Aligning Incentives to Make Healthy Online Social Consumption Easier

Dear [Humane Tech Community] - i’ve been lurking & admiring you for some time,

A builder of social gaming & ad-tech products in a past life, I feel a strong sense of guilt and responsibility to push the industry toward practices not in conflict with the wellbeing of society and our mental health. My small team (2 developers) & I have been prototyping a humane social app that doesn’t hurt anybody.

In this day & age, it’s unrealistic to quit online social networks. Instead, we endeavor to offer a healthy alternative. We reimagined the incentives, defaults, and mechanics to align with & promote shared virtue. Unsurprisingly, the result was essentially opposite to Facebook and the status-quo. That doesn’t just mean serving users instead of advertisers (you’re not the product) - that means privacy by default (exposure, not privacy settings), surfacing only strong curated signals (not endless algorithmic noise), sending as few notifications as possible, optimizing for depth and intimacy (not breadth & superficial vanity scores), and more.

Social is a massive space and not a monolith. We’re still at the infancy of the potential that ubiquitous social connectivity can deliver to humanity. We believe that potential is one of GOOD rather than one that makes us less informed/happy/productive. It must be so much better!

This is not another “faster horse”. Developing an original bicycle for the mind (not a hamster wheel) in stealth has been lonely. I’m terrified & embarrassed, yet hopeful to share our humble progress with you today. For anyone who also seeks to promote digital wellness, especially for the most vulnerable - we’d love to learn and iterate from your feedback.

The sustainable & best way to align incentives to generate value is empowering users and their communities. We don’t care to promote our brand, we hope to arm the rebels to facilitate theirs and aspire to be the Shopify of this space. Our app requires a community invitation to join (can be branded / skinned into a “custom app” in minutes). Here’s an example I made just for this forum that you can use to try it out.

I’m already grateful for anyone who’s read this far, and if you are so kind as to give it a try, we will sincerely be in your debt regardless of how critical your feedback is. It would be an honor to collaborate with anyone that wants to do well, by doing good. I’m happy to answer any questions you have here or in the app, and thanks again for your time. :pray:

Hi Dan,

Thanks for sharing. I’m encouraged by the ideas you shared in your post. Here’s my feedback on the link you provided.

I clicked on the link to test it out and was disappointed to find out that it is only an app. It wouldn’t let me access the program on my desktop. Why is that?

I feel like designing for a specific type of device is antithetical to the idea of a free and open internet. I think the principle of “freedom” from the perspective of humane technology encourages designers to give users as much choice as possible. I feel like the design of the landing page is not aligned with that principle. There is very little information and the user has very little choice. It requests my phone number but I feel like it hasn’t provided enough information or value to earn my phone number.

I had some time so I actually tried to click on the link to download the app on my phone, but the link led me to download the “SELECT - Your Community” app. This branding was completely different from the previous page, which led me to feel confused about the whole situation. I think it’s a best practice to have brand and design congruency between links and where they lead you. Or if this isn’t possible at least some text that explains what is about to happen (kind of like how bank websites warn you when a link is leading you to a 3rd party website).

I’d be interested in hearing more specifics about your project. For example, what are the incentives that align with shared virtue?

Thanks for taking a look @theeryanwold Ryan! I could not agree more & continuously beat myself up over these same and other shortcomings. :face_with_head_bandage:

  • Regarding desktop support - i’m dying to have this ASAP as well. Aiming to facilitate deep meaningful conversation (& as a busy professional myself), its a no brainer NEED-to-have. Nonetheless, as a very small team (for now), we have to pick our battles. Since we’re not fast-following (i.e. copying) existing platforms, there’s so much to test, iterate and optimize on behalf of the people we want to serve. Iterating across multiple platforms increases our development overhead exponentially - each with its own bugs, limitations, opportunities, design paradigms, and things we want to be incredibly thoughtful about. It was a tough choice, but we decided to start with mobile first, as its more constrained, so migrating to desktop will be be easier (more flexible) than the other way around. The most vulnerable sub-populations also tend to be predominantly digitally native. Once we’ve reached a point of Pareto principle feature & healthy consumer behavior stability, we intend add support for desktop and other devices / platforms.

  • Regrettably, the landing pages currently fall far short of our intentions for similar root reasons. We intend to increase its customization flexibility for community creators - not only visual skinning, but also free-form content. We believe empowering that is the most aligned and effective way to provide the most relevant and compelling information. One size does not fit all, so empowering sense of ownership with flexibility enables the community creator - who would know how best to - earn direct relationships w/ their potential members.

  • I hate how much i’m already sounding like a broken record of excuses / deflection 🙇‍♂️, but the disorientation of the app store listing is also not our long term expectation. Releasing early & often to rapidly iterate on data-driven learnings make release management & the prospect of publishing multiple branded apps across fragmented distribution channels a massive overhead. Once the foundation is stable, we intend to support full white-label, showcasing our creators and like Shopify, make our brand fully invisible.

We are determined to do well by doing good & avoid conflicts of interests that hurt society at scale. Gen Z supports brands with aligned “woke” values and see through those that brag about Time Spent to one set of stakeholders, then preach platitudes of fostering healthy communities to another. Like falsely equating national prosperity with GDP / Stock Market Performance, our industry has long prioritized the wrong metrics, so we’ve pioneered our own that we may proudly share with you, users & media alike. It starts with facilitating Intention Economy. If we serve their intent, support authentic expression and help them live better lives, the virtuous opportunities are limitless.

If you’re open to it, i’d love to live demo our patents and share our vision with you further in hopes to stress test our perspectives and learn from yours. I’d be especially keen to deep-dive and spar on incentives, as it’s vital we mitigate blindspots to potential unconsidered externalities.

I’m a huge nerd on all these themes, so i have to stop myself from authoring a novel here on just that topic right now.

Again, I agree with you fully, sincerely apologize for our current shortcomings in our Alpha version and are indebted for your understanding. This is why we have refrained from any public launch, growth/marketing or media to date. All the above and more are on the roadmap, but we’re understaffed and spread thinly at the moment so must prioritize ruthlessly until we scale up operations. Please keep the feedback coming. We take it all very seriously and will redouble our efforts to address them. :pray: