Making Knowledge More Accessible
The proliferation of news distribution networks, channels, websites, and apps is driven by the assumption that an increase in the number of information dissemination channels, is directly correlated with an increase in the accessibility of information. I would argue that while partially true, that growth in availability makes it increasingly difficult to decide what to read. As a result, the relationship between the number of resources and the ease of accessibility becomes inversely related.
News is no longer the scarce resource…time is.
Last week the National Geographic Society and the Council on Foreign Relations found that 1,203 young adults aged 18–26 scored an average of 55% on a simple test of global affairs. Is this because the information was unavailable? Impossible. Is it because young adults do not care? Doubtful. While there are numerous factors that resulted in the unimpressive score, there’s one broader fact that stuck out to me: Availability does not always equate to ease of accessibility. One individual cannot sort through the billions of pages of information on the web, nor can they sort through the millions of daily posts on the superhighway created by broad social media.
In 2010, I left college and pursued my first startup putting on concerts up and down the east coast. My life became music, production, marketing, contracts, concessions… you get the point. While I was learning the ins and outs of concert production and promotion, my friends were in school getting a daily dose of knowledge on a widespread series of issues. It was difficult to keep up in conversation unless business or music were involved.
By 2013, I slowed down the music business and focused more on my father’s declining health. After he passed, I felt a large void of information. I tried to use various social media to attempt to stay up to date, but so many of the articles I was reading were mixed in with a blend of pictures, games, status updates, and other irrelevant information. When I wanted to post or discuss articles, I constantly second-guessed myself. Was it too controversial? Would there be backlash from the numerous friends who held differing opinions? Who can see what I am posting or commenting on?
I tried a host of article feeds but it was either too little or too much. It was difficult to share, and I was not sure how they were deciding what articles to give me. With all of these parts together, there was ultimately no direct incentive to keep going back. So I looked for a social platform dedicated to articles alone and quickly found that there was no simple solution. I examined further and by 2014 I gave up looking and decided that this was my next pursuit.
“…people should be able to connect and interact through articles with others based on their common interests, curiosity, and willingness to collaborate to simplify the accessibility of information”
The Beginning of Source
In March of 2014, I reached out to a friend of mine, Pat Riley, a graphic designer with broad knowledge of tech and pitched him the idea. I wanted to create a simple social platform that was specifically dedicated to articles. Pat had the same reaction I did: “this service must already exist.” But after explaining my experience to him, he jumped on board and we began discussing the details. The following month we compiled our resources and incorporated the business, Source.
We wanted to construct a social platform that focused on three ideas. The first idea was that it should provide easy curation of any article. The second was that people should be able to connect and interact through articles with others based on their common interests, curiosity, and willingness to collaborate to simplify the accessibility of information. The third was that people should not have to second-guess themselves every time they post or comment on an article around a controversial or debated topic. There should be a virtual environment that allows people to engage in the kind of candid discussions that they enjoy in the privacy of their own home. Altogether, these three ideas would inform the development of Source.
While Pat was working as a user interface expert at BitPay, I went back to school to finish my degree at UNC Chapel Hill. We had conference calls every day until we reached to a point where we felt Source effectively incorporated the three original ideas. Then we began to build out more on each one of the three.
There were numerous factors that influenced the development. We were inspired by the model of higher education in sharing and discussing content. Classes allow for discussion around a given topic; so we constructed boards that would allow people to organize articles around various interests, collaborate, and segment the conversation rather than shouting into the void.
We implemented offline reading mode, as frequent travel by both Pat and I required that we always be able access the reading that we had saved for later. Our nerdy tendencies led to the development of the intuitive algorithm that would continuously adapt to users’ reading habits and give them more articles based on their interests. These features would become just the start of a windfall of approaches that we used to solve a continuously growing problem.
From the start, we were working to complete a platform that effectively increased the accessibility of knowledge. After more than two years of work, we believe that Source accomplishes that task. We just released Source on both the App Store and Google Play. We will continue to build out more features and refine the app but we are excited to see what you think.