When Malcolm Gladwell wrote Blink, it changed the way that we think. It made us realise that first impressions really do count – and in fact, we only have the blink of an eye before our conditioning, our prejudices and our expectations kick in.
So it is hardly surprising then that a site like Chatroulette is generating a lot of buzz and, in the process, generating as much fear as excitement. It is a site that works on the level of the blink – randomly selecting two participants and allowing them to share their webcams. If you see something that you don’t wish to, you can click the Next button and skip to another, anonymous webcam.
When I first heard about it, there were various reports of voyeurism, exhibitionism and so on. It sounded like the early days of the internet – but with video. However, just weeks later, there is a certain level of “gaming” starting to take place – with participants seeking to surprise, confuse and even challenge others.
Take a look at this video. Think about the experience of the participants. What are they expecting? What are they hoping for? Is there a power relationship at play? What are the participants exchanging?
What we are seeing, already, is a maturing not necessarily of the TECHNOLOGY but of the PARTICIPANTS. Our capacity to work with and then transform the relationship we have with technology is accelerating (at least in pockets) – and those who are socially savvy on the web are engaging and challenging other participants. This is a trend that is not likely to end anytime soon.
The important thing to think about is not what the technology is doing, but which behaviours are these technologies enabling? Then you need to think about your business and whether there is a connection with your brands, opportunities for your products/marketing or a thin slice of innovation that you can apply to the way you do business. Platforms like Chatroulette may not not appear to have much value at first glance, but then neither did email 20 years ago. The challenge for us all is to find the value that lies underneath. It’s there. You just need to look below the surface.