Enough. Social. Networks. Good God.


I get a lot of e-mail at Maximum PC, and it seems like whenever I go on one of my mini-vacations for a few days or so, that's an excuse for every person under the sun to bombard my inbox with story pitches. It's like a round of Guitar Hero , with the days I'm gone as the notes -- the more I'm out of the office, the higher the multiplier for the crazy e-mails that come in.

I normally don't mind the PR bombardments, and I suspect said PR people don't mind it when I casually drop said e-mails into the digital trash can. But it's a mutual understanding. You send an e-mail under the 1-out-of-100 assumption that it'll be applicable to Maximum PC, and the "how many deadlines does Murph have today"-o-meter serves as the grand multiplier for that ratio. Again, another Guitar Hero analogy; don't blame me, I haven't played in days.

Sometimes, just sometimes, I get something in the Inbox that's just too good to pass up. Now I realize the bitter irony of bitching about a poorly targeted press release while, at the same time, giving said company some degree of press just by the mention. Ignore that. I just have to say something about the new "Thomas Kinkade Network" though. Yes, that's right. The Thomas Kinkade Network . That dude, who paints those paintings, that are sold in those high-end stores at the mall... well, he has a social network now. MySpace and Facebook, watch out; here comes the -- and I quote -- "biggest branded online and social networking site ever."

Minus the fact that it sucks.

Seriously. Point your browser over to said network, and please tell me that I'm not losing my mind here. I realize we're only looking at a preview right now, but the site beautifully illustrates all the failures associated with this new Web 2.0 mindset that every entrepreneur's clinging to:

1) You cannot build a new social network.

Or, rather, you cannot build a new social network that does nothing to distance itself from the big players. If Will Smith is already on Facebook and, heaven forbid, Myspace, then why would he bother creating a *new* profile in a new, paper-thin community? Especially one that seems to be more of a data mining operation for marketing purposes than a true "social network" of sorts. Enter ThomNet .

2) A social network is not born on marketing.

Why am I on Facebook? Because it's simple, easy, and I'm not bombarded with crap or corporate culture as a member. Why am I not joining Thomas Kinkade Network? Because it's a front; a "community" completely branded around a corporation. I wouldn't join a PepsiPalace or a ToyotaTown because I don't want to have to give up my identity for, in essence, crappy rewards. A site like Facebook gives me a tangible reason to exist as a member; Thomas Kinkade is just an ugly, re-branded, quasi-YouTube facade. Create a community and then market it to it, if you must. But starting with the cart in a field of dead Web 2.0 horses is wrong, wrong, wrong.

3) Video != Cool .

Listen, just because your site has videos doesn't mean that said videos are of any value to your audience. YouTube is popular and fun because there's enough original, interesting content to make it so. Do I watch advertisements on YouTube? No. Would I watch the latest Reebok commercial on YouTube? Only if it stars an office and a linebacker . Now, watching Thomas Kinkade paint Graceland is one thing -- as a devout fan of Bob Ross , I can see the allure. But I highly, highly doubt there's any interest whatsoever in watching "featured content" (advertisements) for a Realtor, a random winery, and a California art gallery. Come on, people. Original content is not an advertisement. Offer the community something of value, and they'll respond with eyeballs.

Of course, in a day and age when a website based on 160-word away messages can flourish, Lord only knows that Google will end up buying the sprawling Thomas Kinkade Network by the time I'm done removing my foot from my mouth. That said, I'm still willing to gamble that this "new form of broadcast media" will be a total, utter waste of effort. Talk about painting yourself into a corner, eh?

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