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Clubhouse for X – The emerging trend of audio-only applications (ei2030.org)
40 points by tyler109 47 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 61 comments

I find Clubhouse interesting in that its the first social media app I've tried that I really could not understand the widespread appeal, even if it didn't appeal to me personally.

The rooms I did listen in on seemed to be full of people promoting themselves to each other. Most seemed like almost caricatures of Bay Area VC or entrepreneur types, or the most left-leaning Twitterati. I just kept asking myself, who would want to listen or engage with this?

Clearly I'm the minority as it seems to be blowing up.

As a sports fan, I can see why Clubhouse solves a real need.

After a major sporting or political event, a lot of people tune into News to listen to expert opinion. For sporting events, people even want to see what other fans are saying. You can see an explosion of activity in related subs on reddit: For example, r/tennis during ATP 1000+ events, or r/soccer every weekend.

There's always drama and there's always an urge to find out what others are thinking right at the moment; or in a few cases, the urge to share what you are thinking, as well.

I've been on r/tennis many a time to know how much redditors complain that the expert analysis post-match or the commentary during the match wasn't any good, and that they'd rather prefer some other commentator who's unfortunately not employed by the Network that owns broadcast rights in their country.

I believe clubhouse is an interesting clone of Reddit, Twitter / Instagram, and YouTube.

I imagine Clubhouse Live where folks listen to experts chime in real-time as events unfold; Clubhouse Roundtables where experts invite themselves and aren't beholden to the Media companies selecting the panels; Clubhouse Stations where folks tune in to listen to "Networks" broadcasting high-quality content.

The key innovation is Clubhouse is voice-only: Voice is faster and substantially low effort than text. With voice (unlike with video), there's substantially less pressure and more comfort.

You're right that as the community grows, it'd keep getting harder to surface quality content, but that's a good problem to have and almost every major Social media has that but are doing just fine. I hope Clubhouse doesn't turn grow to be as disappointing as Quora has.

I imagine Clubhouse Live where folks listen to experts chime in real-time as events unfold.

I'm not so sure about the 'experts' yet, but I saw rooms spring up around the storming of the Capitol as well as for numerous Premier League football matches so far (I follow quite a few Brits though).

Voice is substantially slower to consume than text.

Text reco and jump ahead can definitely quicken the process.

  |The rooms I did listen in on seemed to be full of people promoting themselves to each other.
This is the image I have from people in SV, every time that I talk with someone from SF/SV tech/startup world I can expect to hear: - Their romanticized accomplishments - Name dropping some SF/SV pop star

It must be very tiring to have social interactions like that all the time...

That's how my interactions with East Coasters always seemed to go for most of my life. It always seemed strangely artificial and out of place... and also off-putting in the sense that they seemed to be indicating they would look down on people that didn't go to an ivy league school or something. It seemed like a handshake where you get assessed for your social standing in every new interaction. There's definitely plenty of social stratification on the West Coast too, but it seemed more implicit rather than explicit. I suppose the process is a natural one and you could make an argument for either way of going about it, but the East Coast style of it always rubbed me the wrong way.

Frankly though, I can't stand a lot of the attitudes from the SF/SV area either. There's a lot of self-righteousness and self-signed certificates of moral authority in that crowd. I'm not a fan. People are allowed to see the world differently, and for most of the things I believe are right, I won't pretend to be so certain of my the moral absoluteness of my beliefs to insist anyone who disagrees is inherently less intelligent, wrong, or beneath me but that seems to be the status quo in the Bay.

Same. What really seals the "echo chamber"-ness for me, is that they have a priority on their "about" page claiming they're serious about inclusion, yet it's still an iOS-only invite-only beta.

I mean, you said it yourself, it is a beta.

iOS-only aside, Clubhouse is one of the most diverse modern social apps I've been on. As a white man, I often seem to be in the racial or gender minority which is refreshing and helps me hear more interesting conversations and viewpoints.

Joined yesterday after it started taking off in part of Europe for some reason or other.

First impression is that it's nice that people talk longer, don't cut each other off as much as in other debates, etc. but it definitely sounds like mostly berlin tech entrepreneurs & VCs (and some tech-adjacent politicians/journalists/...) at this point, and the "diversity" on panels is somewhat superficial (people from mildly different backgrounds who think alike vs. people from whatever background with deeper differences in viewpoints). That being said I also randomly ended up in a room with improvised music & poetry, so there do seem to be different things going on.

I can see myself using this if the content diversifies further into different topics, e.g. I'd enjoy loose discussions about e.g. academic / more technical topics, etc. For now it sounds mostly like your run of the mill panel discussion at a big tech conf., which can be inspiring for a bit but not everyday.

Could I ask you why/how it started taking off in Europe? Was there a specific big name who joined, pulling everyone in? For example, when Joe Budden joined C.H. in early October, he mobilized many people in the ATL music scene to join. And there was a sudden influx of music industry and Music adjacent people.

They're quite cleverly leveraging the invites to give them exponential growth, so it has exploded this month - it looks like everyone is being given 2 invitations. I'm London based and signed up for the waitlist in maybe September last year and then forgot about it - someone I know bumped me up at the weekend (which doesn't cost an invitation). Within 2 days of my joining I'd say about 10 other people in my contacts have joined too. I'd say it's less big names and more FOMO.

Interestingly the person who bumped me up appears to have had an outsized effect on which rooms I see.

TBH I don't know, it seems to be mostly tech and tech policy people, but the hype with people mentioning it on LinkedIn et a. has gotten to the point where mainstream media is covering it.

One thing I've noticed: If one of my contacts signs up for the waitlist, I can give them access w/o using up one of my two invites, so it might be that they just relaxed the exclusiveness on that front to push it.

It started from berling tech scene with the recent success of german entrepreneurs in US.

I thought that too when I first started using Clubhouse. I really couldn’t see the value in it as I don’t care for VC takes or opinions. If you ignore all the VCs, wantreprenuers, and influencers, you can find interesting rooms that discuss niche and interesting topics. Just follow people and groups which appeal to you.

Clubhouse has a rather intriguing "hallway" that varies hugely depending on who you follow. I encountered a lot of similarly low value rooms for a while but once I rounded out my followings more, the value shot up and I get much better rooms recommended now. This seems to be a common experience.

One thing to avoid is following all of the default suggested people. This really messed up my feed. Once I cleaned it up, happier times followed.

Who do you follow? I follow people like Eric Weinstein and block all the self promo people shilling get rich quick. And my hallway is still bad.

Do you have any people in particular you suggest?

Clubhouse seems to attract the extraverted and narcissistic, those who live to self-promote and "hustle." So for white people, that's VCs, and then there's the analogous types of Black people.

As far as politics it doesn't seem as left-wing as Twitter, I haven't seen any socialists or communists yet. I've seen a lot of standard liberal types but then also people with idiosyncratic politics (Black people who think BLM is a Soros conspiracy for example).

For what it’s worth, I built what I call a “zero screen app” for an art installation a couple of years ago. “Zero screen” meaning “you’re supposed to be experiencing the space around you, so the app has almost nothing on-screen worth looking at and is basically just black.” Even though the idea was that the participants would be using the app to interact with the space.

It’s kind of liberating! Makes you consider the physicality of the device itself in entirely new ways. Recommended!

More on the main contender:


I note that while one of its main claimed aims is to encourage diversity, it is Apple only...

"Diversity is important [as long as you're on iOS and we think you're cool]!"

Android users make your app less cool

As an Android user I can confirm this, I am not cool

Same with web users apparently...

It's very common for new apps to launch just on iOS because it simplifies the development process. We've seen this time and time again (Instagram, Snapchat, etc.).

If they get big enough to justify a bigger more diverse dev team I'm sure they'll get around to a web version as well if they can deliver the same experience on web.

Why not begin on web though? I mean I get it for clubhouse, instagram and snapchat because they're making use of phone functions like easily being able to record audio or take pictures... still it's interesting how much web gets belittled compared to apps these days.

Oftentimes it has to do with the native APIs that are available.

I'm building an app, and being able to deliver a better experience when selecting an image/video to upload was a consideration and one reason why I didn't use a mobile site and instead went with an app.

Push notifications are another big appeal of apps vs. a website, although I know that has changed somewhat recently it probably won't cause any massive shift in mobile site development.

Oh, and tracking :)

Web is much more straightforward to build. It is not locked in to the elite people who can afford a shiny mac and the Apple dev license to get started. I disagree with this take. Ios and it's walled garden isn't the answer

Sure but I'm not sure you can do things like control background audio and data streaming which Clubhouse would need to do in the background so you can listen without being in the app.

Making two apps is harder than making one app.

Of course, but the out-linked news items have them with millions in funding a year ago.

I'm pretty bullish on this trend.

Relevant project (mine): https://audiblogs.com (lets you listen to any blog posts in your podcast player. It's like Audible for blogs.)

This looks great. Looking forward to firefox support.

can you export them as MP3s?

I wonder how popular this trend is going to be? I don't like audio books/podcasts, etc. and prefer text-only content.

I hate video, like audio for discussion type topics, and text for everything else.

But, nothing annoys me more than when I'm looking for how to do something (let's say fix my refrigerator), and I have to watch/skip around a 10 minute youtube video then pause so I can see the picture and then listen to bits over and over to understand what I need to do. Maybe I'm just old, but a few pics and text description would be so much easier.

This likely depends a lot on lifestyle - those with long commutes, workout a lot, certain types of jobs, etc. will have very different preferences than a WFH programmer

Audio is always going to be a thing. As is video. As is text. As are books. And so on. It's not a zero sum game. People will continue to blog, tweet, and write books for us to enjoy even if lots of people are having a great time with podcasts or Clubhouse :-)

Preferring text-only content is one of the reasons i come to HN a lot but as i get older my eyesight is getting worse. Maybe one day TTS will be good enough to be a pleasure to listen to but I think audio-only forum software could lead to interesting results.

I'm on the same trajectory but audio and also video are slow compared to text, even if you listen and watch at faster than real time speed. You can read this message almost at a glance, you would have to listen to all of it and maybe again.

I am text and audio. Dislike photos and video. Someone probably needs to start classifying these preferences into some kind of shorthand. People can declare them with their pronouns and orientation.

There’s audiences for both

And contexts for both, too. I prefer text at home and audio in the car (even as a passenger) or on the train.

Audio is good when your busy doing something that doesn’t engage the language part of your brain, like workouts, driving, walks alone, washing dishes, standing room train commutes, etc

Are we trending towards more focus or multiple experiences dominating our lives?

I love reading but am audio book while I mow the lawn offers two experiences at the same time. More time.

I thought I preferred text but because I spend so much time online in my “free time” I prefer audio books and podcasts.

When I started on Clubhouse I was hooked the first night. I had never talked to so many black people in my entire life (I’m an Asian Indian American for context). I felt like I got exposed to more black American culture in 6 hours on Clubhouse than in my entire life. I also felt extremely drained. It was a lot of consumption.

I fell off for a little while as I realized my feed getting pretty echo chamber like. Then I started seeing extremely interesting conversations pop up such as the main PM on Google’s Alpha Fold answering questions live about the technology. Most recently the mayors of SF, Austin, Miami, and Seattle were on talking about the massive swell movement of tech between these ecosystems. They were taking questions from a live audience.

There is something magical going on here. My two cents.

Relevant project, voice only forum for sharing agricultural knowledge: https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/1753326.1753434

Interesting but seems like this was conducted before smart phones really took off in India (2010). Curious if a more recent study has been done.

I never plug here, but I am building a live audio school for group studying. At me here if you guys want to try it out. The project started in April 2020 and a week after I started prototyping I find out about clubhouse. Face palm.

It's not clear what you mean by "live audio school for group studying". Is that anything different than a discord audio channel?

Yup, we make it super easy for you to make study materials. And you can share them with other groups.

Clubhouse is in a completely different domain from the problem you seem to be working on. Just think of clubhouse as twitter for audio. Audio-based social media platform is how I view it.

Yeah for sure, I've been on Clubhouse for a bit now and it's devolved from casual hangout dominant to self-promo/shark-tank like room dominant.

I don't have the app, but from what I've seen from some reviews of it, it seems that Clubhouse is only popular because there are interesting people interacting in it. That will be a problem to scale because, as we all know, the average human being is not that interesting. I can think of many apps that were like that in the beginning only to become something else afterwards (not necessarily being unsuccessful). The first that comes to my mind is Quora, that was a very interesting place in the beginning, but not so much today (but hey, still valuable!)

We never expected audio to be this popular either when we built Narration Box :)

Clubhouse looks cool! Has anyone gotten approved from the waitlist and know about how long it took? I just signed up

So party lines are back?

Video is draining. You have to always be “on”.

It’s worse than physical meetings as the camera is always on.

Audio on the other hand let’s you focus on just the speaker. And what they are saying. No fancy UI to distract. No looking at the bookshelf in the speakers background. Just audio.

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