I was really bothered by an article I read recently, in Wired Magazine. It discusses a new social networking site called Hunch. It offers shopping recommendations after you sign in and build a profile and answer a plethora of questions ranging from odd to in-depth.
Here’s what bothered me: Hunch co-founder, CPO Caterina Fake, said that she hopes to use this site to “make technology more human” and it really struck a cord with me (a low cord, like an e minor). I’m sorry, but I find nothing human about sites that ask for personal and private information, then plug that information into an algorithm and turn around and push products on people (as well as probably sell personal information to other businesses and advertisers).
Hunch entices you to share information about your tastes, beliefs and experiences by turning it into a game and you rack up points they call banjos (why banjos?). Fake even admitted in the interview that Hunch will be a place where “You can’t stop and you don’t know why.” You call this humanizing? I call it a clever marketing ploy and it's advertised as "social" so people think they need to be doing it. One of their users apparently has 300,000 banjos. Wow. Wired hailed him like he was some kind of superhero. What is his superpower, lameness? If I met this guy I’d probably ask him how many sores he has from sitting all day long, and tell him he really needs to get out once in a while, maybe get a girlfriend.
I understand it’s fun to be involved in social networks, but it’s also okay to limit what people can learn about you online. It’s okay to limit how many profiles you have. The internet is scary because once it’s out there you can’t get it back.
And, I know this sounds old fashioned, but we don’t have to look online for everything. It can be a great source to turn to, but there are other places we can go for information. People can shop local and put money into their city’s economy (which means more money will be pumped back into their economy, into city parks and schools and libraries).
If people spent half the time volunteering in their own communities as they did browsing the internet, imagine the differences and impact we could make.
I really hope there will be a technology backlash. I don’t think it will happen until a hacker steals all of our identities and credit card numbers, but I think something’s going to happen.
That’s it. I’m done. If I was holding a mic, I’d drop it.