Mozilla Builders is a movement of people ready to #fixtheinternet.
How can we democratize publishing online?
No one person or organization should be the arbiter of all truths. Decentralize the sources!
I think social networks are such a bottleneck. I have 10k+ twitter followers, but if twitter doesnt like me, they can block my content from showing to my followers, and I have no idea what their email addresses are. @ Anna Bleker how to you think internet story distribution will evolve in the next 5 or 10 years?
I honestly don’t think the fight for the largest email list or follower count is helping us democratize publishing. If anything, the internet we live in today is much more of a feudalist system.
i’d have to agree with dane (surprise!). what we have now is absolutely a feudalist system, a collection of walled gardens that can’t even talk to each other, lest we build some hellish oauth-rube-goldberg-machine-type program to share data between the two…and that’s probably a violation of the terms of service! so let me state in no uncertain terms: users should own their data. full stop. all else follows from this simple rule.
@ Dane It is feudalist; one thing that stops serfs (continuing the analogy) from rising up is that the creator doesn’t own the relationship with the people who benefit from their creations.
“Owning the relationship” is arguably part of the problem, not the solution.
how is a user owning their data a part of the problem? creators owning their content, you mean?
i would agree that copyright laws are draconian and often misused. but generally, a person should have control over information they create. it’s just more equitable
When I say owning the relationship, I’m talking more about communication channels than intellectual property. I think that is a different problem.
ohhh i see. i agree, ownership of communication channels should follow the same rule as content — whoever made it, owns it. if i’m talking to you, we should control that communication channel. not facebook, twitter, slack, whatever. but yes, two separate problems
If I have the ability to push information to you but you don’t have the ability to push information back, that means I own the relationship.
I don’t think our current system is entirely bad. The subscriber model is often 1-way communication but the person receiving information has the option to stop receiving information.
RE: “social networks are a bottleneck”: I definitely think that having full control over who can see your content (whether that be just your mom, or the entire world) and full control over what content you see (for instance, opting into seeing ALL content by David Smooke, and no content from Random Guy You Don’t Like) will become the norm.
Social media platforms obviously use algorithms to show you stuff that lightly outrages/addicts you, and it’s hard to overcome the algorithm and fine-tune what you see. With the way most platforms are designed (outside of texting, and things like Google Docs/Notion), it’s also incredibly hard to fine-tune who gets to see your content (and I’m not even talking about tracking/spying. Just humans, reading things online). I think this control issue will be fixed.
I envision a platform(s) where everyone gets full control.
Dane i think you misunderstood David’s phrase. Take Youtube creators for example, a lot of them are frustrated with platform dependency with google and exiting it like flies to places like Patreon wherein they can talk directly to their users and have them contribute to their creations directly in a positive feedback loop.
Right, platforms where consumers have as much control as producers are far better.
i fell a bit behind but full control over content, what you produce and what you see, would be ideal i would pay for that. like, a nontrivial sum per month to control my internet experience. this is a potential product, even.
I agree that there’s a bit of “feudalism” going on, especially since lots of the biggest content creators (especially in terms of longer-form, text-based stuff) are people writing business thought-leadership pieces, and those are the same people that work on/own the platforms or have friends that own those platforms, so it kinda spirals into an elitist bubble.
I’m not suggesting creators shouldn’t be empowered. I think they absolutely should. But in my mind, we’ve created an environment where you have to control relationships in order to have a voice. That isn’t a good thing.
ditto Anna. The age old “who polices the police” problem.
Dane: agreed. What is the blockchain version of this? Where no one has to use any one platform and still has their “transaction” or voice heard?
What about a system where everything published is temporarily anonymous? That at least gives ideas a chance to stand on their own before the author is revealed.
I’m afraid of the onslaught of trolls and misinformation in that system.
that’s really interesting. I wonder what Twitter would look like if it did that.
(if you got rid of the clout thing and let the content stand on its own for a bit).
agreed. the potential for abuse would be HUGE.
i think with any sort of anonymity, you have to have accountability as well. there should be some nonzero effort you have to make to prove you’re human and get a pseudonym, etc, then you have a reputation to maintain along with that “anonymous” identity. this could hold even for multiple identities, i think
You’d have accountability on the back end here.
I don’t think a purely anonymous system is good because bad actors tend to use anonymity as a tool to be malicious with no accountability.
creating a solid content policy and figuring out moderation (automated, probably) would be super-important there. My first thought goes to all of the “worst things” I’ve seen on the internet (toxic incel stuff that leads to real-life violence, etc.).
I’m basically imagining it would be like reddit, but instead of threaded content, it would be more open-format/”bigger” content, which sounds a bit scary
I think the implementation is really important. A poor implementation could have good intentions but a bad outcome.
Yeah, kinda reminds me of what happened with Voat.
oh most definitely! there has to be trust, and a reliable public key infrastructure for one… i’ve been thinking about this stuff for absolute years (ask about the binder i brought to work, when we first met). and i still don’t have a satisfactory answer. ultimately, i think 1. we need a trust system or some sort of reputation but more importantly, 2. it has to reflect how trust works in the real world. “gained in drops, lost in buckets”, as they say
this is a great point, about implementation. sort of what was getting at, i think — in the end, you can’t just throw “magic algorithms” at human interaction and expect it to solve basic problems of human nature.
trusted arbiters or moderators would be very good to have in the sort of system i’m describing here
Yeah, I’m not a fan of solving problems like this with black box algorithms.
Ultimately, I do think social networks will be more decentralized and powered by some flavor of blockchain for that reason.
blockchain is nice for some things. but if you want anonymity, it’s sort of a pain, yeah? i don’t think blockchain is the end-all, be-all of decentralization or democratization. it might be the v1, but i would bet in 30-ish years the systems we use will be based on something else entirely
i mean, didn’t people use to think the internet was gonna be the end all be all future of democratizing publishing? And still we didn’t get it right (yet).
I’m not saying any current impelementation of blockchain is the solution here. I’m just saying a generally decentralized system that is transparent and not controlled by any single organization will ultimately be really useful.
“reflect how trust works in the real world”–that’s an interesting challenge. I’ve definitely seen a high level of trust (like, a real-life level of trust and wholesomeness) in online spaces where the setup mirrors real-life (i.e., it’s a slack channel for your job, or a Nextdoor page for your neighbors–so it’s exclusive, and not anonymous). Obviously, when you open it up to the public and anonymize it, shit goes down. It almost reminds me of the “vibe” of middle school: remember how young boys would just throw an open carton of milk up the air in the hallway, and laugh when it lands on a random 7th grader? That’s what anonymous, open online spaces turn into for some reason. It gets at some deep, gross, troll-like part of human nature. Maybe because it’s literally 13-year-olds signing up for accounts, or maybe because deep down, there’s enough people out there that want to channel their bitterness, but they can’t IRL out of fear of horrible repercussions.
sorry, I’m like 7 messages behind lol.
exactly! anonymity brings out the worst in people, 13 years old or no. so…i guess what i was getting at before is, how do we attach reputation and consequence to an identity that isn’t necessarily “real”?
One thing I’ve noticed is that the smaller the subreddit/etc. is, the nicer (and more trusting) the anonymous people are. So definitely breaking anonymous communities into tiny chunks would help.
I feel like this is getting to that other thread where we asked the question, what is broken about the Internet.
yeah, sorry i got wayyy off topic here and just into general “fixing the internet” type stuff
You’re right –we’re definitely in the territory of why the whole internet needs a remodel!
it’s natural Austin. Can’t really talk about democratizing publishing without talking about fixing the internet
Anna, I think smaller groups are a great way to avoid abuse. The big challenge with small groups, things are often too silo’ed. I’d like to see a highly specialized small groups social network where people freely flow in and out of groups.
I don’t think a chatroom-like environment works well though. Maybe a more open verison of Slack could work.
I like this slack feature thus far. We don’t know Anna at all and yet able to talk in depth about issues we all care about. That’s the internet i would root for!
I agree ! This is great.
Here are some other random things on my mind about democratizing publishing:
MONETIZATION / PAYWALLS:
Thoughts on paywalls?
I think the discussion around paywalls interesting, as far as democratizing the “viewing” part of publishing. Obviously, creators should be able to monetize if they want—and platforms should be able to be financially sustainable. But not everyone has $5-100/month to pay for content. In the future, I imagine some sort of “pay what you can” sliding scale model could be interesting (or a “pay for someone else’s subscription”, like what happens in coffee lines), or a subscription model that’s on the creator side (share unlimited things, use premium templates, have a better dashboard, etc.). It’s obviously still not perfectly “democratized”. But the idea that students or folks trying to save money can’t afford to read lots of great long-form articles bothers me. What do you think is the best way to monetize content?
BETTER-DESIGNED, MORE FLEXIBLE TOOLS:
It should be incredibly easy to publish things in a custom format. One of the great things about Instagram it’s that it’s so easy my grandpa can use it, but unfortunately when it comes to longer-form, text-based content, people end up writing it on the Notes app and screencapping it, and posting it as swipe-able squares. There should be something with the ease of Instagram, but it enables you to share more thoughtful, longer-form, flexible-format content. What are some things that bother you about the “physical” barriers to publishing custom content?
I think the thing that works really nicely about this setup is we’ve got a small group of people who already know each other and we’re introducing a small group of new people. This is much better than a group of strangers randomly assembling.
First thought on paywall: the current iteration is so stupid because content is walled on things that are free elsewhere. I want to be able to reward creators directly, independent of what platform they choose or corporations they rely on. I also don’t wanna be sold products in the middle of consuming the creations.
Dane: that goes back to austin’s thing about trust. Honor system. Fair play. But also not siloed somehow, which is hard. We are all speaking English and are quite well off if we have the privilege of spending this Friday afternoon on slack discussing world problems. But some can’t and unfortunately will be left out of the table.
Woah catching up. An anonymous twitter would be wild. I think to prevent abuse if building that product, maybe you vet users and they have one vertical market network in common?
RE: paywall, totally agree. I don’t want to be arbitrary walled on one platform or hear more about MeUndies. Do you have an opinion on what the best platform monetization would be, in terms of democratizing publishing/consuming as much as possible? (Maybe in theory, the platform would be as lean/nonexistent as possible).
Linh, that brings us to the 2nd part of this conversation. If we publish, others can participate.
We need a 3 way mutually beneficial relationships between the publisher, the reader, the creator. Any one of these actors needs to be able to meaningfully engage and give feedback to the others
David, vetting is definitely one way to approach the problem. Linh did just bring up one major problem with a private network though. Exclusive access means you are excluding a lot of important voices from the conversation.
But overall I’m mixed on vetting because while it isn’t an ideal solution, I’m not sure if there is a better way to avoid abuse at this stage.
We can partially solve the problem with this axiom. It’s more of a clean up than a prevention
(Replace men with any demographics that’s specific)
Nice. I was just going to bring up that point.
great point re: the 3-way relationship, I think the ideal relationship setup depends on the financial incentives/situation of the creator/platform/reader. Some creators want money, some do it for fun. Some platforms want money, some do it for fun. Some readers are willing to pay, some aren’t. The 4th party would be the sponsors/advertisers, but we can kick those out for now, since it’s not ideal. I know that there are tons of platforms out there that have different “setups” depending on these financials. I wonder how, in the future, platforms/creators/readers could turn the financial knobs to find a setup that works for everyone.
if we’re trying to “mimic the trust-factor and behavior of real life”, then being hyper-exclusive would be the answer. I wonder if there’s an AI moderation solution on the horizon.
totally agree that then you’re excluding a lot of voices that would help the conversation.
obviously echo chambers and “bubbles” are a huge problem RE: fix the internet
not sure how else to fix the problem of platform abuse at this point. as I build out my own platform, I badly wish there was a magical plugin to auto-moderate malicious content/behavior in a way that’s as effective as an invite-only/exclusive platform
I would love for every “well-intended” person to be able to join in on the free flow of content
I love this @ Anna Bleker, “some sort of “pay what you can” sliding scale model could be interesting.” This is similar to the reason Hacker Noon partnered with
one way this has been working so well is because it’s presented in a form of a conversation instead of a one way presentation of information. For example, I love podcasts, but like Adrian mentioned in his other thread, there are hugeee problems with feedback & engagement. When we invite people to the table, we have to be open to having the nature of the relationship entirely flipped. The creator is now the audience, the audience is now the contributor. But yes, like Anna & Dane, i have absolutely no good answers for how to balance the need to have well-intended, in depth conversations that are also somehow open and not siloed.
also, communications come in so many forms, how can we also be inclusive of people whose primary mode of communication is not typing things online and yet still have amazingly valuable things to say/add?
I think a lot of networks try to be as open as possible by incorporating a notion of trust as Austin mentioned earlier. New contributors have very limited privileges. As they earn trust, they get more privileges.
Yes, I like Discourse. Wonder why they didn’t really take off? Maybe the lack of the 4th actor that’s inevitable in relationships like this, aka, the sponsor, like Anna mentioned?
I think a lot of those systems are deeply flawed in their implementation. Both trust and privileges are very obscured when you are dealing with black box algorithms.
I wouldn’t discount Discourse. It is a good example of a platform that can be very niche. The software itself is still iterating. I’m excited to see how it evolves.
what is a more advanced version of algorithms that’s also human like? I mean with Facebook, they outsourced it to places like Philippines & India (google “Post no Evil” from Radiolab) and these humans have the worst jobs dealing with the worst of human behaviors.
my job is about dealing with human behaviors…
Linh, I agree. Humans can make very good evaluations compared to machines with limited context and limited flexibilty. But even though humans are involved in beefing up the algorithm, the secret sauce is still obscured which is disempowering for contributors.
Coil looks awesome. re: being inclusive, that’s a great point. There’s people that just use their phone, so they’re into apps/shorter-form stuff (not typing into a keyboard at a desk)–and then there’s people that don’t want to type at all, and just want to talk/listen. Stuff going on in the “podcast-type” world is really cool:
I wonder if there’s room for a platform like TikTok that’s more optimized for small groups / discussions. So instead of watching someone in Canada do a dance, it’s me watching my friend discuss her opinions on cauliflower rice, and we can all chime in.
@ Anna Bleker niche TikTok? Kanye’s already on it:
that’s a great idea! I think telegram tries that but our colleague Utsav mentioned months ago how much of a cesspool it became so I’ve avoided it since….
Anna, TikTok could do a better job of supporting small groups. I think one of the major reasons social networks choose to not go that route today is because there is a premium on reach.
I mean the reason I still stay with Facebook is because I like the facebook groups i’m in, Office fans, Bake off fans, and… Vail moms.
Wow Kanye! Wow. I’d love to see that pitch deck.
I’d like to see a social network where your activity feed is basically highlights from the best discussions from the groups you subscribe to.
@ Anna Bleker I’m glad you asked
(i do have to mute most of David’s family in Pittsburg out though)
Subscribing to groups or topics is one way to be very niche while having activity roll up and go into a stream followed by a much bigger audience.
so… like facebook, but like not evil?
Well, with facebook you follow people by association which can be very problematic for the reason you described above. Following topics is a much more desirable approach from my POV.
yes, but with facebook groups, i actually follow topics! (Most bake off fans are not based in the UK, I learned)
Also, as a consumer, I think it is painfully impossible to manage subscriptions of every single human being worth listening to. Managing topics is so much easier.
didn’t reddit do that?
Lihn, the GGBO is supposed to be really interesting today. No idea why…
omg i already watched the UK one from channel 4 on tuesday. I was SHOCKED.
I suppose reddit is topic based. Maybe the size of subreddits create an environment that can be abused. Smaller, more intimate groups would be better.
yes, then we come back to who polices the police. Recently, we tried to automate hacker noon stories (which have already been vetted by us humans) to certain subreddits but that did not go well….
I do think reddit has the right idea with topics though. More experimentation is needed.
this also has me wonder about paying for 10 subscriptions just to watch 5 shows….
(the future of content consumption cannot be just this, no?)
I’d like to see a new type of subreddit where only 10-20 contributors are allowed to post, but there could be an unlimited number of followers. The followers become the police and have the ability to collectively remove contributors.
Call me old school, but I wouldnt mind seeing a rise in RSS readers or whatever then next gen of RSS is, because it means the reader picks the software reading experience they want, and the reader chooses the sources from all over the web they want, and then they read.
@ Dane powerful idea: “The followers become the police and have the ability to collectively remove contributors.”
that though, reminds me of that Bee episode from black mirror….
Oh I think I remember that. Yeah, the concept could be very stressful for contributors to maintain their status and that could result in bad outcomes.
Wait, I think I’m thinking of the wedding episode. Not sure about the bee episode.
it’s the hashtag #deathtosomeone
About mob mentality
in the end, the person who was the target of the mob as well as every one who uses the hashtag get killed…. by bees.
“removing someone” = is cancel culture like on trend again?
Oh yeah. Black mirror is great at taking concepts like this and finding the worst possible outcome. Really educational. But I think it’s possible to make some of these concepts have very positive outcomes.
i think you can argue that it’s what FAAGM intended at first (an open, democratic internet) but inevitably it goes downhill because… idk, humans suck?
“The followers become the police and have the ability to collectively remove contributors.” definitely reminds me of current Twitter / cancel culture!
Lihn, that’s a little bit of a pessimistic view
I don’t think all roads lead to a dystopian future.
as long as we still operate under the parameters that got us into multiple wars, crony capitalism and climate catastrophe… each solution seems to inevitably lead to unintended consequences…
maybe we should just… reset the earth, like that judge from the good place said.
Every solution does have unintended consequences but then we reevaluate and build something better.
awwww, you are the Biden in us all
(to be clear, i’m referring to his non-catchy-at-all
build back better
slogan, not necessarily the man himself)
That would be creepy if we all had a little Biden living inside us.
wait, you guys don’t?
i think what we ultimately learned from this convo is we like you very very much, Anna!
I have a lot more on my mind about content moderation and who gets to be the police–but real quick, my investors will kill me if I don’t give a shoutout to the platform I’m building.
It’s called Talium, and it’s the fastest way to publish web pages.
love it! will check talium out. Kien is our main man who built a bunch of marketing pages for us from
as for your questions on content moderation: I think that is exactly where humans get in the way of making the product good. We are both our own solutions and our own problems. What’s that quote again? Democracy is the worst form of governments except for all other forms? I think we’ve come to accept that whatever solutions we build, it will be flawed precisely because we intend it to be good.
nice! (the pages y’all have built). I started building Talium because no other writing platform was hitting the spot for me. I wanted something with the accessibility (and browser-based functionality) of Google Docs, but the sophisticated design quality of Weblow or Medium–with the ability to choose who sees what you wrote. I decided to build my own platform.
Talium is optimized for publishing one-pagers that are simple, sleek, and beautiful. So far, people have used it for things like job posts, event detail pages, class syllabi, business proposals, and even sharing poems.
“it will be flawed precisely because we intend it to be good.” Both true and scary!
(well, I hope it doesn’t HAVE to be true, but I HAVE seen a lot of Black Mirror).
a presentable google doc, love it. Our colleague Natasha did share a post a while ago about how it’s become the tool of social justice movement…So you can like comments and thread and edits with talium or no?
Not yet, but collaboration and commenting is on the roadmap. It’s something that’s pretty much necessary in 2020 IMO.
I remember the “tool of the social justice movement” thing that was being shared–I totally agree, and I think the fact that Google Docs is hyper-accessible (comparatively) is the reason. Lots of tech elites talk about writing platforms that literally no one in my extended family has heard of, and for lots of those apps, you have to download something or pay. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, but if there’s going to be a nation-wide movement, you need something that’s free(mium), super-accessible, and of course, allows collaboration.
yes, to get back to the earlier part of our convo, collaboration is really the key. every content creator out there craves feedback
Totally. Although I have heard from some people that write Medium articles that they don’t like the “claps” or comments, since they don’t want it to be a popularity/likes contest. I think there’s pros and cons.
oh my, Dane has like a lot to say about that.
(we don’t pretend to solve all problems with engagement though, we have our own concerns. but our head is very much there with you about not wanting vanity metrics to dominate while also reducing barriers to entry)
Love that and love the obscuring of the emojis.