Why are virtual chores fun but real chores a drag?

February 6, 2010

   

I’ve pondered the question many times of why people gladly spend endless hours performing virtual tasks that in their real life they avoid like the plague.  A recent post by @fjfonseca over at BitRebels touched on the subject, and as I have a 14-year-old daughter who has her virtual Facebook farm and aquarium and other examples too numerous to mention, I really started to think about it. Why does my daughter so gladly do these virtual chores in Farmville, but avoid helping take care of our real pony, dog, cats, and fish? When I try to get my kids to work on our garden every year it’s like pulling teeth, but her virtual garden is award-winning.

     Perhaps one reason is the feedback system involved. In Farmville she reaches levels, gets awards, and her accomplishments are sent over social networks to her friends. With her real garden she gets a ‘job well done’ from me, and far down the road some vegetables to eat. Maybe I should be learning from the virtual chores, I need to supply awards and badges, positive reinforcements and recognition of achievements. I guess calling her friends to tell them when she’s finished projects wouldn’t be appreciated by my daughter, though.

     Seriously, I would like comments on your take on this, it’s growing exponentially over on Facebook, and is just the beginning of a greater phenomena. Other examples are ‘games’ like the Sims, or the programmed pets that die on you if you don’t care for them properly. Can we learn lessons from their success in engaging people to apply to real life interactions?


Anyone Care About Celebrity Ghost Tweets Anymore?

August 27, 2009

tweetexorcistSeveral months ago, @amyjdean and I started a site called tweetexorcist.com. At the time there was a lot of outrage about celebrities hiring people to ghost tweet for them, in particular Guy Kawasaki. Our site got a lot of attention for a while, we have polls on various celebs in different fields, and there was a lot of speculation about who was and who wasn’t using ghost tweeters. But lately the interest in this subject seems to have dropped off the map, and I’m curious why.

One factor that has changed is Twitter adding verified accounts. This doesn’t really preclude somebody ghost tweeting on it, though. Does this mean people are more concerned that it’s a real celebrity account and don’t really care whether  the celebrity is actually doing the  tweeting? Have we become so used to the phoniness of celebrity culture that all that matters is the appearance and not the substance of anything concerning them?

Another issue is the increasing tendency of  journalists to quote tweets as part of their news coverage. Do they verify that the person typing the tweet is the actual person the account is registered to? I tend to think not. And if journalists don’t care about verifying their sources, why should we expect anyone else to?

I’d really like to hear from some of you on this. Do you care who’s really tweeting on the accounts you follow on twitter? Does any of this really matter to you?


The Public Utility Responsibilities of a Monopoly

August 16, 2009

     There has been a lot of talk lately about the danger of  Twitter bearing so much of the traffic of micro-blogging, and in the past couple of weeks, this has been demonstrated by it’s being knocked off the Internet under several attacks. I’m more worried about a different problem of large monopolies that have grown on the Internet, and for once, I’ll actually talk about my field as an example, selling used books.

bookshelves      I list on several different book sites. If something happens to any one of them, it doesn’t tip the balance of my survival as a bookseller. Except one, Amazon. As time passes, the percentage of sales generated by Amazon increases, right now for me it’s somewhere around 75%. They are very successful at what they do, getting their name out there, and when people think book nowadays, they think Amazon. Now Amazon is a private profit-making company, and in general I support their right to do pretty much whatever they want. But what social responsibility does such a company have to people who make their living selling through them?

     This applies to Ebay, and social network sites also. They may be a private company, but they function more as a public utility. I’ve know several people who have, rather arbitrarily, been booted off Amazon. There is no real recourse, it is next to impossible to get re-listed with them. I’m sure this is sometimes justified, but Amazon considers the purchasers of their products the customer, not the person paying commissions that sells their product there. And the customer is always right, right? So in any questionable dispute, they tend to side with their ‘customer’, and this has obviously worked well for them. But the bookseller who is denied access to the largest medium by far for selling books is now either pretty much out of business, or hurt badly if they do manage to survive.

      I’m not sure what the right answer is to this problem, as I said earlier they are a private company that has assumed some of the cachet of a public utility. What are their social responsibilities when they wield that much power? I do think they should have a much fairer and accessible review process for getting re-listed. I would love to hear other’s views on this. Just in the interests of disclosure, I’m having no problems with them. In fact, they recently told me not to worry about a claim someone was making for a book order over 9 months old. But I do worry about the future of these private/public entities.