The problem with status (feeds)
by David S. Hestrin
I really love nextdoor.com . It has been really helpful to me over the last year, and I have met so many people that I don’t know if I would have met otherwise despite living here for more than 10 years.
That said, I think there’s a problem with the status feed as a way of updating everyone – or at least as the “only” way to sort of publicly share information. Curious if anyone could help solve this problem. I started working on an app where the idea in part is to build like a “digital town square” – I think nextdoor should add similar functionality.
The idea could be a different view where people can occupy virtual space and within their space they can post as much or as little as they want, and when they post, it doesn’t automatically get pushed to the top of the status feed where everyone see everything.
This will be useful so that people can feel more comfortable posting more things. I want to sell say 10 different items. Maybe even 10 items per day. I 100% do not want to bother a single person that is not interested in those items, but if the only choice is a status feed post to reach people, then I would use the status from time to time.
The problem is that this way many people may never post. Or they will post much less than they’d like to, or they post more than what other people would like. I think everybody loses from this.
I understand that not everyone is trying to sell their goods or services, but I think actually there’s quite a high percentage of people that would be happy if more people knew about whatever way they make their living. With a type of “digital town square” or digital commons or something, people could occupy equal amounts of digital space and either post their business card or whatever message they’d like people to see that pay attention to them.
I was thinking maybe people could even post messages digitally on their own homes on the map. Maybe you want to say you have some free items and instead of posting on the status feed, you can just post it on the map. I think that could be really neat to look at the map and see lemons somewhere or apples or oranges or whatever.
It could also be useful for people that have some cause seeking critical mass. Or maybe so that people could inform others of some happening. Maybe you will be doing construction at a certain day and time and want to let people know. Maybe there’s some environmental hazard or nuisance or stray dog.
Or maybe you want to write a poem or essay or whatever.
I get the idea that we’re not supposed to “sell things” in the “wrong way” like using “sales speak” and so forth and I think that it’s really great that we’re not doing it for the most part, but I think we’re still missing out on a lot of good local information.
Right now here’s how it is:
1. You can post to the status feed.
2. You can sort of browse people’s profiles, but not really
3. You can message people directly
4. You can put something on your profile, but it’s unlikely people will see it unless you’re posting, and even if you do post it’s probably mostly unseen.
There’s no in between though. I think a digital virtual commons like a town square or town plaza would be awesome. Perhaps there could be virtual open markets like digital swap meet or there could be other distinctions maybe places to meet to discuss specific issues or what have you.
I guess there are the groups as well, but it still has the status feed problem.
Basically, status feeds aren’t ideal for repeating the exact same message. How often does a tutor want to try to get more students? How often does someone who sells some good or service want to sell their good or service? Maybe some people are totally selling out at capacity whatever… but for the most part… people probably want to keep saying “Items for sale! Items for sale! Get your items!” I think people should be able to do this non-aggressively and annoyingly. So that’s why I think there should be some kind of digital content mapping where each person has their own space on the map and they can post as they wish in that space. It can be where everyone has an equal “cover” on the digital map and then when their “cover” or “square” or avatar gets clicked or hovered on then it can essentially open up to an entire website or scrolling page or whatever.
It’s pretty neat!
Can be great for kids too. Maybe they want to trade their cards or toys or games or whatever… but what maybe wouldn’t be so great is if every kid in the neighborhood would post everyday about individual action figures. But I, ideally, would like to be able to post everyday about what fruit or vegetables I have to sell or if I’m available for tutoring or if I have either items to sell or if I want to talk about some politics or whatever. And if I can do so without bothering anyone, that would be preferable.
I really think nextdoor is the perfect place to add these functionalities, but if they don’t for some reason, I’d like to build it. I have it partially built, but could use a variety of help. Curious about people’s feedback. Maybe some googlers or facebookers or nextdoor want to hire me? I think it would significantly improve communication online and a lot of good would come of it.
the other thing is… what if you just… have a lot to say about a variety of issues… how should you do it? even if the problem wasn’t that i need to keep repeating the same idea or offer again and again… what if there are many issues?
snapchat recently pushed content that jokes about losing their virginity at 8 years old. (it has a gif that says “screenshot to find out when you’ll lose your virginity” and then it rapidly cycles through numbers including 8,9,11,12,13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 40, 77, “Never”. snapchat pushes sexualized content every single day to its users. they pretty much can not avoid seeing pictures of near naked bodies and headlines similar to what “cosmo” has that most grocery stores block out with a plastic frame so people can only see the person on the cover and not the headlines. which again points me to another problem with digital information flow – you don’t know who’s watching and don’t have an easy way to make sure that only adults see certain content OR to ensure that children can interact without people that don’t know them potentially preying on them etc… anybody have kids that use instagram? where does instagram lead people? just because someone sets their own content to private doesn’t mean they won’t end up interacting with unsavory characters or seeing a whole range of awful content.
digital virtual space can actually give people a chance to survey the landscape. i know that “building a wall” is not a locally popular idea, but if you could build a digital wall to keep your children safe… would you do it? or would you just let facebook, twitter, snapchat, instagram, and google be the arbiters of what content gets to your kids? how much are we really saving by using their platforms for socializing instead of a paid service? are we even saving? is it just laziness because “everyone’s on” the other platforms? i believe that apps can spread like wildfire and there’s no reason why better, safer, platforms that don’t push extremely questionable content on a daily basis won’t have to be relevant to a lot of people.
i just don’t think it’s worth it at the end of the day, “hey come hang out in my digital world where i am king and i watch everything you do and i force you to watch my advertisements”. it’s not that i don’t think there are some great tools or that it’s so easy to build messaging platforms etc.. but as a society i think we’d be making a huge mistake to stop where things are.
do parents even know that snapchat pushes content? i’d like to inform people of that. how do i do it? i can’t just post “hey did you hear snapchat pushed this content” everyday. but it could be cool to post it once somewhere and to have some kind of way to see who has seen or who has not seen the article. i think it would be cool to see who sees what you post online. it could start a lot of conversations.
i think that’s important to let parents/people know. is that more important than my status feed idea? yeah probably. so i will make another post about it. although this too represents another problem/opportunity with social media. do i want to be associated at all with questionable snapchat content? no i do not. so should i say nothing? i think another potentially useful way to communicate would be to allow anonymity between people that know each other (hopefully civilly/continue to moderate discussions perhaps). it could be useful for a variety of things including perhaps sharing personal or medical problems that you’d like a variety of others’ opinions on but would rather not just post publicly that you have some kind of condition.
or perhaps people have some issue. i know a lot of people have political opinions that they’d love to say something about, but maybe they don’t want to start any debates or whatever so maybe they’d just like to put like a digital bumper sticker in their digital space. this too could perhaps be a semi anonymous set up. like perhaps we each have an anonymous digital space, but we can put some opinion or vote or something. it could be pretty great for perhaps making community decisions. maybe even work well on a city level.