On the (final) demise of Dodgeball.com
My friends lament:
i cry a single tear & pour one out for my homey, dodgeball. we had some good times, kid. — Ali
Wondering what to do w/o Dodgeball… — Kevin.
Because Google is finally shutting down their semi-broken, discontinued, botched HR experiment called dodgeball.com:
Some of you may also be familiar with Dodgeball.com, a mobile social networking service that lets you share your location with friends via text message. We have decided to discontinue Dodgeball.com in the next couple of months, after which this service will no longer be available. We will communicate the exact time-frame shortly. [google-code-updates]
I’m not sure why everyone is so broken up over this. My experience with Dodgeball.com back a few years ago when people cared was nothing but full of frustration and disappointment. And I’m not necessarily talking about the service (which worked, sorta and sometimes). I’m talking about yet another disconnecting system ironically meant to connect people, who spend too much time communicating on the internet, in real honest to good life. Did it do that? No.
Sure there were times when I’d “check-in” at a bar or some such (sending a text message to my friend-list that I was at that bar or cafe) and sometimes someone unexpected on my friend-list would show up. Usually it was someone I hadn’t known very well and were more expecting there to be other people in tow as well, when it was nearly always just me. Even that embarrassing incident happened about four times. Tops. Most of the time, no one came. Or I got dodgeball texts from nearly everyone else in existence, checking in from some OTHER bar.
Like a dutiful boring asshole, I’d pack up my shit and head across town to some lame start-up party or what have you, just so I could be with my “friends”. Then I would (get this), check in. Almost immediately (and sometimes never since the service was known to be slow and buggy), a wave of cellphones would chirp that they got a text message from dodgeball telling them that Jesse had arrived.
Someone would laugh and point out the obvious irony that I was actually physically there and this was confirmed via the internet and dodgeball. A few more chuckles would follow, followed by sighs, followed by more cellphone chirps because someone else had arrived, or better yet, someone more popular showed up somewhere else. Amazing and puke.
But it wasn’t until dodgeball began being abused and started to wholly replace any type of concerted and personal communication, that the love affair started to wane. Why call up your friends to go out to a bar? Just dodgeball it and hope they come! Hey you weren’t at my birthday party! Well you didn’t invite me. But, I dodgeballed it! Uh huh, well I had my phone off.
Ah! And therein lies the crux of the problem with dodgeball and pretty much any other service on the internet or maybe everything: the assumption that everyone else will experience a piece of technology or media the exact same way you do. Gotta break it to you, son. Folks are different and do things in different ways. This painfully plain lesson seemed to be lost of my friends who used dodgeball often.
Ironically (and I know I’ve used that word too much here, but, but BUT!), the same highly intelligent geeks who adored dodgeball couldn’t possibly conceive of someone using the service differently than they, even though they would certain filter out certain folks and block others. No where did it seem to cross their mind that folks might be doing the exact same thing to them.
But then came twitter.com. The only thing similar about twitter to dodgeball was it was SMS based. There was and still isn’t a location prompt for twitter as there is with dodgeball. Like a used up whore, the SF geekery began dropping dodgeball en masse. What I thought was the final nail in the coffin for dodgeball (after the founders left Google and Google stopped all development years ago), was when twitter was “declared” the mobile social networking app of SXSW 2007 (or something).
I tried to hang on to dodgeball. For it worked really well in the chaos that was SXSW, and it did allow me to find a party because it had an address associated with it, whereas folks twittering: “at sony party” provided nothing helpful. But the love affair was over. My testicles descended again, and I started actually calling people up (ok and direct texting them!), to hang out. And that worked out ok.
I was off dodgeball and back in real life as I thought a lot of my friends were. But last night, when folks blogged that Google was shutting her down, I found out that there were still (4) people using dodgeball from my friend-list. Folks assured me, they used it all the time and I’m sure they do, but I’m willing to bet it’s as broken as it ever was. And I wonder if, even now, after all these years and massive lack of popularlity, they all still laugh when someone checks-in while standing right in front of them.