Last week, we launched a new TruStory community: US Politics.
Boy, was this a difficult choice! In recent years, US politics have become extraordinarily tumultuous and divisive. And the approaching 2020 elections only made this more obvious.
Obviously, we didn’t come to this decision lightly. You may be wondering how and why we concluded it was best to launch this community (and if we’re crazy). Well, that’s exactly what I want to cover in this post — let’s dive in.
How TruStory’s categories became communities
As you know, TruStory is a social network to debate claims. Claims can be about anything. Of course, not everyone knows or cares enough about every topic to want to debate it. So it made sense to categorize claims in a way that people could easily discover topics they’re passionate about.
Since TruStory’s inception, we’ve had countless debates about categorization.
What categories should we have?
How many will there be?
Do we keep the categories broad or narrow?
Who will create them?
And how will we launch new categories?
Before we launched Alpha, questions like these consumed inordinate amounts of our time. But each debate got us a little closer to figuring out the right approach. As Alpha’s launch loomed closer, we chose to go with an MVP solution:
We’d start off with three categories determined by our team. After launch, we’d let the community choose which categories to launch.
Here are the three we selected:
There’s so much left to figure out in the crypto space, but no place existed to have productive debates about it. Since our early community was primarily crypto enthusiasts, this one was a no-brainer — with our members’ passion and expertise, TruStory would eventually become the premier platform to debate all things crypto.
This miscellaneous category would serve as the sandbox for TruStory’s future. Have a debate topic that doesn’t fit into an existing category? Put it here. Sports? Sure, why not. Game of Thrones? Go for it. Trump? Oh lord…
Every week, TruStory makes critical product decisions. We wanted the community to take a more active role in them. So we used this category to debate all things related to TruStory.
In hindsight, all three categories have become undeniably successful. But none of this happened through magic; we spent a ton of time and energy in Alpha’s early days to make them work. Slowly but surely, we saw each category come to life.
Eventually, our community members started taking on some of the work for us. Thanks to them, these categories started to flourish. From there, many members began to realize that TruStory had immense potential to serve as a debate platform for countless other topics.
Each day, we’d be bombarded with numerous new ideas for a category: Environment, Entertainment, Physics, Psychology, International Politics, and Cooking, to name just a few.
Frankly, a lot of these categories were appealing. But it takes more than just appeal for a category to thrive.
Launching a category is more than a mere technical feat. It requires a passionate and dedicated community to bring it to life. And it’s something that can’t be built overnight; time, patient, and effort are required. It needs to be done right.
This was when we realized that calling it a “category” wasn’t doing it justice. A new TruStory category is actually an entirely new community. That’s when we decided to start calling these “Communities” instead of “Categories”. But one question remained: How do we decide which ones to launch?
How TruStory launches new communities
The launch of a new TruStory community is akin to the launch of a new subreddit on Reddit or a new site on Stack Exchange. Both Reddit and Stack Exchange have a process to facilitate these new launches. But they drastically differ in their approach.
Reddit takes a liberal approach to launch new subreddits. Basically, anyone who looks like a non-scammy user can do it. On the other hand, Stack Exchange takes a much more methodical approach known as Area 51. At TruStory, we sought to find a happy medium between these two methodologies.
We want to empower our members to launch new communities without being bogged down by too much process and paperwork.
To make this happen, we designed our own process for launching new categories: How to launch a new community (external)
In case you’re short on time, I’ll give you the gist of our process:
- Step 1: Create a claim in the app vouching for the community you think TruStory should launch. Get consensus from broader community.
- Step 2: Recruit 3 people who are knowledgeable in this category and can commit to sourcing 3 claims and writing 3 arguments each week for 6 weeks.
- Step 3: Craft a title, URL, and description (140 chars max) for the community.
- Step 4: Begin a 6-week-long Beta launch of the community. During this time, build up content and engagement.
- Step 5: Assess your community’s success. If there’s potential here, it’s time to launch officially. If not, the community will be deactivated and removed from the app.
And that’s it! Pretty simple, right? With this process in place, we can empower our members to decide which communities to launch.
TruStory’s first member-led communities
Not long after rolling out this process, a few of our passionate members decided to take on the mission of launching new communities. The first two member-led ones were “Programming” and “Data Security & Privacy”. Here’s a little about both:
“True, many programmers find Stack Overflow indispensable. And no shortage of programming tutorials exist online. But TruStory facilitates debate which will provide unique value to programmers. Debates unflatten the advice given on the internet by pushing the most agreed on arguments to the top. For example, should I use X or Y framework? Equally compelling blog posts promote both X and Y. A debate for this question would tease out which framework works best, and in which situation. That would be totally useful.”
“Privacy/InfoSec is not only a highly interesting topic, but it is one that would be perfect for a platform such as TruStory. Other platforms have limited communities on this subject, and limited structure for it. TruStory’s format and focus on intellectual debate means it would be very attractive to those who really want to talk seriously about privacy and data security, by allowing users to properly structure arguments and link plenty of resources, such as documents detailing privacy violations. This category will foster not only philosophical discussion about the meaning/application of privacy, but also how to attain it.”
The debates made it clear that these could both flourish into compelling communities. Thanks to our Programming missionaries (shout out to owenfernau, paulapivat, hari_krish_) and Privacy & Data Security missionaries (shout out to VxrxnGxxl, williamjrhodes, haggsbason) for working hard to ensure these new communities are off to an incredibly promising start!
Do politics have a place on TruStory?
Of course, it was only a matter of time before a debate about whether TruStory should launch a Politics community would come up.
Although I knew this day would come, I was always personally against launching a Politics community for many of the same reasons mentioned by our members:
“A politics category may destabilize the collegiate culture of TruStory while it’s in its nascent stage. It’s better to hold off for now.”
“This category will undermine TruStory’s ideal of “stop yelling, start debating”, and will alienate many users from the entire platform.”
In all honesty, a large part of my hesitation to launch a Politics community stemmed from social conditioning and scar tissue. After all, nearly every political debate on Twitter and TV ends up being a complete shit show. But the arguments for launching it were too riveting to ignore.
“Politics is going to be one of, if not the most, discussed topics in the public consciousness over the next 1.5 years. Right now, there is no place on the internet where people can discuss politics in a purely intellectual way without getting emotionally charged. TruStory can be that platform, where people can intellectually discuss politics while always maintaining respect for the other side.”
Compelling, right? But it still didn’t feel like enough warrant to launch. Then I came across a cogent argument which completely changed my mind:
“I think adding politics as a category is a great way to ‘stress test’ the TruStory system. It is the one category where civility is most likely to breakdown as people tend to fall back on emotions and party loyalty. So as a platform that is built to encourage civil and intellectual debates, politics would be the ultimate category to help TruStory prove its effectiveness in conducting well structured and objective internet discussions around emotionally charged issues.”
Damn… how could we say no now?
TruStory’s mission is to enable productive debate. And what better way is there to put this to the test than politics?
So let’s give this a shot. We have 6 weeks to stress-test this community while it’s in Beta phase. And if things go awry, we can deactivate it, take a page out of politicians’ playbooks, and pretend it never happened (sort of).
With all of this said, I’d like to give a warm welcome to TruStory’s first Politics community: US Politics.
So far (fingers crossed), it hasn’t been too bad. In fact, I’ve actually enjoyed these debates quite a bit! And I’ve learned A LOT in the process. 🤔
The future is looking bright for this community. And if we keep this up, maybe we’ll manage to pull off something unprecedented on the internet:
“What if TruStory manages to carve out an oasis of civil debate on the internet where most discourse devolves into ad hominem?”
Too good to be Tru? 🤔 We’ll have to wait and see ;)
Join us on Beta
Follow us on Twitter
The latest Tweets from TruStory (@isTruStory). Debate claims with skin in the game. Los Angeles, CA
Subscribe to our YouTube