Motivation

Pol.is was conceived around the time of Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring.

We wanted a comment system to be able to handle 'big' and stay coherent. If millions of people were going to show up to a conversation, the internet needed something that would scale up.

We wanted people to feel safe.

We wanted people to feel listened to.

We wanted people to be able to jump into a conversation at any time in its life-cycle. We did not want them to feel intimidated or exhausted by the complexity of what had already occurred. That meant ditching threading and direct replies, so that comments didn't twist into a tangled nest.

We wanted everyone to be able to get a sense of what others felt, and what the consensus was, in seconds.

We wanted to preserve minority opinions. We don’t use downvoting to invalidate upvoting. We don't use upvoting to invalidate upvoting. If we did, like other comment systems do: 200 upvotes + 200 downvotes = net zero votes. That math obscures the fact that there was some minority who felt differently, which we take as data to preserve. As we iterated, this took the form of creating and showing opinion groups.

We wanted to create a system that increased the number of roles available. More roles means more data, and more interesting outcomes. Somewhere south of 1% of users comment. Most users lurk - read but don't interact in the community. Pol.is typically sees 10x more people vote than those who comment.

We wanted to produce lots of usable data.

We wanted to show people as grouped with those who felt similarly. It's satisfying and validating to find your tribe.

We wanted to restrict the power of individuals to ruin a conversation with bad behavior.

We wanted to avoid the echo chamber effect of social networks.

Most generally, we want to:

  • provide transparency,
  • produce insight,
  • decentralize power

in all kinds of organizations of people everywhere on Earth.

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