Tech viewpoint on antisocial apps
A view from Nick Ford-Young

Tech viewpoint on antisocial apps

Stepping into the start-up abyss with a new social tech idea has presented a few more questions than I expected. Of course, the painstaking process of poring over a problem, a need and a solution is inevitable but, even then, the thinking is not done. Along with "What am I improving?", it has also seemed important and unavoidable to consider "What am I replacing?" and "Will it have any negative impact and, if so, how?"...

Technology is a wonderful thing but, when building an internet start-up providing a "social service", it’s relevant to acknowledge the antisocial elements of some of the services we have at our fingertips. Often, they have little connection with the real world. As we add to our list of must-have, get-this-now-and-fast social apps, just which ones do we feel are truly beneficial? My company focuses on linking musicians to each other in real life at real-world studios, but it has not escaped me that our booking software linking the two is automating and streamlining online booking to greatly reduce the need for receptionists.

Can I live with this? Yes. Technology means the solving of problems, the easing of tasks and the quickening of daily life, and it should be embraced and developed. Could I, however, live with musicians jamming online for evermore and never meeting up to hear the sound of a guitar blend with a drum kit?

No, I can’t think of anything worse. My point is that tech is exciting and unavoidable, making endless social possibilities come to life, but it is also important to be aware of its real-world impact.

As for the new possibilities that advances in technology bring to advertising, should we ask ourselves when it has gone too far? Is it that the advertising on the sites we explore is of more interest to us, and therefore targeted, predictive technology is a wonderful thing? Or is it irritating and borderline intrusive?

The 50 dating-app flashing banner ads a day because I am 28 crosses the intrusive line

Nevertheless, as a small company owner, and with the fast progression of interference advertising, predictive ads, geolocation, social history-focused ads and online data collecting as advanced as cursor-tracking and cross-platform targeting, is there anything I would not consider when I’m promoting my company? The answer is that advertising is fine if it adds value to what the user is viewing. So, if I am looking for a guitarist, it is fine to assume I may want to know about the nearest music shop. But the 50 dating-app flashing banner ads a day because I am 28 crosses the intrusive line. The ever-quickening trend of auctioning off targeted ad space will no doubt continue, but the holy grail will never be thousands of impressions a minute; instead, it should be careful targeting paired with organic SEO. For good reason, this is far harder to achieve.

It seems, with these tech-induced dilemmas, there is a line. But where we draw it will determine just how the company is perceived.

Nick Ford-Young is the co-founder of Meet & Jam