Communities within Communities

Yesterday we released a new version of Amen. We added support for music, pictures, Facebook friend referencing and much more. We also made adjustments to the core service based on what we’ve learned over the last six months of activity on Amen while watching our community develop and grow.

Specifically, we saw one group of people come together from all over the world that had met each other on Amen. They used Amen in a way that was unique to their club, in a coded but highly conversational way. Because of the way the system was built the activities of this group were visible to almost everyone on the platform. Of course there is no wrong way to use a social service but we felt that they were posting to Amen at the expense of the broader community.

So we changed a few things in an attempt to remedy the situation:

First, we added a comments feature in the hopes that users would be able to express themselves through comments and without polluting lists.  

Secondly, we removed the New Feed.  This was essentially a fire hose of all opinions, and allowed anyone to interact with anyone else.   In one regard a fire hose is great because it can lead to new discoveries.  But while activity is great, hyperinflation isn’t – and we had to make sure that no single individual had the power to Amen every opinion in the system.

Lastly, and most controversially, we deprecated web posting, agreeing, and disputing. There are various reasons for the behavioral split, but ultimately our iPhone users were participating in a way that aligned with our core vision. While only a small fraction of our users were web-only, the majority of chitter chatter was created there. Typing is easier on the desktop than on mobile, of course, but on mobile we are able aid the user with ambient clues from the phone’s sensors (like places nearby based on GPS), which encourages opinions about real life experiences.

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This is not to say that we won’t eventually support a full-fledged experience on the web again, but we need to think about how to do it right. Our challenge is to encourage quality over quantity without dampening overall activity.

Already, one day after the changes we have seen positive results: old users returning to higher quality content and lists growing organically based on real opinions rather than conversations. We are happy with the decisions we took and stand by them.  We take our stewardship of the Amen community very seriously and are committed to its long-term growth and betterment.  

(Full text on the Amen blog)