SHIFT recently had the opportunity to talk with Jack Ottman, Chief Operating Officer of Minds about it’s novel use of the Ethereum blockchain, how it differs from the corporate social media networks, and how it is an ideal place for conscious and alternative communities to connect and share.
SHIFT: Most people are currently unaware of Minds existing. What spurred the creation of it and how does it differ from the social media giants people know and use today?
JACK: Minds was created because we felt that the world needed a transparent, open source social network. We experienced first-hand the unethical and anti-competitive practices of companies like Google and Facebook with regards to surveillance, algorithm manipulation and user privacy. Minds differs from Facebook in a number of ways, most notably that we do not require your personal information (and encrypt any personal information you decide to provide). All of our code is fully open source, meaning that it is available for the public to review so you can be sure that we are not hiding anything in our algorithms. We also built a reward system so that the users who contribute the most to the network in terms of driving traffic and engagement actually get fairly rewarded with free advertising, as opposed to exploited like they do on Facebook.
SHIFT: With the ever-increasing censorship of free speech on the major corporate social networks, does Minds offer a true alternative to them where freedom of expression is allowed and encouraged as long as it doesn’t abuse others?
JACK: Absolutely. We align our content policy directly with US law, so anything that is legal in the US can remain on the site. There are still certain rules for content with regards to inciting violence or harassing other users, but our goal is to remove all subjectivity and ensure that free speech is protected on our platform.
SHIFT: There was a social network called Tsu a couple years ago that showed promise of being a refuge for the conscious and alternative communities and many sites such as ours were encouraging their audiences to migrate there. However, the platform closed up shop and back to Facebook everyone went. Would you consider Minds a place where those passionate about wellness & healing, personal conscious evolution, and global social transformation could go and co-create an inspiring environment?
JACK: Minds was built specifically for people who are passionate about these things, so we encourage all of your followers to come and check it out! We are constantly working to improve the platform so people can connect with others and have healthy dialogue that lead to tangible, real-world progress. We work very hard to be fully transparent and ensure that our community feels ownership of the platform in the same ways that we do.
SHIFT: The biggest issue with new social networks is mass adoption. A few people in a person’s social circle will join a new social network with them, but not enough will, and so that person goes back to the original platform they were on with everyone. How can people interested in being on Minds get their friends to be a part of it so they don’t feel all alone?
JACK: Mass adoption is certainly one of the biggest challenges. We are working on improving our referral system so that people can get properly rewarded for bringing their friends on. We are also working on building more tools so that users can more easily find friends or like-minded people and create their own networks. Remember, mass adoption requires early believers!
SHIFT: Facebook’s algorithm has gotten so bad that people using the site will usually only see posts from the same 15 people, day after day, thereby silencing the voices of many. Does Minds allow people to have a greater reach to their other friends on Minds and even those who are not subscribed to their Minds channel?
JACK: Minds ensures that all posts get distributed to 100% of your subscribers in chronological order. We also reward users with tokens every day based on their contribution to the network, and one token grants you 1,000 advertising views across our whole network for expanded reach. Our brand was directly impacted by Facebook’s restrictive algorithms and we were only reaching about 3% of our fanbase, which is a big reason we created our own platform to begin with. So yes, we let you reach all of your followers as well as reward you with more reach if your content is high quality. Our code is fully open source too, so we will always be held accountable for any algorithms we are using.
SHIFT: Many paradigm-shaping movements were started on social media sites like Twitter (using hashtags) and Facebook (using event pages, live streams, and groups). Do you see Minds being able to be a place where people are able to organize under a common goal and actualize it thanks to the platform?
JACK: We are actually working specifically on our groups right now to make sure that people are able to easily gather under common goals and hopefully create real-world progress. The plan is to call these “Gatherings” and we want to eventually incorporate live streaming, live chat and more so that people can communicate on issues with like-minded (or unlike-minded) individuals in real-time. At the same time, we want to be holding similar “gatherings” in the real world by hosting events, talks and more. It is really important to bring things back to the real world in order to make real progress.
SHIFT: Minds started up around the same time Ethereum and got onto the Ethereum blockchain in 2018. What spurred this shift into the new world of decentralized blockchains?
JACK: Ethereum was a great fit for us because it allows us to decentralize our payments which makes it impossible to censor or block them. You see companies like Stripe and PayPal banning some of our competitors due to their free speech position, and it is pretty horrifying. Simultaneously you see companies like YouTube and Patreon demonetizing users due to political opinions. This is precisely why we migrated to the blockchain and crypto, as we are no longer at risk of that type of business interruption. It enables autonomous, peer to peer financial relationships without the subjective middlemen.
SHIFT: On Minds you are able to earn Minds tokens when the content you create is engaged with by other users. Are these tokens convertible into a cryptocurrency that is able to be cashed out for fiat if somebody wanted to do that? Can people that made income on websites like Youtube migrate to Minds and bring in passive income in a similar way?
JACK: As the issuing company of the Minds token, our goal primarily is to ensure that the token has real utility on our platform. Right now, the token can be used to gain 1,000 advertising views, upgrade your channel to Minds Plus and subscribe to premium memberships offered from other users of the app. There are secondary platforms that allow users to exchange cryptocurrencies. We understand the importance of monetization for content creators and are working to make sure that we can be competitive in this space so that users can make a living using Minds.
SHIFT: Besides being able to earn crypto, what are the benefits of having a social media platform on a decentralized blockchain?
JACK: The main value is that it removes the central point of control. It allows us to be independent from the subjective terms of payment processing companies, and it allows our users to be independent from any potential subjective decisions by Minds (though we do our best to keep all subjectivity out of our policies). Users can independently own the financial relationships with their peers without the fear of any gatekeeper telling them no.
SHIFT: The Minds social network was launched in 2015 and has grown to over 1.25 million users with around 200,000 active users per month within that time span. The Minds mission is to become the top social network on Earth. What are your hopes for the next three years as far as usage and adoption goes?
JACK: We really want to see our growth reach new levels in the next three years. We recently did a Series A so we finally have the resources needed to scale our development team out and really make major improvements to our product. We feel that as long as we can get our application to be competitive functionally with the traditional apps people are used to, then it becomes an easy choice. Would you rather use an app that restricts your reach, tracks and sells your data, and exploits you for your time…or one that is transparent, protects your privacy, gives you more control and rewards you for your time?
SHIFT: What lies in store for the future of Minds? Will we be seeing any additional features coming soon that will encourage people to drop the old paradigm social media sites for good?
JACK: We have such a wide set of features already (blogs, statuses, images, videos, groups, messenger, wallet, channels, newsfeed, etc.) that we mainly plan to make sure that they are all working seamlessly with great UX. As I mentioned earlier, one big focus will be the concept of gatherings so that we can create a platform for people to get together under common ideas or goals and have real-time discussions (and real-life meetups) that hopefully can lead to real progress for our world and the Internet. Everything we build will always be in line with our main goals of transparency, user control, privacy and rewards.
Sign up to Minds if you want to be part of a social network that values a decentralization, freedom of expression, and rewarding content creators.
You can subscribe to our Minds channel here and follow Jack Ottman here.