You’re probably thinking this but don’t have the balls to admit it. So I’m going to go ahead and say it: the internet and the way we use it have gotten way out of hand. Just look at social networks – what started as a way to connect with people important to you and a means of discovering new information has evolved into one of the biggest time-sucks known to man. On Facebook, Twitter, and the like, your friend counts may be increasing, the content in your feeds may be exploding, but the quality of the time you spend interacting with these networks is probably going down. Way down. You know what I’m talking about.
But the internet wasn’t always this way. Before Imgur, Facebook, and AIM, people used to gather through their Windows 95 machines to chat in online forums. They shared ideas, they probably battled in a couple flame wars, but most importantly, they interacted with people they didn’t know. This is the part of the internet the new social network, Potluck, is trying to take back.
Potluck is a network for sharing links, which emphasizes authenticity, simple publishing, and meeting new people. Like a house party for the internet, Potluck wants to make it easy for you to chat with friends and friends of friends about interesting things. In a way, Potluck reverses the trajectory of social media, bringing us back to the basics of what social sharing is all about. “On most social networks, you’re under constant pressure to live up to expectations,” Josh Miller, the co-founder of Potluck’s parent company, Branch, wrote in Medium. “Double-digit likes, original witticisms, breathtaking images: It’s what the NY Times’ Jenna Wortham calls ‘Success Theater,’ and why tenth graders flocked to Snapchat a long time ago.”
How Potluck Works
Potluck is designed to make it easy for you to share links with friends and interact with friends of friends. Here are some of the things you’ll find on Potluck:
To post to the site, you paste a link into the input form on Potluck’s site or click the Potluck bookmarklet. Before you share, you have the option to change the link’s title, and voilà: you’ve shared a link for your friends to find in their feeds.
When signed into Potluck, you’ll see a feed of all the links your friends have posted, commented on, or hearted. This way you will discover links posted not only by your friends, but also by your friends’ friends. What’s most interesting about your feed is that the links there are not accompanied by the names or avatars of the users who posted them.
Clicking on any link that interests you will open a reading pane on the right half of the screen, called a “room.” Here you’ll find a snippet of the linked content, a list of people who’ve interacted with the link, what other Potluck users have said about the link, and of course the link itself. You can leave a comment or “heart” the link to show that you, too, found the link worth sharing. Within Rooms you can also share links via Twitter, Facebook, and email.
Other Potluck users can interact with you by mentioning you in comments, sending you friend requests, and posting in rooms you’ve interacted with. Potluck shows you who’s interacted with you through green alerts on your Notifications tab, located at the top left of the page.
Potluck offers profile views of users so you can get to know people you’ve met in a Room. Through user profiles, you can see information about mutual friends – who they talk to on Potluck, and links they have recently shared.
Encouraging All Users to Engage
“We’ve always wanted to design a system that enticed every user to engage,” Miller wrote. Hopefully Potluck will encourage “lurkers,” or the majority of social media users who only watch what others contribute rather than blogging or tweeting themselves, to participate.
Currently Potluck is only available on the Web, though Josh Miller says that an iOS app will be released soon.
Potluck is brought to you by Branch, an eight-person, New York-based team that builds social products that empower people to talk to each other. Their first product, of the same name, is a “platform for hosting and publishing invite-only conversations.” Branch is backed by Evan Williams, Biz Stone, and Jason Goldman’s Obvious Corporation, among others.
In addition to using Potluck, what other tools do you see yourself using to share and discover interesting things on the internet?