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Reblogged:Thinking About Thoughtful

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In a recent Human Flourishing podcast, Alex Epstein interviewed Brian Amerige, formerly of Facebook, on the subject of "Overcoming the Problems of Today's Social Media."

I will admit that I started listening to this episode with somewhat low expectations: I knew that Epstein was involved with starting something like a social media app. Indeed, within the note file I have automatically generated whenever I save audio from YouTube, I had added, "This could either be very good, or amount to an hour-long sales pitch for that app."

This episode is both, with the latter being complimentary: This is what a sales pitch should be like. (And that could be the subject for a blog post or more in itself.)

The blame for my lowered expectations lies in part with the lousiness of most social media, the general state of our culture, and the frequency with which one hears about "Facebook (or Twitter), but for ..." My mistake was in failing to account for who was making the pitch, but I'll credit myself for not skipping this one. (I am speaking of Epstein: I was ignorant of Brian Amerige before this podcast.)

I'd copied the program notes to my notes file, but didn't get around to looking through them before I started listening to this approximately hour long discussion on a drive. If I had, I would have seen that they do a pretty good job of explaining what is discussed along the way. Here they are:

Image by Douglas O'Brien, via Wikimedia Commons, license.
In this episode of The Human Flourishing Project I bring on Brian Amerige, with whom I cofounded Thoughtful, to discuss the problems of social media today and how to overcome them. We discuss:
  • Is there any role for government in the content policies of social media platforms?
  • What content policy would make Facebook or Twitter a better "marketplace of ideas" -- or is that even possible given the purpose of these platforms?
  • What it takes to create a real alternative to mainstream platforms, and where Parler and Gab have struggled.
  • The purpose and evolution of Thoughtful, Brian and my platform that is "the one place on the Internet that's exclusively for thoughtful content."
  • How to get on the waiting list for Thoughtful.
[bold and minor format edits added]
Even for someone who doesn't leave wanting to try the new platform, the discussion is worth listening to, especially regarding the problems posed by the purposes of existing social media platforms and the difficulties of creating a content policy that would exist regardless of what purpose a platform would serve.

That said, it becomes clear that Thoughtful is anything but a "Twitter for the literati." My understanding is that, as social media, this will be a place whose users simply recommend good content. And as a content delivery system, it will facilitate easier consumption of longer-form content (such as by place-keeping) in chunks that fit over time into a busy schedule.

As such, it would help solve two big problems with the internet as it is today: How do I find worthwhile content? and When am I going to find an hour and a half to watch or read this fascinating video/think piece that I found during my five-minute break?

At this point, I would normally link directly to whatever site I am talking about, but Epstein and Amerige don't do so in the program notes and I get the impression that they are in some kind of testing phase or want or need to start small, so I won't do that here: If you're interested enough to so that, Epstein lets you know how to sign up for a waiting list within the podcast.

I think, but do not know, that this is going to be released first (or exclusively) on Apple, so any updates from me in the near term would rely on my (a) being invited to join and (b) installing it on a family member's iPad.

I'm not an Apple guy, but this is such an interesting and compelling take on social media, that I will likely borrow my wife's iPad to check it out, if and when I am able to do so.

-- CAV

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