I didn't catch this at the time, but i've been off on training and feeling as usual slightly under the weather. Anyway, so the guys who run Faceparty lost the plot last week, and did more than just blurt out a "Fuck you" to their more stupid subscribers, as you can see here.
It is very funny, and congrats to them for losing it so spectacularly but with such lack of style that somehow, it all comes off very much in their favour. Their biggest beef is with people who seem to think, because they have a long term relationship with the site, and the site is 100% social, that somehow Faceparty owes them something.
I have enormous empathy with the Faceparty guys there, but also I have to say, my professional side sucked it's teeth a little and said "What do you expect?". Customers who use social sites / apps not merely for communication (eg: IM) but for the building of relationships on a communal scale, have invested enormous great chunks of emotional wellbeing in the carrier of the message. By doing so, they endorse the carrier again, and again in a deep meaningful way. I've seen this most often in the now defunct (sob) XXXX and in online chat. XXXX was a great example. We introduced advertising to this 5 1/2 million strong web app, but our advertising group had no idea how to market it, and before long, run of site advertising rendered the space we had cordoned off as entirely useless, given that the customers had gone blind to it.
So it was making no real cash (hey, can I think of some recent examples of social applications which are unsurprisingly not really making enough from advertising?) but the people who did use it regularly USED it. Bloody hell, in many cases lives had been changed because of it. I really wanted to get some forward thinking sociology department to just come in, use the admin tool and write papers on the behaviours exhibited in there. It touched me many times, and horrified me, probably not quite so much.
Anyway, the point is, when support began to be withdrawn, the uproar was understandably gigantic. People maintain 1-1 relationships with their computer screens, and internet communications about meaningful life events, particularly in a group context, can be incredibly impactful. Start to take that away, it's ... it's difficult for me to find exactly the right phrase here because it can get so extreme, there's no delicate way of putting it. It can hurt people so much it's like you've assaulted them or something. Your fed up, slightly burnt out heart feels like saying to the bastards "Look, for fuck's sake, it's free - just up sticks and go to some other free app if you don't like it, it would make our lives easier", but what you do is be clear, authoritative and insincerely sympathetic, to get them off your back.
I think it would be fair to say that 90% of seasoned community/social managers/creators on the interweb would complain that the most frustrating thing about their jobs is the users. I can tell you - it's very easy to start hating the buggers. It's both inevitable and, conversely, bizarre. But your innate feeling that community and social interaction is probably the most fucking awesome thing about the internet... how it can de-isolate people, how it can give people confidence, how it can allow conversation about the most extraordinary things and how it lets people find each other, amongst all the noise and confusion.... it is those things that you understand without even having to voice them, that allow you to rise above the shouting eejits.
Unless you're Faceparty! Then you throw all your toys out of the pram at once.