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Why Facebook Should Have Never Bought WhatsApp

Photo © WhatsApp

Recently Facebook bought WhatsApp for 19 Billion dollars. For some people they may be asking themselves, “what the hell is WhatsApp?” and “really, 19 Billion dollars?”

For those unfamiliar with WhatsApp, it is an instant messaging service that is available on all smartphone platforms. The service allows users to create groups, similar to how BBM groups work. You’re able to share pictures, text, and videos with multiple users as opposed to one single individual.

Here’s why this purchase was a reckless waste of money.

1. The service is easily replaceable

Just like Facebook the service is easily replaceable. The market is saturated with good quality messaging applications like Viber, BBM, LINE, etc.

2. The product isn’t ground breaking

The product itself is not revolutionary or ground breaking. Lots of people use the service, but that does not mean these individuals will always use the service. The ways in which we communicate online is constantly evolving and changing. Facebook is a great example of this, as its predecessor Myspace held dominance over Facebook for several years. The potential for another company to develop a product similar to Facebook or WhatsApp and steal its user base is a serious and real concern.

3. There’s no way to recoup 19 Billion Dollars from WhatsApp

Any attempt to charge a monetary fee for the service will encourage users to find various other free messaging applications. People will not pay for a service they can get for free. This is no different than news companies charging users to read or view their content online. Some people will pay for this service, though the majority of people will go to a competitor who won’t charge them. WhatsApp lets users use the service for one year, afterwords they are charged 99 cents to continue using the service. This has been successful for two reasons.The first being that they do not ask for any money upfront, and give you a ton of time to use the service. The second is that the money they charge is not significant to most people.

Facebook and WhatsApp revenue streams are mostly limited to advertisement. Up until now one of the key selling points, which is a huge contributing factor to why WhatsApp has been so successful is that there is absolutely no advertisements associated with the application. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and Founder of Facebook believes that “Facebook’s future depends on enabling users to access Facebook’s services on mobile devices, and generating ad revenue from those mobile interactions”. (Financial Post)

The problem with putting advertisements into a clean crisp platform such as WhatsApp is that it is a deterrent for users to use the service. It will push people away. I don’t see people responding well to any of the changes Facebook would like to make to the application.

4. Forcing integration pisses people off

An example of this would be what Google did to YouTube users by forcing integration with their social media platform Google Plus. Not very many things collectively piss the internet off; this was one of them. If advertisements won’t be used on WhatsApp, then Facebook will likely try to merge the service with their existing services and transfer over WhatsApp’s user base to their mobile platform. This will probably be done in a shady back handed way that will require users to have a Facebook to login to WhatsApp. Some people don’t have Facebook and choose to not use the service. I personally don’t see the need to integrate my Facebook with my instant messaging service. Then again, that’s a personal decision. I do know that if Facebook forces my hand I’ll respond by finding another service provider. I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels this way.

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Micro-Investments: Transforming Business, Changing Lives

indieSometimes it’s hard to write about ideas and topics you simply don’t give a shit about. I applaud anyone who does this for a living, as it is the equivalent of telling a blues musician to play classical music for eight hours a day. I choose to believe that readers are for the most part aware of skill and passion one puts into their writing. Passion is something that is hard to synthesize, and usually a “smart” reader can tell when a writer is not being genuine.

As I often remind myself, people want quality not quantity – yet, as I try to keep this blog active I am sometimes posed with the challenge of coming up with creative and interesting ideas that readers will enjoy reading, but also that I enjoy writing about.

That said, I am actually really interested in the power and change that micro-investing sites can have on transforming ideas, lives, and history. Sites like indiegogo and kickstarter work to break down the barriers that existed when creative people had great ideas, skill, and ability – but little to no financial support.

Cause let’s be honest, it’s almost impossible to convince investors or banks that giving fifty-percent of the profits to charity is a good idea, but companies like Me to We located in Toronto actively practice this philosophy. Other responsible businesses like TOMS are flourishing. TOMS has run a “one for one campaign” since their inception in 2006. The program gives a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased. TOMS sold over 10,000 units during their first year in business. TOMS is now a multimillion dollar company that has donated hundreds of thousands of shoes to children in need, possibly close to the millions at this point. Any person who continues to believe that there is no market for investing in sustainable or responsible businesses simply has their head in the sand.

However, the power for businesses to succeed is no longer completely in the hands of those who are motivated by greed, money, and profit margins. It is now up to the public, who can foster small donations to businesses and ideas they personally believe in or care about. The most beautiful part about sites like kickstarter or indiegogo is that the investors receive something in return for their financial support including involvement in the project, meaning this isn’t charity. This is opportunity in the making.

Social Media: On Matters of Privacy and Control

I recently attended a conference where Social Media was one of the “hot  topics”. I began to explore and discuss the ideas of privacy and social media with some of my peers. I was introduced to an interesting concept, which was that to remove one self from social media is “akin to removing yourself from the conversation(s) of society.”

The idea is that Social Media can be good, just as much as it can be bad. Simply closing yourself off to it is not the solution, as there is many advantages to it. I have friends who simply don’t prescribe to Facebook, or Social Media in general. I have found that sometimes they’re not always in the loop about what’s going on in the world, or the various social circles that they are apart of. I’m not saying these people aren’t intelligent, they are, however I feel as though these people miss out on some of the interesting and wonderful things that comes along with using Social Media. Too much of anything is obviously bad for you, and the saying applies to Social Media. In small controlled doses the experience can be rewarding, but when people abuse or overuse the service it can not only strain yourself but also your peers and co-workers relationships and perceptions of you.

I feel like people can miss the point, or don’t understand their audience. Obviously obnoxious and annoying things happen to all of us every day, but if the main focus of your online social experience with other people is to bitch you’re simply doing it wrong. This is why it’s important to understand the message, and always control the message. On the flip side people don’t want to hear about how everything is perfect or amazing, remember people aren’t one dimensional – so neither should your posts be. Sustenance is key.

Obviously the majority of users have problems with businesses selling their information (Facebook). The unfortunate reality is that we trade our rights to privacy and information (on some level) to use a service like Facebook or Twitter. Being part of this conversation is important, however one must examine the cost of each service as they differ greatly. Twitter, in my opinion is a far better trade off when it comes to giving up personal information, compared to what the user gets out of the service. The beauty of Twitter is that users relationships are kept separate of their personal lives, where as Facebook intermixes communication with new and established relationships online – this can be dodgy at the best of times. Also, Facebook requires a steep cost, and provides a moderate service for what they ask, take, and sell of you.

On a personal note, if someone ever figures out how to properly work Facebook’s privacy settings, I’d appreciate an explanation or crash course. Facebook’s privacy settings are convoluted. I feel like it’s blatantly obvious when you’re on someone’s limited profile – and I have had the wonderful experience of being friends with someone but not being able to see their photos, wall, posts, or friend list. To top it off this person added me! It’s almost like you want to say to this person, “What’s the point in us being friends on Facebook? I’m obviously sharing my information with you, on some level to feel connected and engaged in your life – however this relationship is not reciprocal”. The problem more than not falls back on the fact that Facebook’s privacy settings either make you board your Facebook up, or open it up completely; It’s hard to establish a middle ground. This is why controlling the information is necessary, as you should never put something out there that you would not want one single person to see, read, or know about. Taking ownership for the things you say in person is just as important as taking ownership for the things you say online. This may sound like it requires a great degree of control, but it really doesn’t. I’ll explain.

I began several years ago realizing that there is times when photos are being taken that they may come across as inappropriate. This can be damaging to a person in the short and long term. I also had a run in with one of managers several years ago where he quoted something I said online, luckily I wasn’t fired but it did wake me up to the realization that I am accountable for what I do and say online. I began to actively exercise better judgement when photos are being taken and whether I choose to be part of them. I will actively walk out of a shot sometimes, which isn’t always great to do as you might offend people – but it is great card to play when you’re protecting your own interests.

Cryptocurrencies: A New Paradigm or One Massive Bubble

It’s an exciting time for those interested in technology, economics, and law. Recently I made a post about BitCoin. I thought a follow up post on cryptocurrencies would be appropriate. Cryptocurrencies are a peer to peer, de-centralized currency that is generated by people using their computers to solve mathematical equations – thus earning them a portion of the currency. It’s an idea that most people have a hard time wrapping their heads around. BitCoin is just of the many cryptocurrencies that currently exist. For those who don’t know anything about what BitCoin is, watch this video.

Understanding the BitCoin Boom

Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency that took off. The currency is traded openly on various exchanges on the internet. The intent was that BitCoin would be an alternative currency when purchasing goods and services online. The benefits to using BitCoin is that is anonymous. The currency is not controlled by one single body or group, i.e. the government or any banking institution.

My last post noted that BitCoin was being traded for $300, and while I write this article they are being sold for a little over $700. One can’t deny that’s a volatile market, where people are making and losing wealth in the blink of an eye. Many people are left with the question of, “How did this happen?”

BitCoin was once sold for pennies on the dollar. The idea caught on and investors and speculators started buying the currency. Articles, and worldwide attention only pushed the price up. Most notably linking the currency to a former illegal trading website known as The Silk Road. However, the price really took off when people learned that they could use mining devices (computer hardware) to exploit the amount of coins they got while mining. Devices designed specifically for “mining” were being sold, and the prices began to soar. An example of a mining device is shown in the picture above.

The problems with BitCoin

BitCoin is the guinea pig currency; It’s the first and most exploited of all the cryptocurrencies.

BitCoin’s utility as a “real” currency is extremely limited, as the price does not rise slowly proportionality over time. The price is volatile and can swing wildly. People do not buy BitCoins to use for goods and services. There is little to no practical use of BitCoin as a “real” currency. The only people who buy BitCoin is those who are looking to try and turn a buck when it balloons. The current and most realistic use of the currency is to purchase other cryptocurrencies, such as LiteCoin, or PrimeCoin. These transactions are completed through online exchanges, such as Cryptsy.

Moving Forward

Just because BitCoin is plagued with problems does not mean the idea is not valid and that this idea is simply going to go away. I believe that people want a cryptocurrency that can be used as an alternative form of money. A currency that would make people feel confident in purchasing at x amount of dollars, and knowing that the value will either go up and down slightly. The average person will not buy into BitCoin. Business does not have to adjust to accepting the currency if it’s not going to be used as a real currency.

What I want from cryptocurrencies, that I can’t get from BitCoin

  • faster transaction speeds
  • currency that focuses on a more “fair” way to mine, instead of “paying to win” with mining equipment.
  • less exploitation and manipulation
  • practical uses for spending the currency at mainstream businesses online or in person

Avoid the Pump and Dump 

Many cryptocurrencies are being created and will continue to be created. Some look like legitimate alternatives to BitCoin. Many aren’t. Lots of coins are being artificially manipulated by speculators trying to pump a coin’s value up – then cashing out, causing the value to drastically fall.

Just like the Dot-Com Bubble you will see currencies emerge and fall. One thing is for sure, some of these currencies aren’t going anywhere. From an investment standpoint buying a currency for a fraction of a cent may reap some rewards in the long run.

Why Buying Twitter Followers Might be a Waste of Money

Clout is influence or power in regards to business or politics. When a person goes out and buys Twitter followers, what they’re trying to do is buy clout. However, you can’t buy real power or influence.

Is buying followers the same as buying advertisement? 

Not exactly, purchasing advertisement seeks to promote a product, idea, or thing. There’s a purpose to advertisement. It also hopefully targets a specific group or audience. Buying Twitter followers is a shotgun approach to getting noticed. For those who don’t know what I mean by shotgun approach, I mean that if you shoot enough times you’ll eventually hit something.

Buying Twitter followers does help promote yourself in some capacity. Sites like TwitterWind or Fiverr sell followers for as little as $5. People put stock in what others do and think. If 100,000 people follow you on Twitter it is likely to assume that others will see this and make assumptions about your status, and popularity. Unfortunately people buy into this and you may temporarily get more followers than you anticipated. I use the number 100,000 arbitrarily, as it could be 5000, 35,000, etcetera. It doesn’t really matter.

Having a large Twitter following does not dictate that your thoughts, or opinions are that of substance. Some celebrities and famous people prove this point day in and day out. #verbaldiarrhea

Having 100,000 followers is a double edged sword

For those who have 100,000 followers it is likely that they had to follow each and every person in order for them to follow you back. Do you know what it’s like having 100,000 people post Twitter updates? It would likely be unbearable. I don’t think a person could legitimately use the service any longer. Twitter to that person would become a one way conversation, where they talk and do not listen. Things would get lost in the shuffle – things you probably care about.

The numbers of followers you have is a diminishing value

The number of followers you have will continually shrink as people start to realize they don’t care what you think or say. Lots of companies who sell followers ‘promise’ that the followers they get for you will be permanent ones. It’s a farce, no such claim is real. The only way in which this is possible, is if your followers are fake accounts As a courtesy I will generally follow people who follow me, however I put everyone on probation. I assume most people like myself cut the cord with followers who fill up their feed. Cutting the cord with a complete stranger is 100% easier than cutting the cord with someone you know in real life. It’s equatable to deleting a mutual acquittance you met one time ten years ago off your Facebook friend’s list. The backlash is going to be minimal, if anything at all.

It’s extremely easy to get a follower, and ten times harder to keep them. The legit way to do it is a lot harder. Although, if you do it the right way your influence and power will grow slowly over time. I think it’s better to have 50 people give a shit about what you say, as opposed to having 100,000 followers – and maybe ten of them actually care about your thoughts and opinions.

Quality, not quantity.

Google Fails at Creating Communities: A Year in Review

Photo © of Danny Sullivan

Image

I have used Blogger for a little over a year now. When I began blogging about a year and a half ago I was interested in finding something simple, and free to use. Blogger caught my attention, mainly because the service was backed by Google.

Initially the service was great! I had no trouble posting, or linking my blog posts to my contacts through Twitter and Facebook. However, after some time I started to realize that Blogger doesn’t have “certain” social features that many other sites have. I also began to realize how hard it was to build connections with other bloggers. It wasn’t a quick clean process of locating like minded individuals and sharing ideas.

Like many people I appreciate Google as a company. I think the company has done a lot to change the way we do and think about things. I’m also a huge fan of Android, and believe that Google helped companies like Samsung, LG and HTC stay competitive in the smartphone market. For anyone who may not be a fan of the Android platform, you should hopefully still appreciate the fact that Google helped stopped one company (Apple) from having a monopoly in the smartphone market.

Google’s ability to collaborate and create always impressed me. That being said, I think that Google’s attempts at creating various social media services have turned out rather poorly.

Google+

A lot of people were hoping this service would replace, or at least be competitive with Facebook. The design and functionality of the site was lackluster. Most people gave the service a shot, and quit very shortly after. The majority of people I know who have a Google+ account didn’t even get as far as uploading a profile picture.

YouTube

Google recently made changes to YouTube, which required users to link their Google+ account to their YouTube accounts. I personally saw this attempt by Google as a little underhanded. I believe they were hoping to leverage the popularity of YouTube to increase Google+’s value. This infuriated the internet. Rightfully so, as people have the right to share certain information with certain people. Those people also have the right to anonymity. As much as this may have made some of the trolls or closet racists more accountable for their words; it also took away people’s ability to express themselves freely.

The whole thing reeked of desperation. It’s time for Google to realize Google+ failed, and to figure out why it happened and how to move forward on their social media front. I think the first thing they really needed to do when it became apparent that Google+ flopped was to ask themselves, “Did we make a product that made Facebook irrelevant?” followed by someone saying, “If not, we should go back to the drawing board.”

I think that is pretty much it. I’ve made the decision starting 2014 to move my blog to WordPress. I believe that Blogger has some great writers. Unfortunately I feel as though all Blogger users are islands in an ocean trying to throw life lines to one another. Google failed at creating the necessary infrastructure for most of us to grow, collaborate, and share. Using Blogger for me was a wonderful learning experience. However, I’ve seen the box and I’ve grown beyond its constraints.

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