Cake
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    • I became very hopeful about Cake since someone I follow on G+ shared @Scobleizer's recent conversation, Can Cake clean up Silicon Valley's social problem? It's rare that something posted online makes me say that you should read it and read the comments, but that's the case here. I'm glad to find something like that now, one week into a somewhat disappointing effort to try out a variety of "G+ alternatives" since the sunsetting announcement. That experience has been partly an exercise in feature comparisons, partly a chance to reflect on what I actually want from an online service and the people behind it. It turns out I want more than just another social media site; I want a place I might be able to trust, or at least not actively distrust, to give me space to write, read, and connect with people. Cake's got two out of three of those so far, from what I can see. As of now, it looks like a publishing platform that's smarter at handling comments than the internet at large; but if it could be a truly social experience, run by people who stick to their ideals and take care of their users, that would make it the heir apparent to G+ as far as I'm concerned. I just can't tell yet whether that's actually the direction it's headed, or my own wishful thinking.

      A number of things I've seen around here do look very promising to me: There's some nice UX for composing posts, especially compared to G+'s strictly markup-based formatting and frustrating lack of autosaving. (But I sure wouldn't complain if Cake added bulleted/numbered lists, improved cursor behavior, and a publish button under the post, to hit after you finish writing.) And I appreciate reading comments by @Chris in the aforementioned conversation, noting how they're building a business model around something other than surveilling users, and trying to think about communication differently from misguided men valorizing "free speech" without really thinking through what that actually means, and for whom. (That last part is especially heartening after so many of my G+ contacts have migrated to MeWe despite growing concern about a strictly libertarian approach to moderation and outreach.) To be honest, I'm still not sure what Cake has to offer feature-wise for semi-social, long-form content compared to Medium, where I go for most reading I do on UX these days. But then again, I also don't really see much conversation on Medium of interest to the (sometimes quite politically-minded) gaming communities I travel in—maybe Cake would be a better home for them? And in an era of trolls, bots, and organized and abusive gamers and "fans," Cake's focus on following conversations instead of people seems potentially quite clever. You can't harass someone if you can't "follow" them—or even call them up in site search results!

      All of that said, you lose a lot by not being able to "search," "follow," "friend," "add to lists," or anything else that would allow you to formalize a social connection. And I like connecting directly with people. I have to assume this omission is purposeful—either an unfinished feature to be added later, when they know they can get it right, or an intentional design decision that wasn't made lightly. I hope it's the former, as I have a hard time seeing myself using Cake in the long term without some features to enable and encourage person-to-person connection. Reading and writing long-form posts has been one of my favorite things about G+, but it's not the only thing I went there for. I've gotten so much value out of the site because it has blended in-depth analyses, quick conversation starters, and methods to help users cluster ourselves by interests, including following individual thought leaders and champions of diversity and inclusion. I'm sad to be losing all that, not just a means to get eyes on what I write and draw in some comments. I don't just want an audience; I want a community.

      The lack of affordances for person-to-person connection here also presents some simple UX annoyances when I think about what I'd want to use this site for. I think it's excellent, for instance, that you can tag specific panelists into conversations here rather than having every publicly readable post be either a free-for-all or closed to comments. I can imagine posting things specifically inviting a dozen or more people, figuring only a few might have a chance to contribute in a given week. It seems like not an insignificant hassle, though, to have to enter every username or email address one by one every time I start such a conversation, without any way of curating a list of relevant people associated with various topics of interest to me.

      All of that said, I'm cautiously optimistic. Reading through replies on that aforementioned post, it sounds like Cake is aware of at least some of these kinds of concerns, and things are still in an early stage around here. (And I figure it must be pretty early if I was able to snag a username as short as "JasonT.") I'll be impressed if the slower rollout of social features is actually just because they're being very careful to determine which this specific experience actually needs, rather than what users of Facebook, Twitter, and G+ think we need because it's all we've known to date. And as much as I have appreciated G+, Google seemed to struggle with that very question themselves. As they tried to zero in on how people wanted to organize their contacts and browser for content, we saw shifting emphasis from "Circles" to "Collections" and "Communities." Given that the result still led to G+'s closure, I wouldn't want to see a promising service copy a dead-end approach and suffer the same fate. While I would love to see more person-to-person options now, while my G+ timeline is gradually quieting as folks emigrate to MeWe and parts unknown, we do still have another 10 months to explore our options, in theory. It'll be interesting to see how Cake develops in that period.

      In the meantime, like many others lamenting the loss of G+, I figure it's time to finally get around to starting that blog I've been grumbling about for months. To be frank, the whole G+ situation has left me feeling wary about trusting for-profit enterprises to not close the doors on something important to me. Having my own space, under my own control, feels more important now than ever. Even so, it's been awhile since I saw a new online service that piqued my curiosity as much as this one. Maybe I'll crosspost some content to Cake for a bit, too, and see how it goes.

    • Hi Jason, thanks for the great post and for inserting your real name so I could stalk you and find your impressive resume on LinkedIn. 😁

      My impression is we're hearing much more about following people than we had because we're seeing a big influx of G+ users. Part of the dynamic is they know each other and want to continue their online friendships here. Very understandable.

      I was pretty sure we'd hear about following people eventually but until now more people were coming from forums, Reddit, and Hacker News. It's more about following interests than people on those sites.

      When the network is small, following people is a hard way to get started because you probably don't know anyone in the small community, so your people searches keep returning zeros. However, we were able to offer content we created in the earliest days, so even being small we could reward you with a good story in a topic.

      You were right about us not wanting to offer features just because people are used to them. I believe the pattern of companies that break through is they don't follow the pattern. Google, Amazon, Apple, Airbnb, Netflix—they all broke the mold and became unique in some important way. One weakness in the current pattern is when you follow someone you usually get all the topics they post about and sometimes you don't like some of them.

      It seems to me the right way for Cake is to prioritize topics first so even if you're a stranger in a strange new land, you can find something interesting right away and maybe meet the interesting people who post it. Then, as a secondary priority, if you see someone who makes great posts in a topic that you follow, you can follow them to see their posts prioritized within the topics you follow. That way you don't have to see their posts on politics or whatever you don't like.

      Does that make sense?

    • As a current (kinda former, but not yet) Google+ user, I say stick to the current format of following topics, not people. There are plenty of platforms where users follow people. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, but not many that focus on content. Collections in Google+ was awesome, as it allowed you to populate your feed with content that mattered to you. Whereas on a platform like Twitter (which I myself enjoy using), you're forced to sift through a lot of noise to see content you actually like, because the people you follow don't only post things that matter to you, but also things which matter to them, which may not necessarily matter to you. This is why I think Cake is so wonderful. I care more about what I read, not necessarily who wrote it. Perhaps the suggestion of following people within topics (so their posts are shown first) without actually following people in the traditional social media format is something that can be explored further, but I hope Cake never follows the traditional social media concept of people first content second. Content should always be the priority.

    • I have been reading @Vilen, @yaypie, and @Chris explain the concept of following interests for about a week and at first what they are saying made sense. However, I have come to the realization that their reasoning has a fundamental flaw.

      The more one delves into a specific body of knowledege, the more one finds oneself culling those who produce content about that body of knowledge. Art lovers begin to find that certain artists tend to produce artwork that pleases them more than artwork produced by other artists. Music lovers find themselves gravitating to the works of some performers or composers more than others. Readers discover that some novelists captivate them more than others.

      The idea of following an interest is like suggesting that a mystery reader should go to a library and pick a book from the mystery shelf without any regard for who the author of the novel is. There are numerous mystery novelists whose works no longer attract me because after reading a few of their books they began to seem formulaic.

      I have come to the conclusion that unless Cake evolves it will eventually fail.

      Do lovers of philosophy regard all philosopher's with equal respect?

      Is there any difference in Georgia O'Keefe's photography and your cousin George's photography?

      It may not be easy for Cake to evolve, but it needs to do so in order to survive.

    • James, this is a great insight and the one we've been thinking about a long time while developing Cake. In the very early days just thinking about seemed like it was a monumental engineering puzzle to solve at scale, but it is something we are coming around to start tackling.

      It is inevitable that as Cake scales there will be more and more people participating in any given topic. So the important and interesting voices that you care about might start getting drowned in all of the noise. The solution we think may solve this is to allow people to mark someone as a person of interest (I don't know what we'll be calling it yet) which will then prioritize their conversations in your feed on your mutual topics.

      I like using the following example: "show me interesting conversations on topics I follow from people I like first." This is what I personally want to have on Cake and it is a big engineering undertaking that we'll be working on next.

    • It might then be a good idea when people bring up the topic of "following people" if Chris, Yaypie, and you say to them just what you wrote to me. Otherwise, those who keep bringing up this topic will leave and go to other platforms thinking that the Cake development team's vision is different from what it is.

    • Thanks for the insightful feedback, @Shewmaker.

      The idea of following an interest is like suggesting that a mystery reader should go to a library and pick a book from the mystery shelf without any regard for who the author of the novel is. There are numerous mystery novelists whose works no longer attract me because after reading a few of their books they began to seem formulaic.

      In addition to what @Vilen said about planned functionality, I think there are some important things Cake already does that aren't accounted for in this library mystery shelf simile.

      For instance, your "For You" feed is (by default) algorithmically sorted so that conversations that seem more likely to interest you are closer to the top of the feed. When you read your feed, you're not picking books at random off a shelf; you're browsing a shelf that's been pre-sorted by a librarian who knows that other people liked certain books more than others and makes sure you'll see those books first.

      Of course, the algorithm isn't perfect, especially at this early stage when there's less data to work with and when we haven't had much time to optimize it. And we don't currently use the Interestingness algorithm on topic feeds themselves, because many topics are still a little sparse (though this is something we can add pretty easily).

      But there's another feature that can help out. If you find that you're no longer interested in posts or conversations by a particular person, you can click the downward-pointing caret in the top right of one of that person's posts and select "Ignore" to ignore them. They won't know you've ignored them, but this will prevent you from seeing their conversations in feeds, and their posts in other conversations you read will be collapsed by default so you don't have to read them unless you choose to.

    • Ryan,

      If I had received your answer and not Vilen's answer, I would have remained disheartened. I am not aware of anything in your answer that I did not already know.

      Having many years of experience with the kinds of Algorithms that you mentioned on many different kinds of sites, not just social, I remain highly skeptical that Cake is going to come anywhere close to producing an algorithms sufficiently superior to the algorithms found on other sites to produce the kind of utopian ideal that you seem to think can be an adequate substitute for my own "manual" selection process.

      Furthermore, as a G+ community moderator I have had sufficient experience with the lack of effectiveness of a blocking strategy to produce the kind of social media environment that I would hope that Cake might eventually become.

      Please don't be tone-deaf, don't be clueless, and don't drink the kool-aid. Listen to those you may drive away if you continue to recite a cathechism.

    • Thanks for taking the time to write this thoughtful reply! (And for taking the time to e-stalk me. I'm flattered!) I have to imagine you're right that the influx of G+ users (like me!) is having a disproportionate effect on the noise around "following" right now. As you say, we're not just worried about losing a website, but each other. It'll take some time for this crowd to sort out what we actually want and need from what we're just sad to be losing.

      I do think, though, that as this place gradually gets busier, having more options to seek out specific voices will be a boon, and the idea to prioritize posts by specific people within a topic sounds like a great place to start. For what it's worth, that specific change would neatly address what I hear from a bunch of G+ emigrants as "MeWe's missing feature": the ability to only hear what the folks you follow have to say about gaming, rather than turning on the firehose of every thought they see fit to share. I suspect I'd also love to see this place get so popular in time that it would make sense to search for specific people who I already know I want to hear more from—not just to boost them in my timeline, but also to get a sense of what else they're writing about, what other topics I should be following but haven't thought to follow, given our shared interests. Even Reddit lets me parse search results by both "Posts" and "Communities and Users," but maybe that need won't be as pronounced here until things get a bit more crowded.

      I know some G+-ers would protest that it was "better" to have such fine-grain control over who sees what and how between Circles, Communities, and Collections, and sometimes I have that sort of knee-jerk reaction too. But I also know all too well that throwing too many options and features at users too quickly can scare them away. It's a tightrope walk, and I'm glad to hear Cake's approaching it thoughtfully.

    • If I had received your answer and not Vilen's answer, I would have remained disheartened. I am not aware of anything in your answer that I did not already know.

      I'm sorry my answer disappointed you. I know you've been very active and attentive in learning about Cake and helping others learn about Cake, so when I explain things you already understand, please know that I'm doing it for the benefit of the new Cake users reading this conversation who may not yet understand them.

      I appreciate your experience and your honest feedback. But when you imply that I'm tone-deaf, that I'm clueless, and assert that my efforts will fail, that makes me feel discouraged and demotivated.

    • It is all in how you receive "criticism."

      There is a legend that a monk of long ago mispronounced the latin word "sumpsimus" as "mumpsimus." An attempt was made to correct him but he did not accept the intent of the one who was trying to help him. Many, if not all, English dictionaries now include "mumpsimus" to refer to the action of someone who persists in a tradition in spite of efforts to help him to see the need to change.

      I am trying to help you, Ryan. But if you are not willing to consider with an open mind that a large percentage of your website's users may leave Cake if it does not evolve, then no effort on my part will help.

      If you change the direction of your efforts you may succeed but if you persist in insisting that algorithms and blockings are adequate then it is my opinion that you will fail. I do not say that to discourage you but rather to encourage you to make adjustments to fit what will attract the audience that will help Cake succeed.

      Remember, Betamax? Building a better mousetrap will only succeed if the public is pleased with your mousetrap. Otherwise, VHS.

    • Just to be clear, everyone at Cake including Ryan has always been a believer that our vision is what I've described (elevate conversations from people I like in topics I'm interested in). However, since I'm just a designer, the technical complexity of actually making it a reality is outside of my expertise. Ryan is just describing our current state and what you can do to lessen the pain of not having this feature now, while we are working on developing it. In fact, Ryan is probably the only person who can actually make this feature a reality.

      Cake is still in its infancy stage. We’ve been working really hard to get the basic mechanics right, but we are not done. As the community grows, feedback like this is important for us to continue delivering on our promise: to help you discover great conversations on the topics that fascinate you.

      We like to be transparent about our thinking because we want the community to help influence the decision. We don’t want to pave the paths until we better understand where the community needs to go. So, we will definitely evolve, but first we want to better understand the problems.

    • I am fully prepared to accept the present and to realize that the future may be a long time in coming. Anyone who has been part of the Scrivener community for as long as I have been, knows that change comes slower than cold molasses.

      (Ask Windows users how long they had to wait for the first version. iOS users how long they had to wait for a mobile version. Mac Users how long it took for version 3 to arrive. Windows users are still waiting for version 3. We know that development is slow.)

      When you expressed the long term strategic vision, I immediately realized that this will probably not arrive any time soon. But the fact, that this is something towards which you aspire to achieve is encouraging. This is why I advised you to tell people that this is the direction you want to go.

      When people know that effort is being made (instead of back burner) and when they know that their concerns are really being addressed (unlike with Google) then they are more willing to be patient. But when they think that they are being pacified with empty vapor then they are less likely to be patient.

      Case in point. Scrivener for iOS: It was announced many years before it was released. At one point, L&L had even begun alpha testing, only to discover that the syncing feature was hopelessly busted. They then put out an explanation and a request for applications from iOS developers. Again, quite a bit of time went by. The company president finally decided to rewrite the code completely himself and got the job done, but alpha testing, beta testing and documentation still needed to occur. The point of this story is that L&L would from time to time inform its public what was occurring. There were some who probably gave up waiting but there were many who were encouraged because they were aware that L&L was trying to get the job done.

      I advise you to let your public know what is happening even when there are setbacks and unexpected long delays. Google did not do that. There are many who felt as if Google wasn't really listening in spite of the fact that they had a feedback mechanism. There were some problems which Google did hear and resolved, but silence gives its own impression to the user base.

    • In your last paragraph, Chris, you have stated exactly the feaute I've always missed in social media. Just because my friend X is my friend, it doesn't mean she makes interesting contributions to the things I'm interested in. An also, just because she has a strong commitment to something (be it politics, religion or just her love to cakes), it doen't mean I must see every single thought she has about it.

    • "show me interesting conversations on topics I follow from people I like *in this topic* first."

      Maybe I'm very interested in Shakespeare posts about literature, but when it comes to soccer, I prefer Maradona's… does it make sense?

      But, please, never let us, your users, get caught in closed communities of interest that just talk about how Shakespeare or Maradona are right; nor let my interest for the posts of user Shakespeare make the user NewCleverAndInterestingUser be difficult for me to spot… because this new user, maybe, will become my new favourite guru on literature.

    • I've always thought that Amazon's "people who like this also like..." was extremely powerful. That's how the book Touching the Void, which I loved, was discovered by people who loved Into Thin Air. Youtube seems to be doing that really well with music.

      It seems to be a reasonable compromise between helping you discover things you like without getting you too stuck in a closed bubble. I can imagine when we get bigger that people who liked this conversation about Maradona would like this other conversation about Messi.

    • Yes, recommenders, when well thought, can be powerful.

      But there are tons of bad recommender algorithms out there. I'm really tired of booking suggestions about places I've been some time ago, because there were good options while traveling to Argentina, to Southafrica… but I'm not going to spend there a weekend. I hope you get what I mean.

    • Some will like the conversation where Maradonna is the main speaker, some will like the one where Messi is the speaker… and some will prefer Ronaldo's point of view.

      And yes, you got it, the main point is not making the bubble so perfect that I miss the chance to learn new things, meet new people or just get aware that there are other points of view.

      What we are now living in Spain with the catalan independecy movement is a good place to learn what perfect bubbles do, and it is just a replica of other bubbles that have always being around. In photography you have the Nikon vs. Canon conversation… just to see how Olympus mirrorless philosophy is winning the place 😉

    • I get what you mean. I sometimes see disturbing Facebook Groups or Reddit subs where the rules of moderation exclude any other point of view. Now and then I like it, such as with the awww subreddit, which I look at every day. You're not allowed to post anything sad there, like your dog just passed away after 15 years and you miss him. I get it, the feels from awww are awesome.

      On the other hand, some of those groups or subs really go towards extreme views when the other point of view is prohibited.

    • Some studies have been made because not only “moderated” groups act like that but individuals (with the help of algorithms like the one facebook uses) tend to filter interaction to just the ones that have similar point of view.

      It's a human behaviour, not just some rules in a community you belong to because you applied into it.

      Having algorithms that reinforce this human tendency has social consequences I'm not to analize, but also makes us ignorant about the topic… because we don't see other points of view and maybe we are just reading post from A and B because they are our friends, but miss posts from C who is making a total new point about that topic.

    • Interesting. Is that an Australian language difference thing? In the U.S., awsome (without the first e) is somewhat common slang that means awful. I'm pretty awestruck by some of the stuff I see in r/aww, but our use of the word awesome typically means terrific and awestruck means amazed.

    • I agree with you Victoria and worry about it. My belief is that in interest-based public networks you tend to interact with people of opposing points of view more often than you do in close private groups, but really part of being human is gravitating to people with similar interests and opinions.

      Sometimes I pop into Facebook groups with people who believe different things than I do, like the anti-vaxxer groups, to try and understand the other point of view but it's hard because the rules of the group are usually that pro-vaccine people like me cannot express our views.

    • Chris, I am a 60 year old American. Until the 1990s, awesome was not used as a synonym for wonderful or terrific. I'm not sure but I think it was the movie "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" that caused people to change the meaning of the word.

      Here is what the Webster dictionary used to say about this word:

      When translations of the Bible use the word "awesome" they do not mean "terrific" or "wonderful" but rather something whose power or beauty is so overwhelming that it leaves one feeling thunderstruck.

      For example: The NKJV, CSB, CEB, ESV, HCSB, LEB, MEV, NAB(RE), NASB, NEB, NIV, NLT, NRSV, and RSV use "awesome" in Genesis 28:17

      In that same place, the ASV, BRG, Darby, JUB, KJV, and WEB use "dreadful"

      Other translations use fearful, fearsome, and terrible.

      The hebrew is saying that Jacob was overwhelmed with an awareness of his own puniness in the face of the power that had been shown unto him.

      This is what I refer to as "The American Babel" - We are losing the ability to communicate with one another because although our TVs may be highly defined our words are getting blurry and vague.

    You've been invited!