social networks

Ello impressions impressions

Another day and I've been sifting through some of the articles reviewing and critiquing Ello.

So far it seems like people had an axe to grind before they even set foot on it. It also sounds like some of the criticism is aimed at other forms of social media rather than Ello itself who, so far, hasn't really done anything wrong.

First of all, there are people looking to poke holes in Ello's manifesto. I wasn't all that impressed by it. Any site can draw up a "manifesto"(aka, an advertisement) to try and entice people by sounding morally upright and committed to a brighter vision of the future (which inevitably includes their product or service).

Among the article's concerns:

  • Ello has already taken a small round of VC funding. Ello has never claimed to be against making money, but they believe that they can do so via a "freemium" model where the users pay for additional features or services directly to Ello, rather than selling ad space. It would seem that it does indeed take money to make money as they are seeing rapid growth and will inevitably be looking to grow their infrastructure and improve the site. They did not launch with any way to pay directly for the service so some other kind of funding seemed to be in order.
  • Brands are already creating pages but those brands can't do anything a normal user couldn't do. You can't even reshare something so it's not like anything "leaks" into your stream you don't explicitly want to see, unless they directly mention your username.
    • It is also within a brand's due diligence to at least reserve their name across tons of different services, just in case, and to avoid someone else taking it.
  • This line is especially ridiculous:
And even if Ello fails to make money, if it isn’t able to successfully execute on the freemium model it has talked about (and many sites don’t), you are still currency in the form of promotion for Ello’s founders. You’re a line on their resume that gets them that next job, or that next seed money for that next startup: Founder, Ello, 200,000 users (hey look, that’s you!).
— Rose Eveleth, The Atlantic
  • By this logic, anything that was ever popular was exploiting its user base for a future payday.

Then there are the... I'm trying to think of a nice way to put it. Well, basically they're abuse victims. The first things they look for in a site are all the ways to turn it into something it's not.

No one is forcing anyone to get an Ello account. Ello's only claim was that they weren't going to sell advertising space on their site. Not that they had somehow fixed the very difficult issue of creating safe social networks that were both fairly open but also effective at blocking bad users.

The list of complaints here reads as if they didn't look at the description on the side of the box. Ello explicitly states in it's fairly short guides, terms and FAQ that they don't have blocking, they have a very rudimentary reporting feature (basically "Email us the name of the person and a screen cap of what they did/said").

That post also takes a line from Ello out of context.

The "your" in this case refers to other existing social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

The "your" in this case refers to other existing social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Ello is like a small, fast car. Some users are looking for something maybe bigger, or with extra safety features but it doesn't have those features.

What do we mean by "privacy"

It seems like when people say "privacy" they may be thinking about different things. By Ello's definition, privacy is the freedom from unsolicited advertising. The network itself is fairly private. However, everything in the network is broadly available.

The other "privacy" has more to do with actual user autonomy and control of information. This definition is, at least in parts, in opposition to the design of most social networks. A service that has the tighter restrictions in place by default would basically be an email address with a pseudonym, and those are already free and easy enough to create.

These posts are intended as cautionary messages for those who aren't as diligent about reading the fine print and one definitely shouldn't believe the hype coming from the company itself or the myopic tech journalists who love trumpeting everything as "revolutionary". However, they also seem ready to assume the worst of a service that is still only a few months old and, as far as anyone can tell, has not betrayed its principles.