I’ve spent years building communities and also building audiences on various social networks, and from where I stand, it’s clear that there's a ton of value in niche social networks, or at least in niche conversation rooms. You see, it's there that people can delve into topics truly relevant to them, in the company of folks who also resonate with those interests.
Sure, there's Twitter. A place where you can follow others and be followed in return. But the problem with Twitter lies in its systemic pressure to cater to the masses. It's like you're constantly grappling with the need to appeal to the lowest common denominator. You see, the content that gets shared hundreds of thousands of times is generally content designed for mass consumption, not for the niche subjects that stir up passion in people.
Politics, for instance, seems to rule the roost on Twitter. It's designed for mass consumption and causes endless culture wars. It's a platform that often drifts towards a kind of one-size-fits-all discourse, which makes it hard for in-depth, niche discussions to thrive.
I'm not negating the value of Twitter in certain aspects. It's a great platform to connect with others and make friends in a particular field. It's a fine tool for identifying people relevant to your area of interest. But when it comes to advancing your knowledge in a particular area, Twitter's constant noise can be a hindrance.
In many ways, Twitter seems like a stage for virtue signaling, a way of establishing your status within a group. But it falls short as a space for deep intellectual exploration among people with niche interests and deep passions.
So what's the alternative? I see a great deal of value in communally gated communities or community spaces. These are spaces clearly designed for a specific type of person, moderated by someone, or a group of individuals, trusted by the community. In these spaces, you find yourself learning, even if you're somewhat of an expert in the subject matter. These communities have less noise, fewer beginners, and a more focused dialogue than what you typically find on Twitter. There’s a social contract between members of communities; an understanding of who can be a part of the community, what should be discussed, etc.
While Twitter is more like a stadium where you're encouraged to appeal to the global masses, these niche communities encourage you to get real with a like-minded group. They provide the shared context necessary to advance your thinking and your work.
But then, an important question arises. If these spaces are crucial and beneficial, how do we ensure they're not bottlenecked by the need for a human gatekeeper? This is where concepts like decentralized identity (e.g. Gitcoin Passport) and automated role management (e.g. Guild.xyz) come in. These tools can set custom entry requirements, without needing to scale the number of 'doormen' based on the number of visitors or forum members.
So, my mind keeps coming back to one big question: where can you be incentivized to engage deeply with a crew that has enough shared context to push your thinking and your work forward?
This is the puzzle I'm eager to solve.
(Note: I’ve been spending a lot of time on Airchat—see