No adequate social media options

by Sebastian Benthall

While this post is guaranteed to be a pile of cliches, I need to write it anyway to get it off my chest.

None of the current social media platforms are doing it for me right now. Why is that?

There are the minimal functions that I want out of social media.

Self-expression. There needs to be a blogging/publishing platform to support self-expression. So that that self-expression can be authentic, there needs to be fine-grained privacy controls so that I can choose who I’m exposing my thoughts to.

Sharing. I want to take advantage of and participate in crowdsourced content curation on the web. When my friends are interested in something or think I will be interested in something, i want to hear about it. If like something that somebody has showed me, I want to be able to share it with other people. It is very important to me to be able to attribute the thing I’m sharing back to the person who shared it with me–it is a way of respecting them and congratulating their good taste, and not taking credit for how cool they are except by proxy. It is not at all important to me to acknowledge some global idea of how much something is “liked.”

So far, this description covers almost all the major platforms, especially Facebook and Buzz. However, those aren’t so good for other reasons.

One is that the software needs to be open source and my content portable from system to system. I don’t want Google or especially Facebook keeping ownership over all this material which might be very personal. I don’t want the features in my social media to be distorted by a profit motive.

Another has to do with comments. Comments on existing content are a means of self-expression and a means of sharing. Currently, the conventions around commenting are confused: bloggers will post a blog post which is essentially a comment on an existing work, with an excerpt, but will need to put it in a separate context because of technical constraints. Meanwhile, responses to a Buzz or Facebook item are displayed as second-class content and are not themselves resharable. I want my comments to be considered first-class self-expression and be stored on the service under my control.

Moreover, I want threaded comments, because ultimately what I want is to have conversations with the people I care about about the things we are sharing together, but I want to be able to filter out other commenters who I don’t care about.

So when I look at a piece of content shared by a friend, I want to know the lineage of how the friend found it, and I want to see the conversation about it thats been had by people I know about or who some algorithm thinks I could be interested in. I want to be able to tune out boring people and tune in interesting people.

I want there to be “communities,” which could really just be done through an ad hoc tagging system to start with. I.e., I would “follow” a tag and then see the feed of content surrounding that tag.

Of course, it would be hard to monetize such a service, as it would promote genuine community among people who care about each other and not the targeting of advertising. So as far as I’m aware such a thing doesn’t exist yet. But a guy can dream.

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