Hodgson Blog

Ello, a Haven for Aliases and AKAs

Word on the street is that there’s a new social network in town, and its name is “Ello” (in this scenario, “the street” is a bunch of tech blogs that I read). The primary selling point of this network seems to be that it is now, and ever shall be, devoid of advertisements. It also allows users to employ whatever alias, stage name, or nom de plume they choose, a practice that stands in stark contrast to Facebook’s rigid “real names” policy.

The lack of ads and the relatively small number of users mean that Ello’s user interface is a lot cleaner and more elegant than Facebook’s, which is nice. The founders of the social network explain their motivations in a manifesto on the site, which is brief enough that I shall share it in its entirety:

Your social network is owned by advertisers. Every post you share, every friend you make, and every link you follow is tracked, recorded, and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.

We believe there is a better way. We believe in audacity. We believe in beauty, simplicity, and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership. We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce, and manipulate — but a place to connect, create, and celebrate life. You are not a product.

Clearly, the creators of Ello take issue with the commodification of human beings—the entire “you are the product,” data-driven philosophy that’s made Google and Facebook so massive. The nice thing about this idea is that Ello users won’t have to worry about being tracked constantly and having their personal data sold to the highest bidder. The obvious downside is that it’s unclear at present how the people at Ello are going to pay their bills and—dare I say it?—their eventual shareholders.

As with most buzzworthy developments in the world of social networking, we’ll have to wait and see whether or not Ello gains traction. If the founders are interested in some promotion, I’m already envisioning an unconventional marketing campaign. You see, the first thing that came to mind when I heard of this social network was a line from the movie Waiting for Guffman, a comedic delight created by mockumentary master, Christopher Guest.

Guest’s character in the film, Corky St. Clair, is a small-town theater director with a big city background, whose goal is entice a Broadway producer, the eponymous Guffman, to review a community theater production in the little town of Blaine, Missouri. At one point in the film, as St. Clair discusses his acting chops with the “documentary” crew, he touts his ability to do a Cockney accent, trotting out the following line as evidence: “Ello, ow are ooo?” I guess his dialect coach failed to mention that Cockney speakers don’t tend to drop the initial “y.”

Well, there you have it, the perfect ad for ad-free Ello! I’m sure the company can work out a deal with Guest to allow them to use the clip of Corky St. Clair doing his best / worst Eliza Doolittle impression. If that doesn’t generate some buzz, I don’t know what will. Of course, if you have a better idea, let us know in the comments.


† To me, Christopher Guest will always be Nigel Tufnel from This Is Spinal Tap, the mockumentary that started it all; however, many of you will know him best as Count Rugen, the villainous six-fingered man from Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride. Guest’s list of directorial credits (Best in ShowA Mighty Wind, and For Your Consideration are all well worth watching) is impressive, but his artistic oeuvre is not his only claim to fame: Guest holds a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom as the 5th Baron Haden-Guest, a position he inherited upon his father’s passing in 1996. If you ever see Christopher Guest in public, make sure you address him using the proper style of “Lord Haden-Guest.” Otherwise, you might find yourself at the wrong end of a cudgel carried by an indignant man-at-arms.

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