderful web services improving their well-being or not. Are they succeeding in using them well? If yes then rock on, but if not, why not, and what can we do to aid them? Can we build meta, meta services that bring other other Web 2.0 services together in a holistic way? Seriously - what can we do?
I think there is opportunity here. Don't know about you, but I'd pay for such services for sure.
I don't quite know what the answer is, but I think as people who are responsible for building new services, we should be aware how we are adding, positively or negatively, to the tide of offerings that are out there in the current Internet landscape. Stepping back to get some perspective, we should do our best to make sure that what we offer is of a real human benefit to the people we ask to use it.
I think, in that, there is opportunity for innovation, even if we do have to ask some difficult questions