Things of note for the week ending Sunday April 23rd 2023
Good morning from 11:28am on a gentle starting Saturday morning. The kids are playing Fortnite and Cult of the Lamb and I am booting up Substack to see if I can get a newsletter out at some point this weekend – shall we see how we go?
How are you?
It’s been a good social week. Caught up with some of the old Digitas lot (bye Lauren!), managed an extremely rare pint with my brother, and then ended the week cooking a steak dinner for (and opening a significant amount of wine with) some dear friends who hadn’t all been together since before the Covid times.
A heart-filling few days.
As an aside and perhaps as your first bonus thing for this week’s edition, I came across this smoky Brussels sprouts recipe as an interesting side dish to go with the steak and it turned out to be deeeeeelish. So if you can find a reason to give that a go, do so 🙂
While I’m here, here’s a huge thank you to everyone that pledged their support for the Diva Agency/Warchild Tough Mudder attempt in August. Times are tough and with the London Marathon this weekend I am reminded of just how much people are giving already.
At the time of writing there are 3623 subscribers to this newsletter with a 48% open rate. If you all gave one pound then that’d get us well over halfway to our target in an instant. Donate now.
PS. There are a bunch of us doing it from Diva so if you do donate, please yell something like ‘Go Whatley!’ in the comments of the page so I know that one was for me 😉
Where were we?
Ah yes, the newsletter. I hope this edition of Five things on Friday finds you well and healthy. Spring is springing – AT LAST – and the sunshine is warming the soul. I’ve no idea what we’ve got in the link bank this week but let’s open up the ol’ inbox and see what’s what.
TO THE THE THINGS!
1. WHAT, IF ANYTHING, DO WE WANT FROM SOCIAL MEDIA?
With Twitter going through the motions of its dying days, there are new potential platforms and old beckoning beacons popping up all over the place – all trawling behind the slow motion death of the blue bird to see how and where they might attract departing users.
Artifact, Hive, Post, Mastodon, Notes, Blue Sky… (and these are just the ones from memory) – there are a lot. FWIW, judging by feeds this weekend, Blue Sky is the current attempt du jour that everyone is talking about. It was Notes last week, it could be something else in May. It’s not going well, is it?
The reality is, there won’t ever be a single and complete replacement for Twitter. Its growth over time – from piss poor presidents to newspaper celebrity sourcing – will never be repeated. Its original journey from micro-blogging platform to ‘town square’ to news platform, took well over a decade to happen. And while I don’t doubt that new platforms could experience overnight success (hello TikTok), what Twitter was is gone.
Which leads me to the question headlining Thing One this week:
What, if anything, do we want from social media?’
An indirect quote from Bob Merberg, author of the Substack , it’s a question that I have kept coming back to all week.
What do we want want from social media?
Twitter has been such a huge part of my life (and frankly: my career) for so long, I am finding it hard to let it go.
Instagram I gave up on in 2019 (here’s why). But truth be told, with so many of my friends active over there I have been considering a return. Then I think ‘Hang on, what is it for?’ Do I need to go all in on what Rabbi Jeremy Wieder calls ‘Conspicuous Consumption’. Nah. That’s not for me.
One of the reasons I’m enjoying dipping in and out of Substack Notes so much is that the content and the community is completely different. It feels small – and that’s OK – but the conversation is good, engaging and – for me at least – it feels wholesome. But it’s not (old) Twitter.
But then what do I need / use Twitter for? News updates. Friends being funny. Writing. Photos. The sense of connection. I follow a well pruned list of people that talk about such a wild varied bunch of topics – with a handful of opposing opinions thrown in for good measure – that I nearly always enjoy reading it (as a result the new ‘For You’ tab has been broadly very good IMO but that’s literally it).
Last year, in an article I wrote for The Drum about gaming, I recalled social object theory as a way to put all the garbage about the metaverse (vs video games) into perspective.
In 2005, tech founder and investor Jyri Engeström coined the term ‘social object theory’. Building on the work of sociologist Karin Knorr Cetina, Engeström came up with – and subsequently implemented – this theory as part of his explanation as to why some social media networks succeed and some fail.
Social media networks need objects. Or, as Jyri put it: ”Social network theory fails to recognize such real-world dynamics because its notion of sociality is limited to just people.”
Simply ‘connecting people’ is not enough. For example, Engeström argued at the time that much of the success of Flickr (remember Flickr?) was because user-generated photography served as social objects around which conversations of social networks could form. And he was right.
This perhaps goes a long way to explain the success of Instagram (and, if we had more time, would no doubt provide a decent foundational argument for the vacant pornography of trauma that you see displayed on LinkedIn every day). However, we’re not here to talk about that.
The point is: when online, people need something to talk about. They need ’object centered sociality’. If you’re gathering, then the reason you gather needs to have purpose. On Instagram, it’s that amazing photo you took at Coachella. On Facebook, it’s your nan’s birthday. In Whatsapp, it’s the memed version of your best mate’s most recent terrible opinion. Posting images, videos, links, news stories, the latest misinformation from your Next Door community… it’s all what brings us together.
I’m reminded of that every time someone says ‘What about Linkedin?’ which, while I do think it has improved of late, is nowhere near as valuable for me personally (as I guess it is professionally – but then, that’s the point, right?) – so I’m not hauling ass that way anytime soon.
(as an aside, if you are, then Mat Morrison is very good on what does and doesn’t work over there – algorithmically speaking)
All this and I still don’t have an answer to the question.
The Mrs and I work hard to keep our kids off social platforms (like, I think I can count on one hand the number of photos I’ve personally shared). Instagram babies, they ain’t. And why should they be? Imagine realising your face was already been scraped for AI tools before you turned 13? Or finally being allowed on Facebook and realising the platform already knows everything about you before you’ve even hit publish on your first update. Big yikes.
However, one does wonder, in the years to come when the newborns of the late noughties find their way into school, will a new elite group be the rage in the playground? The Facebook Kids — whose parents embraced this new digital wave completely, and used it to track the entirety of their youngling’s lives to date…
And when the time comes, will these ‘Blog-Babies’ be given the logins to their blog like some twisted digital version of the keys to their first car? Or the first $100 from their lifelong trust fund? Of course, but only when they come of age, so to speak.
Could the parents become precious over this personal history?
‘My child ruined/deleted his blog’ is a Jerry Springer/Jeremy Kyle show waiting to happen…
Swap out ‘blog’ for ‘Facebook’ or even ‘TikTok’ and we’re not far off where we are today.
And I still don’t have an answer to the question.
But you know what, maybe we don’t need a definitive answer.
Maybe it’s just a good question to hold in your head whenever you’re hovering over that share/post/publish/toot/tweet button?
Try it for a week and let me know. I’m interested to hear what happens.
What do you want from social media?
2. PODCASTS FOR YOUR EARS
Confession: I don’t listen to that many podcasts. I don’t. Being able to sit and listen to something for 35-40mins is a luxury that I rarely get*. Occasional solo long drives or train travels tend to be where and when I get to indulge, and even then that’s when I remember (and not seat dancing to whatever’s on the radio).
To that point, I’ve had to go in and out of London a bit of late so I’ve been catching up. So here are a few decent things I’ve heard recently:
First up, Dr Menaal Munshey on the excellent One Question podcast addressing a response to the question ‘Can we rewrite the rules of leadership’ through the lens of female leadership (aka: the best leadership) and what leadership means working as an immigrant living between countries while at the same time battling on the frontlines of the climate crisis. This is really bloody good.
Jo Arden on Uncensored CMO is quite great and worth a listen. Sad we never got to work together when we were both at Publicis, she sounds brilliant and I’m pleased as punch Ogilvy has a decent CSO again. They’re lucky to have her.
And finally, for something a bit left-field, I can’t remember how but I happened upon an episode of Conan O’Brien’s podcast ‘Conan needs a friend’ and of the small handful that I’ve listened to, it’s really well put together and the guests are great.
These are all Spotify links, obvs. But they’re all available on Apple and almost certainly literally anywhere else where you get your podcasts.
*It’s probably why I’m still only on the October edition of Season 10’s (aka 2022’s) excellent Midlife Gamer ‘Year of Shame’ podcast. Sorry lads.
3. THIS WEEK IN GAMING
I mean, I can’t kick off this week’s gaming section without SCREAMING about the drop dead gorgeous EDGE COVER that the amazing PR team at Diva managed to secure for HYPER LIGHT BREAKER.
You can check out the gameplay trailer right here – and I believe Early Access is coming to Steam later this year….
Way back when video games magazines did front cover freebies the amazing and much read/missed Nintendo Magazine System gave away an actual Street Fighter II VHS on the cover. I was in school when this happened and I’m fairly sure I even had the video as well – and back then I was such a Nintendo boy through and through, I remember when this was on the shelves. Retro news experts Time Extension has a great piece on of how all that happened.
Side: there’s a FREE Street Fighter 6 demo inbound. It’s available right now for PlayStation owners and Xbox and Steam follows next week. GET IT. Game is out in June so this is a good way/time to get on top of the new systems…
What else can I tell you?
Quick Game News + Updates
Cult of the Lamb DLC has finally been dated. It comes out ON MONDAY (April 24th) and is a FREE UPDATE! Yes!
There were a couple of 20+ minute long publisher broadcasts that are worth catching up on if you missed them: Indie World Showcase from Nintendo and a Final Fantasy XVI focused State of Play from PlayStation. The former is great for just a ton of new indies coming soon to Switch and the latter is, of course, a deep dive on the all new all different FFXVI. I haven’t properly played a Final Fantasy game since Crystal Chronicles on GameCube so I’m looking forward to this. (I should say: Square is a client but I think y’all know me well enough by now to know I’m not being paid to write this 😁). Check out both broadcasts – anything interesting there for you?
Diablo IV is getting another open beta next month.
If you have an older Nintendo Switch you might have a joy-con that suffers from stick drift. I do – well – I did. It’s past-tense because Nintendo just announced (in the UK at least, I think they’re doing it elsewhere too) that it will repair any joy-con, for free, no matter when or where it was bought. Details are here. I sent mine off this week and it was EASY. UPS turned up less than 24hrs later and it’s currently being repaired at Ninty. Lovely.
Pokemon Sleep – a game which you play BY SLEEPING – is coming this year!
What am I playing?
I finished DREDGE (details on that in last week’s edition). It’s a great game and you should play it. I found it to be reminiscent of the Fighting Fantasy Adventure books from my school days and that can only be a good thing. Well written, relatively short, and quite chill at times. It’s the sleeper hit of the year – don’t miss it.
Next up, I’ve decided to take one final swing at getting into Jedi: Fallen Order. If you don’t know, JFO is an in-canon story that takes place shortly after the events of Revenge of the Sith (Order 66 etc – IYKYK). With the sequel, Jedi: Survivor, due any day now, I thought ‘Why not give it a shot?’ (I’d already tried it 2-3 times and just didn’t get on with it – turns out, as quite a few people told me, the first hour is tricky to get through but you’re off planet and exploring, it really picks up).
Well. I smashed through the first hour and…
I am in love.
If you haven’t played JFO, this is me recommending you should.
If you have played JFO, were you a fan? Are you getting Survivor?
Hit that comment/reply/notes button and tell me.
4. A COUPLE OF METAVERSE BITS BECAUSE WHAT IS LIFE IF YOU CAN’T HAVE A LAUGH FROM TIME TO TIME?
I’ll keep this brief.
Word is: Facebook/Meta’s has reportedly stopped pitching metaverse rubbish to advertisers. Instead it is said to be focusing on selling in AI as well as buffing its Instagram-based TikTok clone, Reels (with deep discounts up to 25% off).
I am shooketh.
Look, I’m not saying you shouldn’t believe a single thing that they say but y’all remember the pivot to video, right? You remember the ol’ ‘over-inflating view counts by about 900%’ routine, right?
Facebook’s er… ‘loose’ …relationship with the truth (and the above just one example, there are many many more) has never been something I’ve been comfortable with and so when the metaverse thing came along I was like ‘Wait, what?’
It only took five years for the pivot to video to be pulled apart as a pack of lies. The wheels coming off its metaverse announcement has only taken 18mths. Things are improving!
It’s almost like spunking a load of money and time on a thing that nobody wants or has asked for with no proof or measurement of any real or meaningful ROI whatsoever has been a complete and utter waste of time. Almost.
‘OK James, but when you say ‘a load of money’, how much are we talking?’ – that’s a great question. Well, it’s a LOT. And to put it into perspective, let me borrow a slide from Ben Evans’ excellent February 2023 presentation ‘The New Gatekeepers’.
Ell. Oh. Ell.
Related: Facebook has a new ‘opt-out’ form. Here’s how well designed that is. I think they might’ve done it purpose? I can’t be sure.
5. WHAT IF WE WROTE ABOUT DADS IN THE WAY WE WROTE ABOUT MUMS?
No further questions, your honour.
THERE BE GOLD IN DEM HILLS.
This week I learned about the RMS Carpathia – and now you will too.
I’ve been relatively careful about not doing too much stuff on Elon’s Twitter. So many others do it better (Casey Newton, for example) and frankly, the less time I spend on it the better off I will be. That said, a net uptick of 28 new Twitter Blue subscriptions is just embarrassing, right? Oy.
The Mandalorian made ‘The Volume’ famous. I’ll never tire of seeing it explained.
Hedda Gabler is my favourite Ibsen. Did it once. Seen it a few times (best one was Sheridan Smith at the Old Vic ten years ago) and reading about Tessa Thompson doing a new version of it has made my week. Bring it the hell on.
Actually, here’s Casey again but this time looking at Snap’s most recent Partner Summit. Good analysis.
The power of being an outsider.
Some [more] good notes on Substack Notes.
Tom Watson has a level / different take on Dominic Raab. Hasn’t changed my mind about the man but it’s good to be challenged.
A Substack about digital memorials. Fascinating AF.
My old head of strategy at Digitas, Charlene Charity, did a Strategy Diet interview for Contagious Mag and not only is it brilliant (I LOVE HER) but she also – and entirely unexpectedly – recommended this newsletter. So if you found it because of Charlene’s lovely words, thanks! Hope you like it! Also, nice one boss x
Taylor Swift did more due diligence on FTX than most thought leaders, celebrities and ‘experts’ lol. Amazing.
YOU ARE REACHING THE END OF THE NEWSLETTER. MIND THE GAP.
As I start to wrap things up on this week’s edition of Five things on Friday, it’s coming up 915am on Sunday April 23rd.
The Mrs is away this weekend so it’s been Dad Club this weekend. The youngest wants to make a bolognese this afternoon so I think we’ll have to get up and head to Tesco shortly. Might watch Superman II as well.
Let’s see how we go.
Thank you for reading this week’s edition. If you enjoyed reading it, please forward it on to your team or your friends and maybe I’ll see you next time.
Whatley out x