Today, our team is excited to show you Potluck. Before explaining what Potluck is and how it works, we’d like to tell you about three goals that informed our product design process.


Be your authentic self. Don’t craft a persona.

Potluck takes the performance out of sharing by making it more personal and less stressful. On most social networks, you’re under constant pressure to live up to expectations. Double-digit likes, original witticisms, breathtaking images: It’s what the NY Times’ Jenna Wortham calls “Success Theater,” and why tenth graders flocked to Snapchat a long time ago.

No names and no avatars in the Friend Activity feed

On Potluck, we reduced this anxiety by taking the emphasis off of individual people and placing it on the common interests that bring them together. In your Friend Activity feed, the default view, you’ll notice that items don’t tell you who shared them — there are no names and no avatars. Instead, you see the topic or name of the link and the number of your friends who are talking about it. It’s not until you click on one that you discover who else is there. So go ahead and share that article about a quirky interest or guilty-pleasure song — the only people who will know it was you are the ones who are interested enough to click through.

Push-button publishing: Just paste a link.

We’ve always wanted to design a system that enticed every user to engage. The exciting thing about the new wave of social applications is that they all empower “lurkers” — the people who usually sit back and watch on the web’s most dominant platforms. On Instagram, they share photos because filters make their photos look beautiful. On Snapchat, they share moments because its ephemerality brings comfort to imperfections. On Vine, they share videos because tap-to-film has made “filmmaking” a one-step process. It’s incredible that these same users make up the 86% of the internet who have never published a blog post or tweet.

But these visual mediums fail to capture a significant part of who we are: our interests. Our musical taste, political beliefs, quirky hobbies and humor. So when our team began to build Potluck, we asked ourselves how we could help people who have a hard time sharing words online connect with other people about their interests. Our answer is links.

Copy-and-paste to publish

Everyone we talked to — from our siblings to college roommates to parents — said they find links they think are interesting every day. But they said something else, too: they almost never share them. Facebook has the wrong network. Twitter makes them worry about spamming. Email and chat require them to know exactly who they want to send it to. On Potluck, we’ve tried to alleviate these barriers and made “publishing” as simple as copy-and-paste.

Meet new people — without being creepy.

Potluck, like a great house party, is a place for serendipitous interactions with new people. Early internet users are used to interacting with strangers online; for them, services like forums were the norm. But people under 25 grew up on AIM and Facebook, so for them, the internet has always been a place to hang out with their friends. We think this represents a big opportunity.

A friend-of-a-friend

On Potluck, your default view is a feed of all your friends’ activity: it includes links your friends posted and ones they’re talking about with their friends. This means you’ll often find yourself seeing new faces, talking to people you don’t know yet, and stumbling across topics you wouldn’t have thought to look for. These interactions couldn’t happen in other places online, where talking to friends-of-friends is creepy and browsing content that isn’t perfectly tailored to you is a drag.

So go ahead and say “hi.” On Potluck, that’s what it’s about.

How It Works

Potluck’s signed-in view
  1. Post: When you find an interesting link, post it to Potluck by copying and pasting into the on-site form or clicking our bookmarklet.
  2. Friend Activity: On the left-hand side of Potluck’s signed-in view, you’ll see a feed of all the links that your friends have posted, commented on, or hearted.
  3. Rooms: Click on a link to see its room open on the right-hand side. Here, you’ll find a link preview, the faces of everyone who has interacted with it so far, and who is talking about it. You can leave a comment, too, or just “heart” it to show your approval.
  4. Notifications: When people mention you in a comment, send you a Friend request, or post in a room you’ve interacted with, you’ll see a green alert on your Notifications tab.
  5. Profiles: On Potluck, you can view the profiles of your friends and your friends-of-friends. These profiles show you your mutual friends, who they talk to on Potluck, and links they’ve recently posted.

In addition to the web product, accessible at https://www.potluck.it/, Potluck for iOS will be available in Apple’s App Store soon. Stay tuned!

Branch Media, Inc.

Branch Media is a New York City-based company whose team builds social products that empower people to talk to each other. The company’s backers include Evan Williams, Biz Stone, and Jason Goldman’s Obvious Corp., Jonah Peretti and Lerer Ventures, John Borthwick’s Betaworks, Ron Conway’s SV Angel, and a great group of angel investors.

Branch, the eight-person team’s first product, is a platform for hosting and publishing invite-only conversations. It has been used by publications like The New York Times and Fast Company, brands like General Electric and Hyatt, and public figures like Baratunde Thurston and General Stanley McChrystal. Its second product, Potluck, is a web and mobile application for friends to hang out and talk about cool things they find on the web.