In Project Management there’s something called the Iron Triangle or the Project Management Triangle. A project has to balance between Time, Scope, and Cost to keep up quality. You can have two the way you want at best, but the third will become unpredictable, unlimitable, or you’ll have to accept some serious changes.
If you want things done your way on time, get ready for it to cost more. If you want something at a set cost and scope, get ready for time to get a might out of control. If you want things on time and for a set cost, get ready to reduce your scope. Play too fast and loose and things will fall apart.
We’re taught that doing things Fast (time), Accurately (Scope), and Cheap (cost). But those things aren’t always good and can’t always be done together. We Project Managers remind people of this again and again, often with “I told you so.”
Which leads me to our current crisis in social media where everything is, well, rather dumb. I have no idea where the hell Twitter is actually going. Facebook keeps trying new things, but the core experience is kinda ad-filled and unpleasant. There’s not a lot of innovation out there, and it’s becoming more and more clear we’re the product.
But when you think of the Iron Triangle it all makes sense. Social Media companies want to have it all ways – making money (cost) do everything to keep people and advertisers (scope) and do it all fast (time). As people like me constantly remind folks you cannot do this.
Sometimes cheap, effective, and fast are bad ideas. My job – my own habits – lead me to wanting to be cheap, effective, and fast and I know they’re not always good.
Social media is “free” but the money has to come from somewhere and people invested in it want to make money. This means the enshitification we’ve seen is near inevitable. People don’t want to pay, advertisers aren’t always happy, and executives want to make the big bucks. That may not be sustainable.
Cost is a problem in social media (and that cost isn’t always money).
Social media has to provide some service but there aren’t a lot of new ideas (look at all the Twitter clones), and way too much seems to be well we got used to it. I’m suspicious that a lot of social media we love now is habit not it’s stuff we actually need. Throw in companies trying to do everything or anything regardless if it can work or people want it?
What’s the scope for social media? Hell, who’s the real customer? The users aren’t exactly unless you charge appropriately and that brings in the cost problem.
Finally, sure social media is efficient in some ways – you do a lot, fast, in a unified interface. Sure technology lets us deliver features fast. But is fast good? Who needs new features we don’t care about? Is it really vital we be able to reply immediately to someone’s movie opinions? So we need to do everything from one app that’s also potentially vulnerable?
What’s the real timeframe we need with our social media – if we need social media as we know it now?
Social Media has walked face-first into the Iron Triangle which would normally collapse projects and businesses. But they got enough of a footprint, did enough right at first that they can keep going, maybe forever. But at best right now a lot of them are a mix of pet projects and money extraction machines, and maybe lawsuit fodder.
Some of us might even get to say “I told you so.” Well, more than we have.