Clubhouse Conflict: Tempest in a Teacup, Or a Sign of More Serious Problems?

In an effort to combat my isolation and depression, which is being made worse by a third pandemic lockdown largely caused by my provincial government’s bumbling, bungling and inaction, I often turn to Clubhouse for company. I like to have it nearby, running on my cellphone, and I often listen to it throughout my workday.

I consider Clubhouse a much more accessible version of talk radio, one where I can easily join in, if I feel I have something to contribute to the conversation. Listening makes me less lonely, and less likely to ruminate about my situation. Since I started in mid-February, listening to Clubhouse has very quickly become a part of my daily routine.

But frankly, Clubhouse is not a very happy place lately. The stresses and strains of unprecedented growth have all too readily shown the weaknesses of the platform.

Today, the users are in a collective uproar, with room after room after room of complaints about recent updates to the platform, which (among other things) led to the loss of keyword searching in personal bios. People are upset because they have spent time and energy build profiles which are no longer searchable, and therefore, like-minded users can no longer find each other as easily.

Clubhouse is not a happy place today
(Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)

More and more, it feels as if the Clubhouse community is getting smaller and more insular, despite the recent rollout to Android users (many of whom are also complaining, lacking features such as the ability to add Twitter and Instagram links to their bios). The overall mood among the remaining and (seemingly) dwindling number of Clubhouse users is angry, divisive, quarrelsome, and frankly somewhat off-putting to newcomers. And it’s unclear what is the best way to fix these problems.

Lightning may have struck once, with Clubhouse’s initial buzz and sizzle, but I think that it is unlikely to strike in the same place a second time. Clubhouse is now facing stiff, strong competition from platforms with much larger social graphs off of which they can leverage, such as Twitter, Facebook, and even Discord. Clubhouse is now far from the only game in town, and their front-runner advantage dwindles by the day.

And it’s not just single users that are giving up and leaving Clubhouse. Whole communities have moved away from Clubhouse, seeking greener pastures. For example, some Black users have left Clubhouse for the crowdfunded, Black-owned Fanbase, feeling more at home there. I expect this trend to continue as competitor social audio platforms proliferate, and create submarkets within the marketplace.

And there still seems to be a great deal of upset about the awarding of the sixty finalists in Clubhouse’s recent Creator First program. Worse, many content creators feel that their hard work is not being acknowledged or rewarded with larger numbers of followers due to recent changes to the discoverability algorithms, so why bother?

In short, Clubhouse, my bulwark against isolation and depression, is springing leaks, It will be interesting to see how Clubhouse rises to the new challenges it faces. Is this just a tempest in a teacup, or a sign of more serious problems that will spell the end of Clubhouse? Was it all just a passing fad, fed by the pandemic?

Pandemic Diary, May 20th, 2021: Hello, iPad

My shiny silver, 10.2-inch, 8th generation iPad arrived via UPS this morning, and I am busy setting it up today: connecting my email account, installing Kindle, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, etc.

Although it is much the same size as my trusty old iPad 2, it is so much thinner, and the screen is slightly larger, too! This is going to take a little bit of getting used to. But it will be nice for streaming movies and TV shows, reading novels, and following Reddit, Twitter and Discord (I will continue to use my iPhone for Clubhouse).

I decided to splurge and buy a model with both WiFi and cellular capabilities. However, I discovered that the sim card from my iPad 2 is slightly too big to fit into the slot on the new model, so I will need to upgrade that, once I feel safe venturing out to the cellphone store at my local shopping mall. Then again, I so rarely use cellular because I am so infrequently in any space where I would need to use it! Ninety-five percent of the time, I am within reach of a public or private WiFi network, and anyways, at present I am still stuck within the same four walls of my apartment while Manitoba is in pandemic lockdown. Still, I decided to get cellular in the rare times that it would come in handy.

I also decided to go for 128GB of memory, since I expect I will be using this model for quite a while (my iPad 2, which I used nearly every day, lasted a whole decade and then some, before dying on me). That’s plenty of space for music, photos, videos, what have you. I’d rather have that extra space than rue not getting it down the line.

After my iPad 2 died, living without an iPad for two whole months was an interesting experience. My iPhone did double duty as both my cellphone and as a mini-tablet, and while I did get used to it, I do appreciate having all that real estate again! No longer will I have to squint at the screen to watch a movie or read a book!

I am still taking a break from most social media and from the news media, in order to get some respite from the doom-and-gloom headlines (the transfer of some patients from Manitoba’s overloaded healthcare system to Ontario, and further pandemic restrictions are to be announced before the long weekend). I don an avatar and hang out in my favourite escape spot, Second Life, or I pop into various discussion rooms on Clubhouse, and that’s about it for me this week. I am feeling very tired and anxious, and I am sleeping a lot this week, another sign I need to recharge my batteries and take care of myself.

Stay safe and stay healthy!

Pandemic Diary, April 18th, 2021: Time to Rest and Recharge

People, I am having a rough week, while the coronavirus pandemic is raging here in Manitoba. I feel as if I am on a runaway train on a track heading straight off a cliff.

I have decided to step back from social media and the news media, and just focus on taking care of myself. So if you don’t hear from me for a little while, that is why.

I will still pop into Bray’s Place in Second Life, and maybe drop into a room on Clubhouse every so often, but that’s about all I can handle for now. I just need to rest and recharge my batteries.

Pandemic Diary, May 17th, 2021: Living in the Epicentre

It’s official: as of yesterday evening, Manitoba has the highest per-capita incidence of COVID-19 in Canada, even beating out Alberta. We also have more infections per capita than any of the 50 states in the United States. Three-quarters of those cases are my home city of Winnipeg. I am now living right in the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.

Manitoba now has the highest COVID-19 case rate in the country, more than twice the national average. Manitoba just passed Alberta. Manitoba’s rate is double Ontario’s. This was entirely avoidable, had the government followed the science and implemented the right public health measures last month (image source: tweet by Tom Brodbeck, Winnipeg Free Press)

Manitoba’s healthcare system is stretched to the limit, despite promises from the provincial government that this would not happen again. CBC reports:

In the middle of April, when COVID-19 case counts were rising exponentially in Manitoba, the deputy public health officer promised this province wouldn’t allow the third wave of the pandemic to get out of control.

Dr. Jazz Atwal pledged Manitoba would not suffer the same fate as Ontario, which failed to enact measures early enough to prevent its own case counts from rising to the point where Toronto intensive care wards struggled to treat record numbers of COVID-19 patients.

Ontario, you know, when you look at how the case numbers went up, they likely waited much too long,” Atwal said at a news briefing on April 16. 

“We’re not going to go down that road, I could assure you that.”

One month later, Winnipeg intensive care wards are struggling to treat record numbers of COVID-19 patients. A record 71 COVID-19 patients are being treated in Manitoba ICUs. Hospitals are now doing everything they can to divert patients of all sorts from intensive care.

Some of the more stable COVID patients have been sent home, where they’re given oxygen and monitored remotely. Others have been sent to long-term care homes, most of which are no longer death traps, thanks to vaccinations.

Hospitals are placing acute-care beds anywhere they can, knowing the number of COVID-19 patients that require intensive care is expected to keep rising until sometime in June.

“Right now, it’s fair to say that from a physical capacity, we’ve expanded dramatically to all kinds of corners of the hospital and we’re almost working one bed at a time. Where’s the next patient going to go? Where can we move?” said Eric Jacobsohn, a Winnipeg ICU physician and anesthesiologist.

“We are sort of just running day by day, expanding where we can. And from what I’m told is … we’re going to make physical space, we have the equipment, but the issue is human resources. Where do you find the people, particularly nurses, other front-line staff, physicians, to look after these patients?”

All of this could have been avoided if Brian Pallister and his government had listened to the experts, who warned that this was coming. They ignored that advice, yet again. It could be that the third wave of COID-19 infections and deaths will be even bigger than the second wave in November and December last year. Hospitals will face an unprecedented crunch for space, resources, and staff over the next month.

This is NOT the time to get sick…any kind of sick. Don’t get into a car accident, don’t fall off a ladder, don’t have a heart attack. And above all, don’t get infected with COVID-19.

My anger at my incompetent government is percolating higher every day. I dearly hope that Manitobans remembers this absolute clusterfuck when the next provincial election rolls around in 2023. Pallister has to go, and the sooner he leaves, the better.