For all there is to like about Reddit, there are plenty of shortcomings, could Imzy solve those issues and takeover where they fail? Reddit was formed over a decade ago – and today, the ‘front page of the internet’ holds true to that name. A lot of content that goes viral is directly related to the sites massive and highly engaged user base. You share something, if people like it, it gets upvoted, and when people don’t like it, it gets downvoted. That democratic approach to content sharing has fueled Reddit’s relevance and success – but the other side of the coin is that Reddit attracts negativity. A hell of a lot of it, such that the site has been working to try to resolve those issues for years now. They have removed certain subreddits, they ban users and are actively trying to guide the community into a more positive light, but progress is very slow and met with major resistance.
Step in Imzy, a platform developed by former Reddit employees that hopes to be a better, happier, healthier and safer Reddit. Imzy right out of the gate has a pretty clear mandate that is surrounded by community and discussion. Hate, racism, sexism and other bad content need not apply as communities that cater to this kind of content will be shut down rather quickly (this includes porn and other NSFW content). The hope is that building a positive community from the very beginning will set the groundwork to maintain that. If we’re talking buzzwords, then Imzy is a kind of digital ‘safe space’. We’ll talk more about that in a bit.
I heard about Imzy back in early April, and immediately applied for access to the site. Two months later, a beta key arrived in my inbox and I immediately jumped on board. The signup process is rather simple – involving selecting a username (I messed up and pressed ‘n’ by accident, so my name is zachn), picking a few interests, and then a few communities to join. Then it takes you to home feed, which looks very similar to the Facebook homepage. That design helps to make the process of understanding Imzy a lot easier. On the left, you have your communities, down the middle a feed of activity from those communities, and at the top a search, your navigation, and your submission options (which include sharing text, links, Twitch streams, podcasts, images and running polls.)
Part of the way that the positive community is going to be maintained is that communities are opt in required – you can’t comment or discuss anything in a community you haven’t joined. At the same time, community leaders have the ability to quickly discipline or ban users completely. Each community has their own set of rules too, so it’s crucial to read them before you start to contribute or comment. I’ll talk more about Imzy communities in a follow-up post (once I’ve set up my own communities and experienced the process a bit more). The other way in which communities are being incentivized to stay positive and constructive is their built-in tip system. Through the payment service provider Stripe, Imzy enables users of the site to be able to send money to each other to reward them for great content. If you enjoy someone’s content, you can send them a dollar. If you enjoy a community and want to reward the moderation/community leaders, you can send them some cash. It’s a unique way to putting your dollars to action and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.
Imzy Has Anonymity YET Accountability
Engaging in communities is a fascinating DEEP system – first off, you can have MULTIPLE profiles attached to your main account. For example, I have my REAL name that I’m using in one community, while I’m using a different name in another. The idea being, if you wanted to keep some privacy between communities you can. You can also share content or comment anonymously (again, paired to your main account – so if you’re being abusive you can still be banned.) It’s a kind of middle ground anonymity where publicly you’re private, but privately you’re known. Weird right? It’s actually quite clever. On individual content you can upvote things, there is no downvoting. You’re also able to comment in threads, and the content is very media friendly – you can share images, share links, and text formatting to your posts.
I mentioned ‘safe space’ above, and want to quickly address it. One of the things that I worry about Imzy is what I don’t like about Reddit but for opposite reasons. On Reddit, you can anonymously share negative content that’s racist, sexist, hateful, attacking, fear mongering etc. It’s very negative – but there is also some real conversation that happens there on tough topics that should be talked about. Imzy is the reverse, there will be no tolerance of fear, sexism, hate or anything of that ilk… but where do they draw the line? Are Republicans inherently bad to a ‘happy’ place? Does valid criticism equal hate? Will being a haven for safe/liberal thought kill off discussion of any different point of view? My hope is that the site allows CONSTRUCTIVE discussion on all topics, because that’s one thing the world needs – constructive, respectful and polite discussion without resorting to threats, rage, or censorship.
Small Update: Dan McComas, the co-founder of Imzy answered a question about the above: “We support all kinds of discussion, but there are a number of things that aren’t allowed: porn, hate speech, harassment, etc. You can have any kind of discussion while being civil, this is what we hope to encourage. We already have a number of communities that are not about happy, or positive things. We have no problem with this whatsoever!”
All that said, after three days on Imzy, I have to say, I’m loving the experience! I’ve joined about 10 different communities (there are hundreds already) and am having some really interesting discussions. As the site is so small right now (15,000ish due to intentional beta constraint), the conversations are few and far between, but it’s made getting a feel for things very easy. My next step is to set up my own communities (I’m allowed to create two) and try the experience of being a community leader. I’ll definitely follow up with a subsequent blog post (or series of posts) as I continue to learn, and experience Imzy. For now though, Imzy is new, happy and healthy with a mandate to remain that way. It could be a replacement for Reddit, or perhaps even Facebook, but if nothing else, it’s a fresh breath of digital air to enjoy.