There's a Matrix-like movie called Equillibruim that stars Christian Bale where an omnipresent Big Brother character called "Father" appears on TV screens across the land. We find out later that the real Father died years ago and the powers that be voted to continue to use his digital likeness to rule the masses.
Lately, that's sort of how I feel about MySpace.
Of course, I know that MySpace founder Tom Anderson isn't really dead, but when his own profile got hacked and he never addressed the community about it, you couldn't help but wonder if he and his millions are largely checked out.
I mean, he doesn't even seem to really use the service, other than to be everyone's default friend and to accept comment worship. No cool layout. Same pic all the time. No widgets. Jeez, adopt a BunnyHero pet or something. In fact, despite the fact that he gets 100's of comments a day, Tom has only addressed the community seven times in the last year through bulletins...oh..check that..six. One of them was a spam bulletin sent when his profile got hacked.
Whenever my profile gets hacked or my widgets suddenly don't work, I look to hear from the voice of MySpace... and I get...silence. As spammers and hackers run amuck on this site, the community is made to feel like they are fending for themselves.
Contrast that with Facebook.
The other day, I was recruiting for a position through Facebook by targeting young marketing people. I didn't get 30 emails out to people with public profiles about a real job from a real company before I tripped the spam alarm and was warned against it. When I contacted the support email address they gave me about it, an actual human with a name answered my questions and politely asked me not to use Facebook for recruiting. And when users were up in arms over the newsfeed, you couldn't login to the site without hearing directly from Mark Zuckerberg who, like seemingly all the other people who work at Facebook, actually use the site. They even worked hard to get new privacy settings into the system.
The same holds true for Craigslist, where Craig Newmark cares about the community so much that he has handed the day to day running of the business to someone else while he spends all of his time on customer service issues. He trolls forums and chases down New York City real estate scams. Talk about rolling up your sleeves!
Spam, scams, and other bad stuff are products of MySpace's relatively open architecture, which is part of what makes it great in the first place. I understand that. What I want is a voice, Tom's or anyone else from behind the curtain, to talk me through it all...an actual human who tries to explain what's going on and makes me feel like we're all in the same boat. If Tom's kickin' it in Aruba with his millions, good for him, but then there should be another voice to anchor the site. Wendy from Customer Service... we could all be her friend. Or, maybe he's working hard fighting pedophiles or setting age policies or whatever...the point is, the average user's experience is that MySpace is a ship cast adrift. Everyday, another one of my friends gets their profile hacked or sends a spam bulletin they didn't intend to. Fake people try to add me left and right. (Sidenote: There's going to be big market for average looking models in the spam profile world, because right now, the girls that try to add me are too hot to be believeable as actual humans using the service. Get some average looking people to add me and maybe I'll fall for it.)
Equally ignored is the development community that has both benefitted and benefitted from the site's open architecture. The other day, aspects of the Flash embed code were changed completely without warning, wreeking a good deal of havoc, albeit temporarily, with the widgetosphere. Would a public developer notice ahead of time been that much trouble? I know we would have liked to be able to tell our customers that their avatars might experience some odd behavior and what to do about it.
The site is still growing. Its only going to get more and more commercial. It needs someone telling the users where that line is going to be... that there's someone out there who cares about the quality of their experience.
Tommy, can you hear me?