Some Strategic Considerations

August 19, 2021

Image of a twitter exchange:
Raphael Luckom @RLuckom · 1h I've been working on a distributed social media system design that tries to lessen those dynamics, but so far I've had a hard time convincing people that it's a real possibility.
Bonnie Kristian @bonniekristian · 1h It's certainly intriguing, but yeah, I'm skeptical, too. I don't know if we're capable of behaving ourselves at scale.
Raphael Luckom @RLuckom · 1h For me, the interesting question is: if I can make it arbitrarily cheap to *attempt* to participate in a solution, will skeptical people give it a try, or is there some disincentive I'm not seeing beyond just inconvenience.
Raphael Luckom @RLuckom · 1h Like the Baldwin quote--"to act is to be committed and to be committed is to be in danger"--is there some kind of psychological Rubicon that even people who are critical of these systems will not cross. Bonnie Kristian
@bonniekristian Replying to @RLuckom I would put it less as inconvenience than tiredness and an unwillingness to be duped again. Not that you're trying to be deceptive, but if for those who joined Facebook at 19 c. 2005 convinced it was going to connect the world for good, it's a big ask to try again. 9:50 AM · Aug 19, 2021·Twitter Web App

I always feel pretty lucky when I get to have a conversation about my ideas. The rule I try to follow is, “When asking someone for their opinion, don’t argue with them if they give it to you.” And I think that the way Kristian frames the skeptical posture—”tiredness and unwillingness to be duped again”—is both reasonable and an accurate description of the general vibe in 99.999% of the conversations I’ve had about this with anyone.

What I take away from this is that no one will be convinced to try a claimed “better social media” idea solely on the claim that it is “better.” That is, no matter how much of a critic someone is of existing social media systems, there is no argument that can be made by a rando on the internet that will convince them to try something else. Not because they hate the idea, but because the odds that a rando on the internet is trying to dupe them are far greater than the odds that there is a rando on the internet who is both not trying to dupe them and whose kooky idea has any chance of working. In other situations, I would come to the same conclusion; I believe the financial industry is sketchy AF, but if I got a message on twitter from someone who said “I have years of experience in investment banking; the system is badly broken; I have a way to design investments to fix it and you can participate easily and cheaply,” that would be a hard sell. It’s not that I disagree with the premise—it’s just: if your idea is so good, why are you trying to pitch it to me, instead of someone who knows what you’re talking about and might have the skills to help?

I’m not writing this post because I’ve had an epiphany or thought of a knockdown argument or surefire tactic. I’m writing it because I think this is a useful frame for thinking about what I’m trying to do, and I need to keep it in mind.