I am tentatively excited about the potential for @Ello. Social media could be a means of expanding human freedom outside the control of the market or the state, but Facebook and the rest of the major corporate networks depend upon commodifying and surveilling all our online interactions. Instead of decentralizing power and wealth, social media has expanded the reach of the market and the state, and increased the concentration of wealth and power. The world needs a social network that treats users like people, and doesn't participate with the surveillance complex - and @Ello could be that network.
Despite the many ways @Ello is not as user friend as it might be and all the questions they will need to answer moving forward, @Ello is doing a lot of things right already. The manifesto is based on treating users like people and protecting their privacy. But if @Ello is going to grow to its full potential and have its greatest impact, here are seven things they need to do.
1. Create a more diverse, representative staff / board: Right now, @Ello is trying to "disrupt" the social media hierarchy with a staff that appears to consist entirely of white dudes. Suffice it to say, there is nothing disruptive about another online venture of, by and for white dudes. If @Ello is going to be different in a way that actually serves more peoples' interests, it needs to include those communities in the creation of the product. Much of @Ello's recent growth comes from queer and/or activist communities, which makes it even more important that they hire a diverse staff and board that reflects the demographics of their users.
3. Market @Ello like a movement: @Ello's selling point to potential users is trust: they aren't like the other networks, because they treat you like a person, not a aggregate of potential advertising information. This appeal is key to growth and needs to be put front and center in @Ello's marketing approach. Many brands are looking to market themselves as a movement, but @Ello has a legitimate claim to serving a social good. Marketing like a movement would also turn influential users into advocates, which is key to growing the network.
4. Develop a user-supported revenue model: It seems like this is the direction @Ello is headed, but it's worth looking to other successful online media projects that are funded without ads or VC money; namely wikimedia and Craigslist. Wikimedia is funded entirely through user contributions, and Craigslist is funded through premium services. @Ello seems to be headed towards a Craigslist style approach, but it's worth incorporating wikimedia style pledge drives as well, as they increase users' buy-in and provide another revenue stream.
5. Create mechanisms for feedback beyond analytics: If @Ello wants users to trust, evangelize, and donate, they need to provide opportunities for feedback / communication that go beyond analytics. Revealed preferences count for a lot, but if they want people to feel like they're part of something, they need to listen to their users directly. On the high end, @Ello could use tools like Loomio to allow for large scale group decision-making. On the lower end, @Ello could create forums and polls for power-users to decide collectively - or at least debate publicly - policy decisions for the network.
6. Give users explicit ownership of their data: @Ello claims they don't want you to be a product, so it would follow that you should own the fruits of your digital labor. Instead of creating value for a shareholder with your posts, users should have full copyright (or creative commons) control of the content they produce on social media. @Ello does not seem to have taken a stance on who owns the content produced on the network.
7. Use open source software development: One of the biggest challenges facing @Ello is how to marshall the human resources necessary to compete with all the engineers Facebook and others can hire. @Ello will never have the financial resources necessary to compete with Facebook on user experience, so they need another way to garner the human-hours of development it will take to create a robust network. If @Ello uses open source development, they would be able to deploy vastly more engineers and developers than they could through private development.
Thoughts? What things would you add to the list?
@NathanJurgenson @Sahar @Nelini @Snook @sarahleonard @sarahj @seemala @catachresis