Relationships, the Slow Web, and Zolodeck

I recently discovered the Slow Web movement, and I think in many ways, it reflects what we’ve been feeling here at Zolo Labs.

Most of us are on multiple social networks, have multiple email accounts, use multiple instant messaging programs, use multiple collaboration tools online like to-do lists, project trackers, file-sharing services, office suites… the list just goes on. Just as the number of programs and services we use now doesn’t seem to end, nor does the stream of incoming messages. Emails, tweets, inbox messages, photos, likes, tumbls. More and more, every day. And each day, our need to stay on top of it all just keeps on increasing. Everything is urgent, and everything is now.

Too many incoming streams!

Meanwhile, we were noticing something else… and that was that despite all this constant activity across all these mediums of communication, and despite how large our network was becoming (thousands of Twitter followers, hundreds of LinkedIn contacts, thousands of email contacts, hundreds of “friends” on Facebook…), no matter how many collaboration tools we used to work ever more closely with all these people, our actual relationships weren’t getting any stronger. In fact, we seemed to be deluged by all these streams of incoming messages and notifications, and not only are we falling ever more behind on keeping up with it all, but it seemed to us that our relationships with these very people are getting ever more superficial. The signal to noise ratio of all these thousands of messages has been on a steady decline, and it seems that this decline has strong co-relation with the weakening of our actual ties with our friends/family/colleagues/contacts/whoever.

It’s not just that there’s this co-relation, but there’s something rather more insidious going on. All these tools (the many social networks, the real-time messaging, online sharing and collaboration tools, etc) are, in theory, meant to make us feel more connected with one another. Instead, all we have is this false sense of security that we’re somehow closer to each other, simply because we’ve added each other as friends somewhere, and we’re sending each other all these notes, photos, tweets, and whatever else. After all, who hasn’t remarked that ah yes, I’m connected with that person on LinkedIn, or we’re friends on Facebook. And what does that really mean? Is there really a strong tie with that person? Or even an actual relationship at all? Or has our habit of adding everyone we meet, indiscriminately, to one social network or another, just become a more modern version of collecting business cards of everyone we meet? And adding all these people, while we think they increase the value of our “network”, they really just add to the noise of all this urgent buzz of notifications, updates, messages, shares, and the like.

Whatever happened to actually focusing on relationships? LinkedIn used to have a tag-line that read “Relationships Matter”. It now seems that since they can monetize resumes far better, they’ve given up all pretenses of caring about relationships between people. Their tag-line now reads “Be great at what you do”. Which is fine, every business needs to focus on what they care about, but somehow, we still think of LinkedIn as a social network… But how social are we on LinkedIn? It’s become more about personal branding, self aggrandizing, and self promotion, resumes, adding to your “connections”, and building your “network”. I’m not complaining, I hold LinkedIn stock, and I’m happy they’re focused on all this, and that they’re making more and more money every year. It’s just that they aren’t the guys who care about relationships between people any more. In similar fashion, nor is Facebook, or Google+, or any of the other “social” networks.

Then again, we tend to forget, that the task of building valuable, fulfilling relationships, is ours alone. No external, hosted service is going to magically do it for you. Not even Zolodeck, the new relationships manager that we’re building here at Zolo Labs. We started thinking about Zolodeck because of what we saw happening to our own relationships. As we moved jobs and so on, took our careers in new directions, moved from one city (or even country) to another, we noticed we were letting inertia and laziness weaken our bonds with family, friends, and colleagues. We saw this happen over the years, even as the sheer number of people we were “connected to” online continued to increase, often dramatically. What was the point?

The Slow Web movement is about everything the Fast Web is not. The fast web is about more and more, faster and faster, all about real-time, and about instant gratification. The Slow Web is about stopping, breathing, and smelling the roses. Zolodeck is about people, not about connections. It’s about relationships, not about real-time updates. Conversations are important, obviously, so we help you have great ones. But Zolodeck will not show you every notification from every connection you have. We’ll help you focus on the people you’re connected to, and help you strengthen your bonds the old fashioned way – slowly, and one at a time. You’ll see everything from a new perspective – and that’s the people-centric one – not the aggregate network centric one, not the status feed one.

You know this truth – it’s more important to have a smaller number of stronger relationships, that the thousands of people in your “network”. In the end, all we have are our relationships – our family, friends, co-workers, both from our past and our present, and the broader community that we’re a part of. We’re building Zolodeck to help you focus on this more human aspect of networking.

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