The other day J.D. Lasica, a good guy and good neighbor, invited me to join his online social network at this site called Orkut.com. The site has wonderful potential for helping people find other people they’d never meet otherwise — sort of like storing Internet serindipity in a central location.
A central quirk of Orkut is that it’s an invitation-only service. You can’t get in unless you’ve got a pal who’s already in. At the moment Orkut’s invitation system is broken. I sent out three dozen invitations the other day and none of them have gotten to their destinations.
I posted a note yesterday to Prints the Chaff, my newspaper editor blog, announcing that all these invitations were on the way. Within hours a couple of my most devoted readers — who were among the first on my invitations list — sent me e-mails that found nice ways of saying, “Tom, why haven’t you invited me?”
It was a minor embarrassment and no harm was done, but the exercise seemed to encapsulate how we have come to accept busted technology because we’re so powerless to do anything about it.
Orkut’s Web site has a disclaimer saying, in effect, “the site’s under construction and bad stuff’s bound to happen in the next few months.” But nowhere does the site say, “oh, you know, the invitation-only model doesn’t work right now because the invitation system has broken down.” Kinda like a cut-rate rental car company telling you “you gotta expect some bugs at these prices” and finding out the car you’ve got has no gas tank. The least they could do is tell you where to get one.
The concept of “online social networking” is a fraud when the technology breaks down. That’s why it’s a big deal when a venture like this aggravates the early adopters. I realize a popular way to work the kinks out of a system is to put it out there bugs-and-all and let the users uncover the system’s flaws. If they whine the reply is, “well, it’s beta site, that’s what’s supposed to happen.”
I don’t care, it still irritates me.