Indie Hackers Clubhouse February 20, 2021

Why would you ever use Clubhouse?

Courtland Allen @csallen

I’m a late adopter.

I don’t like investing time into shiny new things. They have a habit of fizzling out and dying, and I don't like watching my time die.

…but I do use Clubhouse.

If Clubhouse dies tomorrow, I'm fine with it. I've already captured all the value I put in.

That's because I'm not really investing in Clubhouse itself. If you use Clubhouse the right way, it's more of an investment in yourself.

To capitalize from Clubhouse, you need to speak.

Clubhouse consists of audio chatrooms, most of which are terrible.

Joining a room is like listening to a podcast… That nobody prepared for… That you skipped to the middle of… Where the original hosts left and were replaced by totally random audience members. It's consistently among the least interesting things you can listen to on the internet. It's live, so it feels exciting and valuable. Trust me, it's not.

I almost never just sit in the audience.

Instead, I start rooms and talk. Clubhouse shines when you take action for four reasons:

  1. There's no faster way to get people on the phone.
  2. There's no faster way to examine ideas.
  3. There's no faster way to build relationships.
  4. There's no faster way to practice public speaking.

Speed is underrated, and Clubhouse is fast.

I remember trying out Google Glass years ago. Yes, I was a glasshole:

Glasshole

But I probably called my mom 10x more while I had Glass than before. Why?

Because moving my finger to my temple was 10x faster than finding and unlocking my phone.

When things are fast and easy, we do them more often.

And Clubhouse is making everything faster.

Instantaneous Serendipity

Back in the day, if you wanted to talk to someone, you had to call them. Half of the time they were busy, because you were interrupting. But often they weren’t, and they would answer.

Calls were fast.

Today if I want to call an acquaintance, I need to message them asynchronously first. I have to hunt down their Twitter handle or email address. Send them a Calendly link. Schedule the call, probably multiple days out. Then hop on Zoom at the appointed time.

Calls are slow.

On Clubhouse, if I see someone interesting is online, I can click to invite them to a conversation immediately. They’re likely to answer, in part because they aren’t doing anything else besides sitting around on Clubhouse. It’s normalizing instantaneous calls again.

Workshop Ideas Today, Not Tomorrow

One of the great things about calls is how fast you can exchange information.

Over email, feedback loops are slow. There are literally days between replies. Over Slack, things are faster, but it’s hard to go in depth.

But when you’re speaking with someone, you can go deep and iterate through rounds of feedback very quickly. It’s the ideal format for workshopping your thoughts and ideas.

If I wanted to workshop this essay, I wouldn't send it to a friend. I'd open up Clubhouse, ping someone, and read it aloud. Lag time: zero.

Better Relationships, Faster

The other great thing about calls is that voice builds affinity.

We aren’t wired to get to know people through writing. We’re wired to react to the sound of the human voice, with all of its moments of hesitation and excitement and hints of emotion.

This becomes very obvious when you have a podcast.

There's one thing that Indie Hackers podcast listeners say to me more than anything else when I meet them in person. Can you guess what it is?

It's, “I feel like I know you!”

Nobody has ever said that just from reading my tweets or my essays.

How it feels to listen to podcasts

I was in a Clubhouse room with Tim Urban the other day. We spoke for maybe just a few minutes. But he already feels like a new friend. He immediately followed me on Twitter.

This often happens to an even deeper degree when I spend an hour recording a podcast episode with a guest.

But Clubhouse is making it faster and easier, which means I'm doing it more, and you can, too.

Public Speaking, On Demand

Do you ever get nervous speaking in front of an audience? I sure do.

Have you ever wished you had a small audience to regularly practice in front of? I sure have.

Deliberate practice is the key to getting better. Quick iterations are the key to practice. And Clubhouse makes practice quick.

Clubhouse means you can materialize an audience out of thin air, at the push of a button, and practice speaking any time you want. On any subject you want.

If you want to condition yourself to speaking off the cuff in front of an audience, there’s literally never better a better tool than Clubhouse.

Ignore the Clubhouse norms.

I have three golden rules I follow.

They're not in the "spirit" of the Clubhouse "tradition." I don’t care, and you probably shouldn’t either.

Rule #1: Stop caring about audience size.

Audience size is a vanity metric.

Having more listeners isn't going to make your conversation better. It's not going to help you workshop your ideas. It won't make you any closer to the people you're talking to on stage. Perhaps you get a little more nervous speaking in front of a larger group, so it's better public speaking practice.

But otherwise it's pointless.

If you think this way, you'll be in the minority. Everyone else speaking on Clubhouse is trying to get to massive user numbers. Ignore them.

I'd bet 99% of these audience builders won't ever move their followers off platform. They won't convert them into paying customers or true fans. And because Clubhouse is live, you'll be lucky if 2% of your followers ever see any of your conversations, anyway, whereas with Twitter I often see >100% impression rates.

Rule #2: Set a topic, and quit when it's over.

If you want to workshop ideas and have meaningful conversations, it helps to know what you're going to be talking about.

Come with a topic in mind, and name your room after that topic. This will help remind you and your co-speakers what you're here for.

It's okay for interesting conversations to meander. It happens. But if you find that you've exhausted the original topic and you're talking about uninteresting things, wrap it up.

There's nothing wrong with a conversation ending when it ends.

Too many people with Clubhouse rooms feel like they've caught lightning in a bottle and are afraid to end it. Droning on about nothing for 2 hours is a great way to waste your time and everyone else's.

Rule #3: Be selective about who comes on stage.

Do you remember that talk you went to, where the audience members took to the stage and did a much better job than the speaker you came to see?

Yeah, me neither.

If you're hosting a room, turn off hand-raising, and don't invite totally random people up to the stage. Sure, this feels rude to the 3 or 4 people who want to talk. But it's actually an act of kindness to yourself, to your co-speakers, and to everyone else in the audience. Don't punish the many to please the few.

If you're going to invite people on stage, invite people who you know will improve the conversation. Or people you want to build a relationship with.


This is how I justify using Clubhouse. If it works for you, feel free to steal it.

When I learn new things, I write about it. If you want to keep up with what I'm learning, subscribe:

  1. 7

    I went into Clubhouse thinking that it was a professional platform and I could perhaps use it to grow that network and learn from experts.

    I think this was the wrong expectation - what I found instead was a social network of opinionated and self-serving individuals who've found another platform where they can voice out. Nothing wrong with this though, again I just had the wrong expectations -- also maybe I'm just unlucky but I haven't found any worthwhile discussion from the few times I've opened the app.

  2. 5

    I would use it if they had android version xD

    1. 1

      try stereo it's the android sub.

  3. 2

    "To capitalize from Clubhouse, you need to speak." ==> This is the biggest challenge I think Clubhouse will need to figure out how to overcome. This leads to infinite noise.

  4. 2

    I wouldn't. Not a fan.

    I got an invite a couple months ago. Attended a few talks and walked away annoyed. There was so much blatant self-promotion going on. I felt gross listening to much of it.

    I'm more hopeful for Twitter Spaces given I'll have access to my existing network of people I follow and those that follow me.

    Another thing that turned me off to Clubhouse was the nagging notifications. I couldn't find a happy medium in which they were helpful. In the end, I totally disabled them.

    1. 1

      BUY MY HOW TO GET RICH COURSE PLZ, NOW ONLY 1 LEFT EVEN THO IT'S A DIGITAL COURSE !11!11

  5. 2

    Good suggestions @csallen

    Yeah, I do find the clubs and rooms are generally very spammy.

    Also, it is pretty puzzling how Clubhouse just made my account auto follow lots of people I don't know and are irrelevant to my interests.

    It sounds like the main positive point is the aspect about serendipity / lower barrier to voice chat. I also don't quite get the point whether having the conversation in front of an audience helps the conversation. After a few hours on the app, I'm still relatively puzzled by the value of this.

  6. 2

    To capitalize from Clubhouse, you need to speak.

    ...but if I speak, doesn’t my voice becomes the product that some goon would eventually monetize? 😅

    i just deleted Clubhouse from my iphone today. not sure if i did the right thing though, but happy to watch it shine from the sidelines. 🙃

    1. 1

      I try not to asses things that way. If someone makes a profit from your efforts, kudos to them. Their gain doesn't hurt you in any way, so it's not worth considering. If you want to use or not use Clubhouse, make that decision based on how it affects you and the people you care about.

  7. 1

    I always question things that are hyped up for the same reasons you've outlined above however I think that you have a solid take and I'll reconsider checking it out.

  8. 1

    Well done and very valuable insights there...thanks so much for the time and attention that you put into this. You've eliminated a big portion of unnecessary thoughts and actions which will now make this "onboarding" much more fruitful for myself and others...as well as ongoing use. Very precious indeed...thank you again.

  9. 1

    i'm enjoying the ability to just listen in. it's cool.

    1. 4

      I do think it has a "cool" factor that comes from the live nature of it. I chalk it up to scarcity and social proof. When "everyone" is scrambling to attend to some Clubhouse event that's happening right now, I find my lizard brain really telling me I don't want to miss out. But so far I haven't heard many (any?) Clubhouse rooms that are really all that valuable.

      I did see that Nathan Latka and others were doing some event this week where they were investing in people who pitched their ideas. That struck me as uniquely valuable, but again, mostly for the participants who were pitching and investing.

      1. 3

        ... what's kind of a bummer is that the "limitation" is being removed via saving and reposting on other sites. for instance, listening to marc and ben live on clubehouse was cool...

        ... until i realized they are recording them and putting them here: https://a16z-live.simplecast.com/episodes/one-on-one-with-a-and-z-2-8YyFrlgo

        ... why join live when you can just do on-demand... like everything else?

        ... 🤦🏻‍♂️

  10. 1

    On the topic of "better relationships" it feels important to point out that if you're using Clubhouse for relationship building, you're excluding disabled people from your network and signaling you don't value them much. The more business happens on platforms that purposefully aren't accessible, the more pushed out of business we become.

    I started my business because I was pushed out of the workforce due to my disabilities, and I can't imagine building that business off of a platform that's so inherently ableist by design.

    1. 1

      Which disabilities in particular does Clubhouse alienate the most? I've noticed that the new Twitter Spaces product seems to be more thoughtfully designed from the ground up, e.g. they're adding closed captioning.

      1. 1

        I feel weird picking one group or type of disabled person out when ableism is ableism. To me, neglecting one of us is neglecting all of us. For example, I'm not surprised that I encountered the most usage of the r-word and other ableist slurs on the most ableist social platform.

        But here's a good primer: https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevenaquino/2021/02/08/clubhouse-is-a-club-so-exclusive-it-excludes-disabled-people-by-design/

        Most directly and obviously, not only have they neglected any accessibility for hearing impaired or neurodivergent users who need captions, and responding with some hostility when it's asked about. But even the app design isn't up to accessibility standards for vision impaired users.

        Agree on Twitter Spaces. I've already spent more time there than Clubhouse.

        1. 1

          That's like saying that roads are unfair because if you're blind you can't drive tho

          1. 2

            It's different, because there's no possible way to make roads work for the blind, whereas it's possible to make software accessible.

            A better analog in the real would would be buildings, which are required to add things like ramps, handicap parking spots, accessible bathrooms, etc.

            I think for tech startups, things are somewhat gray area. They're usually cash strapped, and under tremendous pressure from investors and competitors, so they have to be strategic about who they do and don't cater to. In this case, Twitter has 4000 employees and over a decade of experience with accessibility work. Substack has only a handful of employees, doesn't even have an Android app yet, and could easily be dead in 6 months if Twitter and Facebook crush them.

            1. 1

              @csallen thanks for sharing a more nuanced POV. It's quite a tough issue.

            2. 0

              Clubhouse is also being thrown money, has disregarded the need for such accessibility in the first place while being rude to disabled people in the process/those conversations, and from the public roadmap they've released, they plan on releasing an Android app and a list of about a dozen other things before even starting to consider accessibility.

              It looks like it was literally tacked on as an afterthought. Choosing to build a new app before making the one they have accessible, along with everything else, certainly seems to speak to their values and beliefs.

              I honestly wasn't trying to start a debate about the value of accessibility in general, just wanted to point out that Clubhouse being for "better" relationship building is very subjective and a little biased. So is the belief that disabled people aren't worthy or strategic enough to be catered to.

              1. -1

                This comment has been voted down. Click to show.

                1. 1

                  I mean, maybe they are catering their platform to purposely exclude disabled people. And if so, that's ableist discrimination. That's my point.

                  Do you really think none of the "silicon valley elite" they're targeting are disabled? Up to 30% of the population faces a disability of some kind, and that becomes even higher in white collar industries like tech. If their target audience is "important silicon valley people except the disabled ones," that's a problem to me.

                  1. 1

                    I can't respond to your other response below but have you tried to reach out to their team and ask them the question why they're not doing it?

                    1. 1

                      When other disabled people have, they were publicly insulted and berated on Twitter, so I'm extremely hesitant to open myself up to their team and the ableist abuse that would likely come from it, based on how I've seen them publicly conduct themselves.

                  2. 1

                    That's not a question for me to answer :) I don't know what they're building/doing!

                    1. 1

                      It was a rhetorical question. The answer should be clear if you're paying attention. Their target audience DOES include disabled people. Like me. If I didn't need accessibility, I would match everything they're looking for in current users. The ONLY reason I'm not their target audience is because of a disability, ergo ableism.

            3. 0

              Whilst I agree that not all software is accessible, honestly in the last 10 years there've been a ton of tools out there that make unaccessible software a more accessible. I don't know what kind of disability the OP is mentioning so I can't recommend any of the software from the ones I've used in the past to test/ensure accessibility of web/apps/software but we're heaps ahead of where we were say 20 years ago!

              1. 2

                Hi! Thanks for your point of view. I would agree that we are definitely ahead of where we were 20 years ago.

                But there's still a lot left to be done. And inclusion as a design strategy might lead to better designs. If you've not read it before, I thought Kate Holmes' book "Mismatch" is a pretty good introduction to this topic. Basically, she makes a pretty good argument that designing for inclusion generally makes for better design, like the Oxo Good Grips onion peeler. I think this makes sense, and is aligned with a common design strategy of designing for boundary conditions/edge cases, and letting the middle take care of itself.

                So imo, I think Clubhouse is potentially missing out on a pretty big opportunity here for themselves...

                1. 1

                  Exactly, it's the curb cut effect. Removing barriers for disabled people removes them for everyone else too. I also feel like it's getting glossed over that Clubhouse isn't just not making the app accessible, they have been hostile to disabled people on Twitter for even asking.

          2. 1

            That's why accessibility tools and services like public transportation exists. I'm not here to debate people on the value of lives like mine. I'm just pointing out that choosing to build your network on Clubhouse is choosing to exclude a lot of brilliant and interesting people in the industry. Also, note that the team's been rude/hostile when it's been brought up. You don't usually see the public services teams behind roads going "blind people are so whiney, screw the haters."

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