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Clubhouse: Everything You Need to Know

How does it work, is it any good, and how quickly will Facebook and Twitter copy its best features?

Clubhouse is a voice-based social network that feels part corporate conference, part conference call, part corporate podcast. You’ve probably heard of it.

  • How we communicate
  • How we learn
  • How we build status (Or social capital, if you will)

💬 Prologue

I don’t know if you’ve been on social media lately, but let me let you in on a secret. Often, it’s an unpleasant place to be.

👔 The Facts

  • Clubhouse was founded by Paul Davison and Rohan Seth.
  • Launched in beta in March 2020.
  • iOS-only, for now.
  • Invite-only, for now.
  • Installed over 2 million times in first week of Feb 2021.
  • Free to join, with no ads. Clubhouse is introducing features like tipping and paid rooms, however.
  • Backed by Andreessen Horowitz and valued at over $1 billion already (because why not, eh? That’s how valuations work these days. We will “unicorns” into existence).
  • “Celebrities” including Drake (musician) and Elon Musk have popped in for a chat.
  • It was popular in China, briefly, before it got banned.
  • There have already been reports of sexism, racism, and antisemitism. Moderation of live audio is proving tricky.
  • The conversations are deleted once the event ends.

📱 The Experience

Clubhouse opens with a short set of options, similar to the opening sequence on TikTok.

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👍 The Pros

  • You can set up an event to discuss anything on Clubhouse.
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  • For some, audio will be the ideal format to connect with new people. Text and images aren’t for everyone.
  • It’s perfect for mobile/AirPod listening and it will plug a gap while we continue through lockdown.
  • There is more of a thrill to hearing live conversations than listening to podcasts or turning up to a scheduled conference call. Plus voice has an innate intimacy that text (even prose as florid as this) cannot match.
  • It is possible to imagine how unexpected interactions could lead to exciting, new conversations. Clubhouse makes it possible to have these spontaneous exchanges, without the same baggage of other online platforms. We could have people with completely different viewpoints engaging in respectful dialogue, like the olden days. We can dream, eh?

👎 The Cons

  • Live audio is very difficult to moderate. Livestream video is difficult, but there are improving tools to tackle this. Audio is a continuing challenge and it is left to volunteer moderators here. If Clubhouse doesn’t sort out user safety very soon, it won’t last long.
  • Sensationalism tends to win. This format does not reward deep thinking — when people can drop in and drop out so easily, the pressure is on speakers to grab attention. Conspiracy theories have already found a home on Clubhouse.
  • The same people hog the mic. You’ll recognise the people, because they’ll be the same people running events on your LinkedIn. I saw little evidence of a new form of social hierarchy developing here and if Clubhouse just becomes a giant corporate networking event, it won’t last long. Most of these people just are not as interesting as they think they are.
  • And, of course, the big social networks are already planning to rip off Clubhouse’s best features.

📱📱The Clones

I teach executive education courses where we discuss why big companies don’t see new threats coming. These companies have all the money and all the resources, so why should a start-up cause them trouble?

“You don’t need to know everyone there to have a good time, but you should feel comfortable sitting at the table.”

This is imagined as an “additional layer” to the conversations already on Twitter. It seems a more natural milieu for this than Facebook will ever be, even if Twitter remains a fair distance from such a lofty goal itself.

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🤔 The Straight Dope

We opened by discussing the human traits that are exhibited on social media today. It is up to these companies to design platforms that encourage the human behaviours they want to see.

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✏️ Epilogue

In Paris in the 17th century, the marquise de Rambouillet ran the most popular of what would later become known as salons. These conversation evenings started in Italy, but it was in France that they would earn renown.

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Author of the world-famous https://hitech.substack.com/ I used to be with it, but then they changed what ‘it’ was.

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