The Parleya experiment is essentially a documentation of my attempts to utilize the internet to promote healthy discussion about controversial topics between parties from different narratives and backgrounds. The first iteration of this experiment comes in the form of an application that uses psychological triggers to incentivize productive conversational behaviors.
What is poppin, boys and girls?? It’s your boi, Daniel frikin P. finally back from the dead yet again to give you some sweet, sweet content. Well, I suppose that’s a bit of a lofty claim. If web app forging, or general software corralling falls into your category of sweet, sweet content, then, well…I’m your man.
Let me immediately address the beluga in the room (I feel that the particular topic at hand is more egregious than what is typically correlated with your standard “elephant in the room” cliché, so I have appropriately replaced elephant with a more egregious entity to find in your room, namely the beluga). I, Lord Ex Fizz, have not posted any content in what feels like a decade. I am not sorry, and I don’t repent. If at any point you were invested enough in my postings to care about when I put something new on the ol’ site-erino, then perhaps you feel as though some sort of fizzy apology is in order. I love you dearly, should you find yourself in this category, but frankly, my lack of posting is none of any of our concerns.
As you may have guessed, I haven’t been writing ex-fizzicle content simply because I have been coding. Somewhat non-stop. What have I been coding, you ask? Well that’s the point of this new project, so tighten your belts and shoelaces, and settle on in.
Let me weave you a tale. At the beginning of human existence, before any notion of a social contract, humans essentially existed in a state of anarchy. If I looked over and saw you holding a really cool looking rock, then by golly, I’d go over, smash you in the head with another worse rock, and take that beautiful orb you’re holding right out of your hands.
Smashing other humans in the head is all fine and good, but what happens when a bigger boi comes along and wants my rock? Well, friends, I’m finna get smashed, and that’s a fact, jack. Now, brethren and sisthren, ya boi ex fizz is not in the business of getting smashed, so what do I do to prevent that? Well, I form a social contract with the bois around me. I may not be able to steal whatever I want from weaker human, but there’s a much lower chance of me getting smooshed, and that’s just really fantastic.
If you extend this notion more, you end up with a government. Healthy governments are pretty fantastic because even though not everyone has a perfect moral system that would perpetuate a healthy society, the blessed government provides a series of incredibly potent incentives for acting as though you do. To put it in a less overtly verbose way, if I smash someone in the head, I’m probably going to jail for a long time, so basically, I’m not about to go out on the street and start smashing people.
Now let me weave you another tale about the human experience. Around the turn of the century, humanity was reborn, not of flesh, but of ones and zeros, binary. With the advent of social media, humanity was able to assume a new digital form of being that afforded a set of experiences and abilities previously impossible.
However, much like the early stages humanity, we see in typical social media settings that there are no systems in place (like governments) that incentivize good behaviors. Sure Facebook and Twitter are desperately trying with their moderators and censorship, but that is mostly causing a whole lot of outrages, and the solutions they are implementing typically in no way scale with the size of the user base.
The effect of this, as especially seen on Twitter, is a huge population of humanity that essentially exists in a state of unregulated anarchy. And while the consequences of negative behavior may not threaten a person’s physical well-being (except in some cases – I’m looking at you, cyberbullying) they certainly take a non-trivial toll of people’s emotional well-being.
AT THE SAME FRIKIN TIME, the blessed, blessed internet is simply one of the most fascinating and impactful technologies ever developed. The level and speed of connection it provides is simply staggering. The fact that I can host an API in Ohio that I can access in milliseconds from Colorado, well, it’s simply breathtaking. Put in a more relatable sense, I, Danny boi G, can talk to someone in Singapore with millisecond latency. We take that for granted, but I mean, that’s literal insanity.
Anyway, why do I care, aside from my natural inclination towards juicy, juicy tech? Well, despite the extreme toxicity that something like twitter propagates, my hypothesis is that the absolutely insane level of connection afforded by the internet should be able to be used in a manner that benefits humanity and brings us together, rather than tearing us apart.
Now then, let’s get down and dirty with the Parleya experiment. I’ve identified three fundamental processes that are integral to the continued development of humanity.
Connection – human beings need to be able to cooperate in order to accomplish anything. If you live in America, you’ll notice we’re being torn apart by political and social issues, which introduces a wide variety of barriers to continued progress.
Accessibility, Integrity, and Quantity of Information Transfer – In order for human beings to effectively utilize stable subsystems to build stable and sustainable solutions to problems, they must attain the best possible understanding of both the problems they face and the tools at their disposal to solve said problems. Right now many news and media have strong incentivizes to mischaracterize problems due to political agendas, the desire to produce interesting content, and other things of that nature. In order to move forward, we must create systems that incentivize the propagation of accessible information that accurately characterizes the true nature of the information in question.
Analysis of Information – As previously mentioned, forward progress necessitates the use of stable systems to build solutions to problems. In order to build sustainable solutions to problems, we must understand the tools at our disposal, which necessitates a clear understanding of the relevant systems that can be utilized for our benefit.
Yikes that was long winded. Anyway, Parleya aims to address topic number one, ie connecting people. Specifically, the goal of Parleya is to build a platform that incentivizes healthy conversation about traditionally polarizing or controversial topics. If we’re actually good friends in real life, then you’ve heard me talk about Parleya for sure. I just haven’t blogged about it yet because for some reason I didn’t want to.
It has become apparent, however, that I should be providing some level of log to this project, because it’s essentially a scientific experiment. Well, I suppose any startup can be classified as an experiment, but especially this one, because the goal is clear, and the solution is not. Anyway, the purpose of this project is to log my hypotheses, observations, and conclusions with regards to the solutions I try for Parleya.
If you’re wondering what I’ve been coding, it’s Parleya. I’ve been working on it since the end of June, and I just finished the MVP. Shoot me an email if you’re interested in testing out the MVP.
Anyway, as previously mentioned, I’m going to write out my initial hypothesis for the first iteration of the project. Here goes.
As I mentioned, one major problem that I’ve identified with most major social media platforms is the fact that there are essentially no incentives against poor, unproductive behavior. If Kylie Jenner tweets something about her dog, there’s basically nothing stopping me from calling her a selfish whore, just because I’m feeling cranky.
Now, as is somewhat evident, this sort of name-calling behavior, and the ease with which twitter users can mock and dunk on each other does not in any way produce particularly meaningful discussions. Thus the principle goal of Parleya is to find a conversational structure that disincentivizes negative behaviors. Here is my first hypothesis for such a solution.
In a hopefully scientific fashion, I shall lay out the central assumptions I’m making about internet users.
If people are on Parleya, they want to interact with other people. The internet is boring even for trolls if nobody interacts with them.
People typically do not enjoy interacting with people that are obviously extremely aggressive or quick to post personal attacks against other users.
People typically do not enjoy interacting with people who are obviously over-sensitive and unwilling to engage with opinions other than their own. These are the assumptions I’m making. Now let me tell you how Parleya v1 works.
User one posts a conversation about a controversial topic. User two does not agree with user one’s point of view, and therefore posts a mean message with an emotional attack against user one. User one doesn’t like this one bit and decides to block user two’s message. Ok, Danny, I hear you saying. You’re describing social media. What about this is any different from anything else? Well, blessed reader, sit down, hush up, and let me frikin tell you.
The reason why Parleya is different is that conversations and messages are largely anonymous, but three numbers are associated with every message or conversation someone posts on Parleya. Here they are:
The number of times the user has had a message blocked
The number of times the user has blocked someone else’s message
The number of successful conversations of which this user has been a part
You may immediately see why this is useful. If your first number is high, then perhaps you have posted a lot of overly aggressive or offensives messages that people have blocked, which implies you’re not a good conversationalist. If your second number is high, then you have blocked a ton of other people’s messages, which implies you are overly sensitive or triggerable, and therefore not a good conversationalist. Finally, if your last number is high, that implies that you have obviously been a part of many good conversations, and thus are a good conversationalist.
Therefore according to assumptions 1, 2, and 3, people will want to keep their first two number down, and their third number up. Also let me say that explaining this by means of text is probably the worst way to do it, and if you’d like a better demonstration, shoot me an email, and I can demonstrate this app over zoom.
Anyway, as you might be able to see, if assumptions 1, 2, and 3 hold true, then there is a strong incentive to not post offensive messages on this platform, which is essentially what makes the platform different from other existing platforms.
The last part about the app that is cool is that after a successful conversation, you can send friend requests to other users who posted good insightful responses. Thus, even though Parleya conversations are anonymous, after a good conversation, you are able to connect with people from entirely different backgrounds and hear more about them and what informs their opinions.
Ugh, I’m on page frikin 9. Aint nobody got time for a post this long. I’ll add one last thing because it’s important. I got about 20 people who were interested in the testing the app, and what I quickly found is that I can’t approach user beta testing with a laissez-faire methodology, and I need to ensure users understand the platform and the flow of conversations before using it. So that’s where I’m at. I think you’re probably as tired reading this as I am writing this. See ya.