Anonymous Social Networks - The Good

Product Comments

Recently, one of my colleagues told me about this app called Secret on the AppStore. I immediately liked the idea of an “anonymous social network” — although I feel it is strange that the words anonymous and social appear next to each other.

Anonymous Social Network

Before I started to use the app, I googled about the app and found a lot of negative comments about it. Some of them were -

  1. Gossip — One common use case for Secret is to gossip and this certainly doesn’t leave the world a better place.
  2. Negative Emotions — Due to anonymity, people tend to care less for other people’s emotions and this leads to certain people getting hurt.

However, I feel that the app could be used for a lot of positive things like constructive feedback, honest discussions and anonymous voting. Recently, I was asked by my friend to provide feedback on a social network about a certain technical product. I didn’t like the product and when I went to provide the feedback, I saw tons of positive comments. Being the introvert that I’m, I didn’t want to be the first guy to post a negative comment. Also, negative comments might not be well received in social networks.

I certainly believe there is a huge market for anonymous social networks — provided it is put to right use. Here is the list of features, I feel, would be nice to have to make it productive -

  1. Closed Network — It would be good to control who you can send messages to and from whom you can receive messages from. One way to make sure this is to have a minimum limit before letting people post. Imagine this as a secret whatsapp app.
  2. Themed Threads — Each and every thread within a closed anonymous network, should have a theme — possible types of theme are below.
    • Constructive Feedback — How would you rate the design of my new product?
    • Anonymous Voting — Who do you think should be the next leader of our team — Person A or Person B?
    • Honest Discussion — What do you guys think about Facebook-Whatsapp acquisition?

Despite the positive efforts, as application developers, one needs to prevent the app being put to use in a negative way. Here are some ideas/features to do so –

  1. Avoid Gossip — The person who creates the thread is not anonymous. This prevents people from starting threads like “Person A has an affair with Person B” as this makes the owner of the thread accountable. Everyone sees who is the owner of the thread. Also, the owner has the permission to close the thread if he feels the messages are not appropriate.
  2. Maintain Anonymity — People only get to post only after at least 5 (or say 10) people join the thread — hence maintaining anonymity. The problem with less than 5 people in an anonymous thread is that, it doesn’t allow people to publically speak about it — as very few people are involved in it.
  3. Avoid Personal Rant — Avoid personal ranting by limiting the number of continuous messages by a single person in a thread. This prevents people from ranting about topics that have a lot of negativity.
  4. Limit Negativity — Automatically close the thread if more than 50% of the users leave the thread (the owner also has permissions to close the thread).
  5. Eliminate Idiosyncratic Language — Provide tools to convert words used by only one person to a more common word. This removes people from easily identifying others based on the language.

Kindly let me know your thoughts and comments on anonymous social networks — how this could be useful to you.

Kaushik Rangadurai

Code. Learn. Explore

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