I love these moments of new social media when conversation explodes, moved to imagine how social media can be different, questioning core assumptions instead of just fretting and complaining -all before this paint even dries. That complaining is important, and we've done some righteous complaining about Ello already, but I'm embracing this brief, and especially pronounced, moment of imagination.
I think this is extra apparent now because Ello is getting so much attention precisely because it promises social media of a different politics. We’ve collectively come to the realization that the rise of social media has been accompanied by handing far too much power to far too few people, and there’s energy to shake things up, even if just a bit.
The culture here is a bit different, but @jomc is right in saying,
"Ello violates something I say a lot, which, I alluded to briefly at the end of my last post — if you are building the future your team has to be more diverse than the starship Enterprise was fifty years ago. Bare minimum. This is another social network built by a team of cisgender white dudes. These crowds aren't homogenous because people are nice. It is because they have, in the subtlest ways, filtered others out."
For example, it’s quite telling that this group of coders and designers decided it wouldn’t be fucking embarrassing to go forward with this product with so so so little diversity on their team. That wasn’t a deal-breaker for them. Demographic diversity is closely tied to a diversity in perspectives and ideas. Like, if this group was even a little more diverse they would likely have known better than to make a social site live without a block button. As @interdome said,
"if a social network can't figure out that it will need a block button on its own, I don't have much hope for it's survival."
As it goes, Ello creator Paul Budnitz said, "we built Ello for people like ourselves".
This is yet another example of social media built by designers, coders, and entrepreneurs, but no central role for those expert in thinking about and researching the social world. The people who have decided they should mediate our social interactions and write a political manifesto have no special expertise in the social or political. I’m pretty tired of social technologies being treated as far more technology than social, where the coders and designers run the thing and those who study social relations, study sex and gender and race and sexuality and identity and culture and power and domination and vulnerability and resistance and everything else hope to get our opinions heard later on.
Sorry for the digression --I pretty much wake up mumbling that last paragraph to myself-- that isn’t an issue special to Ello, but I hope their very next step is building diversity into the core of their team, both demographically and in expertise (and those two are very related) -not just because it is the right thing to do, but because the site's success hinges on it, whether they know it right now or not.
I’ve been impressed that the creators are listening to the community and responding. Given that this site is garnering so much attention right now because its promise to make social media from a different and less fucked set of politics, its existence hinges on if it stays true to its promise of less fucked politics. Which is why we need to hold them to that promise, to keep alive as long as possible this moment of imagination, rethinking what social media can be.