Sometimes live audio apps for rich people...are worse
Read to the end for a really good Tumblr post about Target dresses
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The Right And Wrong Lessons From Clubhouse
Business Insider has a report out this week detailing the plunging user numbers for Clubhouse, the pandemic mania-driven live audio app for crypto warlords, Silicon Valley middle crisis capitalists, and sentient LinkedIn spam. If you’ve been reading Garbage Day this year — or even just read the previous sentence — you know that I have been a Clubhouse hater since pretty much the moment I first opened the app. I’ve gone on record as saying that when I was finally given an invite and opened it up, I was offended by how ugly and user-unfriendly the then-iOS-and-invite-only app was. Cue the “sometimes things that are expensive…are worse” meme!
According to Business Insider, daily average users have dropped over 80% since February and daily downloads have dropped by 90% since June. That is a tremendous drop. As Gawker quipped, “Clubhouse is more exclusive than ever: no one’s on it” lol.
Clubhouse’s co-founder Paul Davison told CNBC, “The goal is to move away from peaks and valleys and towards just a steady path.” Well, good news, bud. You have definitely moved away from peaks!
The reason I’ve been rooting for Clubhouse to fail is because I believe its entire ethos, from the invite-only rollout, to the initial iOS-only user base, to the outrageous $4 billion valuation, was not just ugly and annoying, but an existential threat to the way the internet functions. Allow me to explain.
It’s no secret that the internet is more consolidated and dominated by monopolies than it ever has before. Facebook/Meta, Amazon, Twitter, Google, Apple, and now ByteDance essentially control all culture and commerce on the web. But, what’s interesting, is that, so far, none of these companies have successfully instituted a community from the top-down. Facebook grew its user base, first, as a hosting service for drunk photos of college students, Twitter launched as a way for Google Glass early adopters to text their non-friends about what they were eating for lunch, and Google’s YouTube was built vlogger-by-vlogger until it became the MTV of our age. Even ByteDance’s TikTok behemoth was birthed from the combined cringe of extremely Christian teen boys from Southern California, anime cosplayers, and bored soldiers on army bases.
These massive companies might now control the internet thanks to the network effect of their currently huge audiences, but those audiences were built by average users. The magic alchemy of populating a functioning social network was done outside of Silicon Valley. Though it’s being limited all the time, users still have some power over platforms. There is, at least in theory, a world were Facebook/Meta could cease to exist if enough people stop using their products.
Clubhouse, by the very fact both its initial user base and its subsequent hype was basically dreamt up by Silicon Valley insiders, was, in my opinion, a test of whether or not venture capitalists had enough influence to dream up a new — honestly, very bad — social network and force it upon the rest of the internet. And, though they got very close to making “fetch” happen, so to speak, they, thankfully, failed.
How can we determine Clubhouse has failed? Well, per The Verge’s Hot Pod newsletter, only 40,000 people tuned in to listen to Oprah earlier this month. Seems not great. Also, the best way to find out if your social network has failed is by looking at the successes of similar, but divergent apps. In this case, both Twitter Spaces and Discord have dominated the live audio space this year. And both have done it in ways that don’t feel tied to West Coast Peloton owners missing the intimacy of a conference call during quarantine. Twitter Spaces and Discord, also, most crucially, wait for it… had user bases built organically over many years!
It’s also weirdly fitting that the NFT and, now, DAO boom aren’t happening on Clubhouse, but Discord. It’s clearly a sign that Clubhouse — in its current form — is cooked, but, also, the entire blockchain mania right now is, in many ways, just the new Clubhouse gold rush. The weird invite-only startups that were trying to get me to bring the Garbage Day audience to their Clubhouse killer nine months ago have now been replaced in my inbox with startups that are really interested in raising huge amounts of crypto capital via memes. It was Andreessen Horowitz that valued Clubhouse at $4 billion last April. Well, in June, it launched a $2.2 billion crypto fund.
These increasingly massive venture capital-driven internet fads make me wildly nervous, though. Can live audio work? Sure, people are having audio-only sex on Twitter Spaces now in front of audiences bigger than the one that tuned in to listen to Oprah on Clubhouse. Could blockchain products be useful for the digital creator class? I’m optimistic about it. But Silicon Valley investors are getting more aggressive about instituting exactly how they think the internet should work. Whether we’re talking about Clubhouse or NFTs, it seems like the internet’s biggest capitalists want to make the web less open and more closely tied to a user’s irl wealth and status. After years of getting rich off user-generated content, venture capitalists seem desperate to remove the populist power of viral content. They want us to listen to their boring podcasts and buy their shitty digital assets and beg for invites to their awful apps.
And there will be more Clubhouses. More top-down attempts at cooking up a social platform run by and catering to the already-wealthy. But, at least, right now, users still have the power to determine which platforms succeed and which ones fail. And it seems like they have decided that Clubhouse will be a minor footnote in books eventually written about the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
I am happy to report I found the context for this video of a bunch of Vin Diesel look-a-likes saying “family” over and over again. Donut Media is a YouTube channel for car enthusiasts and they recently did a livestream where they tested out the platform’s new live shopping tools.
They rented 10 Vin Diesel look-a-likes for the stream and had them do a bunch of, honestly, very funny stuff, including modeling the channel’s new merch. The end of the livestream ends with the 10 Vin Diesels saying “family” 100 times. That’s life a quarter mile at a time, baby.
A Good 4chan Post
A Real Fun YouTube Video About Language
My algorithm right now is recommending me a lot of language content. (I read a lot about linguistics.) A lot of “I speak a lot of languages” YouTube is pretty cringe, if not outright exploitative. There’s one YouTuber, in particular, who gets a lot of grief named Xiaomanyc. He does those videos like “White Guy Speaks Multiple African Languages in Nigerian Market, Locals Stunned” and “White Guy Orders Takeout in Perfect Chinese, THIS happened…” I think his whole channel is a mess. But I do confess I really like watching people get surprised when they hear their native language being spoken, just in general.
Anyways, the video above is from a YouTuber named Wouter Corduwener, a Dutch hyper-polyglot, who can speak 29 languages. His videos seem way less exploitative and weird than Xiaomanyc’s and, like I said above, I’m just a sucker for language content like this. This video popped up on my recommendations recently and I thought it was pretty fun.
The Unreal Engine Is Getting Uncomfortably Good
Footage of this “CGI puppet” in action is currently making the rounds on Twitter and Reddit. It’s from Ziva Dynamics, a Canadian software company, which built a tool called the ZRT Face Trainer, which runs on Unreal Engine 5. While a lot of the comments on Reddit are, predictably, how useful this technology would be for porn, I feel like this probably deserves the same kind of hysteria that’s surrounded deepfakes over the last few years, right?
Tumblr Users Are Unknowingly Sharing Memes Based On Fan Art Of Reddit Personified As An Anime Girl
This meme format is super popular on Tumblr, and by extension, Twitter, right now. A lot of the memes I’ve seen are actually pretty not safe for work and Tumblr users are actually clipping the comic so it’s two versions of the guy texting each other about having sex with each other. As Tumblr users are wont to do.
However, Tumblr user satelliteduster recently shared one of these memes with the caption, “hold the fuck up im only just noticing the antenna on the girl’s head is this fucking ship art with a reddit gijinka.”
If you aren’t familiar with the term “gijinka,” it’s the Japanese word for “humanization,” and it’s used to describe cute anime personifications of things. Remember those cartoons from like 10 years ago showing different websites as people? Or when 4chan users created “ISIS-chan” or “Ebola-chan”? Those are gijinkas.
Anyways, this texting meme format that is currently going viral is, in fact, a Reddit gijinka. The original comic is titled, “One of Those Nights,” and it was posted to r/Teenagers by a user named u/AlexMaestro last spring. And both the guy and the girl in the comic are meant to be the teenager Reddit aliens that the r/Teenagers subreddit uses as their banner image. The artist draws the r/tTeenagers aliens pretty regularly!
A Real Good Tweet
This was dropped in the Garbage Day Discord by tupperwarejones.
Two Especially Cursed Links
It didn’t feel right to put these links in the Stray Links section. First, we have Polygon with a Halo investigation that I’m not sure anyone was particularly asking for: “Master Chief’s pee is stored in the suit”. Polygon’s Michael McWhertor writes, “Master Chief and every other Spartan who wears Mjolnir armor are peeing in their suits, which are designed to process and recycle urine into drinkable water. In other words, Master Chief could be (and probably is) peeing at any given moment — maybe even while teabagging an online opponent.”
Hmm, great, thank you.
Next up, we’ve got Kotaku with a piece titled, “I Bought A Genshin Impact Titty Mouse Pad, And I Love It”. Kotaku’s Sisi Jiang writes, “This mouse pad was the most interesting piece of art that I had seen all day. Moreover, it was a print of my favorite character in his prime. I could be resting my wrists on the titties of a 6,000-year-old god who had sealed away other gods. I thought about the mouse pad endlessly as I walked through the exhibition hall.”
Full disclosure: My friend, and the former producer of a certain podcast I used to do, Julia, once actually bought me a Hatsune Miku “titty mousepad” as a joke and I kept it on my desk for a while until I spilled coffee on it. I currently I have a mousepad of Ja Rule’s Fyre Fest tweet that my sister gave me. I also spilled coffee on that one too, though.
A Japanese Language Version Of All Time Low’s “Dear Maria, Count Me In”
Some context here. Sunrise Skater Kids is a “fake” pop punk band created by YouTube creator Jarrod Alonge. He currently runs a media company/record label/YouTube network called Boketo Media, which helps him distribute a suite of “fake” scene bands. I’m actually in a Sunrise Skater Kids video they put out last summer.
Alonge was the vocalist of Sunrise Skater Kids, but has since brought on a new singer named Clay Agnew and Agnew puts out music under the name FOXCHASE and FOXCHASE, last April, did a version of All Time Low’s “Dear Maria, Count Me In” as if it was an anime opening, complete with Agnew singing the whole thing in Japanese. Ok, got all that?
Well, Sunrise Skater Kids has now put out a full-length and mastered version of “Dear Maria, Count Me In” in Japanese and it’s extremely good.
Some Stray Links
“If you want to freeze culture, the first step is to reduce it to data.”
P.S. here’s a really good Tumblr post about Target dresses.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***