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Where can we make a new serendipity engine?

I'm still mad that the I haven't seen any mainstream social media platforms with an original UX. Even non-profit products use the same harmful UI patterns as the large corporations without having the incentive of an ad-funded business model. If a product is funded by the users (Opens in a new window), why does it perpetuate clickbaiting with even more cheap likes and shares (Opens in a new window)?

Coffee cup on the edge of a sunny balcony, with a white blooming tree in the background

However, I still miss having the digital equivalent of the kitchen or balcony at a houseparty. What I really appreciated on Twitter (and others have confirmed it too) is the random snippets we saw in the timeline, like overhearing other conversations that we could chime in. It worked as a serendipity engine that churned out real moments of connection, real friends and even real jobs or a whole career for the most prolific posters.

Where can we find the next scene for that? I didn't touch any of the new walled gardens. There's one with a whale icon, right? And another one with a live-and-let-die moderation approach?

I have been on a Mastodon instance for a while now, and it does not seem to be taking off. The tools are there, but the onboarding UX was hostile until now, (Opens in a new window) discovery and discoverability is also a struggle, and it feels forced, like a event where most people are there for the first time, and the returning people are all in one huddle (Opens in a new window). Plus it has all the drama expected of this many people trying to collaborate on anything and admins of larger instances (Opens in a new window) flipping the table (Opens in a new window) or 'just' quitting (Opens in a new window). They would need one hell of a user researcher to gather everything from the community and prioritise what to work on, but that responsibility will be only one part of one solo product designer's workload, so... good luck.

Anyway, I received a Bluesky invite! The closed beta server of this protocol feels like the early days of Clubhouse. Or a party caravan following a boombox across Mauerpark at 2am, just vibing and hoping to avoid both cops or harassers until they can. I don't feel like I should trust them with my social graph or valuable content, but it's certainly fun. Natalie Wynn and AOC still dare to make jokes, and the communication from the CEO to the users is so much more transparent (yeah, it's weird how both Eugen and Jay are in the center of attention, I know). The AT protocol could easily outgrow AP on culture if they keep up the momentum and the closed beta can maintain a safe enough environment, however the current maturity of content moderation might trip that up. If it doesn't, then it's still going to be impossibly difficult. (Opens in a new window)

There isalso a bridge under construction (Opens in a new window) between (Opens in a new window) these two protocols, so we won't have to choose. (I'm going to have so many duplicate accounts.) It might be how the engineering school and the building for my design MA were next to each other: we had the courtyard between us, we were happy to have one, but I can't say we ever used it together.

However, I truly hope we will be soon shocked how we could ever leave our social graphs, interactions, and serendipitous encounters up to some corporations, and to see protocols becoming the new normal (Opens in a new window)–all thanks to the most spectacular social media platform meltdown 🫠

Yeah, I still haven't written anything about digital boundaries. I might still do it, or not. We'll see. If that's your thing, I will need your email address to let you know when that happens.