There’s been quite a bit of chatter and media coverage recently about a new social network called Ello. I had a brief look through other people’s pages on there, and decided not to set up yet another social media profile – for now.

While elements of their manifesto sound very appealing and draw on the anti-advertiser sentiment “You are the product that’s bought and sold” – I don’t believe their no-ad policy will be enough to bring down the mighty Facebook. Remember the similar excitement about Diaspora a few years ago?

I couldn’t quite put my finger on how I was thinking and feeling when reading about Ello, until Om Malik tweeted:

“The obsessive coverage of Ello is less about Ello. Instead it really is about our growing dissatisfaction with the state of social networks.”

This is it for me: there’s dissatisfaction, restlessness and boredom but no real clear idea about what we really want from social networking tools. Do we need them as much as we first did?

Humans will always need communication tools, but perhaps we will one day just see the collection for what they are: tools which can be useful or unnecessary, and lose the overhyped excitement and attraction to what’s new and shiny.

The Atlantic picks up on this in their article “Email Is Still the Best Thing on the Internet”:

“Email is actually a tremendous, decentralized, open platform on which new, innovative things can and have been built. In that way, email represents a different model from the closed ecosystems we see proliferating across our computers and devices. Email is a refugee from the open, interoperable, less-controlled “web we lost.”

Frank Chimero also tweeted:

“What if i told you there was a completely open social network without advertising called making your own blog.”

Blogging, like email, refuses to die despite many saying social media killed it. Social media certainly changed blogs – particularly changing the nature of blog comments for some blogs leaving those bloggers feeling less connected to their community of readers.

But, back to Ello:

Dave Winer criticises Ello for not having an API (there’s also no export option):

“The web of 2014 is in the middle of a huge battle to force people to write the stuff in the same place people read it. Whether you hate advertising or not doesn’t matter, it’s all part of the same system. You make me, as a writer, choose either to give it all to you, or none to you. And yet the underlying network that doesn’t have these limits.

I don’t feel love for any of these environments. Quite the opposite. I know what’s possible, and I resent the fact that they’re deliberately thwarting it. I do love the web, and all that it enables. But if I use the web to communicate, I forgo access to all the people who have locked themselves into the silos.

My option, which is also probably yours, is to accept the worst deal possible: really weak writing tools with confusing interfaces, no standards, and very narrow access to your thinking by others, restricted by who’s looking at their silo when it happens to come out. This is a terrible deal.

I really want to, now more than ever, build an open network of writing and ideas. I’d be happy to use great writing tools, and be able to distribute my ideas exclusively to other people who value freedom. To me, that’s a fair trade-off.”

This is why so many turn to blogging: it’s less about advertising and more about freedom from control and being able to express and present yourself in your own unique way. It’s not without its problems, of course, and this recent NY Times article talks about the not-so-new issue of blogger burnout. The only difference this time is that it’s a Big Name Blog which has a Big Audience and makes Lots of Money.

Over the years, I’ve changed the tools I use to communicate many times.

Lately, here’s what I’ve been using:

  • Email, Basecamp, XERO, Google Hangouts, Google Calendar, Skype, Nimble, Google Drive, Dropbox and of course WordPress for work
  • Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts to have decent conversations with friends
  • Twitter to follow news and interesting links, and to have quick chats
  • Feedly to read blogs
  • Facebook to look at friend and family photos

How have you been using tools lately?

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