Clubhouse: The Honeymoon Is Over

Clubhouse users are unhappy
(Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash)

I have been listening, off and on, to various rooms on Clubhouse, yesterday and today, and to me, it feels as if the wheels are starting to come off the bus.

A brief recap of recent drama that has erupted on the social audio app includes:

1. The Black woman, introduced a month and a half ago at one of the company’s townhalls as the new face on the Clubhouse app icon (which they rotate regularly) who was, without any explanation, replaced, causing a high degree of controversy within Clubhouse’s Black community that is still ongoing, despite Clubhouse’s rather ham-fisted attempts at damage control;

2. The Clubhouse Creator Program sent out mass rejection emails to all 5,000-odd unsuccessful applicants yesterday, leading to many rooms full of salty people discussing and digesting the news, and speculating as to who the successful 60 shortlisted applicants were (the speculation is rife, with a good dash of hearsay and gossip);

3. After announcing a brand-new partnership with the NFL, an ex-NFL player who hosted the most popular NFL room on Clubhouse discovered that his club name and logo were abruptly removed without notice, and the company forced him to change his club name and logo.

In short, the staff at Clubhouse can’t seem to do anything lately without inciting drama and ill will among its user base. Many people have commented that the treatment of the woman in item 1 and the man in item 3 above was particularly shabby. Clubhouse can’t seem to put a foot right lately; perhaps the hyper-charged growth over the past 13 months has led to problems within the company?

The singular strength of Clubhouse (the ability for users to spin up rooms at will, to discuss, debate, and argue about any topic) is leading to the platform’s worst nightmare: a user base that is angrily accusing Clubhouse of being tone-deaf and ignoring them. The content creators of Clubhouse are, by and large, feeling betrayed.

Between its increasingly unhappy userbase, and competition from Twitter, Facebook, Discord, and many other companies that are now planning their own drop-in audio apps, things are suddenly not looking quite as rosy at Clubhouse as they were only a couple of months ago.

Vanity Fair magazine, in an April 23rd, 2021 article titled The Clubhouse Party Is Over (archived version), says:

“I think the app is changing. People may spend an hour or two on there instead of six straight hours. It feels more like people will tune in for programming occasionally, as opposed to using it as an online community to cure the loneliness of quarantine,” one super-user of the platform told me, who still loves using Clubhouse, but also now sees its limitations. “The app still has the rare ability to put you in direct contact with people you look up to. However, it also now feels like home to more chaotic, polarizing conversations—that make it feel like ‘audio Twitter.’” The user added that the platform has become “a bit of a cesspool of racism and anti-Semitism and shady marketing groups.” For some people, that actually might sound like a fun party—but for most of us, it sounds like an app that deserves to be lingering in the bottom of the app store.

OUCH. Will Clubhouse survive its growing pains? Stay tuned!

UPDATED! Pandemic Diary, April 26th, 2021: You Can’t Fix Stupid

Hundreds of mostly-maskless, non-socially-distanced Manitobans crowded the grounds at The Forks in Winnipeg on Sunday, April 25th, 2021, in protest of COVID-19 restrictions (Source: Global News)

Today is official Day 376 since I first began working from my home for my university library system on March 16th, 2020. Today, and every Monday (at least until the government announces a third lockdown which I feel is inevitable), I am working in my office, weeding the reference collection of the agriculture library, which remains closed to faculty, staff, and students until further notice. I am making slow but steady progress in determining what to keep in reference, what to move to the circulating collection, what to upgrade to a full-text electronic version, and what to throw away.

Yesterday, hundreds of Manitobans gathered to protest the current COVID-19 restrictions at the Forks in Winnipeg, next to the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. Global News reported:

Hundreds of Manitobans gathered around The Forks on Sunday, rallying against COVID-19 restrictions.

Most protesters could be seen without masks and not social distancing while dozens of signs were posted in the ground surrounding a podium for speakers.

Clare MacKay, vice president of strategic initiatives and executive director of The Forks Foundation, told Global News on Friday the group was not granted access to the space.

“We have not been asked for, nor would we be in a position to grant, permission for this group to be on site,” MacKay said.

The Forks closed its doors Sunday afternoon due to safety concerns surrounding the rally.

You can’t fix stupid, people. And this pandemic has certainly shown us all just how many stupid people there are here. I have zero sympathy for these idiots, who are putting themselves and their contacts at risk. Here’s video of the event:

These protesters will soon have even more to complain about. This afternoon, the Manitoba government announced a new series of public health orders. The new restrictions, starting April 28th, 2021, and in effect for at least the next four weeks, include the following:

  • Zero visitors to private residences, either indoors or outdoors (except for one designated visitor for those people who live alone);
  • Indoor gatherings are prohibited, and outdoor gatherings are limited to a maximum of 10 people in public spaces;
  • Outdoor restaurant patio dining is restricted to a maximum of 4 people;
  • Food courts in shopping malls must close;
  • Retail stores will be restricted to 25% capacity or 250 people, whichever is lower. Shopping malls will be restricted to 25% capacity (although how they are going to enforce this part in malls with multiple entrances is beyond me);
  • Church, synagogue, and mosque services will be limited to 25% capacity or 10 people, whichever is lower, and mask-wearing is required;
  • Gyms and fitness centres will be limited to 25% capacity, and all gym users must stay at least 3 metres (9 feet) away from each other.

I’m very glad I visited my mother and stepfather on Sunday, and brought some home-baked cookies as an early Mother’s Day gift; it looks like we will not be getting together for Mother’s Day this year.

In my opinion, the incremental approach of the Manitoba government is simply not good enough at this stage of the pandemic. The majority of new cases are coronavirus variants of concern, most of which have been shown to be more easily transmissible, and some of which make younger people sicker. Lacking any domestic vaccine production, we are still far, far behind the U.S. and other countries in our vaccination program. Under the circumstances, I feel strongly that non-essential retail stores, churches and gyms should be closed completely, as they were last November during our second wave, in order to bring the number of new cases and deaths down to as low a level as possible (the so-called “zero COVID” approach taken by the three Northern territories and the Atlantic provinces here in Canada, and in countries such as Australia and New Zealand).

The government says that they are trying to avoid a full shutdown, but I predict that they are going to be forced to implement one anyways, as cases and deaths increase. They are promising to crack down hard on people who are flouting public health orders, but they’ve been saying that all along, with little evidence of success. For example, the premier stated that some of the people who attended Sunday’s rally were issued tickets, but he had no specifics (you’d think he would have gotten that information before the press conference today).

There just seems to be a whole lot of stupid going around, both in a government that is too timid to take the necessary bold steps to halt transmission in its tracks, and in a populace who are getting lazy, rebellious, and non-compliant after more than a year of restrictions.

Under the circumstances, the best that you can do is to take care of yourself, STAY HOME as much as possible, and listen to the doctors and the scientists.

Stay home, people! (graphic from the City of Vancouver)

UPDATE April 28th, 2021: Chris Sky, who spoke at the Winnipeg anti-mask rally on Sunday, was arrested after speaking at a similar rally in Thunder Bay, Ontario. And apparently, only two people were fined as a result of the Winnipeg rally (the tickets come with a $1,296 fine).