about us, our feelings, thoughts, plans, desires.
Messaging platforms are quickly evolving over time. In the beginning there was the plain-text SMS, then smileys were invented, and today our conversations are full of emojis, GIFs, and fun videos. The issue is that the ratio of unique content produced by ourselves, with respect to the overall content, shared in our conversations is plummeting.
We think that modern chat platforms tend to suppress our need for self-expression and replace it with the urge to share ready-made standard viral media, and to overuse poor language, vulgarity and slang. This is extremely tempting and contagious. No one can deny that the last weird GIF they received was ridiculously hilarious. We want to build an open source chat platform that will help us to talk about ourselves and focus on our relationships, and encourage introspection instead of turning us into semi-automatic, smartphone-addicted meme reposters.
This campaign is itself a social experiment. Do people want to take a stance on chat features and rules, or would they rather have big companies deal with these issues?
A concrete proposal
We want to build a new chat platform with unique features. No GIFs, photos or videos will be allowed – by design. There are already plenty ways to share that kind of content! AboutUs is literally about us, about our feelings, thoughts, plans and desires.
We’d like to ask users to periodically vote (we may also consider issuing voting tokens on the Ethereum blockchain) about what things are good and healthy in digital conversations and what is bad and toxic. Consequently, new rules/features will be added to the platform and put to the users’ judgement.
Furthermore, every new conversation between two people will be preceded by a brief platform-guided agreement about what is to be encouraged in the conversation itself and which rules will be enforced.
We think that IM makes us more prone to use super common words and formulate syntactically incorrect sentences, leading to the language variety’s pauperization and meaning depletion. We want to investigate whether it is possible to use cutting-edge technologies like Natural Language Interpretation techniques and Machine Learning to penalize uncreative, unimaginative, uninspired messages (for example, by introducing a small delivery delay).
Jane had a heartbreaking argument with Joe yesterday. Now, she wants to express her feelings about it and carefully chooses every single word she says. Joe is still furious when he receives the message, and so he abruptly replies. This isn’t good. We want to let Jane make Joe wait at least three minutes before replying to that particular message.
Do you know how you feel when you’ve just sent Jack a 400-word message recalling a great memory from the old times and all you receive back is “haha yes gr8”?
Well, we’d like to automatically estimate a message’s life intensity and ask Jack if he really wants to behave emotionlessly, or if he was just caught in a hurry and would like to put more significance in his answer.
Against smartphone addiction
Psychology studies are investigating the extent to which the continuous stream of notifications is damaging our ability to focus on real-time issues and ruining our creativity. We want to let people choose whether they want to receive notifications immediately or would rather be alerted of new messages once every hour or so.
AboutUs will be cross-platform (including browser) by default. We believe that enforcing your dependence on that nasty little machine in your pocket is just a violation of freedom.
Delivery/read receipts, “Bob is typing…” info, and the user’s last seen, will be configurable not only on a global level, but also on a conversation-by-conversation level.
AboutUs is healthy at any age. If you are a youngster or an adult, you can preserve and strengthen your already settled communication skills. But AboutUs also has an educational purpose for children and teens. They can learn to develop linguistic and self-expression skills. Remember to pick the most appropriate feature set in order to reach your goal!
We hope AboutUs can help avoiding situations like this:
We’ve started to think about how we could use AboutUs’ capabilities to improve chats. Users will choose the set of rules they like. What about, for example, setting a daily limit to the number of short/extremely short messages, in order to encourage full expression of ourselves?
Sorry, there’s no business model here. We think that human relationships are too serious and delicate an issue to turn them into a cash cow. AboutUs will be supported by donations (the app will be free).. after all, a purely textual communication platform won’t be so expensive to maintain!
AboutUs will be a community, not a market product.
Are you a software developer, a graphic designer, a UX expert, a teacher, a coach, a psychologist, a social-media critic? If you want to play a role in this movement, we’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org!
We are full-time Computer Engineering students. We have developed a good technical skill set, and we are very passionate about creating new technologies for the people.
Sara, after receiving a bachelor honors’ degree in Physics, wants to focus on human-centered technologies, ranging from wearable robotics to human-to-human interactions.
Simone is a 21-year-old Engineering student. He started playing around with code when he was a child. Now he’s interested in decentralising platforms, machine learning and free software.