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I’m on Highway 5 outside of Olympia when it happens.

The drive from Seattle to Portland is about four hours, so I’m settled in for a long day. Traffic is light and I’m in the left lane. I’m listening to music, the sky is blue, and I’m thinking about how much I love the Pacific Northwest.

I notice a red minivan in my rearview, approaching fast. I’m already going 75 and don’t feel like speeding, so I move to the right lane before it gets to me. I think about my Canadian wife and how many road trips we’ve spent…


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After 12 years and over 41,700 tweets, I’ve deactivated my Twitter account. Here’s a few reasons why.

  • It made me unhappy.
  • It made people around me unhappy.
  • It helped elect Donald Trump and continues to give him a platform to ruin the world.
  • Its interface is designed to make people fight.
  • Jack.
  • Its leadership doesn’t seem to know the first thing about human beings or communities or how people think or feel or talk.
  • Its leadership has delusions of governance that they use as an excuse to not moderate their community.
  • Alex Jones.
  • Every interview with Jack shows that he…


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Photo by Justraveling.com, licensed under Creative Commons.

In my community consulting work, I’ve often had to remind clients that their products, while important, are not governments.

I can almost understand the confusion. Community systems create a kind of governance. There are rules for what members can do and procedures for when those rules are broken. Sometimes there are even appeals processes. If you squint, the whole thing can take on the shape of a rudimentary justice system.

The government-thinking has a secondary appeal to executive teams. If their site is a country, that makes them the ruling class. It makes the CEO the president (or dictator). And…


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Let’s start from the beginning. Say you make a website that allows people to say something online. Most people use it like you intended, and everything’s fine.

If you’re exceptionally lucky, more people start to use your site. In fact, enough people use it that they begin to feel a kinship with each other.

Congratulations, you’ve got a community.

Because communities are made of people, and people are hopelessly, ridiculously complicated, eventually, inevitably, someone uses your site in a way you hadn’t expected, to say something terrible. So you remove that one thing.

Congratulations, you’re a community manager.

Again, you’re…


When people say nothing can be done, they’re wrong.

Two big things happened this week. On the surface, they have nothing in common. But something in my head clicked between them.

On Thursday, a 19-year-old walked into a high school in Florida with an AR-15 and killed 17 kids. The most notable thing about the latest mass murder was how unsurprising it all was. Another disturbed person, another weapon of war, more body bags, and the same old arguments.

On Friday, Mueller’s probe in the Justice Department indicted 13 Russians for a well-orchestrated campaign to influence the 2016 election with trolling, ad buys, identity theft, and lots more. Facebook…


When I’m overwhelmed, and I’m frequently overwhelmed, I grab ahold of a single thread, like what I did today, and follow it backwards, hand over hand, from decision to decision, to see how far back I can take it. Doing this makes me feel connected to where I came from, and helps me figure out where that thread might lead me next.

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Today I built a chicken coop. There are 16 chicks in the garage, all cheeps and poops, growing bigger every day. …


The Fray Organization is proud to participate in XOXO. Fray Cafe will be part of XOXO’s Story night on Friday night from 11pm to 1am at Revolution Hall. All XOXO badge holders are invited to attend and participate.

Fray is a celebration of true personal storytelling. Our goal is to create a safe space where we can connect over the stories of our lives. Also, it’s pretty fun. Fray Cafe is a storytelling open mic, which means we depend on you to get up and tell a story. Wanna? Read on.

The Three Rules

Rule 1: Tell a true story.

We’ve got nothing against fiction, but that’s not what…


If comment systems treated commenters better, their comments would be better.

The internet is a big place and we’re all invited to contribute to it. Sometimes those contributions create the opportunity for people to respond in the form of publicly viewable comments.

Comments have a reputation for badness, but that’s not entirely the fault of commenters, it’s the fault of the comment systems in use today.

People misbehave when they feel abandoned or insulted, and the experience design of most comment systems creates exactly that feeling. If comment systems treated commenters better, their comments would be better.

To that end, I propose the following Commenters’ Bill…


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Doctor Discord’s evil plan to make us all fight.

Say you’re a supervillian. Doctor Discord! Your goal is not to take over the world, but just to create more unpleasantness. So you set out to create a device that would ensnare normal, rational people and turn them into ranting lunatics. What would your Argument Machine look like? How would it work?

(Note that I mean “argument” not in terms of academic debate, which is healthy, but in the everyday “unproductive, unpleasant, angry fight” sense of the word.)

First, the machine would have to be online, so it could reach the maximum amount of people with the least amount of…


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Or: I have some awesome job news.

You learn things when you start a company. When I cofounded 8020, I learned to ask the difficult questions. When I cofounded JPG Magazine with my wife, I learned how important it was for everyone to be in charge of something. And when I founded Cute-Fight, I learned … a lot.

Cute-Fight taught me that there’s a certain skill set required to raise venture capital, and it’s not one I really want. It taught me that I really do like managing people, especially when they’re as talented as that team. …

Derek Powazek

Digital community, analog farming. Social media design, photos of goats and chickens. Author of "Design for Community," teller of stories. Mostly harmless.

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