As any reader of Necropraxis is likely already aware, Google Plus will be closing shop in August 2019, and people who like to talk about tabletop roleplaying games on G+ are looking for a replacement. Mewe, a privacy-focused non-Facebook social media platform, seems to be one of the main contenders. The day of the G+ sunset announcement was the first time I had ever heard of Mewe, but I created an account and have been moderately active over the past week or so. Mewe seems reasonably functional, and even offers some improvements compared to Google Plus, but it is currently missing a feature like collections, which supports the ability for site users to categorize their own posts in a way that allows readers to opt out of seeing posts from particular categories.
Other than that, Mewe fits the way I want to use social media pretty well. Certainly better than a twitter-alikes, forum-alikes, or IRC-alikes, which seem like the only other real options so far, apart from Facebook, which is a nonstarter (for me). I have been blogging and reading blogs regularly since… 2011? so a “new blog renaissance” actually seems like the status quo rather than a substitute for a social media platform. I appreciate that the Google Plus sunset announcement has spurred some people to start new blogs, but as long as I have been participating in the blog scene, there is has always been a regular churn of new voices, and people who move on, including over the last few years when conversation on Google Plus was at peak.
Some people have noted the lack of capabilities to post publicly and the need to login to the site before any content is viewable. The peer to peer and default-private design of Mewe is actually what I prefer; unlike others who seemingly want everything public to increase readership, visibility, and marketing reach, I don’t really care about those goals one way or the other. Anything that I want more public or generally searchable goes on the blog. If it is useful to others, great; if not, no skin off my back.
I do miss the lack of a feature such as collections though. On Google Plus, most of my activity was about tabletop RPGs, or adjacent topics such as manga, which could reasonably coexist in a single feed. Occasionally, however, I like to post about cocktails, fitness, and other unrelated topics. I don’t want to deposit all that on a single feed. And I don’t want to create a private group for it and invite others, or participate in some general group, which is basically just a forum with a more proprietary interface, and those are the two workarounds supported by Mewe’s current feature set, as far as I am aware. I want a way to curate what I post and curate what I read, at the level of individual connections.
The way I use Google Plus, I have three main circles which organize my connections. Once circle serves as an inbox, grouping the people that I want to see content from. This is the feed I browse. (You can browse the feed from specific circles under “Circle Feeds” in the G+ user interface.) Browsing my inbox feed directly allows me to avoid Google’s spam-laden algorithm-sorted default home feed, which I loathe. Mewe allows users to selectively remove a user’s content from the home feed, while retaining a connection to the user, which serves this same purpose. The other two circles control access to what I post. One, which I call outbox, allows access to any content related to games or adjacent topics. The other, which I call ephemera, is for the secondary topics. Then, I associate various collections, such as Dungeons & Dragons, movies, cocktails, and so forth, with either outbox or ephemera. That allows anyone in, for example, my outbox to opt out of my manga collection to avoid seeing Berserk panels or whatever.
(Somewhat related, If you want to see me talk, I participated in a YouTube panel that Matt Finch hosted last week discussing some of the options. Matt also interviewed Jason Hardy, product director at Mewe, who has been quite engaged with gamers from G+ recently.)
(This post is just about the technology. Any discussion about politics around the site is off topic for the purposes of this post. There are some real concerns, but they deserve a separate post. I am unaware currently of any blog posts on this topic, but Martin R. lays out some of his concerns in a public Google Plus post if you want to read about it.)
RE: lack of public posts on mewe
Try thinking about this from the perspective of the readers, not just the writer.
I read hundreds of blogs and web sites without logging in because i don’t want any of that — partly for privacy reasons and partly because of the annoying inconvenience of having to log in to sites just to read something….I respond to that the same as I do to pay-walls (“oh well, no great loss, it’s not like there isn’t a billion other sites on the web”). I already have more than enough logins on sites that I don’t visit any more (or only ever visited once), some dating back to the mid 90s. I don’t want any more. Even the trivial effort of creating yet another unique email address for a new site is too much bother.
I’m unlikely to create a mewe account so, from my POV, if the G+ exodus means most stuff moves to mewe (or some other non-public site), it all effectively vanishes for good. And vanishes into a private, members-only club, where membership can be revoked or restricted at the whim of the proprietors or their investors.
It’ll also mean a great loss in discoverability – I’ve found enormous amounts of interesting and useful stuff over the years just from seeing someone mention something that sounds interesting (a name, a title, an event, whatever) which motivates me to copy-paste a relevant phrase into google. That will vanish unless the mention happens to a) include a link, and b) to a site you have an account on.
All that makes sense. I mostly avoid Pinterest for similar reasons, due to how aggressively Pinterest gates content behind a login wall. (For image curation, I used to prefer Tumblr, but Tumblr’s recent change regarding content policies means I will probably start to avoid Tumblr more as well.) That said, what I want from a social media platform is ease of immediate interaction, access control, and ability to categorize my output. Discoverability is a secondary concern, and sometimes I may even want the opposite. The existence of some hurdles means that I will be interacting with people that are on average less prone to flippancy, snark, and hot takes. The difference is immediately clear to me when I interact in a public thread on Google Plus compared to a private thread. All of my threads on Google Plus are pseudo-private, as I only post to circles for threads that I start. I say pseudo-private because I add pretty much anyone that asks to my outbox circle, which currently contains thousands of people.
I take your point about tracking reading habits, but for me the trade-off is worth it, and if you care about browsing privacy you will already be separating different kind of activity by using different browsers, clearing cookies, and so forth.
For content that I want to be discoverable, I have this blog and accounts on several other platforms that make content more visible by default, though in general I prefer the personal control that the blog provides. I dislike being subject to external moderation, such as on traditional forums or Reddit, though I use such platforms occasionally.
To put it another way, my goals for social media media use are not really about publication. It does seem possible for platforms to easily support several different sets of user priorities though, as Google Plus did by supporting both public sharing and sharing to circles.