Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

The CommYou Manifesto

This really belongs on the company website, maybe as the first entry of the official blog. But the website isn't set up yet, and today is karmically the right day to write this: the new project begins in earnest on the new year, and I want to state the vision publically. Besides, you folks are *my* most personal community, so it's only right to bring you in first. So here's my current enthusiasm and obsession -- hopefully I'll be able to fire your imaginations as mine has been.

"Communities, Communicating." That's the motto of the company, and where the name "CommYou" came from. (And let me tell you, I was overjoyed to find a name I liked that I could actually get the .com for.) It was the slogan that transformed a vague concept of "maybe I can make Facebook conversation suck less" into an Idea. It's more than just empty words: it sums up the whole point of the game.

First, there's Communication. It's not as if the Net is lacking in ways to communicate, of course. There's IM and Chat and Blogging and Forums and -- well, really so many modes that it's hard to keep them all straight.

But y'know, that kind of misses the point. Your *goal* isn't IM, or Chat, or Forums -- the goal is the conversation itself, which spans all of these. The artificial lines between the "down-tempo" forums and the "up-tempo" chat is kind of a hassle, really, because the same conversation can wander between tempos. Right now, you may want to post a carefully considered point, but in an hour you and three others may want to engage in real time, chatting about the subject; tonight, another friend may come online and want to pitch in their two cents. It's all the same conversation, just at different speeds.

Communication would be pointless, though, without the Communities. You are immersed in communities. Some of these are explicit and exclusive; some are implicit, made up of you and those who share an interest with you. Some might have a thousand people; some might only have three. But they are all communities, and they all want to communicate.

2006 was, theoretically, the year of "You" -- the year when people began to realize their power to communicate via the Net. But that "You" has been taken to mean "Me, Me, Me", focused on the individual's ability to publish, whether by blog or video or podcast. Again, though, that misses the more important point, which is about "Us, Us, Us" -- because without a community that you are talking to and with, those publications are hollow. It's not about yelling to the winds: it's about engaging in conversations (there's that word again) with your communities.

And then there's the You in the name. Because let's face facts: if the system doesn't work for you, making your communication with your communities easier, it's not worth that much. Most current systems aren't that great for you -- you are buried under so many conversations that are so *separate* that it's half-impossible to keep track of them. You might engage in a conversation briefly, but after that it tends to get lost under the clutter.

CommYou sits squarely at the intersection of these three points. It's a little like a chat system and a little like a forum, recognizing that both tempos are valuable and both belong in the same conversation. It looks a bit like a blogging system, but the emphasis is more on the conversation, not just on the top-post. And it's designed to make your life a little easier, with a UI that makes it easier to participate in the constant ebb and flow of conversations among your communities, and using the networks and modes that you already have, as much as possible: your social network, your email, your IM, your SMS, all working together. It'll look kind of familiar, but far from identical to what you've seen before.

The first target is going to be community conversations in Facebook, because it's pretty clear: Facebook *needs* this system desperately. LiveJournal may not be perfect, but they do at least kind of get the idea. Facebook has tens of millions of members linked together -- one of the finest maps of community currently in existence -- but not the tools for those members to communicate effectively. You drown under all the Friends and Groups and Events and Pages and other communities, all so separate that keeping track is half-impossible. Again and again, people tell me that Facebook's just a toy, but there is no reason it *has* to be: it just needs better tools. So it's low-hanging fruit: the first alpha is going to be deliberately very simple, but is still probably going to be more usable than anything else available on Facebook.

That's not the whole story, though -- the motto "Communities, Communicating" is a lot bigger than just Facebook. The first version, which'll hopefully be ready in a couple of months, will show just the tip of a very big iceberg, letting you converse more smoothly with your Facebook communities. But there are lots of social networks, and lots of modes of communication, to pull together into the picture. There is the fraught but exciting question of Identity: how to make sense of your melange of online personae. It's even likely to find a business track: one of the main points here is to make it easier to have *productive* conversation, and God knows the corporate world is desperate for that. Communication on the Net is still in its infancy: if we throw out the silly rulebooks and allow ourselves to think about what we want and need, we can do so much better.

And that's where I hope you'll join in, and spread the word. This isn't going to be a fancy, big, stealth-mode company built on patents and secrecy. I intend to be pretty open about what I'm doing, and I need more eyes on the problem. I invite and encourage you -- no, I *ask* you -- to join me on this. As it comes together, I'll need smart people using the system, helping figure out what's right and what's nonsense, telling me what needs to be there and what shouldn't be.

Make no mistake, I've got a lot of grand vision here, and a pretty deep design already -- the above may sound fuzzy, but I do have a pretty good idea what it looks like. But I'm deliberately keeping myself focused on the hundred-foot view: I'm good at this, but I'm not as good as my community when they put their minds to it. It'll need to evolve a lot, and you're going to drive that evolution.

So I encourage you to loose your imaginations and help me envision the future here. I expect it's going to be a little exciting, a little crazy, and sometimes a little frustrating, but it's going to be a fun ride...
Tags: commyou

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