Wikipedia Founder's New Social Something Website

created Nov 18, 2019

https://wt.social

Last week, I saw this story. Mediagazer headline:

Jimmy Wales' news site WikiTribune has relaunched as WT:Social, a donor-funded social networking and “news sharing” site where users can edit almost everything

Related Hacker News thread that contained over 500 comments, but nearly the entire thread discussed something other but wt.social.

What I want is a ...

Then build it, or hire people to build it.

The HN thread pointed to this zdnet.com story.

Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales has quietly launched a Facebook rival social network

It costs $12.99 a month or $100 a year in the US, or €12 a month or €90 a year in Europe. It's £10 and £80 in the UK. In other words, about the same as a Netflix or Spotify subscription. However, questions remain over what content WT:Social can provide that users would be willing to part with money for.

I'm unsure if the above-mentioned cost is true. It's confusing, especially based upon a few comments posted to the HN thread.

It sounds like wt.social is donation based, and it costs money to jump ahead of the wait-list, or something like that, in order to use the service.

If it does cost about $13 a month to use the service, then whoa, that's too much. I pay $12.99 per month for a digital-only subscription to the Toledo Blade.

Server hosting provider Digital Ocean offers a $5 a month plan, but I use the $10 a month plan.

To reduce trolls, I'm all for silo community sites charging a monthly or annual fee, such as $5 a month or $50 per year, but $12.99 a month seems steep.

MetaFilter.com charges $1 for a new user account. It's a barrier designed to reduce trolls and spammers.

HN comment:

The price is not $12.99/month, it's free. The $12.99/month are for those that want to support the service financially, it's donationware similar to wikipedia. Jimmy Wales said the idea is that a small minority will pay for the service for everyone.

That makes more sense, I think. It's similar to public radio, I think.

Another HN comment:

showed the price to jump the waitlist (currently at 60k) as $12.99 a month

That's the cost to jump the waitlist, not the ongoing price for what will be (he hopes) the majority of users. Back when Facebook was Ivy-league only, there were TONS of students I knew who would have paid to get access. As it gets less exclusive the price will come down or become free

To me, the homepage of the website would clear this up and explain things well, but nope.

https://wt.social

WikiTribune wants to be different.

We will never sell your data. Our platform survives on the generosity of individual donors to ensure privacy is protected and your social space is ad-free.

ft.com story Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales launches Twitter and Facebook rival

That word "rival" was used by both ft.com and zdnet.com.

Tweet

Alternative, not rival

A costly community site does not rival Facebook that has over 2 billion users.

Excerpts from an HN comment:

Having talked about the pricing, the UI doesn't look great either. I saw a list of groups to choose from and the page looked like it was built more than a decade ago. It ought to look like a modern website (with more bells and whistles) if it wants to command more than premium rates. Even Facebook's site, which I think looks outdated, cluttered and ugly, looks better in comparison.

Modern website? One of the biggest problems with today's web is "modern web design" where simple websites, even community sites, which are not applications, employ massively bloated JavaScript frameworks.

I accessed wt.social on my old iPhone with JavaScript globally disabled within Safari, and the content for the homepage was blank. The wt.social banner displayed, but this was the only text.

Loading... Please enable Javascript

When I enabled JavaScript, the page was still blank, which means that wt.social is using some kind of JavaScript feature so new that it's not supported by the old version of Safari on my iPhone.

wt.social contains a column of text, totaling about 140 words, and a column with form fields to be used in the account sign-up process. That's it. And the site needs JavaScript to display what could be done 20-plus years ago without client-side JavaScript.

Displaying no content with JavaScript disabled on a site that, in my opinion, is NOT a web application IS a modern website. That's an example of modern web design that prioritizes bells and whistles over utility, security, and privacy.

As I said above, much of the HN discussion focused on other ideas for community sites, the pros and cons of Reddit, the admin tax issue with personal website management, etc.

This HN comment was a reply to a comment that complained about Reddit's hideous web design.

the redesigning of of our internal corporate website is just as dumb. I dont know what it is with this "web 3.0" design aspect but if something is stuttering with simple text input with 8 cores riding on 16 gb of ram, I am afraid to know what the future holds for web apps

Modern web design or web 3.0 means using client-side JavaScript to display document-based websites.

Modern web design would take this brilliantly-designed website https://text.npr.org and replacing it with a design that requires readers to download 10 megabytes of JavaScript to read a few hundred words of text.

Excerpts from the ft.com article about Jimbo's new community website.

Wikipedia co-founder says WT:Social is effort to combat ‘clickbait’

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has quietly launched a rival to Facebook and Twitter that he hopes will combat “clickbait” and misleading headlines. 

WT:Social, his new social-networking site, allows users to share links to articles and discuss them in a Facebook-style news feed. Topics range from politics and technology to heavy metal and beekeeping. 

WT:Social, his new social-networking site, allows users to share links to articles and discuss them in a Facebook-style news feed. Topics range from politics and technology to heavy metal and beekeeping.

While the company is completely separate to Wikipedia, Mr Wales is borrowing the online encyclopedia’s business model. WT:Social will rely on donations from a small subset of users to allow the network to operate without the advertising that he blames for encouraging the wrong kind of engagement on social media.

While Facebook and Twitter’s algorithms ensure that the posts with the most comments or likes rise to the top, WT:Social puts the newest links first. However, WT:Social hopes to add an “upvote” button that will allow users to recommend quality stories.

WT:Social is also operating a wait-list for new users, which donors can pay to skip.

WT:Social is a spin-off from Wikitribune, the “collaborative media” site that Mr Wales started alongside co-founder Orit Kopel two years ago.

Wikitribune was launched with a high-profile crowdfunding campaign in 2017 but it ultimately failed to attract a large audience. A year ago, Mr Wales was forced to lay off the dozen reporters and editors that it had hired to work alongside “citizen journalist” contributors, as well as some technical staff. 

One flaw in Wikitribune was its attempt to cover stories that appealed to readers all over the world. Instead, WT:Social hopes to build smaller, niche communities that can sustain themselves. These include “SubWikis” about beekeeping or board games, alongside more serious news. 

That includes relying on WT:Social’s community of users to police potential abuses of the site. While Facebook has hired thousands of moderators to help it tackle manipulation, fake news and bullying, Mr Wales said he believed that model was “not scalable”. 

This seems odd for a community site that apparently permits discussions on topics.

“Almost everything on the platform is editable,” he said. “That alone gives a huge incentive for good behaviour because if you say something obnoxious, someone will just delete it.” However, while this approach has succeeded on Wikipedia, it is largely untested on a social network. 

What's the definition of "obnoxious?" A fact-based, logical argument that is disagreeable to another user could be labeled obnoxious by the other user.

Several well-meaning alternatives to Facebook have come and gone over the years, from Ello to Diaspora. Even Snapchat, with more than 200m daily active users, is considered small by the standards of the giant networks owned by Facebook and Google. But Mr Wales said he believes the time is now right for a new venue that is free from what he calls “clickbait nonsense”. 

That last paragraph listed above shows how shoddy the journalism was in that ft.com story.

Ello has not come and gone. https://ello.co still exists. It's alive and well. It's a community for graphic design artists. It's succeeding.

Four years ago, it was the lame media who labeled ello.co a "Facebook killer." Nobody at ello called their service a Facebook killer. That was the media being disingenuous and sensationalistic.

Diaspora also still exists. It's not gone. It's a self-hosted solution that connects to other installations to form a network.

https://diasporafoundation.org

The ft.com article incorrectly described ello and Diaspora. The other huge technical failure by the author was not mentioning other ideas that have popped up over the past decade, including Mastodon, Scuttlebutt, IndieWeb.org, micro.blog, Dat protocol, IPFS, etc.

Journalists even so-called tech journalists have a narrow view of the internet. It seems that they cannot see beyond their Twitter accounts.

Nov 18, 2019 update

I peruse Dave Winer's website once or twice a month. I noticed this Nov 14, 2019 post.

Jimmy Wales wants to turn WikiTribune into a Facebook or Twitter competitor. That imho is a much better idea than hiring reporters, as he did in the first instance of WT. The question is this -- can Jimmy Wales draw a positive community that will work cooperatively on the mission he has defined, defunking news. I signed on but I'm number 26673 on the waiting list.

DW posted a link to a screenshot, showing that he was the 26,673th user on the waiting list, whatever that means. Waiting for what?

Some text from the wt.social screen after DW registered:

You are number 26673 on the waiting list

Send invitations and get access to this site earlier.

Financially support our mission for social without selling user data and get immediate access to the site.

Select your country

Select subscription period

The two subscription period options were monthly for $12.99 (USD) or yearly for $100.00 (USD).

The waiting list scheme is an interesting way to encourage new users to help onboard more people and to encourage people to pay money for site access now. If a new user chooses to do neither, how long does it take for the user to have access to the site?

Nov 19, 2019

"Thousands flock to Wikipedia founder's 'Facebook rival' (bbc.co.uk)"

https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-50460243

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21572264

Moronic HN comment:

... just as Diaspora, Google+, Peach, Ello, App.net, Gab, Mastadon, and any other number of attempts at this have failed

That's half false. Goolge+ and App.net have shutdown. I don't know about Peach, but the others exist.

Strangely, that same commenter also said:

And look, maybe this will be a really nice niche community for a small group of people.

That's Ello. It's a "small" community of artists and photographers and more.

The commenter added:

I hope it is. I hope the people that signup and pay for it enjoy it. I hope Wales doesn’t get bored when it doesn’t have tons of users and make tons of money. There is a market for small community social networks. Not everything has to be the scale of Facebook — I’d argue it’s better when things aren’t that size ...

Again, that's why Ello exists and why it's being used.

Same for Ravelry, which I use.

Ravelry is a free site for knitters and crocheters.

Among knitters, crocheters, pattern designers, yarn store owners, yarn dyers, etc., Ravelry is mentioned more than any other community site, including Facebook. Since I learned to crochet in February 2014, I have been asked if I'm "on" Ravelry more than any other web service.

Nov 20, 2019

Later comments from the HN thread created a couple days ago.

Mastadon, and any other number of attempts at this have failed (calling Mastadon a failure is unfair, but its not Twitter and won’t ever be), so will this.

Who says that success should be measured by Twitter? It may be that no other social network approaches Twitter and Facebook in size given their dominance, but that doesn't mean that there can be no other social networks.

In my opinion, one-size-fits-all social was a mistake to begin with. Smaller niche spaces (like HN) are much more interesting.

To think of it another way: did your favorite local bistro "fail" as a restaurant because it didn't become as large as McDonald's? Which one would you rather eat at?

That comment should also be directed at the media who dismiss any community site that contains fewer than 100 million users.

HN reply to the above comment:

Absolutely agree. I hate this trend of measuring success by comparing small products to massive bloated giants of tech. You don't have to get to that level to be a success, and you're honestly probably better off if you don't.

Big social media companies are now seen as responsible for the destruction and compromise of democracy and have many more problems which wouldn't exist if they weren't so universally adopted.

I hope the future is full of many smaller niche social media sites that cater to a smaller group instead of trying to appeal to everyone.

That's Ravelry.

Here's a flawed reply to the above reply.

The usefulness of a general "social network" is how many people it has. If I can't find almost everyone I know on it, and they are on a different platform (Facebook) it's easier for me to just use the other platform.

The keyword might be "general," which I assume means that the site is not a niche community site. Ravelry is supremely focused on crochet, knitting, and other fiber related activities. It's not a place to discuss sports, entertainment, outdoor activities, and politics.

HN reply to the above reply.

What matters is the people I want to interact with, and in Seattle they are on Mastodon. Not everyone needs to be on it, and frankly if close to everyone were on it you'd potentially drive away a good subset of users. That being said, by design I can retain my feed of friends on Mastodon without fear of some corporation or eternal spring of new users wrecking it.

Again, that means Ravelry for many crochet and knitting fans.

This second HN thread contains 257 comments. Hundreds of comments were posted in those two HN threads, and nobody mentioned that wt.social requires JavaScript for the site to function. And nobody mentioned the IndieWeb.org nor the Webmention protocol when mentioning alternatives.

Nov 27, 2019

Mediagazer headline:

Jimmy Wales says he is planning to a hire a small number of journalists early next year for his news-focused social network WT:Social

https://www.pressgazette.co.uk/wikipedia-jimmy-wales-hiring-journalists-wt-social-network-news-wikitribune/

At least Wales is trying something, although I'm still unsure of wt.social's intentions. I don't understand the par that others can edit the comments of others, assuming that's how it works, based upon the above.

Regardless of what wt.social becomes, it's a silo. Wales wants people to post their content on someone else's website, instead of posting on users' own domain names where the content is shared via direct website visits, feeds and feed readers, or email newsletters.

Discussions are a bit more difficult or clumsy over the open web, across personal websites, hosted at unique domain names. Webmention or email can be used as comments, but the masses prefer the easy-to-use commenting systems that exist within silos. Users enjoy fast, emotional, reactionary web discussion systems.

From the story:

The website currently has 200,000 people in a waiting list, with more than 70,000 users granted access in the first month.

Users are being added gradually to help the small team of three developers and a community manager cope with demand.

Wales told Press Gazette he plans to hire a small number of journalists to identify demand and create content for communities in the site’s “subwikis” – topic-based sub-sections of the website akin to Reddit.

Wales said WT Social’s subwikis would be less “toxic” than Reddit’s subreddits because creators of each topic section on the site are given the same moderating or editing capabilities as other users, stopping them from becoming what he described as an “absolute monarch”.

The fact that wt.social requires JavaScript to READ content is a show-stopper for me. I ignore that kind of effed-up web design for sites like wt.social that are not web applications. Web apps are help logged-in users to complete tasks in private. wt.social is a glorified message board.

Exception time to the above: micro.blog, which, unfortunately, requires JavaScript to view my feed of people who I follow. But I rarely log into my micro.blog account. I would say that I am not a user of micro.blog. I don't have my micro.blog account attached to my feed here at sawv.org, which means I'm not syndicating my sawv.org content to micro.blog.

But I like micro.blog as a social network (I despise the phrase "social media") because Manton Reece, the creator of micro.blog, has incorporated several IndieWeb.org concepts. Manton is an IndieWeb supporter. He occasionally posts to the IndieWeb's IRC chat.

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