An in-depth analysis of social media platforms from the point of view of social capital theory and why we should consider them as "status as a service" enterprises

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If you and a friend exchange pictures for several consecutive days, you create a series that you draw in your friends list. Young people quickly invested in building and maintaining traces with their friends. It was literally a proof of work as proof of friendship, quantified and followed.

Streaks, of course, have the wonderful quality of being limitless. You can keep as many streaks as you want. If you do not think social capital has value, you've never seen, as I've done before, a young man sobbing at the idea of ​​going on vacation without his phone, or go to a place without a phone or wifi, only to see all his trails. broken. Some children are forced, when they are forced to go on holiday abroad, to leave their phone to a friend who helps to keep track of all traces, such as some kind of babysitter or surrogate mother. share capital.

What's hilarious is the effectiveness with which youth maintain their streaks. It's a daily ritual that often involves just quickly going through your list of friends and taking something randomly, no matter what, just to increase the number of streaks. My nephew often did not bother to frame the camera, most of his shots were fuzzy pictures of his elbow, half of his shoulder, and so on.

Of course, evidence of the fragility of social capital structures, the nets began to lose heat. Many young Snapchat users are no longer embarrassed with them. Maintaining social capital games will always be an unstable game, subject to sudden and massive deflationary events, but even if they work, they are a hellish drug. They can also be useful. for someone If you often do clichés, as do all teens, having a list of best friends ranked at the top of your distribution list saves you a lot of time. Social capital and utility can often not be separated properly.

Nevertheless, given the precarious nature of the status and the existence of Instagram, which has always been a more impeccable social capital accumulation service, this is not a bad strategy for Snapchat to seek increased use of email . The challenge, as all competitors in the messaging industry know, is that it is extremely difficult to create an advantage for sustainable public services. In game theory of technological competition, it is better to assume that any feature that can be copied will be. And messaging is perhaps never, from the point of view of profits, the most lucrative business.

As a footnote, Snapchat also plays on the entertainment axis with its Discover pane. Almost all social networks of a certain size will play with a mixture of social capital, utility and entertainment, but each chooses the importance of each of them.

Lengthen the half-life of Status Games

The danger of having a proof of workload that does not change is that, ultimately, all those who wish to exploit this social currency will have done so and that most of it will be exhausted. At this point, the amount of potential energy left by the status in the social network will flatten. If, at this inflection, the service has failed to add much utility, the network may deteriorate.

One of the ways to combat this, that the larger social networks tend to do better than others, is to add new forms of work proof that actually create a new pool of potential social capital that users can continue. Instagram started with square pictures and filters; since then, it has removed the image format constraint, added video, lengthened video limits and added formats such as Boomerang and Stories. It can be said that its parent company, Facebook, has expanded most of the world's social networks from a text-based text-editing tool intended for a group of Harvard students to a social network with so many formats and options that I can not keep. track of all. These new obstacles are like downloadable content in video games, new levels to decorate a familiar game.

That's a delicate balance, because it's quite possible that Facebook is so much for so many people that it's not really something for anyone anymore. It's hard to be a club that admits everyone but still wants to offer a consistent status ladder. You can say that Facebook does not want to be in the status game, but if it is, it would be better to add a lot more utility.

Video games better illustrate the proof of the work cycle than almost all categories. It's the Drosophila of this type of analysis, given its fast life cycle and its obvious advantages in terms of skills and rewards. Why, for example, do successful games generally have a life cycle of about 18 months?

A new game offers a new series of levels and challenges, and the players embark on the status competition with enthusiasm. But finally, the differentiation of skills tends to sort the base of players properly. Players reach the level of their mastery and their board. At the same time, players become overly familiar with the challenges of the game; the success of dopamine dissipates.

A franchise like Call of Duty, for example, is learning to manage this cycle by investing hundreds of millions of dollars in a new version of the game every day. Each game offers a familiarity but a new set of levels, challenges and environments. This is the circle of life.

Some games can lengthen the cycle. For example, Vegas casino games pay real money to create an attractive floor on the game's ROI. Some MMORPGs offer other benefits to players, such as a sense of community, that last longer than the simple challenge of playing the game. Looking at some of the most enduring video game franchises such as World of Warcraft, League of Legends and Fortnite, we are learning a lot about how a parallel industry has been able to extend productivity. his best properties.

I think that the social media border strategy will rely more and more on an in-depth study of these adjacent and much older social capital games. Fashion, video games, religion and society are among the initial enterprises of service status.

Why some companies will always fight with the social

Some people find the status games unpleasant. Despite this, all the people I know participate in several status games. Some people make fun of the hashtag of people who spam on Instagram, then retweet praise on Twitter. Others watch expensive meal photo albums on Facebook, and then submit research papers to prestigious journals in the hope of being published. Parents show pictures of their children's performances during recitals, people chatting in the mirror while evaluating their outfits, employees being flexible at meetings, entrepreneurs complaining about 30 lists under 30 while wishing include reporters in the Techmeme rankings; life is nothing but a nested series of status challenges.

Have I met a few people in my life who are apparently above all status games? Yes, but they are few enough to look like miracles, and damn them for making us feel bad about our vanity.

The number of people who claim to be above the status games exceeds the one who actually does. I believe that their declared disgust is genuine, but even if it is not the case, the danger of their indignation lies in the fact that they no longer see how their product functions in certain respects as a status enterprise.

In fact, many of our technology giants will probably still be weak in the face of absent social turnover or smart acquisitions. Take Apple, which has already tried to create social features. They built one in music, but he died quickly. They have been trying to add social features to the photo album on iOS, although every time I have tried them, I am more confused than anything else.

iMessages, Apple fans could proclaim! Hundreds of millions of users, a ton of teenage use, is not this proof that Apple can do the social? Well, in a sense, but mostly of utility. Apple's social efforts tend to be sterile social capital.

Since Apple is the leading advocate of user privacy, it will still be forced to develop social features because many of them trade against privacy. All do not, and it is possible that a social network based entirely on confidentiality could succeed, but 1) it would be difficult and 2) it is not obvious that many people are not sure. oppose a certain confidentiality to show their lives online.

This is exactly why many people like and choose Apple, and they have more money than they can spend. No one has to feel sorry for Apple, and as is often the case, the strengths and weaknesses of a business derive from the same quality. I would prefer that Apple continue to focus on building the best computers in the world. Nevertheless, it is a false compromise to consider Apple's focus on privacy as an excuse for delicate interactions like sharing photos on iOS.

The same inherent social myopia applies to Google, which has imposed itself by building a social network in its own right with Google+. Like Apple, the Mountain View team has always seemed better at creating public utility networks than social capital. We often talk about Google as a company where software engineers have the most power. From my experience, engineers are motivated by logic and products centered on the statutes displease or mysterious, often both. Google will probably still be weak at the social, but like Apple, they compensate with unique strengths.

Curiously, despite the control of one of the two dominant mobile platforms, they still have not been able to launch a powerful messaging application. This is about as social as a utility-based social application, similar to email where Google has a significant market share with GMail. Too bad, because Google could probably use social networks as an additional layer of utility in many of their products, especially in Google Maps.

Amazon and Netflix have both launched social efforts although they have been largely forgotten. It is likely that the attempts were premature, pushed into the world before either company had a scale sufficient to allow positive effects at the wheel. It's hard enough to launch a new social network, but it's even harder to launch social features built around behaviors such as mail-order shopping or DVD rentals, which rarely happen. The social efforts of both companies were also not the most elegant (Facebook is underestimated for its ability to launch a social product that can reach billions of users.His team of designers master perfectly the maintenance of the facility of use for users of all cultures and ages).

Given the industrialization of fake reviews and the number of people with a premium account, Amazon could create a social service simply to facilitate product recommendations and the opinions of known and trusted people. I am turning more and more skeptical towards extremely positive and negative reviews on Amazon, even if they are listed as sourced from verified buyers. The usefulness of a feature like this would be crucial, but becoming a product expert would be like boosting the power of turning the wheel. In fact, Amazon is already exploiting the social dynamics at the service of its retail business with features such as reader rankings and sales rankings (both are discussed a little further).

Regarding Netflix, I actually think that the social is not as useful as many think to generate video recommendations (it's a discussion for another day, but suffice it to say that there is some narcissism small differences in the taste of the film). However, as a Netflix amplifier as a modern water cooler, in order to promote the behavior of the flock, social activity may constitute an additional layer of buzz which is at the moment largely opaque for users of Netflix applications. This is a strategy that is only viable if you can reach the subscriber 's size of a Netflix, making it a form of secondary benefit to the Internet. scale that they could exploit more.

However, there is another reason why most business executives, even social networks, are ill-suited to designing and leveraging social features. It's a variation of the winner's curse.

That they eat cake

You will hear again and again, the easiest way to empathize with your users is to become the canonical user yourself. I tend to subscribe to this idea, which is unfortunate because it means that hundreds of applications are installed on my phone at any time, just trying to keep up with the product.

With social networks, one of the problems in seeing your own service from the point of view of your users is that each person has a different experience, depending on who they are following and what the service algorithm provides them. When you have hundreds of millions, even billions of users, of different cultures, how do you precisely monitor what is going on? Your statistics can tell you that the engagement is high and growing, but what is the composition of this activity and who is exposed to which parts?

Until we have indicators that distinguish between healthy activity and unhealthy activity, social network administrators must largely go by anecdote, licking their fingers and placing them in the air. to determine the direction of the wind. Some may find it difficult to believe that leaders plead ignorance when they are aware of the magnitude of the problems with their services, but that is not my case. When it comes to managing a community, the thickest veil of ignorance is the tidy metrics dashboard that brings together hundreds, thousands, even millions of cohorts into one. handle.

To really get the feeling of a healthy social network, you need to understand the topology of the network, as well as the volume and nature of connections and interactions between hundreds of millions, even billions of users. It is impossible to treat them all, but it is just as difficult to summarize them today without losing all sorts of critical details.

But perhaps even more disconcerting is that successful social networking executives are among the most prestigious personalities in the world. Forget the problems of the first world, they have problems of .1% or .001%. On a daily basis, they face no problem that their main users are constantly facing. Engagement goals can lead to creating optimized services as social capital games, but they hardly need a higher status, except of a type they will not find on their own networks. .

[The one exception may be Jack Dorsey, as any tweet he posts now attracts an endless stream of angry replies. It’s hard to argue he doesn’t understand firsthand the downside risk of a public messaging protocol. Maybe, for victims of harassment on Twitter, we need a Jack that is less thick-skinned and stoic, not more.]

Social Capital – Financial Capital Exchange

[If you fully believe in the existence and value of social capital, you can skip this section, though it may be of interest in understanding some ways to estimate its value.]

The fact that some of the largest and most profitable companies in history have been created so quickly in part to create status games should be enough to convince you of the existence and value of social capital. Since we live in the era of social media, we may live on top of the social capital assets of the history of civilization. However, as noted earlier, one of the challenges of the study is that we do not have an agreed definition of how to measure it and therefore track its flow.

I have not found a clear definition of social capital, but I see it as capital from networks of people. If you want to explore the concept further, this page contains a long list of definitions from the literature. The fact is that I have deep trust in all my readers about social capital and that, as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once said about pornography, you " know when you see it.

But more than that, the dark matter that constitutes social capital can be detected through exchanges in which it converts into more familiar value stores.

If you have already borrowed a cup of milk from your neighbor or trusted him to watch your children for an afternoon, you know the value of the equity. If you lived at an early stage in the history of mankind, when people wandered in small nomadic tribes and regularly stun members of other tribes until death with sticks and stones, you also knew the value of social capital through the protective cocoon of his presence and the sudden violence in his absence.

Perhaps the easiest way to identify social capital is to look for places to trade for financial capital. With the maturation of social networks, we have seen the infrastructure needed to facilitate these exchanges going a long way. These transactions allow us to assign tangible value to share capital as one might understand from the value of an intangible asset such as upgraded World of Warcraft characters when sold on the open market.

The most commonly cited example of social-financial exchange is the one that was created by influencers on Instagram and YouTube. I've met models who, in another life, could get mugged in front of an Abercrombie and Fitch or work at the entrance of an upscale restaurant in Los Angeles, but instead , now shoot more than 7 figures a year for posting photos of themselves in the midst of crazy specific stations, wearing and using specific sponsor products. When Jake or Logan Paul publish a video of themselves in front of their new Lamborghini in the mansion driveway they bought with money from their YouTube feed, we know that a social capital exchange capital has taken place upstream. Rebuild the distribution and reshape the world.

In the same way, the other direction flows. People who buy hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter are one of the cleanest examples of commercial finance capital for social capital. Later, this social capital can be converted back into financial capital in different ways, including charging sponsors for positions. Depending on the relative value in both directions, there may be arbitrage.

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Asia, where monetization models differ for a variety of cultural and contextual reasons, provides an even sharper valuation of social capital. Many social networks allow you to directly transform your social capital into financial capital, without leaving the network. For example, on live broadcast sites such as YY, you can earn digital gifts from your viewers at real-money cost, whose value you divide with the platform. At first, YY was often composed of pretty girls singing pop songs. As the fascinating documentary People's of Desire shows, it has evolved a lot.

Agencies have sprung up in China to develop and manage influencers, almost like agricultural baseball systems with development of players and coaches. The speed at which social capital can be converted into your own branded product lines is accelerating at a giant step, and nowhere more than in China.

Meanwhile, on Twitter, if one of your tweets becomes massively viral, you should always attach a follow-up tweet with a link to your GoFundMe page, a vulgar monetization hack in comparison. It is China, not the United States, that spearheads the industrialization of influencers.

I am skeptical that all monetization systems in Asia will export to American culture, but for this post, the important thing is that social capital has a real financial value and that the networks differ according to the ease with which this exchange can be achieved.

Accumulation and storage of social capital

As with cryptocurrency, accumulating social capital is useless if you can not take possession of it and store it securely. Almost all the powerful social networks are able to provide mechanisms of accumulation and storage.

This may seem obvious now, but consider the many applications and services that have failed to provide this kind of thing and have seen all their value flee to other social networks. Hipstamatic came before Instagram and was the first photo filter application I used on mobile. But, unlike Instagram, he billed his filters and had no profile pages, social networks, or feeds. I used Hipstamatic filters to edit the photos on my iPhone, and then posted them on other social networks like Facebook. Hipstamatic provided utility but did not capture the social capital from the use of its filters.

Compare that with a company like Musical.ly, which I mentioned above. They developed a unique proof of the workload, but unlike Hipstamatic, they wanted to capture the value of the social capital that their users could exploit in creating their musical sketches. They did not want these sketches to be simply uploaded to Instagram, Facebook or other networks.

As a result, they created a stream within the application, in order to distribute to the best users their work. In doing so, Musical.ly possessed the social capital it had helped to generate. If your service is free, the best alternative to capture the value you create is to own the market where that value is realized and exchanged.

The founder of Musical.ly, Alex Zhu, associates the creation of a new social network to the creation of a new country and to the attempt to attract citizens from established countries. It's a funny analogy, although I prefer the cryptocurrency metaphor, because most users are citizens of several social networks in the world of technology and manage their social capital on all these networks as a kind diversified status portfolio.

For each user, we standardized some basic social capital accumulation mechanisms. There is the profile to which your metrics relate, including the number and list of your subscribers. Followers or friends are the atomic unit of many social networks, and the advantage of followers is that they usually measure the fact that they tend to grow over time. It also allows easy measurement of the world ranking.

The local notation of social capital at the atomic level generally exists in the form of something similar, one of the universal primitives of almost every social network. These are more ephemeral in nature given the nature of the flows, which tend to give priority to the distribution of the most recent activities, but most social networks have a version because subscribers tend to accumulate slower. Tastes are more closely correlated with your volume of activity and serve as a source of continual injections of social capital in the short term, even if each of them has, in the long run, less value than a supporter or friend.

Some networks allow expedited distribution of publications through a redirect, like the retweet (with many unintended consequences, but it's a discussion for another day). Some also allow comments, and there are other network-specific variants, but most of them are a form of social capital that can be attached to publications.

Again, most social network users are not upset. However, it is instructive to look at social networks that make it difficult to build social capital.

The anonymous social network, like Whisper or Secret, is a good example. The premise of such social networks was that anonymity would allow users to share information and opinions with which they would otherwise hesitate. But, as is often the case, this strength proved to be a weakness, as users could not really claim the social capital that they had created there. Many things written on these networks were so toxic that claiming their property would be negative overall social capital.

A network like Reddit has solved this problem by implementing karma, but it is fair to say that Reddit has long struggled to suppress the gloomy asymmetrical incentives created by separating social capital from real identity and reputation.

[[[[Balaji Srinivasan Once mentioned that crypto-currencies could allow someone to extract the value of an anonymous social network without revealing his or her identity publicly, but for the moment, at least, a large part of that status on social networks is not monetary in nature. This is largely reserved for lulz.]

For a single user, the rigidity of a social network is often strongly correlated to the volume of social capital accumulated on that network. People will sometimes give up social networks, but this is rare unless the status they earn has suffered severe deflation.

The share capital tends not to be fungible, which also facilitates the abandonment of the ship. If your Twitter followers are worthless on another network, it is less painful to simply leave the account if it is not worth it anymore. It is odd to think that social networks such as Twitter and Facebook once allowed users to bulk-export their graphics to other networks, as this allowed competing networks to massively boost their share capital, but that only shows The biggest social networks of the day underestimated the enormous value of their holdings of social capital. Facebook also, at one point, overestimated the value of the incoming social capital they would capture by allowing third-party applications and services to rely on their charts.

Les restrictions sur le portage de graphiques sont un point positif du point de vue des réseaux sociaux en place, mais du point de vue de l'utilisateur, c'est frustrant. Compte tenu de la difficulté de s’attaquer aux réseaux sociaux, compte tenu de la norme de protection du consommateur en vigueur dans les lois antitrust, une option pour limiter le pouvoir des entreprises générant des effets de réseau consiste à exiger que les utilisateurs soient autorisés à transférer leur graphe vers d’autres réseaux (comme beaucoup l’ont suggéré). Cela émousserait le pouvoir des réseaux sociaux le long de l'axe du capital social et les obligerait à être plus compétitifs sur les axes des services publics et du divertissement.

Arbitrage de capital social

Étant donné que les réseaux sociaux attirent souvent des publics différents et que la configuration des graphiques diffère même souvent lorsque les utilisateurs se chevauchent, il existe des possibilités d'arbitrage du capital social entre les applications.

@Thefatjewish, le compte Instagram populaire (son vrai nom était Josh Ostrovsky, était l'un des principaux utilisateurs de cette tactique. Il a accumulé des millions d'abonnés sur Instagram en reprenant en grande partie les blagues de Twitter et d'autres réseaux sociaux, puis en les publiant comme siens. Sur Instagram, non seulement a-t-il accumulé des adeptes et apprécie des millions de personnes, mais il a même signé avec CAA!

Quand il a été appelé, il a prétendu que ce n'était pas son propos. Il a ajouté: "Encore une fois, Instagram fait partie d'un projet plus vaste. Je possède une armée de stagiaires travaillant dans le fond d'un salon de manucure dans le Queens. Nous avons tellement de choses à faire: j'écris un livre, J'ai du rosé. Il faut qu'ils me baignent. J'ai tellement d'autres choses à faire. Cela ne me semblait pas si grave. " Ce qui est vraiment une façon longue et bizarre de dire que vous m'avez attrapé. Que celui qui ne dispose pas d'une armée d'internes les baignant jette la première pierre.

Depuis lors, des comptes similaires d'agrégateurs de blagues sur Instagram ont continué à proliférer, mais certains d'entre eux suivent désormais la norme sociale post-fatjewish-scandale consistant à inclure l'attribution appropriée pour chaque blague sur la photo (par exemple, le nom d'utilisateur Twitter et la photo du profil dans la photo du tweet «emprunté»). Mais beaucoup ne le font pas, et même pour ceux qui le font, les plus en vue peuvent déclencher une réaction. Le hashtag #fuckfuckjerry est une protestation émergente contre le compte Instagram populaire @fuckjerry qui, comme @fatjewish, organise les meilleures blagues des autres et les transforme quotidiennement en une petite société de médias, une vedette de la débâcle du Fyre Festival.

Tant que nous aurons plusieurs réseaux sociaux qui ne fonctionneront pas exactement de la même manière, ces arbitres de médias sociaux continueront à copier le travail d'un réseau à un autre pour accumuler du capital social afin de combler le fossé de la distribution. Avant Internet, les hommes citaient des films ou des blagues de Mitch Hedberg lors d’une conversation pour voler un peu de personnalité et d’esprit à un comédien plus doué. C'est la forme moderne de cela, suralimentée avec une portée à l'échelle Internet.

À un certain niveau, un grand nombre de publications sur les médias sociaux ne sont que des tentatives pour améliorer le statut du travail de quelqu'un d'autre. Les deux principes au début de cet article prédisent que ce type d'arbitrage sera toujours avec nous. Pensez à quelqu'un qui crée un lien vers un article de Twitter ou Facebook ou qui poste une capture d'écran d'un paragraphe du livre de quelqu'un d'autre. La valeur de la réaction des créateurs initiaux semble varier en fonction de la manière dont le butin de la redistribution est réparti. La réaction des comptes Instagram tels que @thefatjewish et @fuckjerry peut provenir du fait qu'ils ne partagent pas vraiment la valeur de ceux dont ils redistribuent les blagues, alors que la publication d'un extrait d'un livre sur Twitter, par exemple, génère une publicité bienvenue pour l'auteur. .

Jeux du capital social en tant que sources d'énergie temporaires

Structurés correctement, les structures d’incitation au capital social peuvent constituer une incitation inestimable. Par exemple, la conservation de bons contenus sur Internet reste un problème sans fin en cette ère de contenu infini. Par conséquent, offrir des récompenses pour la découverte de choses intéressantes reste l’un des marchés les plus anciens et les plus fiables d’Internet.

Reddit est un exemple classique. Les utilisateurs apportent des liens intéressants, entre autres contenus, en échange d’une monnaie appelée littéralement le karma. Accumulez suffisamment de karma et vous débloquerez d’autres avantages, tels que la possibilité de créer votre propre sous-compte ou de rejoindre certains sous-titres privés.

Twitter est un autre réseau social où les gens ont tendance à proposer des contenus intéressants dans l’espoir d’amasser plus de fans et de fans. Si vous suivez suffisamment les bons comptes, Twitter devient un distributeur de pellets intéressant.

Certaines entreprises qui ne sont généralement pas considérées comme des réseaux sociaux se tournent toujours vers les jeux de capital social pour résoudre un problème particulier. Pendant les vacances de Noël, je suis tombé par hasard en bas pour une collation de minuit et j'ai trouvé mon ami, père de trois enfants, toujours debout, en train de taper sur son ordinateur portable. Je lui ai demandé ce qu'il faisait encore debout quand il a dû se lever dans quelques heures pour s'occuper de ses enfants. Il était, admit-il timidement, en train de frapper une litanie de critiques pour tenter de maintenir son statut d'élite Yelp. À ce jour, certains de mes amis parlent encore avec nostalgie de certaines des fêtes Élite Yelp auxquelles ils ont assisté dans la journée.

Pensez au nombre d'avis accumulés par Yelp au tout début en organisant quelques fêtes? Cela en valait bien la peine, et au moment où ce n’est pas le cas (quelle est la valeur marginale de la dernière analyse de la 9655e revue d’Ippudo à New York?), C’est quelque chose de facile à rappeler ou à déconseiller .

Amazon n'est généralement pas considéré comme une entreprise qui comprend le social, mais à ses débuts, même avant Yelp, il utilisait une tactique similaire pour augmenter son nombre d'avis d'utilisateurs. Amazon Top Reviewers était une liste de tous les critiques sur Amazon. Vous pouvez améliorer votre réputation en accumulant plus de votes utiles de la part des acheteurs pour vos commentaires. I'll always remember Harriet Klausner, who dominated that list for years, reviewing seemingly every book in print. Amazon still maintains a top customer reviewer list, but it has been devalued over time as volume of reviews is no longer a real problem for Amazon.

Another example of a status game that Amazon employed to great effect, and which doesn't exist anymore, was Global Sales Rank. For a period, every product on Amazon got ranked against every other product in a dynamic sales rank leaderboard, and the figure would be displayed prominently near the top of each product detail page. Book authors pointed customers to Amazon to buy their books in the hope of goosing their sales rank the same way authors today often commit to buy some volume of their own book when it releases in the hopes of landing on the NYTimes bestseller list the week it releases.

IMDb and Wikipedia are two companies which built up entire valuable databases almost entirely by building mechanisms to harness the equal mix of status-seeking and altruism of domain experts. As with Reddit, accumulating a certain amount of reputation on these services unlocked additional abilities, and both companies built massive databases of information with very low production and editorial costs.

You can think of social capital accumulation incentives like these as ways to transform the potential energy of status into whatever form of kinetic energy your venture needs.

Why Most Celebrity Apps Fail

For a while, a trend among celebrities was to launch their own app. The Kardashian app is perhaps the most prominent example, but there are others.

From a social capital perspective, these create little value because they simply draw down upon the celebrity's own status. Almost every person who joins just wants content from the eponymous celebrity. The volume of interaction between the users of the app themselves, the fans, is minimal to non-existent. Essentially these apps are self-owned distribution channels for the stars, and as such, they tend to be vanity projects rather than durable assets.

One can imagine such apps trying to foster more interaction among the users, but that is a really complex effort, and most such efforts have neither the skills to take this on nor the will or capital necessary to see it through.

Another way to think of all these celebrity ventures is to measure the social capital and utility of the product or service if you remove all the social capital from the celebrity in question. A lot minus a lot equals zero.

Conclusion: Everybody Wants to Rule the World

In the immortal words of Obi-Wan Kenobi, "Status is what gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together."

That many of the largest tech companies are, in part, status as a service businesses, is not often discussed. Most people don't like to admit to being motivated by status, and few CEO's are going to admit that the job to be done for their company is stroking people’s egos.

From a user perspective, people are starting to talk more and more about the soul-withering effects of playing an always-on status game through the social apps on their always connected phones. You could easily replace Status as a Service with FOMO as a Service. It’s one reason you can still meet so many outrageously wealthy people in Manhattan or Silicon Valley who are still miserable.

This piece is not my contribution to the well-trod genre of Medium thinkpieces counseling stoicism and Buddhism or transcendental meditation or deleting apps off of your phone to find inner peace. There is wisdom in all of those, but if I have anything to offer on that front, it’s this: if you want control of your own happiness, don’t tie it to someone else’s scoreboard.

Recall the wisdom of Neil McCauley in the great film Heat.