Example of platform network effects

I just learned about Front Porch Forum, a seemingly ethical platform (see this article about FPF) that is mainly only available in Vermont. It’s in the same space as NextDoor, a VC-funded social media startup that focuses on local neighborhoods.

FPF started long enough ago and got enough foothold, that it seems unlikely for Facebook or Nextdoor to take over in Vermont unless they really declared war and went all-out. By contrast, it would be much harder (though not impossible maybe) for FPF to get to be a primary tool in places that now use FB or ND primarily.

I’m not sure what I think, I’m just bringing up this general topic. The network-effects here are really interesting.

Of course, I really wish my town in Oregon had FPF or similar. ND is used here somewhat widely, but I don’t trust their VC business model in the long-run nor do I like the particulars of their tooling (they used to have a classifieds section and then removed it because it was competing with their paid-ads business). The most active online forum here is on Facebook, and the behavior there is everything you’d expect from Facebook and not truly something focused on building human, real-world connections between neighbors.

How deterministic are these arbitrary network effects of what platforms get used by who first etc.? Or how much do people think these things really can vary and shift over time?

Please read this for a great Twitter thread talking about that.

Sorry about linking to Twitter. But it’s good.

TLDR; the structure of the web itself influences what individual communities act like now.

1 Appreciation

From my reading, you mean “structure of the web” in this context as the current state that the web is dominated by aggregators. It’s not the web itself that causes Facebook to work the way it does.

In fact, that thread emphasized Reddit, Twitter, and Tumblr. Because the issues they describe are specific to the sort of anyone-everyone commenting on aggregated whatever. Facebook is slightly different. Facebook aims to own everything, to be the internet. It’s a different space in some regards, though all of the communication patterns across these platforms all spill over.

By contrast, this case of our very own forum — this is a space to itself that isn’t an aggregator of everything. I think this sort of thing, entire independent forums building smaller focused communities… This is closer to the old blogosphere, and this enables a healthier situation. We are still threatened by the existence of all the anti-patterns that are around us in the dominant social media stuff though.

(And that thread the Twitter stuff references, RIP Culture War Thread | Slate Star Codex — that is amazing; the best I’ve seen at revealing what’s going on as a fundamental issue distinct from any particular position on the politics themselves, just the problems with communication, trolls, mobs, groupthink, outrage culture…)

Regarding my initial post, the factors that help Front Porch Forum avoid much of the toxicicity is by basically not focusing on being an internet platform so much. They have long time delays on postings, so you simply can’t have impulsive back-and-forths. By design, it aims to connect people but then discoursage them from continuing to just converse online. Once connected, it favors pushing people to meet each other in person. Topics can be brought up, events and classifieds etc. but then the real interactions follow offline.