This morning I saw those tweets by Patrick. They made me think a lot about the answers. The last question was the most interesting one.
Feels like a lot of online activity is migrating to private groups. Just me? And is it because groups are rising or public commons less fun?
— Patrick Collison (@patrickc) November 5, 2017
Related: seems like many of us have at some point been part of a great, open-to-all online community. What do good ones have in common?
— Patrick Collison (@patrickc) November 6, 2017
Thinking about it, I would argue we never had “great, open to all” online communities.
The early adopters of every new social platform were like minded people. Because they were early adopters, it is expected they come from the most open minded percentiles of the society. The content they created early on attracted similar minded people to the conversation.
The communities were not great, open to all. They were in their early stages.
As the platforms grew, the social cohesion of the network started decaying. Facebook tried solving this by the news feed algorithm. The news feed created an algorithmic echo chamber. The algorithmic echo chamber made people stick to the platform while the conversation was still interesting.
After a while, the networks became saturated. Everyone is now on Facebook, twitter, and Quora. This resulted in two things
1) Conversation regression to the mean. It is no longer interesting, thought provoking as the early days. It is average.
2) Public scrutiny, and abuse towards contrarian opinions – regardless of the side – became much bigger.
This led people to try finding a new safe echo chamber. The easiest solution is private groups. Handpicked similar minded people who share the same interests. They can discuss whatever they want without feeling threatened by the public.
Back to Patrick’s questions. I think we need new echo chambers that can maintain their social cohesion, while giving the opportunity for new people to join the conversation. Until then, private groups are the new echo chambers.