Soul-searching

Andrew Boon posted 14th of December 2014 in Boonex News. 14 comments.

Why?

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them. (Dalai Lama)


Why do we do this?  Why do you do this? What drives us all in creating new software and new social networks? BoonEx has been building community software for online communities for well over a decade, always motivated by the idea of uniting people. But, why?

 

We face proliferation of virtual socialising, with various tools available for just about any kind of human activity or mode of communication. These tools evolved and have become very efficient. In fact, one may argue that we have too much online social networking in our lives today. To the point when it makes us less social in offline world. To the point, even, that it conditions more gullible to become addicted, zombielike junkies, constantly craving a virtual ego-boost. Yet another source for daily dopamine hit. Opium for the masses.

 

Where do we sit in this environment? Perhaps we are a little too emotionally "involved" into what BoonEx does (or rather why BoonEx does what it does) as a business, but we just can't bare to witness deterioration of what used to be high-ground motives happening across the industry. It has never been and will never be just about money for us. We absolutely must see how do we help the world become better by what we are doing. And now, just before the New Year, just before two major software releases and just before the biggest transformation of BoonEx in over a decade I ask you to join us in pondering the big "why" question together. Together, because ultimately BoonEx just makes the tools, while you are the ones who's using them to shape the present and the future of social web. 

 

Do we reeeally have a problem?

A perfection of means, and confusion of aims, seems to be our main problem. (Albert Einstein)

 

After all, like with porn and gambling, as long as it is legal, whatever consenting adults choose to do is fine, right? Trends come and go. We've been sheepishly watching tellies for a century, now it's "The Feed"... so what? At least we can curate better. Smart ones can even train the dragon to bring only good stuff.  The smartest ones manage to ration their own screen time and actually stay connected with tangible reality. And if someone is shallow enough to completely dissolve into "the matrix", well... good riddance, right?

 

No. 

 

First, we are all connected. Millenia ago humans have become social, interdependent and caring. It is absolutely vital for us all to look after each other and help each other. We can't just let things like bullying, depressions, suicides, family collapses and aggression slide. Too many of them are happening due to feeling of isolation and inadequacy brought by illusions delivered in daily dosages by social networks. 

 

Second, we have children. Discrimination skills are generally not inborn. They're learned. And children are infinitely trusting. They trust our words, but more so they trust our deeds. What we say they consider, what we do they imitate. Now, we may come with a perspective that helps us to keep one foot out of the mud, but they don't have that experience. They're born into the world of shiny screens. Their parents seem to love these screens, too. So, the screens seem good. Whatever comes out of the screens seems to be good and exciting. Kids are also THE target consumers of most social networking products. Apps and sites are honed to hook teenagers and young adults before anyone else. That's where engagement and growth is. Through social networking and the Internet in general our children are often exposed to professionally crafted "traps" that present as handy services or exciting content. Traps designed to lure attention and convert "views" into profit, without giving much of real value. 

 

Third, we have a glut and a monopoly. As far as online social networking is concerned we have every tool imaginable. Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Snapchat, etc. etc. Our phones and computers have all possible "sharing" tools built-in. All those services evolved so much that there's hardly anything you can technically do better or simpler. They're not rigid, too! They've all learnt the hard lessons of MySpace and Friendster. They keep moving. They're incredibly efficient, well-funded, fast and addictive. Big chunks of functionality became standardised, making services easily interchangeable. They all do it all, and in almost the same way. The space has largely converged and commoditised. Hardly anyone is looking for "a" social network anymore. There are online monopolies that everyone is complacent about. The game is impenetrable and players are increasingly self-serving. 

 

So, yes, we do have a problem.

 

And, yes, we do have a solution.

A problem is a chance for you to do your best. (Duke Ellington)

 

As web-entrepreneurs you and we are uniquely positioned to not only solve the problem, but also benefit from the solution. We can introduce products that will disrupt current trends and redefine the way people use social web. We can transform social networking into something meaningful, motivating and uplifting. Something we can let our kids use without reservation. Something that makes the world better. And if not us, there's hardly anyone else capable of stopping the collective slide. 

 

So, why us and what exactly it is that we can do?

 

We are independent builders. We build niche social networks. Absolute majority of BoonEx clients are bootstrapped startups, part-time businesses, hobby sites, mom-and-dad ventures and solo gigs. People that have fresh ideas, true motives and freedom of choice. People that are part of the greater community, which they serve by bringing to life crazy plans, while funding them by family savings and lunch money. Real people that somehow dare to believe that they can launch The Next Big Thing. It takes this kind of people to make a difference.

 

We should build websites that serve good purposes. This would be an incredibly powerful paradigm shift. Social networking must turn into a tool that aids in achieving real-life goals. The more specific and the more targeted - the better. Laser-focused communities that support authentic interests without distraction of generic entertainment.

 

To illustrate... I have a 9 y/o son, who's very inquisitive. Naturally, he's very attracted to technology and especially the Internet. He can't control his screen-time very well (we checked). So, we generally don't allow any kind of unattended screen-time. The only exception is research that aids to real-life experience. When he's doing origami, he is allowed to watch YouTube instructions. When he's growing crystals, he is allowed to read wiki-how. When he plays violin, he is allowed to search for new sheet music. He may not do research without doing the thing. So far it works. In a few years, however, he'll be free to make his own choices and will certainly want to widen his scope of online experiences. Social networking, engaging as it is, will allure him. He will have the world of choices. If we succeed in building enough niche social networks that would further amplify his interests, he'd continue pursuing excellence in what he does. If, however, we let generic social networks dominate, he'd be distracted and sucked into mindless wasteland of rehashed sensations, daily selfies and coffee-cup mugshots. 

 

And thus, BoonEx will concentrate on building software that works best for purpose-driven, content-centric, interest-based social websites. Take the cue and make a difference. 

 
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moonsoon2u
As you mentioned by your self dolphin should be a social networking platform which should serve a meaningful purpose to all type of users. Ever thought about introducing age filter? Love to have that function in dolphin, where underage user won't be exploited by an incidental adult content. Not like the common "Agree if above 18" function. Underage user should not be allowed at all due to their chosen DoB. What you say?
houstonlively
I think you missed the entire point of Andrew's post. He obviously put considerable thought into his words, and all you can come up with is a neat feature for a porn site?
moonsoon2u
Nope. I don't want my website to become voilence or porn content site for kidz. For porn site you put age restriction not the age filter. Cause ill make sure people give correct DoB. Got my point?
houstonlively
Great post Andrew! Nicely done.
houstonlively
Andrew, a common obstacle many of us face in building those niche sites, is access to a team of reliable and talented coders for custom work. I'm not talking about simple little mods that developers around here that we are all familiar with can knock out in a week. I'm talking about projects that take more than just some casual coding in your spare time whenever you're not working your day job. Something that may take a serious, well organized effort.

Andrew, have you ever given any thought see more to setting up a team for doing customizations and special modules for clients? I'm not talking about something that many coders around here will do for a few hundred bucks. Let's say projects in the $2k to $10K range... maybe more. Projects like this take a well organized, well managed, and trustworthy team. Such a team is difficult, or impossible to find. If you do find someone who says they have such a team, can they be trusted? Will they see your project through to completion? Will they be around a year from now? Will they even be around tomorrow?

Don't answer hastily, but give some thought to a Boonex special project team. A team that would be self-funded by the work it takes on. A team that serious minded Dolphin users could trust in every way.
Andrew Boon
We used to do it some years ago. Some of our very first clients were getting A LOT of deep customisation work and we received decent compensation for the effort. Here's what we've learnt...

- Custom work takes consumes massive amount of time, mostly spent for negotiation pre and post delivery. Clients rarely feel happy about paying for that time. 9 out of 10 projects wouldn't have a clear technical assignment.

- As the platform developer we're in a crossfire. Clients would expect version updates see more to play nice with the mod (after all BoonEx did both), but wouldn't badge on requests to modify assignment to prevent potential version update disruptions. One's "vision" is untouchable. Problems are on us.

- IF we price in all the time spent for the work, further adjustments in case of version updates and all potential implications that may arise due to conflict of interest (like, say, us developing a default feature that is "similar" to the custom mod), then the job cost would look unrealistic.

I guess my point is that it CAN be done, but by someone else. Otherwise clients (or we) end up paying for issues arising from getting the job done by the main platform developer. Good 3rd party customisation group may be able to figure it out much better. I think AQBsoft guys have been rather good so far.

And in general, I believe that non-modular, broad customisation of an off-the-shelf platform is a bad idea anyway. Cost is comparable with development of a re-usable module with slightly less integrated "feel", while future-proofing is nearly impossible. More extensions, templates and options that can be carried over to newer versions is what I'd be looking at. You may also see that reflected in... you know what. :)
houstonlively
Maybe I'll just hire Alex or Anton full time and let you find another coder
mannishpb
lmao, thought i was the only one saw that...
Expertzkris
nice post from Mr Boon nice pic too..
badeyemo
In this blog, I feel like you're talking about us at views.ng. Please permit me to borrow some of your words and sentences as we put together our 'about us' pages. Great post; thanks Andrew.
Andrew Boon
Thank you! Sure, use whatever words seem to fit and good luck with your cause.
 
 
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