SETT: What I’ve Been Working on for the Past Year

SETT Logo

For the last year or so I’ve been working on something big, which I’ve been stubbornly keeping a secret. I know that this has been annoying to readers, but I felt that skirting around the issue was slightly better than avoiding it altogether. Of course, it’s also been hard for me to keep it a secret, since I really love talking about what I’m working on.

We’re not done yet, but the light at the end of the tunnel is in view, so I figure it’s probably a good time to introduce what we’ve been building.
The project is called SETT, and it’s a new blogging platform. Over the next few weeks I’m going to talk more about what specifically we’re doing, but first I want to talk about the problems we’re solving.

Bloggers care about one thing: audience. We want to reach as many people as possible, and we want to connect with them in a meaningful way. None of the current blogging platforms are optimized for either of these goals.

There are two methods of interaction between a blogger and his audience. First, he can stand on his pedestal, as I am now, and speak to his audience. But let’s not kid ourselves– this isn’t a conversation. It’s a lecture.

The second method of communication is through blog comments, which are universally understood to be a disaster (hence the sprouting up of better-but-still-bad solutions like DISQUS).

I don’t know how many active readers I have, but I know that when I ask for feedback in a yearly survey, I get several hundred responses. Most of the responses are quite detailed and clearly the product of considerable thought. This says to me that my readers care about my message and want to be part of a community, not just a mass of passive readers. If that’s true, why does every post average only 20 comments or so?

I think the reason so few people comment is the same reason I rarely comment on blogs, including my own: there’s essentially no point. We all know that as soon as the newest post becomes the second-newest post, no one is reading the comments anymore.

If a post gets more than 30 comments (let alone 100), blog readers usually won’t even skim the comments, because it’s just too daunting. I actually read every comment on my blog (I probably have about the biggest blog possible where that’s still an option), and I’d actually like to respond to comments, but there’s really no guarantee (or even likelihood) that the person I’m responding to will see my reply.

Beyond blogger-to-audience blog posts and comments, there’s a critical method of communication that’s absent from every current blogging platform: user to user communication.

The internet has a huge number of strong cohesive communities that we’re all familiar with, like Reddit, Hacker News, Fatwallet, Slashdot, Something Awful, and OfftTopic. None of these are centered around blogs. This is because blogging doesn’t allow user to user communication. Forums, although hindered by a number of inherent problems in the platform, are the quintessential community sites. Their only tool is user-to-user communication, which speaks to its utility as a community builder.

Our process in building SETT was to approach every decision with the mentality of “in an ideal world, how SHOULD this work?” As a result, we’ve improved blogging in almost every aspect. Even for bloggers who don’t care about community, SETT is probably the best choice.

These many improvements, though, are secondary to our primary goal of enabling conversations and communities to thrive on blogs. Our overriding belief is that the nature of the blogger has changed over the past ten years, but that his tools haven’t.

It’s time to build a revolutionary blogging platform that retains enough of the old to be comfortable and familiar, but pushes the envelope forward a sufficient distance to fundamentally change what it means to be an active blog reader.

When I first came up with this idea and we brainstormed what it might look like, we had only a foggy idea. We knew we wanted to integrate certain concepts, but we weren’t sure exactly what the end product would look like. Over the past year, as we’ve carefully crafted and molded each part of the platform, our vision has slowly come into focus. We’re not done yet, but it’s finished enough for me to now see what the future of blogging could look like, and I’m excited by it.

If my account of what’s wrong with blogging resonates with you, you’re going to be very excited about SETT when it’s released, whether you’re a blogger or a reader.

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