Early Thoughts on Clubhouse [en]

Sometime back, I got an invitation to Clubhouse. I joined. I was very perplexed. I thought I would write down some thoughts while my eyes are still fresh.

Clubhouse reminds me of Seesmic, a space in which one could disappear for days on end. It reminds me of the excitment of the early days of blogging and social platforms like Twitter and even Facebook. It reminds me of the of videoblogging and audioblogging, later to become podcasting. It reminds me of Netmeeting and chat networks, way back before I left for India.

If you haven’t heard of Clubhouse, or don’t know what it is exactly, here is what you need to know. It’s a live audio social network. Audio only. It’s like Facebook live without the video. It’s like live podcasts, or little private radio stations. Like audio-only zoom, with an audience.

When I say audio-only, it really is audio only. There is no way to communicate with other users. You can start a room and invite people and start talking. And that’s it. Oh ! I nearly forgot. You can set a topic for your room. That’s the only non-audio content you’re allowed on Clubhouse. Apart from your profile bio, of course.

Now, hearing just this, one would be justified in thinking a Clubhouse room would be one big mess of people talking over each other and background noises. But no. Each room has a « stage » : these are the people who can talk. The rest of the room is the « audience ». People in the audience can raise their hand to ask to be invited on stage. The room moderator can invite people on stage, put people back in the audience, mute microphones if necessary.

Most rooms I see in my feed are huge, with hundreds or even thousands of people in the audience. But I see a potential for smaller, niche, « amongst friends » discussions. Many years ago, Suw and I had a short-lived podcast called Fresh Lime Soda. We would catch each other on Skype, talk about interesting stuff, and post it. Clubhouse would be great for this kind of things. Set a time, invite one or two friends and talk about stuff.

You could also organise a « virtual conference » there. Of course, you can already do that on zoom or meet or wherever, but maybe Clubhouse would make such an event more discoverable. There is no friction to joining a room, raising your hand, inviting somebody on stage.

If Clubhouse was mainstream, I’d hold a weekly Q&A for my diabetic cat group on there.

One thing to ponder about, and that we discussed with Arne on the occasion of our first « real » attempt at figuring out this Clubhouse thing, was the lack of video. I really see it as an advantage. The barrier to joining is lower without video. I can jump onto a call without worrying about how I look, what I’m wearing, or people seeing what it looks like where I am. Audio is less invasive. You can « do stuff » while listening to audio, but you can’t do much while watching video. You can hang out in the audience of your favorite Clubhouse room with your phone in your pocket while you do the dishes or go for a walk – just like you would listen to a podcast.

So, if you’d like an invite, or if you’re over there and would like to seize the occasion to play around with the new tool and catch up while we’re at it, let me know !

Also published on Medium.

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