Marc Orchant was my friend. He made a single statement that may have saved Global Neighbourhoods from becoming yet another failed book project. In March 2005, Scoble and I talked our publisher, Jon Wiley into hiring Marc as our editor.
Thirty days later, Robert and I had not yet produced a single chapter to edit. In fact, we had not filed a single word. We were too busy fighting like Oscar and Felix in the Odd Couple. We disagreed on everything about the book, including the title, the language the writing process and inadvertently, we had placed Marc in between us like a ping pong ball between two paddles.
Marc called me late on a Sunday afternoon to inform me that he was resigning from the project. “You guys don’t need an editor,” he told me. “You need a marriage counsellor.” Marc’s resignation jarred Robert and I into the reality of our situation and we started collaborating in earnest. We produced a pretty good book and I told Marc that we owed him a debt of gratitude for the wake up call.
Marc died suddenly on Dec. 2, leaving a wonderful wife and two kids. I think of Marc from time-to-time, as most people remember friends who have gone, but I had no plans to share this story, until Twitter today, recommend that I follow Marc. I clicked on it, and saw that his last tweet is still in December 2009. As I thought about it, I realized that I almost certainly still follow Marc. It shouldn’t matter because he is not posting and most of us don’t think to unfriend and unfollow people we care about when they die.
I did mention the incident on Twitter and Facebook and received several comments on people who have had similar experiences. Deb McAllister mentioned she had received a similar invite from Facebook on the first anniversary of her friend’s death.
Deb and I and other people who share similar experiences will survive the little twinges of sorrow that such macabre reminders cause. The question is why should we?
It should be a pretty simple process to take down all accounts that remain inactive for a period of time–let’s say 90 days. The social networks do not need to investigate why an account goes inactive, but if someone does not use their account for 90 days, it should be classified as inactive and not be counted. Accounts that have gone dormant should certainly not be recommended to active users at any time for any reason.
So why doesn’t Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or other socnets exercise the good taste and sensitivity to quietly de-active aging dormant accounts?
I don’t know the answer but I suspect it is headcount. There is news value and ad revenue attached to headcount. It can impact investment dollars and company valuations. For us users, such practices may be sad reminders of people who we’ve lost for some company decision makers, it can be a case of the more the merrier–or least the more lucrative.
They used to call Chicago’s election day “Resurrection Day,” because it was when the dead would rise to vote–often several times. It explains such mismatches that have Twitter claiming 200 million users, while others estimate those who are active at closer to 80 million.
It might also explain why Facebook claims the incredible number of 800 million accounts, or about one in seven people on Earth. The percentage grows higher very fast when you start deducting people who have no electricity, are illiterate, old, infirm, under the age of 10 or perhaps just, plain dead.
With Facebook’s estimates being generally regarded as true, I begin to wonder when they will have more users, than the Earth has people.
As for me, I have to admit, I’m just a bit thankful. I was reminded of someone who I really liked and how his one-liner very likely changed the course of my life while demonstrating a great example of what we would soon call a naked conversation.