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Building a respectful social publishing platform that gives you full control #indieweb

3 min read

Tim Carmody wrote a great piece how the social web is not living up to its promise on Friday:

Still, for as long as the web does work this way, we are never only these companies' "products," but their producers, too. And to the extent that these companies show they aren't willing to live up to the basic agreement that we make these things and give them to you so you will show them to other people -- the engine that makes this whole world wide web business go -- I'm not going to have anything to do with them any more. What's more, I'll get mad enough to find a place that will show the things I write to other people and tell them they shouldn't accept it either. Because, ultimately, you ought to be ashamed to treat people and the things they make this way.

As I replied on my personal Known site, this isn't necessarily an issue with the social web at all. Disrespectful software has become so commonplace that we've come to see it as the new normal.

Here at Known, we're committed to building easy-to-use tools that empower people to publish on spaces that they fully control. More than that, we're committed to doing so respectfully. That means we won't spy on you and won't perform psychological tests on you without your consent (or, in fact, even with your consent). We may perform A/B tests and do rigorous user research, because that's how software is made, but we'll do so transparently, and in adherence with ethical guidelines. To that end, we've already open sourced the materials we use to perform user interviews.

Why are we doing this? Partially because those are the ideals that led us to found the company in the first place. However, it's also good business: we're working with educators and journalists, and in both cases, we don't believe these practices would be ethical. Universities should not allow their students to be spied or experimented upon, and the sanctity of journalists' sources is paramount. For these kinds of organizations, respectful software isn't just an ideal: it's a feature.

We're not doing this in a vacuumL we're building our product in collaboration with these organizations. If you're a media company or an institution that is looking for a social publishing platform that gives you full control, get in touch with us. We're looking forward to working with you.