Jun 22, 20183m read
Where is Spot.IM going? Visions from the community
At Spot.IM, everyone’s coffee gets brewed at the same time– a fact that might sound like a given at any ordinary start-up. The smaller the company is, the more intimate its community. So the reasoning would go. And then, as growth booms and expansion sets in, what might have been a small venture, brimming with personality, becomes a corporate behemoth.
It’s not too far of a stretch to say that a similar logic applies to social media. Criticisms of social networks often hearken back to an era when print media were dominant. When face-to-face contact was the only form of contact. When people were supposedly friendlier and more amenable to free, open discourse. The world we’re living in is becoming less and less personal– at least we’re told. More importantly, we’re all wondering: have social networks replaced certain human conversations with just newsfeeds and DMs?
Maybe so. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Technology is constantly changing the world and the way it’s organized. Think of airplanes, cars, and telephones. Even ships left an impression that now seems impossible to gauge. Change comes in waves, and its ripples have major social impacts. We now live in a world where we can talk to each other across the globe, where images of our vacations and meals populate cell phone interfaces, where conversations occur instantaneously, with fewer barriers than ever. Like it or not, the web is where we get our information, and where we talk about it.
How then, do we make the web a place where conversation feels natural? Open? Substantive? Where users don’t feel like numbers? Where people come together to talk about things that interest them, in a setting that doesn’t promote trolls over those who care deeply about their communities? The question that interests us most isn’t so much what the web is, but what it can become. Moreover, if the web isn’t what we want it to be, how can we make it exactly that?
More than just a comments section
Matt Rahm’s path to Spot.IM doesn’t seem to make sense. He found the posting for his current job via an online recruiter, not knowing what specific company he was applying to– and where he would end up. Matt hails from northeastern Ohio, a place that isn’t particularly well-known for technology start-ups. Yet as haphazard as it sounds, the eighteen-year-old’s time at Spot.IM has been tuned with purpose, with a palpable drive to improve the experience of users across the various sites that deploy Spot.IM’s service, in comments sections and community pages. “It’s more than just a comments section,” he tells me, making sure that my understanding of the product is as broad and nuanced as his. “It’s really an ecosystem. Through recirculation and the newsfeed, users get to find more content and conversations they enjoy. They can read and discuss what they want.”
From my conversation with him, I can tell there are many reasons Matt loves working at Spot.IM. But among them, he emphasizes his ability to leave an everlasting mark on a product still in its genesis. His answer makes sense: Spot.IM continues to invest heavily in Research & Development, with no plans to ever call its product “final.” Yet as I listen to Matt, I begin to realize that the “mark” he’s talking about doesn’t just have to do with his technical work, or anyone else’s for that matter. There seems to be a consensus around the office that what goes into making Spot.IM isn’t just technical acumen: each person touches the product, personally.
The question that interests us most isn’t so much what the web is, but what it can become.
Like the people of Spot.IM, our users care about leaving their mark. “Communities allow dedicated users to become power users,” says Ido Goldberg, Head of IL Operations. “The communities we create around publishers’ content give voices to people who have something unique to say. We make them reporters and authors. In short, everyone can be a valuable contributor.”
So, where is Spot.IM going? What can our community do for other communities?
As we continue to bring publishers and their online communities even closer together– and in some cases, together for the first time– we’re aiming for a web that looks more like all of us.