Social Networks: Good? Evil? Probably neither.

I don’t like it, but it’s undeniable: Sometimes the best, most important things come from total assholes. Knowing that fact doesn’t make the assholes’ accomplishments any less important. I’ve always known that, but watching The Social Network really brought it home for me. I realize the movie was a fictionalized account of Mark Zuckerberg and the other co-founders of Facebook, but I can’t help but believe it captured something of his character, or lack thereof.

I also think he must be a visionary as well as extremely ambitious. He did what he had to do, no matter who he had to screw over. And if he hadn’t, we might not have Facebook. You could argue that the world would be better off. I personally avoided drinking the Facebook Koolaid for as long as possible. I didn’t necessarily want tons of people — even friends and relatives — knowing all my details all the time. I had privacy concerns. Still do.

But just when I had decided Facebook was a fad that I wanted no part of, TheSixtyOne (another remarkable website started by brilliant guys who turned out to be assholes) changed from an innovative music site with a vibrant community into a glorified web radio where artists and listeners could no longer communicate. Friends were suddenly cut off from one another as site owners James Miao and Sam Hsiung made a radical redesign with little regard for the artists and listeners, in exchange for investment capital. (I think it was also a disastrous business decision, but time will tell.) When that happened, Facebook became our lifeline, the best way to get back in touch with one another.

And at the moment it looks like the old T61 community still exists, waiting for another virtual homeland to come along and fill those needs for friendship and music discovery. Kind of ironic that the refuge is Facebook, a website started by a guy who might make T61s founders look like sweethearts by comparison.

But a good idea is a good idea, wherever it comes from. I guess in the end, sites like Facebook and T61 aren’t good or bad. They’re morally neutral. Like the Internet itself. I hate some of the changes the Internet has given us, but I don’t think I would want to go back to the way it was before.

Here are a couple of posts I wrote about T61 right around the time of the big site change, just in case you’re new to my blog or you’re feeling nostalgic:

Lessons we learned from T61 (that the owners did not)

T61′s redesign – from DABDA to hope

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9 Comments

Filed under commentary, review, Uncategorized

9 responses to “Social Networks: Good? Evil? Probably neither.

  1. I’ve never heard of The Sixty-One – I don’t know if that says more about my ‘out-of-touchness’ or their failings….

    I too, have avoided Facebook like the plague, although I concede that it may be a useful tool in promoting my album. But I just don’t want to be a drone in the hive, y’know?

  2. It’s probably just as well that you missed that particular party. It wasn’t actually so huge that you should have known about it, it just had the potential to get that way and seemed to be headed for greatness.

    What it did that was so innovative, was create a music charting system based on gaming algorithms, and it was easy for artists and listeners to communicate, so you ended up with listeners trying to level up and help their favorite artists “win.” It was highly addictive and it gave new artists a fighting chance to get charted because listeners got rewards for discovering things that did well later. People would at least listen.

    If you go to it now, it doesn’t even resemble what it used to be. It’s also pretty. Got some good reviews from online media. But they made it where the game doesn’t really work any more, and you get fed music. There’s not really a way to actively search out new undiscovered artists any more. It’s kind of a glorified online radio now. Closer to Pandora.

    I think it must have been undercapitalized, so there was a lot of pressure to sell out in order to keep things going. Also, the founders seemed to have a hard time with social interactions. The active community that I thought was a feature, I think they considered an annoying bug. I suspect Aspergers.

    Probably for the best. I was spending too much time on the site. It’s just a shame that they showed us this little glimpse of heaven and took it away again. Like feeding a rooster a piece of corn on a string then jerking it out again.

  3. tejoz

    this should be on reddit or digg (the irony of the digg fall)

  4. This article sums up the T61 fiasco beautifully!

  5. This was a very good read, and I agree with your points. I feel ashamed for myself for believing that much in a site… it was the first, and probably the last time. I’ve thought that thesixtyone would be bought by Google at anytime in the future. But the chances right now is that Google will do a better music social network instead, and that’s what I’m hoping.

    Just like you, I’ve only joined Facebook when that site was destroyed. Then I saw all the potential it really has. I see much more functionality on Facebook if you compare to Orkut – the Google’s social network (really popular in Brazil). If they could fight in a battle, Facebook would surely get an epic win.

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