Let me start with your second question: what is my digital self like? I went through my Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook profile and here’s what I learned about myself.
While all of these things are accurate, they don’t necessarily say much about me. In fact, I think judging these different outlets by how true-to-life they are is the wrong question. Instead, let’s talk about what’s interesting (or interestingness, as dubbed by Flickr). Here are the things I personally find interesting, as illustrated by my fancily designed infographic.
(For Starcraft 2 fans, I want to point out that this was drawn on my Jim Raynor notepad.)
I think blogs and Twitter are the best ways to learn about a personality. A blog might be an unfair inclusion in this picture, since it encompasses so many different things, but it’s the most “open” in terms of format and has the most potential for interestingness. But how unrestricted a format is doesn’t necessarily correlate to how powerful it is as a medium. Twitter’s 140-character limit tends to make personalities more interesting, and the ability to @reply and get a response makes someone’s Twitter account just as compelling as his/her blog.
Where does VYou fit in? I think it’s a little less interesting than Twitter, but slightly more so than Tumblr (I thought of Tumblr like a more restricted, faceless blog).
And in the bottom left is Facebook. Profiles are static, not to mention extremely bland. Sure, you get an accurate image of what people look like when they’re drunk, but it turns out everyone looks the same when they’re shit-faced. In fact, there’s no way to be an interesting person on Facebook, even if it’s theoretically an “accurate” portrayal of who you are.
No Worries Kevin,
So instead of me guessing about the future of VYou, let’s hear from someone who knows what she’s talking about. Joanne McNeil of Tomorrow Museum mentioned this conversation in her latest response on VYou.
(I know I’m using Tumblr to link to a video on VYou that references a Tumblr conversation about VYou, but I talked to Christopher Nolan and he said this was okay.)
She says, “We’ll have a few weeks of really silly questions and silly responses, but after that it’ll be a matter of learning expertise.”
I think that’s exactly right. Novelty will keep most respondents going for a little while, but after that, they’ll need to provide substantive answers or else viewers will stop coming back. We’re seeing this already, in fact. It’s no surprise that the ballet dancer I mentioned earlier has posted easily the most responses so far; she’s sharing specialized expertise in a field that interests lots of people.
So, we’ve touched on the anonymous nature of VYou’s questions a couple times already, and I’d like to talk a little more about one of the repercussions of that. The service proposes that users are creating a “video persona,” which is kind of an interesting metaphysical proposition. By lumping all the question-askers into an undifferentiated mass, VYou reflects all the attention back on the respondents. It then assumes that if they talk about themselves enough, they will essentially craft a digital reproduction of themselves. After all, as Errol Morris says, “you can never trust a person who doesn’t talk much, because how else do you know what they’re thinking?”
We discussed this in the context of Facebook before, but I’d like to open the question up to anything: which online services produce the most accurate (or most interesting, or most anything) virtual persona, and does VYou add anything new to this equation? And Kevin: tell me all about YOUR digital self.
Apologies for the distraction Nick,
I completely agree that 9 out of 10 questions during the Q&A sections of lectures/panels are painful (red flag: when anyone says “this is more of a comment than a question”). But before I could respond to your post, one of our tumblr followers, Ben Miller, wrote a great answer:
VYou will only give you answers to questions the respondent feels are worthy or relevant, not always the best questions. In a live setting you’re forced to tackle questions that are uncomfortable but illuminating or dull but expansive and so forth.
(Behold the power of reblogging!)
VYou eliminates the most exciting part of a live event: the chance to ask the hard questions. And though the majority of questions asked are impossibly stupid, isn’t it worth it for that one toughie?
The weird thing is that all of the “featured” profiles on VYou are internet-famous people — the kinds of folks who would probably answer any email question you sent them. So what’s the advantage of asking a question on VYou — the video response? simply the anonymity?
Granted, asking anonymous questions does have its advantages. It prevents people from shamelessly plugging themselves or trying to prove to the speaker that they’re a superfan, which I think are the two biggest problems at live Q&A events. And there’s something to be said about the weirdly successful format of Formspring, which VYou closely mimics.
But anonymity is also part of the problem because it encourages users to respond to silly, trivial questions rather than the tough ones because they’re answering to no one. Truthfully, I can only listen Jason Chen answer questions like “front to back, or back to front wiper?” for so long. I want to hear if he’s AFRAID OF GOING TO JAIL. My girlfriend, who has a strange fascination with Rex Sorgatz (should I be worried?), asked him about his Silly Bandz.
Do you think VYou is the next big thing? Could it gain major traction if, say, Justin Bieber joined, or is it better off catering to web personalities?
Dear Kevin, You Asshole,
So a couple days ago you sent me a link to VYou.com because apparently you don’t like it when I’m productive. At first I didn’t get it. It’s some video-based Q&A thing? With the weird trope of “talking to” these digital people? I guess?
Then I spent like half an hour listening to a ballet dancer answer questions about ballet. I DON’T EVEN CARE ABOUT BALLET. But for some reason, I was riveted. That’s when I felt that these guys must be onto something, so I tried to figure out what that might be.
The first, most obvious reason to watch is when people you’re familiar with answer questions, like the America’s Test Kitchen guy, Chuck Klosterman, or Choire Sicha. That’s the hook. But why do I find some dancer I’ve never heard of equally captivating?
For one thing, it’s awesome for procrastinating. But, I also think that VYou (Is that how I should be capping it? It looks horrible any other way) has salvaged one of the worst parts of contemporary culture: the audience question session. You and I both HATE at the end of some lecture or book reading or panel when all these idiots crowd the aisle to draw attention to themselves. It’s a gruesome ritual. But the concept itself isn’t bad; it just needed to be refined.
Klosterman uses the same analogy in his response to “why are you doing this?” He says:
I wonder if people will ask better questions [on VYou] because in public they might be uncomfortable doing so, or feel their question might be too intimate or frivolous. And the way this mechanism is set up, I only have to respond to the questions that I find interesting.I buy it. Interesting people answering questions they find interesting. Sounds like a winning formula.