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The corruption of Robert Scoble

This year at Davos I'm not working as hard as I did last year, when I interviewed 22 people live using audio. Last night I was spotted at the piano bar by +Bloomberg News's +Tom Keene who tweeted I don't just attend the piano bar, I sit up front and make the most of the experience: https://twitter.com/#!/tomkeene/status/162470374687252481

This is my fourth year to Davos, and was my first time to the Piano Bar (at a restaurant in a hotel, there's a great single-player piano guy, I might post video soon about that). The bar is the unofficial party spot for Davos. There's a rumor that Mick Jagger might show up tonight (he made it to several parties last night and was one of the major topics of conversations at the piano bar).

So, what did I learn last night? Dropbox CEO +Drew Houston could be a professional singer. I took video of him too, which he begged me not to share online. That might cost him.

Speaking of Tom, and getting to the point of my corruption, there's a shuttle system in Davos for attendees of the +World Economic Forum. Yesterday when I got in Tom was interviewing the CEO of China's biggest airlines.

Of course Apple and all the stories about mistreating workers and taking American jobs came up. http://www.techmeme.com/120126/p1#a120126p1 for more. The New York TImes is doing a series of wonderful reports. The CEO explained how China is in a different place than Western Countries and explained that they will go through the same process the west went through in the Industrial Revolution. +Tim Bray who works at Google and was one of the inventors of XML just made the same point. http://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/201x/2012/01/25/Class-Struggle-in-China

I reminded Tom that not all American jobs were lost. I looked at the CEO and asked him how many planes his company owned. 350. Most were Boeing jets. I said that's the way we keep manufacturing jobs in America: we make things that people want. That said, making a 747 takes dramatically fewer people than making an iPhone (everyone should visit the Boeing factory up in Everett, Washington -- it really is the best corporate tour in the world).

So why have I been corrupted? I used to be a much better user advocate than I have been lately. I used to be much more concerned about lockin, fairness, and all that. Lately I've become much more cynical.

I had hoped that social media would lead to a meritocracy, where the best ideas would float to the top like the ice cubes in my drinks last night were. But instead we've ended up in a world of suggested user lists and Klout and, at DLD, while Jack Dorsey, who runs Square and product at Twitter, was on stage, +David Kirkpatrick asked who had the most followers in the audience. Once again reminding us that this world has been corrupted (the number one person in the room was on the suggested user list over there, and was gifted hundreds of thousands of users).

So, I find myself cynical now. Corrupted, even, as I see tens of thousands of new followers here on Google+ because I've been added to this list again.

What does that cynicism and corruption lead to? I find myself far less sympathetic to Twitter than I would be otherwise. They messed up this world which could have been so great. Last night as I walked to dinner +Loic Le Meur and I noted that Twitter's engagement and following counts have slowed way down when compared to Facebook and Google+. If Twitter had built a meritocracy I would have been much more angry about what +Vic Gundotra is doing by putting Google+ results into Google's search engine.

+Dave Winer explains that this feature creep is creeping him out: http://scripting.com/stories/2012/01/23/weNeedAnExitFromGoogle.html I might have joined him if I wasn't corrupted. But instead I'm taking advantage of Google's reaction to its fear that Facebook is taking over the world. Not unfounded, I might add. Lots of conversations here in Europe about how powerful Facebook is. Some governments, like in Germany, are actually going to push laws (I think they are way overstepping, and if I hadn't been so corrupted I might actually care to speak out on Facebook's behalf) that really try to box Facebook's business model into a place where Mark Zuckerberg doesn't want to be boxed into.

Which brings me to Forbes top social media influencers list. http://www.forbes.com/sites/haydnshaughnessy/2012/01/25/who-are-the-top-50-social-media-power-influencers/ I'm #6 they say.

In earlier years I worked a lot harder to get and stay on these lists. Lately I've been just, well, corrupted and more likely to go to the piano bar to have fun. That said, this morning I'm feeling, well, a bit guilty about my corruption so I'm asking myself "what should I do with this influence?" I think the answer might come later today when I meet with an NGO that's using technology to help get food distributed around the world. Maybe that will cleanse my soul. Detox my veins.

Or maybe I will just give into my corruption and show up at the Time Magazine party and look for some free food and drinks. It's fun work being corrupted, but someone has to do it!
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57 comments
 
actually one of your most humbling posts Robert. Kudos
 
Sweet title, +Robert Scoble - and I am also willingly corruptable in favour of G+, considering the alternatives.
 
You're quite welcome Robert. BTW the 3D camera looks sweet ;-)
 
Since you still recognize the possibility of a corrupting soul, you can still make changes from within the people you meet.


You've identified the problem. Now, multiple paths lay before you. Which one do you take? The emperor or the rebellion? Star Fleet or the Borg? Rivendell or Mordor? :)
I'm sure you still have a lot of idealism in you!
 
Hey, it's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it...so why not you? #KIDDING (just a little early morning chola humor) Enjoy being #6, the party, and keep doing what you do that makes all of us continue to avidly follow you! #KUDOS
 
I don't think it's all about corruption in the sense you're describing in the post but a scaling issue based on a false principle of everything is good and everything is doable with a just a little bit of extra hard work. Meritocracy has lots of boundaries and limitations all over the place.
 
Dude - I recognize what you are feeling - and you have always been at the forefront of these trends. Like email bankruptcy, maybe we will see an exhaustion of this meme. But there will always be need for commerce (like water) to find the path of least resistance (lowest cost) for the better profit.
 
Just great to see that you're aware and thinking of this "corruption" and even writing about it.

But I wouldn't be too worried. If you were sitting in the piano bar all the time instead of interviewing crazy, unknown startups, your popularity and credibility would suffer a lot - at least among us geeks ;-)
 
Spot on. I've been less inclined to take part online recently, the social media space seems populated with all the same people getting retweeted the same stories the same behaviour being rewarded, really reflecting the real world model of influence (who you know, not what you know) rather than the online world we dreamt of where great ideas float to the top. But perhaps this is the next step, the next service needed. One to bring all the obscure great ideas to the top of the stream based more on content than views/shares. Or is that a true measure of the value of a tweet / blog post?
 
The rule of social media seems to be that those with the biggest list of followers, or perhaps slightly more nuanced, highest ration of followers to followed, are the winners. Very few of the 'most influential' are worth following.

Funnily enough, I was thinking about the rules of capitalism this morning. There has been lots of excitement about Apple - both celebrating massive numbers and pointing out their lack of social engagement and social responsibility in different ways. They are playing by the rules of capitalism and winning. We should celebrate companies like Patagonia who have looked at the rules, decided they don't want to play that game and are trying to change them.

I admire Patagonia much more than I admire Apple. You could be a key part in changing the rules of social media.

http://thebln.com/2012/01/apple-bill-gates-patagonia-corporate-greed-philanthropy-the-perils-of-doing-good/
 
To which laws or potential laws are you referring wrt Germany?
 
Hello +Robert Scoble , I may get it wrong but are you referring to a European directive rather than a German law?

In Germany the data protection officers are quite outspoken, one in particular in Schleswig Holstein, and the data privacy laws are under review but this is far away from having new laws in the near term. Also no details are yet known. The EU on the other hand went to the public this week with information on "the right to be forgotten".
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/9038589/Right-to-be-forgotten-online-confirmed-in-EU-data-protection-law-shake-up.html

Is that the point you try to make? If yes you might want to exchange Germany with Europe.
 
If you ask yourself "what should I do with this influence?" my answer is to help and support more & more innovative (digital) projects and to fight for fairness also in the social web and not to promote one must be on this or that list or who has the most followers. What counts in my opinion is the point of using influence to help and mediate between several interests
 
Hm, a corrupted influencer? Sounds like the government et al.
 
This corruption is just on the surface. Your follower count doesn't have to change who you are.

Twitter's mistake is the prominence of follower count displays. If we could see "Number of people helped" the meritocracy might be more prominent. (of course, any number would lead to some people trying to game it)

The lists sell. Promoting to get included or to brag about being on such lists is selling out (I'd likely sell out too). But anyone using Twitter, or any social media platform for more than 20 seconds learns that conversation trumps the old media numbers.

If you ever start to think you are more valuable just because you are on a list, you would be corrupt.
 
You might be corrupted but i enjoyed our talk last night. Insights am bringing back home. VIRAL COEFFICIENT FTW!
 
I'd say that's the right way to detox, +Robert Scoble - directing your efforts and influence towards a world where follower count is the least of its problems. I've come across such a project yesterday in my G+ stream: it provides solar-powered lamps to homes without electricity, at 8$ a piece, to replace kerosene lamps (they cause health problems, are the main cause for house fires and are a lot more expensive to use): http://goo.gl/ZGnch

They don't even know about G+/FB/Twitter in that universe. Once in a while, it's healthy to encounter an alternative reality outside the digital bubble.
 
You are an honest and good person. That's why we like to follow you apart from you matter. I trust you will find the way to use your influence and the lists to make the good. Merd on the search!
 
One of your most interesting and best posts Robert. Thanks for sharing and enjoy Davos.
 
Robert, I value the honesty and the deep internal review you are doing on yourself. Ironically this is something I do time to time as well. However I dont do it because I feel corrupt, I have other reasons. I am not fortunate enough to have the influence you do, so the corrupt part for me is not even an option in most cases. But for you, I think if you truly read back on this article you have written, you will see what you need to do. Just read between the lines a little. I heard it loud and clear. I think it is fairly obvious that you have fallen off track and are enjoying the perks of the good life a bit, but somewhere seep inside you are telling yourself you need to stop doing this and get back to focusing o doing the right thing, which is be an advocate for the people like you have done in the past. But I digress, I could be totally wrong in that interpretation, wouldn't be the first time. In the end only you are capable of determining what you need to do to be the person you want to be.
 
I like all of this, we are so fortunate to have so much knowledge at our fingertips and even more so to have the desire to go out and seek that knowledge. But in one instance China has been around for a few thousand years, something must be working for them? Germany, 'the people' have recognized they want change and have worked towards that, how many of us really care enough to go out do more than complain and make change happen?
 
Interesting post. But I can't help get the feeling you were still drunk from the night before when you wrote and posted this :)
 
+Robert Scoble I'm glad you're enjoying yourself, all that's well earned! :-) And it's also great that you're posting during 'our' daytime for a change! Have fun and keep the good stuff coming. Pictures or it didn't happen...
 
That list doesn't reflect the real world, as evidenced by the fact you were at a piano bar at Davos and I was hanging around my loft watching Mad with my kids.
 
Mark - it means we use more electricity than you.
 
You're at the wrong conference if you're worried about corruption.
 
An interesting list, and a little different from the one that was making the rounds a couple of months ago. As for recognition of names and contributions, I guess it all depends on which circles you move in (no pun intended). Most were unfamiliar to me.
 
Sad to see you get to that point. Your enthusiasm is/was refreshing, even if I always looked at the realistic/pessimistic side of the social media stuff
 
"If Twitter had built a meritocracy I would have been much more angry about what +Vic Gundotra is doing by putting Google+ results into Google's search engine."
Don't let yourself off that easily, the two cases aren't comparable (other than being two tech companies and having lists). First of all, Twitter's actual user base is miniscule: http://liesdamnedliesstatistics.com/2011/04/is-twitters-real-user-base-around-20-million.html
And even those statistics are far too generous... I follow a few hundred people, but could care less about Twitter and 140 character text messages. We're supposed to be engaged by an Internet app emulating a 1980s era pager? Seriously?

Where your rational really breaks down though is on the scale of the impact. Twitter didn't build a superfreeway to route traffic away from small businesses, where an open road used to be. Twitter doesn't hold the marionette strings affecting 66% of Internet search (plus a rapidly growing share of social networking). Fundamental changes to the way the Internet works impact a lot of lives.

At least we all get to build footpaths up to the freeway and watch the traffic go by, and wave to the nice folks who got high speed offramps. And when we get hungry, we can walk the margins of the freeway at 3MPH, looking for cake.
 
Anthony Wilson. - First time I've heard of meritocracy, right on ! I'm not
sure that many other international communities realize what is really
going on in this world 2011-12-13-14-15 One can never see it coming to
an end. When we are gone others will be reaping the benefits of the seed we have sown.
 
I'm equally corrupted and I think that hinders my participation in social media networks. I like the idea of them a lot, but I keep being reminded of the inflated importance of follower counts and the money behind these mechanics (promotions and advertising) and it just stops me from caring enough to engage sometimes. Not to the point where I remove my accounts, but definitely to the point where social networking isn't as enriching as it could be.
 
I would rather be engaged with a select few than have a large following that I can't keep up with. This is not to say that you are doing that Robert because you have commented on my comments multiple times which I find amazing given the amount of comments and messages that you receive.
 
What percent of these Top 50 are influential on Google+ here?
 
You may be at a pivotal point in your career. Have you felt a calling to a different kind of work, possibly non-profits or visionary social work that only you can do?

Best of luck figuring out your path. Finding (and Making) our way in a world of unlimited opportunity defines who and what we are.
 
You know that movie, Exit Through the Gift Shop? The character with the camera? Thierry Guetta.
 
The list was created in order to analyze the content of people on it - to see what's actually being said in social media, a piece of research that'll be ready pretty soon. I'm a long time admirer of your work - like someone else says here there is a tendency in some cases for people to be followed without the quality necessarily being there but what I set out to do was analyse what the content is across a wide group of people with followers
 
+Robert Scoble as long as you remember - as you seem to do at the end of your post - that with great influence comes great responsibility you will be fine and do the right thing for users :-)
 
+DL Byron I love that film. I saw it in the theater 2x. I think it's the only film I've seen in a theater in the past 5 years, except for Up a few years ago with my kids. It's a wonderful film about how to bypass the traditional gatekeepers of the fine art world. It should be required viewing for anyone thinking about spending a bunch of money on art school.

+Robert Scoble keep up the good work!
 
Robert, I have followed your work for a while now. I have hesitated to add you to any circles or comment on any of your posts because they're usually so high volume. But I'm cheating myself if I worry about the "inconvenience" of high conversation volume. Today, I've circled you. Partly because I love most of your writing, but also because of the review and commentary of a G+ buddy. Great post!
 
+Robert Scoble, notice that everyone else gets a link to their blogs or personal sites while your link comes back here? I think that, in itself, should earn you a placement or two extra on that list.
That's real social pull right there.
 
I have pretty good reason to believe that Google plus is a meritocracy even if Twitter isn't. I wonder if +Robert Scoble would agree with that assessment ?
 
All I know is that irrespective of any meritocracies, I want to drink wine with +Robert Scoble again on the lawn of the Ritz Carlton near his house in Half Moon Bay.
 
Really helpful share . Thanks to Robert .
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