Opinions from 48hr on Clubhouse

Clubhouse is a new audio social network platform for iOS. It's basically like having a moderated voice-only Zoom call. The entire network is largely three entities:

  1. Users: Human beings who use the app. Clubhouse have taken a pretty hard line on non-human (e.g. business) accounts.
  2. Rooms: Pre-scheduled or impromptu virtual rooms that users can go in. Rooms are where the conversation happens. Only users on the stage can speak to the room. One or many people can be speaking in a room at any one time. Rooms are moderated by a user, who can add or remove users from the stage. Their role is to keep the conversation on track and civil. Everyone else in the room can hear the person/people speaking on the stage. If you're not on the stage, you can't be heard.
  3. Clubs: Are groups of users. They're like Facebook groups or group DMs.

For the past couple of days I've been dipping into some clubhouse rooms. I've heard discussions on sustainability between small UK businesses, startup advice for new founders, large investors talking about the ecosystem, hiring fairs, language learning, news discussion, and random chats.

The audio-only format is interesting and unique. It's part podcast, part zoom call, part audio-only Twitter thread. I have really enjoyed the relaxed, low-effort format of this. It feels alive and human, but maybe that's my socially-deprived Covid brain talking. I've been very impressed by people's civility (it is indeed still early days and invite only), and I've seen moderators do a good job of keeping people on topic, and stopping spam. I do worry that there's potential for spam and un-civility.

I don't know where this new audio-only format, or Clubhouse specifically is headed. It may very well be a flash in the pan.

I have been so impressed by people's generosity. People have offered sincere and useful advice to startup founders, posed interesting questions, and disagreed with (at least some) civility and generosity.

I wonder how much of this is because the format is new and the audience is self-selecting. I think there is something about the medium:

  1. It's engaging: Humans are social creatures. We're wired to like the sound of conversations and storytelling. It's how we learn and remember a lot of information. Having the voice of the person making the statement, and not a plaintext tweet (and maybe gif or emoji) does draw attention, and is just easier to interpret.
  2. It's low activation energy: Having a conversation is the natural and easy thing in the world, so I think people are willing to give more, and more detailed, information. You can't stop to double-check and research (and you're not expected to), and you're not backspacing over your replies to make
  3. It's synchronous: Twitter, Instagram, and Tik Tok will always bet here with content to present you when you're back. If you miss something on Clubhouse it's gone. When life returns to not-lockdown, this might be incredibly impractical. For the now, a world without meet-ups and informal gatherings, it does a surprisingly good job of re-creating these feelings.
  4. It can be on in the background: If I'm working on something monotonous which requires my attention sometimes but not always (re-plotting plants, inbox clearing, unclogging my shower drain) Clubhouse has been great to have on the background. My previous go-to here would be Podcasts, but I've become increasingly selective about what I'm listening to and why. There isn't that pressure with Clubhouse.

I'm interested to see where this goes. It does have the feel of a side hustle. It's not low maintenance like Tik Tok or Instagram - they'll put videos in front of you and just ask you to swipe up and down. Will it become like LinkedIn, or will it become something a bit freer? Is it the right time for audio social media, is it even a good idea? Vine failed in the 2010's but TikTok is bloody huge now.

With everything, it comes down the quality of the content. That requires there to be excellent club and room moderation tools. If the team want growth, they'll need to work on discoverability: finding people, clubs, and rooms with certain areas needs to be easier.

I've been doing this for two days, so I'm sort of an expert.

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