Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Omegle Experiment: one-on-one social marketing

About two weeks ago, I was introduced to Omegle, the latest thing in "social" networking. I use the scare quotes because Omegle is an entirely anonymous site where you connect with random strangers and have a spontaneous conversation. As you can imagine, it immediately attracted hordes of Internet trolls trying to outdo each other in crudity and abuse.

What I've been wondering is, can Omegle be used for good and not evil? What if I tried to use this weirdly intimate medium to preach social change? Social marketing one-on-one, pure and simple.

As an issue, I chose styrofoam. Toxic, unrecyclable and non-biodegradable, it's one of those little evils we do to the Earth every time we go use a disposable plate for company birthday cake, buy overpackaged stuff from China, or order a poutine.

I decided I'd log in, and start evangelizing. Here's what happened: (typos and all)

Attempt #1:

Connecting to server...
You're now chatting with a random stranger. Say hi!
You: Hi there
Stranger: heey !
Stranger: how are you darlin?
You: Do you use a lot of styrofoam?
You: Hello?
Stranger: hi
Connection imploded.

Attempt #2:

Connecting to server...
You're now chatting with a random stranger. Say hi!
You: Hi there
Stranger: hi
You: Do you use styrofoam a lot?
Stranger: cant say that i do
You: That's great!
Stranger: why?
You: I want people to use less
Stranger: why do you want that?
You: It's not recyclable
You: And it's nasty stuff
Stranger: do you preach the green way of life on this site?
You: Absolutely
You: Just small changes that can change the world
Stranger: what other things should i not be using to help save the trees?
Stranger: like?
You: Plastic forks?
Stranger: I believe you, I'm just curious what efforts should be taken by one person
You: Bottled water?
You: Public transit?
Stranger: I dont use much plastic
You: Awesome!
Stranger: unfortunately, i have to drive a lot
You: Where do you live?
Stranger: boston
You: I hear the ttraffic is brutal
Stranger: that it is
You: What's your opinion on environmental stufff?
You: Hello?
Stranger: i understand that many overconsume stuff that isnt safe for the earth
You: That's great!
Stranger: i also believe that there are other environment things that people should be talking about
Stranger: but they focus on this whole being 'green' thing
You: Like what?
Stranger: i wish people would draw more attention to things like environmental racism/injustice
You: Please elaborate
Stranger: places like cancer alley in louisana
You: ?
Connection imploded.

#3:

Connecting to server...
Looking for someone you can chat with. Hang on.
You're now chatting with a random stranger. Say hi!
Stranger: hi
You: Hey
Stranger: how are you?
You: Good.
Stranger: where are u from?
You: Ottawa. Do you use a lot of styrofoam?
You: Hello?
Stranger: styrofoam? i didnt understand
You: I'm trying to get people to use less
Stranger: but
You: Toxic, unrecyclable and non-biodegradable, it's one of those little evils we do to the Earth every time we go use a disposable plate for company birthday cake, buy overpackaged stuff from China, or order a poutine.
You: ASL?
Stranger: oh
Connection imploded.

#4

Connecting to server...
You're now chatting with a random stranger. Say hi!
You: Hi there
Stranger: hey there!
Stranger: gosh
Stranger: darn it
Stranger: oh gee
Stranger: im nervous
You: Do you like styrofoam?
You: Do you use a lot of it?
Stranger: ive never been in a chatroom before
Connection imploded.

#5

Connecting to server...
You're now chatting with a random stranger. Say hi!
You: Ho there
Stranger: are you a retard??
You: Want to talk about styrofoam?
Stranger: sorry
Stranger: sure
You: Do youn use a lot?
You: What do you think about it?
Stranger: you know it lasts practically forever and will never biodegrade?
You: Exactly!
You: And it's non-recyclable
Stranger: it is made from hydrocarbons, usually from crude oil
Stranger: yes
Stranger: non-recycalble
You: Wow! You're well-informed
Stranger: thankyou
You: Do you want to say anything to my blog followers? I'm gonna blog this
You: I'm doing social marketing 1 on 1
You: In real time
Stranger: ok
Stranger: how about....global warming is a farce.
You: Go on...
Stranger: but pollution is an ongoing problem
You: What kind?
You: ...of pollution?
Stranger: we would all still be talking about oil spills and factory run-off if some idiot hadn't started this crackpot global warming malarky
Stranger: plastics in the ocean
Stranger: pesticides
You: Carcinogens?
Stranger: 10/80 poison is still used today
You: What's that?
Stranger: yes, many toluene based products
You: Are you an expert?
Stranger: it's a poison used to kill rats
Stranger: no
Stranger: an enthusist
Stranger: enthusiast
You: you just like to be well-informed?
Stranger: yes
Stranger: you blog?
You: Yup
Stranger: where can i read it?
You: workthatmatters.blogspot.com
Stranger: don't go away,,,,2mins
Stranger: not much to read
You: huh?
Stranger: no much to read?
Stranger: nothing on your blog mate
You: Oh
You: content wise, or...?
Connection imploded.
So, in answer to my original question: Probably not. At least nobody swore at me or sent porn this time.



4 comments:

  1. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


    Ruth

    http://besttoddler.com

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  3. I went through a similar experiment, recently. It seems easier nowadays to get people to engage (i gave them the link for my youtube channel and more then 60% watched it).

    I think lonlyness bacame a bigger issue now, maybe that's why.

    Anyway, great Post. If you still write, keep foing things like that.

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