I resonated with so much of what you wrote. The constant inflow of articles posted by friends in our bubbled networks, with catchy headlines and extreme opinions doesn't make us more informed nor does it make us more open-minded.
I don't agree that 'The internet is destroying our souls and making us stupid.' The internet is a vessel that has catalyzed the democratization of global information and blaming it as the cause of propaganda and weakly head opinions feels like killing the messenger.
I guess that's where I am unsure that really reading articles has the potential to address our closed minded approaches to modern day stimuli. I know from personal experience with the concept that even when I really read something, I often already have an opinion that I'm looking to validate. Really reading it doesn't make me empathize with the writer or catalyze a shift in thinking. That's my fault and I need to be aware and hold myself accountable.
The degree to which I am open to being wrong, misguided, sold by an abundance of well-designed and curated marketing campaigns, humble about how limited my life experience is, how small I am in a world of 7B and how much more there is to read, think about and digest must come from me organically. An algorithm that holds us accountable to really reading the entire opinion of another is not holding us accountable to our own biases.
That said, I do think it's a good start. I'd further push you and Jeff to continue adding in features that encourage and empower users to empathize with counter-opinions. Perhaps before commenting, we should think through the core points of what the writer is saying, who the intended audience is, why zhe wrote it and why that is either consistent or contradictory to the opinion we've accumulated over time? Which points make sense? Which need more substantiation? Which flow logically? Which have holes?
As we can see by Netflix, Spotify, Amazon, etc., we're moving away from a world in which we enter a library and choose what to read. There's too many books written to keep up. We now need algorithmic recommendations and Facebook does that with news. How can they modify their back-end approach to force us to hear from those we disagree with; more importantly, force us to empathize with those we disagree with? On the other end, how can we convince ourselves to give our egos less weight and to feel more comfortable acknowledging the limitations of our opinions?
True, re: killing the messenger. After much feedback and consideration, I recognize that the quote ("The internet is destroying our souls and making us stupid") is an overstatement. What I'm calling the 'The Internet' is basically a macro-platform that has a bunch of platforms on top of it. Those platforms (fb, reddit, etc.) all suck - they're crap and they're filled with crap. There's a huge body of research about how these things make us unhappy, unfocused, and unintelligent. So, yeah, in retrospect, it's a bit silly to blame the entire internet.
In paragraphs 3 and 4 you suggest that the problem of "what to read?" is greater than the problem of "not really reading." That's possible. Regardless, our initial approach is to crush the second problem while observing how our product impacts the first problem. Speaking for myself, I've started reading better (longer, smarter) articles and way more stuff that expands my perspective. But only a bit. This will get better as the product scales and as we improve the "Hot Topics" experience. Right now, "Hot Topics" is just whatever has been commented on, in reverse chron order.
Empathy, knowing your audience, reading critically - these responsibilities will always fall on the user. The assumption is that people will behave differently (and better!) when commenting on an article they've really read, with others who've really read. We'll see whether or not that happens!
Thank you (big time!) for jumping in here with us!
Thoughts on the Core Values? I was thinking you might have some thoughts on that part.
Also, I just remembered I'm not going to capitalize "core values" anymore - they're just words & ideas, not Spiritual Commandments.
In response to FB, Reddit - haven't read the literature (maybe another great convo for this site?) but have definitely heard a lot of my friends' similar sentiments. I don't get it, though. Pre-FB / Reddit, people would still skim newspapers for headlines/quotes that validate their limited preconceived notions of truth and morality. Now, however, distributing content to anyone in the world is nearly free and immediate. This works for those actively spreading propaganda and it also works for those actively battling propaganda. It works to isolate us and it also works to educate us.
It's definitely 'what to read?' to an extent, but more problematic in my opinion is how to really read it with an open mind and without the limitations of our egos. What you said makes sense, though. You're not after that problem, although you think really reading is a practice that could help. I'm open to that - I've definitely enjoyed the conversations on here so far!
Ha, you're right! No need to capitalize core values :).
What does 'not taking ourselves too seriously' mean? How are you going to approach users who unhealthily argue (as opposed healthy debate) for the sake of being right, rather than to expand their knowledge bases and consciousnesses? That's my problem with FB and Reddit and I think it's routed in our egos more than something FB and Reddit are doing (or not doing). If you do nothing, then you'll come across as taking yourselves seriously. Is there any way around that? Is taking yourselves seriously bad?
Respecting the user should always be first and foremost and I love that as a core value. Would love to hear some more commentary on how you're going to do that. If someone comes on here and posts racist / intolerant rhetoric, will you kick them off? Or, would you respect every user equally? How about fake articles? This ties into my debate with Jeff - I don't think that safe for everyone is possible until we acknowledge that some people (lgbtq, folks of color) are inherently less safe than others. Shouldn't their safety be the priority rather than mine or yours?
What does 'not taking ourselves too seriously' mean?
It means exactly what it means. No secret meaning. Just simple language.
How are you going to approach users who unhealthily argue (as opposed healthy debate) for the sake of being right, rather than to expand their knowledge bases and consciousnesses?
Is taking yourselves seriously bad?
At this point, yes. I think it can be very bad. Let's say that we were building a playground. This would be my approach: "Let's get a slide -- a bigass one! -- and some swings. Hopefully some kids have fun playing here." On the other hand, taking ourselves too seriously would be like this: "Okay, this is going to be the Playground of the Future, so we have much to discuss. The slide needs to work for tall kids, medium kids, and small kids, and can't be too slippery because somebody could get hurt. Also, all slide parts must come from 100% sustainable resources, so we can't go to Home Depot for 2x4s. We need rules about dogs, some people don't like dogs. We need to do research on the local community to ensure that this fits in with their expectations, but, at the same time, this must be scalable so that other communities can replicate our work. And all of our planning must be transparent. We'll hold meetings and make decisions by consensus." You can see why that wouldn't work.
If someone comes on here and posts racist / intolerant rhetoric, will you kick them off? Or, would you respect every user equally?
No & yes, respectively, probably. Let me say this: I think that half the stuff my [close family member] says is completely racist, and [this person] is a card-carrying liberal. Policing conversation is impossible. I care deeply about equality (and equity, by the way) and, initially at least, I think a "block" or "mute" feature might go a long way to helping people avoid/ignore racist/intolerant (or just plain stupid) stuff on the site.
How about fake articles?
Fake articles proliferate because people share without reading. That's not possible here.
Shouldn't their safety be the priority rather than mine or yours?
Yes. Some people are less safe, because of factors that they can't control. And yes, absolutely, things can and should be done to correct for that. I don't think that anybody is "safe" when they're not in full control over who they can talk to and on what topics. Again, "block" and "mute" would give the most control to users. That's how to respect them. Respecting people and sheltering them are two different things. The latter freaks me out. Gives me 1984 vibes.
Now I have to get back to work! :P
I guess I'm not as confident as you that the proliferation of fake news would go away (or even be diminished) if people really read something. Sometimes articles have little substance/truth. I'm convinced that the problem is with Google being readily available, people don't feel that they need to scrutinize facts, figures, research (as ironic as that is).
I like the idea of a block/mute function - let everyone speak, let everyone block/mute!
Seriously though I feel like you think about this project in a much more abstract way than I do. The post is well written and I feel like plenty of people will connect with what you’ve said which is great, but I also feel like it’s a bit over-the-top with respect to the problem you outlined and our ability to do anything about it. Also, I thought the “The internet is destroying our souls…” line is dark and funny and works in the context of the “About” copy but it can’t be taken literally.
I see reallyread.it as an interesting hybrid of a crowd-sourced content aggregator and a centralized article comment repository with a unique barrier to participation. It is my hope that the technology we created to build the website and extension will allow us to provide an improved user experience for both facets of our product. By narrowing the scope of our content aggregation to articles only we can have a much richer data model for that specific type of content. Even in this early beta phase this model allows us to display much more information to the user about the content we're linking to. This model also allows us to do intelligent de-duplication and abandon the idea of a user “submitting” content; instead the content appears in our system the first time any user passively observes it. This process, combined with the ever-present browser action icon, allows us to function as an alternative comment section for any article from any publisher on the internet. Further leveraging the browser extension APIs, we can measure the exposure time of the article content on the user’s screen and prevent them from commenting if we know that they couldn’t have read the entire article.
I’ve enjoyed using the site over the past couple weeks. I feel like the technology is working reasonably well for this stage and I’ve felt an impact on my behavior as an internet user. I’ve found articles I was interested in reading on the front page, I’ve seamlessly read random articles on the internet using the extension and I’ve also run straight into that participation barrier on more than one occasion. It’s certainly made me realize how conditioned I am to instinctively toss my two cents into a comment thread immediately after having just read the headline. It’s also made me realize how much work it is to actually read an article and type out a comment that I feel is worth sharing. The 1% rule states that only 1% of the users of a website contribute content. There’s no question we’re making the process more difficult, but I feel like in the end it’s a net positive in terms of the overall experience. I’m really interested to see how many people feel the same way.
Rock & roll. Point taken re: the "internet is destroying our souls" quote.
That second paragraph is mega smart. Some of it has nothing to do with what I wrote, but that's okay. Because it's really good stuff.
And to think, for all this time I thought we were going to sail into the sunset on the "ever-present" BAI and the countless opportunities it affords us. I haven't devoted nearly enough time to day dreaming about APIs.
I've been enjoying it too! Actually! But we both know that we have to say it to each other, and we'd say it even if it wasn't true. That's what friends are for.
I threw that second paragraph in there because I wanted to kind of bring it home a bit for anyone new to the site that ended up in this thread. I know this is your personal Medium but I felt like you wrote this as kind of an intro to reallyread.it and you've got a picture of me in there so I wanted to add my angle (totally thought that was a stock photo first time around!). I feel like it's important to not get too divorced from what the product (we're definitely not a company) actually is.
But we both know that we have to say it to each other, and we'd say it even if it wasn't true. That's what friends are for.
But we both know that we have to say it to each other, and we'd say it even if it wasn't true. That's what friends are for.
Are you serious? That's tantamount to a suicide pact. We should both be looking for any excuse to bail on this thing hard so we can move on with our lives. I actually am happy with it so far and we've yet to actually promote it, but once that happens if we don't get traction we need to both be ready to pull the plug.
As you should! Any chance you're down to use Medium? (I think I already know the answer, but sometimes you surprise me.) We can have something like this https://slackhq.com/ except instead of a fancy office backdrop we'll use an epic picture of the front of your house.
Yeah yeah. Whatevs. We'll know if/when we're bored and nothing's working... it'll be obvious.
love you bill!!
thx for really reading!!
Everyone who reads articles online will benefit from reallyread.it. There is a dire need for a space where people can meaningfully engage with each other and with the issues of our time.
Clearly, you don't think the Internet will inevitably destroy our souls and make us stupid. Otherwise, you wouldn't have created reallyread.it. I agree: there are ways to harness technology for education rather than letting it rot our brains.
Users may want to know how you determine whether they've "really read" an article. Is that something you're willing to share with the public?
Yes. Definitely willing to share that information. The implementation is a bit technical, but the mechanics are actually very simple. The extension keeps track of your screen and knows, based on average reading times, if you're actually looking at the words long enough to really read them.
First of all, I love the idea of reallyread.it (although it still feels quite frightening to post comments on line for someone who barely hits "like" on Facebook) I do not believe that the internet will destroy my soul...i look at it as a source for connecting to like minded people, yoga, poetry, books, art, and yes.. politics. My real life gives me enough opportunities to have conversations with people with different ideas...although those conversations are few and far between. I also care deeply for words and how language and how we use it shapes who we are and how we are perceived. Anyway I would love to know more about Betsy because my thoughts are really about her experience in public education, her feelings about religious education in public schools, her concerns (or lack of) about funding public schools and the fact that she was chosen by a man who ran on blowing up government institutions. I believe strong and excellent public schools are the building blocks of this country. By the way I'm happy you're trying not to swear and please be careful about the hahaha's after the novelist comment....
:) Thanks mom!
Just finished really reading this article, which was pretty trippy since I also just finished writing it ;)
Anyway, bring it on, people. And lay it on thick. What do you think!?