There are two groups of people who will be enthusiastic about the launch of Roust, a new social network dedicated to controversial discussions — those who love to stir the pot online and those who hate it. Roust founders, Mark LaFay and Nathan Frampton, hope to take the posts about politics, policy, religion and social issues off of Facebook and twitter and give them a new home on Roust.
Everyone has that crazy uncle or friend who is always starting a political debate on Facebook. Roust would give him free reign to discuss these topics with people who are equally passionate, while alleviating the tension caused by opening these topics up to such a widely varied audience.
On another note, Roust has the potential to have many other benefits. In July 2014, Time magazine released an article titled, “The Secret Language of Millennials,” which discussed the political communication gap between baby boomers and millennials. Author Nick Gillespie said, “It would be a real shame if we can’t have the sorts of conversations (politics) that we need to address and remedy such issues because different generations are talking past each other.” Everyone knows that millennials and social media go hand in hand. If society wants the younger generation to be more involved in open discussions about politics, they need to meet them where they are at, which is on social media (coming from a millennial herself). Roust could be just the platform to get them talking, and talking amongst baby boomers at that.
Mark LaFay, co-founder of Roust, discusses how social media is becoming more niched and that people go online for certain reasons. For many, Facebook is a break from their busy days and complex discussions catch them off guard. These controversial conversations could be much more meaningful and focused, if everyone involved intended to participate from the beginning. Roust is getting closer and closer to a launch date, and future users are already requesting invites. Only time will tell if Roust goes viral or not, and whether or not the founding principles prove in-demand from social media users.
We talked to co-founder, Mark LaFay, to find out more and his answers are below.
In the simplest terms, what is Roust?
Roust is a social network where people can connect with friends to discuss controversial topics such as politics, policy, religion and social issues. It’s a fresh start for people who want to discuss topics that can elicit an adverse reaction from the larger circles of friends on Facebook.
What are the most important features of Roust?
Most people have a diverse set of connections on sites such as Facebook. Think about it, you are likely connected to family, friends, school acquaintances, brands, employees, employers, customers, etc. It’s no wonder that during the 2008 presidential election 78% of facebook users either unfriended or considered unfriending someone. Roust is a fresh start for people who are interested in having discussions on controversial topics such as politics, religion, and various social issues.
Roust is private platform. You can request to connect to someone but unless the other party approves it, you won’t be able to connect and see their information. You can, however, post content to the public feed so that you get into discussions with people who you are not connected to. Our goal was to create a space where people felt a little more at home having discussions that might create a firestorm elsewhere. This connection method also deals with the issue of trolling. You control who can engage with you.
Another key differentiator for Roust is that we’ve created a better experience for connecting to friends, finding new friends and having discussions online. We spent a ton of time working on user experience (UX). We’ve allowed UX to be an ongoing process as we’ve been developing the platform and are inviting users into the process as well. Our goal was to create the most user-friendly online community and we think we’ve done that.
Real discussions are rarely linear journeys from thought “a” to conclusion “b” there are usually other related topics that might peak their way into the conversation thread. Our platform is designed to allow these tangential discussions to occur. At the same time, it curates them so that the original train of thought isn’t derailed. The early feedback on our discussion module has been so positive that we’ve actually considered breaking it off to be used as a commenting engine for the web.
Can you outline the experience of developing Roust? What was the genesis?
Roust was the brainchild of my (Mark LaFay) co-founder Nathan Frampton. He approached me in June of last year to talk about the concept. Nathan pointed out that he prefers to use social media in modes and I tend to agree with that concept. You may be interested in different types of interactions at different times. Sometimes you want to debate an issue and other times you want to look at instagram #foodporn. I think this concept is much of the reason behind why weare seeing more niching in social networking. People have specific interests and for that reason, social outlets that cater to those specific interests are bound to have greater value. If you are in the mood to talk politics, you need a place to do that and simply creating a private group on Facebook isn’t going to hack it.
I had a great conversation the other day with Greg Avola, the founder of Untappd, a social beer drinking app. He agreed completely that what we saw happen in the online dating world is happening to social networks. Yes I can check the box on Match.com for “only match me with Christians” or I could just go to Christian Mingle because it’s designed for matching Christians (for the record, I wouldn’t do either of these things because I am happily married to an amazing woman). In the case of Untappd, you could talk about beer on facebook or you could go to untappd because it’s built specifically for the beer drinker. That is exactly the point we are making. We designed Roust for people to come to when they are interested in having conversations about controversial, and often complex, topics. We are built for that.
Tell us about the team who built Roust.
I have learned that when you are starting a business it always seems as though other people started theirs a different way. I used to worry that because I was doing it differently it was wrong. I’ve since learned that there is no one right way to build a business. Many people think you should hire and manage the development internally. Others think you should outsource. I opted for outsourcing and here’s why: I get the benefit of the collective insights of an entire team without having to hire and manage an entire team.
I brought in a start-up development company called LevelUp Development. The guys at LUD are believers in collaboration. They also strictly adhere to agile development methodologies. I think a lot of firms talk about being agile but these guys live this stuff.
This approach to building a product, starting a business, etc. is so powerful because if you hit a roadblock, you hit it sooner and can adjust or minimize impact as a result.
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