I do love participating in social media. It was around 1994 when MiGri introduced me to the world of BBSes, the Fido net and everything online. To be honest, I haven’t regretted a single thing from that.
At some point, I ran my own BBS, I joined Usenet, installed AOL and CompuServe until was I actually able to get a „real“ dialup account at Hamburg University, and spent countless nights on IRC and online RPGs.
The upside of all this was always the same: Technology connected me to new topics and interesting people. That is what the Internet and especially Social Media is for me: A tool to get me introduced to new things and people.
Of course, I also want to use technology to stay in contact with them, but once I am connected to someone, life will.. find a way. Really, staying connected to someone is not what I need a particular tool for. If all fails, I’ll have their email address or a phone number.
But having conversations in a place that ensures that new voices will join that conversation regularly, especially new voices that are somehow still vetted to not be too obnoxious or disrupting, that is the true magic of the internet.
And for a good while, Google+ was the place that did that for me. I don’t know quite how this worked, but it did — whenever an interesting conversation happened, new faces popped up, and a click link on their profile let me know if they were also interesting.
(I realize I’m writing this in the past tense, even though the system will stay online for another 10 months from now. Well, write for the future, they say.)
The fact that the system never pretended to join „friends“ with each other, and adding someone to their circle was a decidedly one-way action, ensured that your circle of acquaintances grew steadily. One could always decide to publish certain posts to only certain circles, but if you posted public, it was just that — a way to engage with a wide net of possibly unknown people.
At the same time, it was possible to keep a semblance of control over who appeared within your own comments. You could moderate the comments or even ban too obnoxious persons from your interactions.
And now the hunt is on, to find a similar platform that does the same for me and my peeps. And as we learned, we are looking for a very specific feature set:
- The basics:
- Safety (don’t open me to lawsuits, don’t put me in danger of malware or bad people)
- privacy (don’t expose my data without my consent)
- „it should just work“
- The socials
- built for serendipity, so focus on public or at least semi-public interactions
- be abuse-aware: Allow moderation, banning and the like.
- The nitty-gritty
- don’t have a complicated backend that I need to learn to post or moderate
- discussions attached to a post are good, nay, mandatory
- threaded discussions are even better
- emphasise on text. It can be rich-text, it can involve pictures and videos, but text is still where discussions happen.
- The open
- don’t be a closed silo
- don’t belong to a single company
- ideally, be federated and allow for moving between instances
So far, none of the systems I know ticks all the boxes though…