Have I ever told you about my utterly strange job interview in which the interviewer walked out on me? I was applying to work for an internet company that would go belly-up about a month later.
This was in the final throes of the internet boom, when people were still being paid to do fuck all. Indeed, the job I would eventually land paid me to do so very little that I started learning Welsh just to keep my mind active. And we all know how that turned out.
The internet company in question was one of those that believed in the catch-all website concept and was trying to build one targeted at college students.
There persists to this day the ridiculous idea of the portal website, a site from which a user embarks on his or her internet journey, or which encompasses the whole of his or her experience. Are you smelling the bullshit yet? The idea is to build a website that a user would never really need to leave, which translates to audience numbers more appealing to advertisers. How long a person stays on site can often be more important than the actual number of people visiting. But the very nature of the internet makes portal websites a bit foolish. In the same time it takes to come across the dating section in EverythingUnderOneHugeCorporateBanner.com you can just find a website that focuses solely on dating. I think attempting broadcasting via the web is silly.
But no one ever listens to me. If they did, there would be a fucking bullet train running from Reno to Las Vegas, and North Dakota would be a penal colony.
Anyhoo, I went into this interview and cottoned that the guy interviewing me was certain he was onto a winner. He was immensely proud of his clunky no-central-theme website and genuinely excited in talking about it. This probably should have been a clue to me that honest criticism of the product wasn't going to score me any points. So when he asked, "What do you think of the chat feature?" I should not have said: "Actually, I'm not such a big fan of chat. I tend to think of it as a waste of time."
Chat rooms were frustrating experiences of redundancy and flame wars. Nothing of worth was ever said and they were almost inevitably dominated by a minority of flamers (a) who made the experience unpleasant and unproductive
"You. Don't. Like. Chat?!" the interviewer spat in disgust. "OK, uhm..."
Then he got up and walked out. He never came back. After about 10 minutes of sitting there, I stole half a dozen donuts and left.
Almost a decade on, chat rooms are thankfully a thing of the past for everyone other than child predators, but the desire to somehow incorporate users' opinions/feelings into content persists. One method is discussion boards but those are equally clumsy and flame-ridden and require too much effort to maintain.
Recently I heard about Slantly which is a mildly diverting cross of discussion boards and Twitter that I think is supposed to integrate with content, but I'm not 100% sure how. I still don't quite get it, but that hasn't stopped me from joining for the sake of being able to state my opinion in yet another place on the internet (because, you know, four blogs just isn't enough).
My favourite Slantly opinion at the moment: "Professional athletes should be paid in marijuana and iced-out bling."
(a) A FLAMER IS ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE WHO WRITE IN ALL CAPS AND INSULT EVERYTHING YOU SAY BECAUSE YOU ARE A COMMIE FUCKING SOCIALIST MORON WHO IS FORCING GOD OUT OF OUR SCHOOLS!