Clubhouse App: My First 2 Weeks

Clubhouse is the latest and greatest social media app, and I am all-in on it.

 
I joined in late January, 2021 but there has been a set of power users or influencers that have been building the community since fall of 2020.
 

At the time of this writing it is still in invite-only beta, but there are already thousands of users from all over the world. Not bad for a company that has only 9 employees.

What Is the Clubhouse app?

So the gist of Clubhouse is pretty simple: it’s like live podcasting where you get to interact. Clubhouse likes to describe itself “drop-in audio chat” but I like to describe it as a huge conference center where, as you travel down an infinite hallway, you can poke your head into different “rooms” and see who is speaking about a certain topic. There may be one speaker “on stage”, but more often than not there is a panel of a few moderators. You can choose to sit in the audience and listen passively, or you can choose to raise your hand and be invited on stage to participate in the conversation.
 
If the panel members follow you, you get moved to the front of the room, thereby gaining more visibility from the others in the audience.
 

Had enough of the conversation? You can leave quietly without disturbing the rest of the room.

Clubhouse Rooms vs. Clubs 

There are also “clubs” which are collections of rooms that generally all connect to the same topic. Photography for example, or marketing. You can choose to follow clubs, or be added as a member. With member status, you can open your own room in that club, potentially gaining you many more listeners than if you started a room on your own. There are certain rules around starting your own club, but mainly the app founders want to see you creating rooms consistently before you are approved to start your own club.

Can I send DMs in Clubhouse?

There is no in-app direct messaging (all of that is handled through Instagram or Twitter) and the only real metric is the amount of followers you have, or the amount of people you follow.
 

Seriously, that’s it. The simplicity of it is amazing. But that’s not even the good part.

What Makes Clubhouse Special?

The best part of Clubhouse is that everyone is generally on the same playing field with the same rules. Meaning, you could be in an audience with Elon Musk or Oprah and he or she would have to raise his hand just like anyone else, unless of course the room moderator instantly makes them a moderator as well.
 

At the moment it’s a bit like the Wild West with people trying to stake their claim in their corner of Clubhouse, creating some rooms with many moderators in different time zones so that the rooms never close. Some rooms can be private and last only a few minutes. Most rooms, I’ve found, last about an hour or two.

My Experience So Far

Over my first two weeks, I’ve found that I have a lot of different emotions about the app. Here’s a very brief list of the pros and cons as I see them (believe me, there will be more!):
 

PROS

  • It is wonderful to be able to join a conversation of people interested in your favorite topic, and to be able to access that hive mind and have your questions answered. The networking possibilities are endless
  • Clubhouse gives everyone a chance to interact, open up, gain knowledge, share feelings, and connect like never before
  • You can come and go as you please with very few lingering effects or posts that you have to worry about haunting you later in life. However, it is very easy to gain a positive or negative reputation, just like in real life.
  • The community is self-governing at this point. I expect this to change to some degree as the platform grows.
  • The access to information is phenomenal and the ability to directly speak with mentors is unprecedented
  • Personally, I have been able to gain all sort of new insights to the business of photography and how it may help my portraits
 

CONS

  • Privacy – I wouldn’t say anything in a room that I wouldn’t feel i could say to someone’s face. While there are no recordings (that I know of), there is nothing to stop people from recording parts of the conversations on another device
  • Once a conversation happens, there is no history of it in the public, so unlike podcasts, you can’t go back and relisten to content
  • There are a lot of self-proclaimed experts, coaches, marketers, etc all vying for your attention. I have found that many of the business minded rooms tend to attract a certain personality type with over-inflated egos and claims of having the perfect business system to make you millions of dollars.
  • Cliques can be formed very quickly and it sometimes becomes hard to penetrate the layer of moderators and join the conversation
  • Addiction to the platform and creating a fear of missing out on a particular conversation. I am already seeing people that are on the app for many hours a day trying to gain relevance

THINGS TO WATCH

  • It will be very interesting to watch the aspects of freedom of speech and what “cancel culture” does to the app. There are already some fringe elements that are affecting users that they happen to disagree with. This includes things like reporting a topic or a speaker as “misinformation or fake news” and having that person banned from the platform. Blocking and reporting could easily be abused
  • Monetization is a hot topic and while the founders of the app want it to happen, they have said that they do NOT want ads to be part of Clubhouse. However, I can certainly see things like subscription to premium rooms or clubs, or paid tickets to special events being in the near future
  • Follower bots or follow-farms that pump up a user’s follower numbers so that they gain access as an “influencer”. Remember, like any social media app, it’s all about perceived numbers

What is the future of Clubhouse?

While the future of Clubhouse is certainly bright, It has reminded me of this poem from the Golestan

Human beings are members of a whole,

In creation of one essence and soul.

If one member is afflicted with pain,

Other members uneasy will remain.

If you have no sympathy for human pain,

The name of human you cannot retain.”

 

Either the community will self-regulate and flourish and we stand witness to the beginnings of a new type of social interaction, or it will become just another app lost to the history and legend of the silicon gods.

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