What are the main reasons that led you to create Minus?
Today’s big social media platforms are centrally focussed on one singular concept: more. They’re designed to stoke us all into an ever-increasing cycle of production and consumption (through more liking, friending, reading, and scrolling) so they can extract—from our actions—ever more profit.
I’m always wondering: what if it were different? What if, for example, social media weren’t engineered to produce endless growth by always getting us focussed on more? How might online collective communication be different if our time and attention were treated as the limited and precious resources that they are? What might happen (or not happen) if a platform didn’t try to induce endless engagement from our every waking second? What might we say—or make—if freed from big social’s infinite demand? In other words, what if our software, instead of always wanting more, desired less?
When we talk about less, we are talking about less posts, but more exposure, ergo more interaction?
Well, at least more genuine interaction that isn’t driven by feed algorithms or interface patterns such as ‘like’ counts.
One reason today’s social media platforms algorithmically filter our feeds is because they know we’d be overwhelmed if we saw every post. There are too many! But of course they built the system to encourage more posting and more friending because more data equals more profit. And, while their algorithms reduce the volume, they also let them tailor what we see in ways that keep us on their sites. This not only makes more revenue for the companies possible but, unfortunately, is also a key feature that’s enabled the rise of viral mis- and dis-information, challenges to teen self-esteem, and existential threats to democracy.
Reducing the number of posts on the feed reduces or eliminates the need for an algorithm to filter it. If the volume is low and the network is small, then users can read everything without getting overwhelmed. That means there’s no confusion over who sees what. It also means that users don’t have to game the algorithm to get their posts seen by writing, for example, the most divisive speech they can imagine (because they’ve learned that such posts get more reactions and, thus, visibility).
Another feature of Minus is that it has no likes or other ‘reactions’. That means the only ways to interact on Minus are to make a new post yourself or to write comments under existing posts.
Many of the posts on conventional social networks do not reach all of our contacts. Is it accurate to say that by limiting posts we are getting more people to see what your network publishes?
A higher percentage of the network, at least. One irony about TikTok or Instagram is that while any single post might be seen by more people than are in our friend network, it might hardly be shown to any of our friends. Because Minus is just one collective network, a space without followers or friends where everyone shares the same reverse chronological feed, the whole group can, by definition, see your post. The 100-post limit functions to make sure the feed never gets too crazy, to encourage more consideration by users before they post at all, and to make space for new users on the feed after others have exhausted their allotment.
Is Minus meant to be a compressed and enhanced version of a particular social network?
It’s meant to allow us to experience familiar social network design features—such as posts, replies, and feeds—in new ways. One of the best ways to figure out how a system affects us is to reduce it to its barest essentials. Minus is probably most similar to Twitter in form, though almost nothing from Twitter is left. Minus has no retweets, followers, likes, trends, messages, categories, hashtags, bookmarks, lists, or notification metrics. Its posts can’t have images or video. And, perhaps most importantly, there are no ads and no algorithm deciding what you see and what you don’t. In my view, those reductions are an enhancement.
If you had to define the age range of the community you would like to create, what would it be?
We are in the year 2025. What is the status of Minus?
Three years is an eternity for a social network that’s only been around for four months! So, I can’t say for sure. One point I’ll note is that it may not last. It is, after all, a ‘finite’ social network! I’m a single person running a site with (intentionally) no revenue and no profit motive. So, it might just disappear. However, my hope is that three years from now it’s a vibrant place with a rich culture of interaction, a place where we’ve already seen generations of ‘older’ users (old in time on platform, not age) transition from posters to commenters, thus always making room for the latest arrivals to craft their own 100.
A sort of slow shifting of the conversation from one group to the next. Perhaps most importantly, I hope Minus continues to do one thing it seems to be doing well so far, which is to encourage critical consideration about who benefits most when Big Tech platforms always want more and how the world could be different if our software was, instead, designed for less.