Time Magazine, the legacy magazine long regarded as the hallmark for insightful lifestyle and cultural commentary seems to have missed the mark with its latest inventions rankings. In its "50 Worst Inventions," both Farmville and Foursquare are listed alongside "Smell-o-vision" and "Snuggies for Dogs" - a list that is distinguished by what Time describes as "the zany to the dangerous to the just plain dumb."
Foursquare which just recently scaled to 1 million users is discounted by Kristi Oloffson of Time Magazine because according to her - that milestone is only "a drop in the bucket" when compared with Facebook's expectation to reach the 500 million user-base mark very soon. I guess based on that logic, Ms Oloffson would have also considered Facebook one of the worst inventions of 2004 when it was barely tracking 1 million users itself (and according to a NY Times report today, Foursquare is now at 1.4 million users and has more than a dozen competitors with similar services nipping at its heels).
While I agree with Oloffson that Foursquare is a narcissistic tool predicated on bragging rights tied to leader boards, numbers of check-ins and mayorships, they are not alone. In fact, she might as well have added "social media" in general to this worst list, as there is an element of narcissism in Facebook, Twitter, Digg and every other social network that exists today. Guess what, Ms. Oloffson, that's part of the attraction!
We gravitate to these networks because they give us a sense of accomplishment (albeit, sometimes a self-centered accomplishment). The whole idea of gathering followers is narcissistic, but at least its a democratic form of narcissism. With Foursquare, like the others, we all get a vote, and usually the end result is the 'wisdom of crowds' where a collective zeitgeist emerges. Yes, its not a perfect system, but it's one of the better ones to have come along in a while.
I guess Time also gives its writers a lot of latitude when describing these "worst inventions," as Oloffson leaves nothing "above the belt." In fact 'name-calling" is her way of diminishing any credibility Foursquare might have. A descriptor like "the next generation of creepy social networking" does not only demean this location-based social network, it's denigrates the users that are presently using this mobile app.
Dan Fletcher, the writer assigned to castigating Farmville and depositing it into this 'worst invention' list sees this virtual game as being a time-suck addiction that according to him is "hardly even a game," but instead a "series of mindless chores on a digital farm."
While his thesis is based on the number of "hours of lost productivity," he doesn't back that assumption up with any real data, except that it must be at least "dozens." Hardly a time-suck, in my estimation. While this particular online game created by virtual game-maker Zynga does not appeal to me per se, I do understand the attraction, and like Sodoku or even Chess, it is a game of strategy and social interaction. Based on that, Farmville is no more a 'worst invention' than is a legacy magazine like Time. One has 30 million virtual farms versus million real farms, and the other is struggling with subscriptions and sales on the newsstands.
Now, which network do you consider outdated?