Update #4 – 4-12-19
Anatomy of a Card
In Sphir, trusted communities can converse, curate information, and solve problems together. You’ll have all the social features you expect – a home feed, messaging, groups, etc., but at the core of Sphir are the unique, important, and awesome cards.
Better than a Note
Cards are virtual bookmarks that make it easy to find, organize, and share, the people, places, and things that should be remembered. Whatever it is, capture it once and it’ll always be at your fingertips.
More than an Image
Cards are dynamic. They can hold images, but also can contain links, descriptions, videos, tags, contact information, and much more. Articles, websites, businesses, videos, products, recipes … virtually anything … can be captured, saved, and shared in a card.
Posts are Fleeting
None of us need (or want) to remember every word of every online conversation, but wouldn’t it be nice to remember some specific parts of your discussions? Want to keep a good recommendation? Want to read or watch something later? Maybe you’d like to curate info on a certain topic over time. Cards make all of these things really easy to do.
Easy to Create
Anyone can (and should) create cards. Anytime you find something worth saving, pop it into a card and then you and everyone else will have access to the information whenever you need it.
Each card represents one person, place, or thing, but you can save and organize any number and combination of cards in your folders. Card privacy is at the folder level.
Original Content Cards
Write a blog? Create unique videos? Sell products? “Cardifying” your content can help extend your reach (organically and for free!) and will be a very easy way to monetize.* Direct users back to your source content or move your content directly into Sphir cards that you own. Of course there’s more to Cards than what’s here, but don’t worry – you’ll quickly get the hang of it all.
*Coming in Phase II.
Update #3 – 3-19-19
As promised, in this post we’re digging into the details of Sphir’s robust feature set that you’ll see in Phase I of our launch. Compared with other social websites many of us use today, Sphir has some similarities and some differences. Here are our main features and a few pictures of what you can expect.
Familiar Features in Phase I
Search for people you know, send and receive friend requests. Block anyone you choose.
Privately chat and exchange information with your Friends through our fully capable messaging system.
Post text, comments, images, links, Cards, Folders, and more to/through your account.
Share your own posts, those from friends, and other content from around the Internet.
Get your friends and people you want to stay in touch with into a space just for you. Public, Private, and Secret Groups can be created.
Unique Features in Phase I
Privacy (typically set to “Public”)
Mark everything you do with the level of privacy you prefer – in Sphir, your default privacy setting is always PRIVATE.
Self-Curated Stream (aka “Feed and Follow”)
See posts from specific People, on certain Topics, and that are posted in particular Groups that YOU want to see. Change it up anytime. We never push content or control the order of your Stream.
Find (aka “Search”)
Your search results are personalized by your connections with friends and friends-of-friends and cannot be manipulated by advertisers, spammers or bamboozlers. Content from those you’re not connected to will show, but it’ll be much easier to judge it for trustworthiness through the lens of our Sphir ConnectionGraphTM.
Frequency (aka “Profile”)
The usual stuff – your posts, your info, etc.,but also your Library (see below), your custom content, advanced video features*, and your own eCommerce*.
Save (what we call your Library, Cards, & Folders)
Save content for later in your own organized and elegant Library. Create and combine your own or others‘ Cards (super cool bookmarks for the people, places, and things worth remembering) in Folders (topic-based, sharable collections).
Also Core to Sphir:
Freedom of Speech/No Censorship (Felonious activity is strictly banned.)
No tracking or selling of personal data
Blockchain account and eCommerce encryption
Next week … What is a Card?
*Phase II feature.
Update #2 – 3-09-19
Last weekend we made the super soft announcement of the site’s new name and posted the new splash page. Based on the number of sign-ups throughout the week, the timing is right to gear up for the launch of what is now called Sphir.
Welcome to all of you who have signed up for updates whether you’ve been patiently tagging along for a while or are brand new to us. We’re glad you’re here.
I thought I’d kick off our weekly Sphir updates with a couple of quotes.
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
– T. Edison
A decade ago, this wasn’t a grand business plan. It was just an attempt to solve a problem. My idea was to create an online place to capture and access the things the people I trusted most had learned, so we’d all have this rich wisdom as a reference tool and we’d all get through life’s challenges more easily. I was most interested in health issues having struggled through some things personally, but I knew that every area of life had occasional challenges that would be easier if we had an efficient way to share our “been there, done that” details.
The original name was Rspheres, which stood for recommendations and referrals in your spheres of influence. Admittedly the name wasn’t very catchy and eventually I moved on to a name that I felt really represented precisely what I imagined would take place in the site – Wagglebop – named after the honeybee Waggle Dance, the scientific term used in beekeeping to describe the figure-eight dance that honey bees perform to share information about the specific location of good nectar, pollen, water, and new nest-site locations with their fellow bees. It seemed perfect – all of us in our communities directing others to the answers we needed based on our own personal experience. Alas, it still didn’t catch on. The tech and the name still had a way to go.
A series of other names and revisions of the site followed. Supirb (all the superb people, places and things in life with a domain name I could afford – “Superb.com was around $500k). Then we transitioned over to the more health focused name, Medella (the Latin word for “cure”). Eventually, as the bills for our bootstrapped project had really piled up and I’d not quite cracked the nut, — so I set aside my vision to see if perhaps the tech we’d built might be used in a way that would be easier for people to grasp and a business could be born.
We got a great opportunity with a wonderful group of people who had a vision for an app in the events industry. Since the idea was collecting information we decided we could fairly easily adjust what we had built into a tool that makes it easy for people to save, share, and reconnect with people they met at live events. Two years later (last fall), we launched their site.
“It is never too late or too soon. It is when it is supposed to be.”
― Mitch Albom, The Time Keeper
Over the years we’ve learned so much and have a core technology that is robust and flexible. Although our path has had many twists and turns, it’s clearly the right time to come back to the beginning.
Compared to what we all know as “Big Social”, Sphir is the same – and different. We have the functionality you’re used to like friend, follow, post/comment, save, share, message, groups, etc. and we also will offer our own unique curated social stream, personalized and ad-free search, and multifaceted frequency options (our word for profile).
We’re all fed up with censorship, abuses of our privacy, and the onslaught of advertising we get in most social platforms today and think it’s very important that you know, in Sphir, you will never be the product and your use of the site will never distorted by commercial interests. The features that need to be secure are protected by Blockchain and everything from private content to your identity will be incorruptible.
The core of what we built years ago is the same, but the design and social features have been improved significantly and now we have the technical and business experience to bring it forward. As far as the launch timing goes, we’re finishing up a few items and testing to be sure we give you the best experience possible. We will launch when we know your use of the site will be comfortable. It won’t be long.
Until then, our weekly messages will help you get to know the site. Next week we’ll explain more about the few important ways in which Sphir is different and how you can get started, even before the launch!
Thank you for joining us.
Update #1 – 1-08-19
Every day millions of us return to social websites that rule the online landscape while we complain (legitimately) about how we despise the way they treat us. Like clockwork, there we are, coming back for more.
Also, the Internet is haunted by the ghosts of failed social sites created by groups with incredibly deep financial pockets and crazy-smart brainpower in their ranks, who ultimately left millions of users in their wake when they went belly-up with little or no warning.
Why has no one been able to build not just a viable, but an excellent alternative for those of us seeking something social but … better? You’d think we’d be inundated with great options. I mean, how hard can building a social website really be?
Well, let’s say you decide you’re going to throw your hat in the ring! You will create a site that’ll offer enough of the things that people can’t live without and you’ll fix what’s wrong with the social sites we use today.
I thought you might want a few nuggets of wisdom from the trenches to put in your back pocket as you plow forward, so I put together a list of things to ask yourself to help get you on your way. Keep in mind that these questions just scratch the surface of what you can expect to have to work through on your journey, but at least it’s a place to start.
If you’re like the rest of us, you may want to jump in with the fun stuff – design! How will your site look and feel? What color palette will you choose? You’ll quickly need to dig a little deeper though and ask yourself, how you’ll create a feeling that the space is alive and vibrant, but not noisy or complicated? You should expect that finding a happy medium between boring simplicity and overwhelming complexity will not be easy.
Then, you’ll probably start to think through your feature set. Which features and functions are critical to include? Which are just nice to have? Which might you reject and why? Will you offer anything truly new and unique? Your users will need enough options, but not too many. Some familiar functionality, some distinctive additions, but nothing that requires any real mental calisthenics. No one wants to have to think too hard when using software and their expectations for ease of use are high. Be prepared.
You’ll also need to spend some real time focusing on answering the “softer,” more nuanced questions about who you are as an organization and why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Then, what are your core values? Will everyone need to have the same values in order to use the site? If not, how will you facilitate a certain bare minimum level of harmony – a live and let live philosophy among the large groups of users who are diametrically opposed to one another in real life? Whose values take precedence?
Of course, you’ll need to think long and hard about censorship. There are consequences to censoring and to not censoring content and a variety of ways to do it – or avoid it. Clearly, across major social media sites today, censorship is pervasive and driven by a tiny segment of a minuscule percentage of our population. “They” hold the power to shape much of what is consumed by the billions of us who use their tech. Some cheer this fact, others rage against it. Most of us are somewhere in the middle and can see both sides of the debate. Suppressing intentionally corrupt, maliciously manufactured, or otherwise troll-ish content seems to make sense. Supporting the free exchange of genuine, honest, or otherwise necessary information does too. The problem is, how will you determine which is which and where will you draw lines that need to be drawn? Not having to re-constitute your rules at a later day will save you precious time and money so nailing these things up front will be important.
Financial considerations are also crucial, of course. The technical build of a site like this is one thing. Millions can go into the basic development and design process even for those who’ve got experience in having done it before. Then, maintaining the site will require you to employ a hard-working, dedicated team of people to manage and consistently evolve it to meet the needs of your users. How will you fortify and grow your team, your tech, and your users’ experiencewithout resorting to unscrupulous advertising, corrupt monetization of private user information, or having to accept funding from outside entities that care only about their bottom line?
Then, there will be attorneys and accountants, marketing experts, business planning professionals, and a whole bunch of other consultants that you’ll probably want to maintain solid relationships with, too. (read: hire) No one can do this alone and you’ll need to protect the work you do, but know that anyone worth hiring in any of these roles will not be cheap.
Hopefully this is enough food for thought to get you out of the gates. For us, answering these and hundreds of other questions has filled many years and countless whiteboards for our small team. In my next post, I’ll share our answers to these and other questions as well give you a look at some of our final design and development choices. We’re so close.
In the meantime, we’d really love to hear your thoughts and ideas on what you’d incorporate into YOUR perfect social website! And … now and in the future, your feedback and critique will be crucial to driving the site toward our collective definition of perfection.
Thanks for your continued patience. I think it will be worth the wait.
p.s. We’ll announce the new site name next week.
Medella Update – 11-23-2018
There was a tiny leak on the back of the refrigerator. An undetected gap on the edge of the drinking water hose had formed and water dripped slowly to the floor and beyond, tainting everything it touched. Mold grew outside and up into the tube. We couldn’t see it, but it was affecting every glass of water we drank and the air we breathed.
Of course, there was nothing inherently wrong with the water or the refrigerator. Water is life and that appliance is life sustaining. But, when the leak formed, water went where it was not meant to go, became contaminated and then unhealthy, expensive, and potentially catastrophic events followed.
To me, that scenario is a metaphor for social media (SM). The invention of the Internet is one of the greatest gifts we’ve been given throughout human history. It’s the literal brain trust of everything humans have documented about life – past, current, and future. Nearly all of the answers we’ve come up with so far are now stored somewhere online.
Through SM we have access to people and conversations about that content we never could have had otherwise. It allows for the sharing of information, knowledge, and wisdom (very different things) — through a common pathway not inhibited by geography or time.
Still, our lives are more separate than ever before; time together in real life has largely disappeared and “busy-ness” prohibits the critical transmission of wisdom that communities used to provide. We need connection with one another. The Internet quenches our need for connection and SM is the appliance that acts as a virtual fire pit or table around which to gather together, a bridge between the islands we inhabit.
We need them. But they are leaky and have been polluted. The world we experience through SM is so often a pathetic caricature of real life. Unintentionally and not, the construction and maintenance of SM have allowed things to grow within it that are frequently unhealthy and occasionally disastrous. And it hasn’t improved over time. It’s gotten considerably worse.
Much of what we find there now is manipulated, concealed, cloaked in chaos, and censored. Those behind the curtain have created a façade that obscures real dialog, connection, and the collective pursuit of solutions. They’ve abused the parts of our human psyche that are most easily taken advantage of, turning the SM environment into an ugly environment that pits people against people, and makes us lose sight of our humanity.
We’re blasted with advertising.
We’re spied on constantly and have our trust shattered daily.
Differences that could bond and enhance us are elevated such that they divide us.They make billions selling our personal information and have removed our ability to choose.
The work we do to curate and collect content, often with the purest of intentions, is repeatedly scattered on the virtual wind.
And yet, we return.
There have been attempts – some very good ones – to improve SM. Consensus seems to be that we just haven’t yet seen an iteration that both enhances its essential components, eliminates the undesirable and destructive parts, and adds elements that are fresh and useful.
That’s what I believe we have created.
It’s taken nearly a decade fraught with twists, turns and pitfalls, but we’re nearly there. There’s no good explanation why the particular group of us came together and have trudged forward year after year with no real light at the end of the tunnel, until recently. But, here we are.
We’ve built what is currently called Medella (Latin for “cure,” which we love, but not quite the expansive name we need). Now, we’re this close to launching.
My sincere wish is that you’ll come along on this journey. I hope that you’ll talk with us and bring your ideas to the space. Help us understand what can work better for us all. We hope to meet you in the site and work alongside you in pursuit of solutions. Your constructive criticism will be appreciated as will your kindness.
To set the stage, here’s a bit more about what we’ve built.
In this space, you’ll choose who you trust, listen to, and connect with.
Unless you want to hear about a company, opportunity or product, you’ll not be advertised to. But – if you want to connect with a company or creator or buy something, we’ll make it easy for you to do so.
You will NEVER be the product and your use of this tool will never distorted by commercial interests.
It will be easy to keep what you want to keep in an organized and accessible space and you’ll be able to share what you want to share with whom you wish to share it.
The parts of the process that need to be secure are protected by Blockchain and everything from private content to your identity will be truly incorruptible.
We believe in the good intentions of most people. That said, we’ve added a number of protections for users so content from trolls and antagonists will naturally be demoted and cleaned from the tool as their content is rejected by the larger user base. That’s not to say there’s no debating or disagreement allowed/encouraged. It’s just the way in which we disagree that we will drive to improve. Hopefully the way this tool works will encourage open minds, more compromise, and a closer-to-neutral attitude towards others who make different choices.
Also, we don’t want you to waste time here. There are plenty of other places to do that. We hope that the time you spend here will be more focused on curating the world around us, finding solutions to all of life’s challenges, and building more supportive communities.
Because the best advice generally comes from people who have “been there and done that,” we will encourage those who join us to continually hone your paradigm to focus on what works rather than what doesn’t, and to be brave in contributing the incredibly valuable wisdom you’ve collected through the experiences you’ve had.
We hope you’ll see this space as social media, but different. Better.
Bottom line is, we have a chance to change the world, to find new ways to tap into the full power of a committed community to solve our toughest problems by leveraging our collective wisdom, compassion, and good judgment that comes only from experience. I hope to see you there.