Thursday, October 9, 2014
Bizarre, Crazy, Bad Stupid Ideas For a Social Network
Think outside the box
I just woke up one morning and was filled with all these insane ideas for an online social networking website. I’m surrounded by people pissed off by the lack of innovation in social media, and the lack of safe and interesting spaces online. I seriously doubt any of this will solve anything, but I’ve never seen any of this implemented, so I thought it worth sharing. I don’t want to call it a social network though, I’m just going to call it “this thing”.
I don’t think this thing needs many features to be fun. I’m rooting for just three:
- topic-based chat rooms
- tinkery profile pages
- community projects
That’s it. So the plan is this: the whole “website” is basically just a set of these chat rooms, filled with people who have profile pages who chat and joke and laugh and cry and think and collaborate elsewhere and just generally hang out and have a good time. The point is to set up some wacky features to see if we can make that whole process nicer and maybe even safer and hopefully just more fun.
No Usernames Ever
There will be no usernames. There will be no usernames anywhere. All you get is a person’s face (if you’re nice, maybe a clip of a person’s face) and that’s all. Even if you get a link to their profile, that link won’t have their username on it. More on this later.
Did I say later? I meant right now. A person’s profile is only accessible to approved people. Did you have a fun time talking to someone, and want to be able to find them again? Well, you’ll have to click their face, and ask. If they approve you, you’ll get a link to their profile, but here’s the kicker: that link only works for you. That is a link that represents your connection to them, which they can cut at any point. It’ll be useless to any other person.
Why bother? I don’t know, to make it more private, more personal? To force people to step out of their comfort zone a little, to make it a little more like real life, I suppose.
What about this idea: a person’s profile is only filled with content if they’re actually online. If they’re at work right now, and don’t have the site open, you get nothing. Maybe you get a photo of them, if they decided to put that on their page. Nothing else is even visible. Why? I don’t know, honestly, it just feels like it could be an interesting twist. I want to encourage people to very frequently update their profile with whatever they’re feeling or listening to. Fluid personality, you know?
Nonsense Profile Content
What would even be on a person’s profile page? I think the most fun thing would be some kind of franken-profile filled with just random junk and links and bling and stickers and God knows what else. No stream-of-information à la Twitter or Facebook. Just their current state. That page should be the equivalent of taking a glance at a person to see what they’re wearing, how they feel and what they’re listening to. Here are the only reasons to open a person’s profile:
- they told you to, because they put something funny there
- you’re curious what they’re listening to, or how they’re feeling
- privately message them
I want to bring back the GeoCities mentality and just let people go nuts. If it’s done right, people are screwing up their profile every three days.
No username, and no password. You just provide an email address, and get emailed a login link every time, kind of like resetting your password. The Magazine did this, and it worked really well. Plus, this makes it super easy for people to supply fake emails, anonymous emails, temporary emails, whatever. It would barely store any user information anyway, who cares?
Face-Space Chat Rooms
I love Meatspace, so given the choice, I think the chat rooms should be Meatspace rooms. Because it’s fun, because it works and because it’s interesting and follows the whole no-usernames idea. Every chat message you send appends just a picture or a short clip of your face to it, and that’s your identity.
No Global Room List
There is no global list of chat rooms to peruse. Interested in something? I suggest finding another person or two with the same interest, and just breaking off into a new room. The room list is fluid, of course, and new rooms can be created arbitrarily.
If you think that interest already exists, you have to search for a room by keyword and see if anything pops up for you to join. This is clearly a terrible idea, but having no global list to start with just puts everyone in the same pool, and the interests branch off organically, which is neat. Plus I like the idea of being bored one day, searching for “butts” on the site to see if that’s a room that exists already.
There is a need for private rooms, I find this more or less obvious. What would be cool though is if the rooms were (optionally, of course) peekable. Let’s say you get curious and search for a room called “butts”, and whoa it exists, but it’s locked. Well that’s weird, but hey, the people in the room let you peek in. You can press a button and get a truncated little text-only feed of what’s going on, just to see if it’s your cup of tea. That’s a dumb idea for sure, right, but hey, it’s kinda cute.
This idea feels less dumb. What if you can knock on private rooms? You find a room, but the people inside are a little bit protective of it. What if you could just “knock” on a room, and everyone inside gets a little alert that your smug mug is curious to come in and check it out. If someone inside knows you, they can just open the door and let you in, just like that. That’d be kinda cool, right? Hell of a lot better than just begging people for passwords. Or maybe not better, I don’t know, I’m not a social scientist.
What if you can host chat rooms on your own server and somehow link them to the main site? That way, some rooms can be controlled by a non-central body, which means they can have their own rules, their own bots, their own logging policies, their own hosting fees and fundraising, etc. Let’s internet like it’s 2014. Maybe one room is only pictures and no text. One room maybe runs everything through revisit.link, the sky’s the limit.
Disposability and Ephemerality
I like ephemeral things. Chat rooms that lose the scrollback remove the pressure a little bit. I like disposability, too. Profiles that are easy and fast to edit encourage experimentation and remove that crappy “how do I describe myself” anxiety. I like when things have an expiration date, because that way people don’t get invested in the specifics.
Community Project Hosting
I just get this hunch that people, generally, like being creative and collaborative. A kooky ridiculous social network like this one should have mods who love and respect that fact, and there should be a whole section of the site dedicated just to hosting community projects. The mods and the founders should be hands-on. Support the people! Show off their work! It’ll be fun, probably!
This won’t scale at all but the good news is that this thing is so stupidly niche, it will never be a successful business. Ever. That means it’ll be up to the community to rustle up the money to keep the servers hot, and put in the time to keep the codebase clean and moderate the whole affair. What a nightmare scenario that is. That’s a stupid idea for sure. I’d get laughed out of YC in 20 seconds flat.
These ideas are terrible. No one would go for this. I hope someone makes it, though.