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Clubhouse app: Factions, tribes, safe spaces and flirting collide in an audio only search for recognition and a leg up



Above: Collage by Lynxotic, Original Photo by Rosie Kerr on Unsplash

Clubhouse: Social Audio App, currently iOS only and invitation required

Clubhouse is a fast growing “new” social media sensation that is growing at an amazing rate. It is also constantly morphing in an endless kaleidoscopic experience that comes from an amazing new technology: the conference call.

Exploring the paradox that having no gifs, no photos, no memes, not even a string of text is now the most added social app with the biggest buzz is as good a starting point as any.

Imagine you are unable to text, unable to send or post a photo, unable to speak unless you are called up or invited to be on on stage, need to use your real name for sign-up and must adhere to the specified topics and protocols of each room.

Read more: Mark Zuckerberg Joins ClubHouse: Crashes the App (for a short time)

Sounds restrictive right? But it is this very contrast with other forms of social media that seems, for many, liberating, even transcendent. Once you realize that you are in a room with, in some cases, 12 or so people on stage and thousands of people listening in the audience, its a bit like a panel discussion, but in a smaller rooms it’s like a small gang in Philly circled around an oil drum fire chatting (or conspiring as it were) while they rub their hands together to keep warm.

Next, imagine, in a few years, when apple’s “Animoji” capability is added, perhaps with a body, the ability to walk around with some scenic backgrounds and you have “Ready Player One” in real life.

Obviously gaming platforms approximate this but for non-gamers, as the tech sophistication advances, it becomes more viable and interesting. And it’s the enthusiasm from the public exploding for the speech only version of this that could be key in hastening the realization.

Read more: Apple CEO Tim Cook: ‘A social dilemma, cannot be allowed to become a social catastrophe’

On the other hand, clubhouse users are raving about, while others are lamenting, the intense intimacy that comes with speaking to, or sometimes whispering in, each other’s ears. The ASMR version of a conference call. With an audience.

There are also music rooms and a music mode – a higher fidelity version of a room where singing playing instruments and more is possible. The idea is to eventually do concerts (possibly paid) and even live collaborations and more.

The phenomenal nature and accelerated adoption since the launch is is perhaps just as much a reaction to the chaos and collisions that are so ubiquitous on platforms like Twitter, Instagram and others, as it is a fascination with the “new-yet-old” options enabled by the Clubhouse technology.

1,500May 2020
600,000December 2020
2 millionJanuary 2021
6 millionFebruary 2021
Sources: TechCrunchNew York TimesMashableCNBCMedium.

Add to all this the perfect synchronicity of the first lockdown phase of the pandemic corresponding to the initial public launch in March, 2020 and you have a historic paradigm shift that may well carry forward for years or even decades. Adaptation to new ways of communicating as a necessity and a natural next step.

Read more: The Social Dilemma 2.0: Follow the Money Edition

How to get your account set up and what’s-what in the app

For a basic breakdown: the app is audio only. Once you are invited (or get on the waiting list and are let in by a sponsor) and ready to set up your account you will be prompted for the usual things, username, real name, bio, phone number and so forth. You can also direct-connect a live link for Twitter and Instagram accounts, which is where the “DMs” have to happen since the app has no built in messaging.

Read more: Facebook, Google, Antitrust and the All Pervasive Underestimation of the Big Tech Threat

Once in, you will see there are “rooms” and “clubs”. Rooms are always available and can be joined or created by all members. If you join a “live” room you are, as default, put into the “audience” which has two sub-sections: the “followed by the speakers” section which gives you a kind of front row seat, and the “non-followed” regular audience. The audience members have no microphone button and cannot speak without it.

Source: FortuneAppfigures.

To become a speaker you can click on a “hand” symbol which activates “raise your hand” allowing any “moderator” (designated with a “green bean” asterisk icon) to invite you to the “stage”, which is where the speakers reside.

The moderators do have the power to interrupt a speaker or even kick a speaker back to the audience, thereby removing any speaking privileges.

Read more: Spacex’s Starlink Broadband Speed Goal just went into the Stratosphere

The magic of the app is in this structure, clubhouse etiquette, and the ability to have multi-minds from all walks of life that, generally, choose a topic for the room and then, with the guidance of the moderators, get input from various speakers on stage.

“Clubs” are like permanent rooms that also have signed-up members (some have thousands or tens of thousands of them) and these often have scheduled sessions, weekly, daily or otherwise, in advance.

According to data from Exploding Topics, searches for “clubhouse app” have increased by 99x over the last 6 months. And are up 3250% over the last 90 days.

Clubhouse search growth

Source: Exploding Topics.

Above: Photo Collage / Lynxotic / Adobe Stock

The celebrity juice effect; enter Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Robinhood’s CEO, Zendaya and more

Rooms and clubs vary in content style, membership and atmosphere, almost in as many ways as can be imagined.

At the top of the list for the media buzz are the recent “spontaneous” appearances of huge names like Musk & Zuckerberg, Andrew Yang, Zendaya, Guy Kiyosaki and many more.

In these “hot” rooms, the audience is currently capped at five thousand, and in the big demand-surges they create “spillover” rooms which are listen-only and also cap out at five thousand each.

Needless to say, when word spreads that a huge celebrity, especially a tech luminary, is in the house the demand for the room skyrockets. This is also a kind of beta test for the servers and for the potential of the future changes expected for the app: paid content.

Read more: How Apple Created the Tech Universe and it Finally Makes Sense

Various ideas have been floated, including “creator” payments, but it is unclear if there will be an admission fee for certain events-based or high-demand rooms, or if some other system will be used to compensate “star” moderators and content creators.

Since the experience shares some characteristics with podcasts, albeit live, and radio, the professional communities from those industries along with Vloggers, social media marketing pros, influencers, a lots and lots of people in finance, fin-tech and most of all Venture Capital, Angel Investors and Startup mentors are everywhere in the house.

Clubhouse has added a number of notable users over the last few months. Here’s a list of notable people that are currently on the platform:

Elon Musk240k
Mark Zuckerberg28.8k
21 Savage904k
Meek Mill1.1M
Terry Crews16.1k
Michael Ovitz5.1k
Ev Williams15.5k
Soulja Boy31.8k

According an article in Medium by Will Oremus as well as another By Casey Newton in The Verge, the initial population of invited members on the app were primarily from tech leaders, tech investors and venture capitalists. Due to this somewhat puzzling choice – as opposed to, for example, college students, there is a feeling that the Clubhouse is built to create a safe space for accomplished, established tech stars and personalities to be on stage as they might at SWSX or CES (more the former), without being heckled by journalists or the audience (which is by definition on mute).

There’s a somewhat conspicuous absence of political rooms or anything related to journalism or digital media, which according to the articles above is potentially by design. Even that has already started to change, however.

With a kind of trade-show, live podcast-feeling and endless variations in topics added to the almost overwhelming changes and expansion of speakers and audiences, any disappointing feelings you may have about using the app are likely to disappear once the next, totally different room or topic is encountered. Like the weather in Montana.

Social status competition that carries over from other platforms is rampant but not all pervasive

At this point, many rooms and clubs are, not surprisingly about making money and / or how to achieve success online, on social media networks in particular. Aa a powerful educational tool, these rooms can seem like you are auditing a lecture or panel discussion at Harvard, or at least your local community college.

At the same time many on stage come across as having an eye on the prize of becoming, by early entry, a clubhouse star, just as everyone saw with TikTok and YouTube beforehand.

And that lust for acceptance and followers (there are no likes or heart emojis to gift) can create an odd mixture of profusely and oft professed love for prospective followers combined with a fear of possible encroachment by lower level competitors looking for status by getting more attention.

Fortunately, as more Rooms and Clubs proliferate, many topics and learning categories have various rooms to choose from, and the ones with the most professional and genuine moderation and room-vibes will likely be the most popular.

No one really knows how the evolution and expansion will manifest, but it will not be dull to watch it unfold, at least not for quite a while.

Politics, controversy and offbeat subject matter are only now beginning to proliferate…

An odd and strange exception to the dearth of political fireworks came in a club session recently that featured a very, very angry man railing against, surprise, the media (and its coverage of the US gov). I won’t mention any names as recording and perhaps quoting from rooms is verboten.

To paraphrase the gist of his wildly eloquent tirade, on a level one might expect from a highly educated technologist, he posited that “because he is very smart” “team fortify” (his coinage for the “blue team” that sounded like shorthand for Democrats and some part of the left) was going to destroy him “reputationally” [sic], “financially and potentially, physically” (meaning he expects to be killed for being too smart) and that his response to that is “Fuk You!”.

He repeated this several times in alternation with his ultra-educated machine-gun word-bullets aimed at an unseen enemy, all with an incredible furor and volume. He never elaborated, during the time I listened in, as to what hits his reputation or finances had taken and seemed to be physically quite alive.

He was surrounded on “stage” by some extremely impressive, talented and articulate people who also seemed somewhat baffled as to why the man was so incredibly upset. No one dared to contradict him or say much except to mirror his highly intelligent ramblings with supportive sounding intellectual elaboration on his larger point, which was something like “the bad guys are expecting to be considered good guys because that are better than the really bad guys.”

There were around 3000 in the silent audience (no clapping or sound of any kind allowed).

The experience of that club session was truly surreal and perhaps a preview of what may come when the android half of the world joins and the most “engaging” characters begin to make waves (and dollars) via this new medium.

Clubhouse (and similar voice and audio based social media networks or features) is here to stay and will only get more interesting

While there are many disappointing reactions that are natural to feel, like how quickly all the biographical pages of members suddenly look like the emoji-filled corollary on Twitter, the fascinating diversity of ideas options and uses far outweigh the negative aspects.

And, although, mirroring an Instagram norm, people religiously compete to see how few others they can follow while amassing thousands of followers themselves (in the belief that status comes from being so desirable that every one needs you but you don’t need anyone else), this may not remain, as Clubhouse, for the most part, does not have much in the way o bikini competitions or other glamor and status seeking options of that type.

For some, it might be just too intense to speak directly with people you’ve never met and perhaps never will, even as hundreds or thousands listen in.

If that’s the case, you can still just pop into a room or join a club on your favorite topic. Once there you can listen, learn and build the confidence to raise your hand and give your 2 cents, or even get invited to be onstage as a featured speaker.

Please tune in for more updates on new features and developments, as this article will be the first in a series on Clubhouse and the new social audio revolution..

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