Somewhat ironic that Sidewire won’t itself respond

I found myself nodding — a lot — as I read Today’s Internet is Optimized for Noise, as its goals echoes so closely Hashtag Platform.

After all, Sidewire bills itself as a technology platform that seeks to give:

“communities of people with relevant, valuable insights a chance to easily connect around ideas”

Check. Hashtag Platform is designed to help communities self-assemble and grow across language borders by using advanced language technologies to help members curate, discover and propagate quality content across linguistic, cultural and organisational barriers.

Even as the internet produces more information every day, for the most part what is created is not informed conversation — it’s noise… In spite of this, the internet remains the world’s most valuable tool. If you sort through enough of the noise, you generally find what you’re looking for. It’s a chore …

Check. By helping communities with the chore of curating content, and incentivising them to highlight the best quality content, better quality content will rise to the top, whoever publishes it, in whatever language. It’s all about increasing signal-to-noise.

… leaders built communities with other people committed to progress — even with different political views — so that together they could move political discourse forward.

Check. Communities can be designed to penetrate, not reinforce, the filter bubble. It’s not easy, but there’s a lot of excellent work in this field — see the Guardian’s excellent How the internet is trying to design out toxic behaviour.

So as I downloaded Sidewire some two weeks back, I posed a question:

No answer, so I checked it out for myself.

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A quick summary of the NYTimes article appears behind the …, and is followed by remarks from Sidewire-approved commenters, like this one massively useful one:
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What I found is a place where Sidewire-anointed journalists can comment on some (presumably pre-selected) stories.

No clue as to who curates these stories, nor the criteria they use to decide what is newsworthy: currently it’s 90%+ US Presidential Race.

Also no clue as to how the commenters are selected, nor who selects them.

And for the rest of us plebs? We can vote those comments up and down, and embed them, should we feel so inclined.

Apparently we can also share them within a walled chat garden, but being from outside the US I wasn’t allowed in so I can’t tell you anything about it.

I confess to being rather deflated by the reality. I thought ‘community’ meant more than this.

In the end, this is a platform that:

“encourages informed analysis and debate among expert communities, while making those conversations shareable to everyone”

Or, put another way, it gives a peek into the salons of the Great and the Good, and allows us to share & vote for their pontifications. But it gives us no right to influence - and is totally untransparent concerning - what they discuss, or who discusses it.

Is this another example of the Internet increasingly resembling TV?

In a few months we’ll be celebrating the 10th anniversary of Jay Rosen’s post from “the people formerly referred to as the audience”. We seem to have fallen a long way since.

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