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    • Chris MacAskill

      The Internet is the only venue where the expectation is that anyone can join the conversation. It ushered in an amazing era of democratizing speech and empowering ordinary people to create movements that change the world.

      The trouble is, it also empowered anyone to wreck the conversation, silencing some of our most important voices with threats and vitriol. Who knew that state-sponsored troll farms would specialize in polarizing us?

      In the physical world we have a solution: panel discussions. The expectation of the audience is that it benefits everyone to let panelists speak. Audiences clap and laugh to add life to the conversation, but they rarely shout panelists off the stage.

      My favorite panel happened when Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher invited Steve Jobs and Bill Gates on stage. The audience was electric that day and the panel was recorded for the benefit of millions.

      The trouble is it required a stage, an auditorium with an audience, a sound system, and for Walt, Kara, Steve and Bill to be at the same place at the same time—a once-in-a-lifetime event. 

      Today Cake is introducing panel conversations. You can invite panelists who post while your audience reads and adds life to the conversation by reacting with emojis.  No trolls. No hijacking.

      The panelists can be scattered around the world and conversations can take place over days, weeks, or months.

      Imagine a World Cup soccer team forming a panel for their fans to follow their adventures as they progress through the tournament. Or a panel of experts debating the best treatment for antibiotic-resistant infections. Or a group of women gamers talking about their favorite video games without having to worry about sexist comments.

      What panels would you like to see? Which will you create?

    • So exactly how does this work? Is it up to the panel originator to decide who gets to participate? If I'm following a panel and have something to say, how can I join? Will non-member posts be moderated by the organizer?

    • When you create a conversation, you can choose to make it a public (anyone may post) or panel (only people you invite may post) conversation.

      You'll be given the option to invite people to your panel by their Cake username or by email address. People you invite may accept or decline your invitation. If they accept, they'll be able to post in the conversation.

      Non-panelists can't post (not even moderated posts, although that's something we may consider for the future), but they can read and add reactions. We're considering making it possible for non-panelists to request an invite to the panel. Let us know if this is something you'd like!

    • I would like to see a panel of Pulitzer Prize winning photographers/ journalists discuss journalism in the 21st century.

    • Any chance the example panel in that photo is real? And really cool feature I can't wait to see how it gets used!

    • @Felicity was kind enough to write up that example panel for us. I know she'd love to talk about Overwatch! Not sure if we have enough Overwatch players on Cake yet to fill out that panel though. Invite your friends! 😄

    • This is something we've considered, but one problem with it is that if it's publicly writable and readable, then it provides an avenue for abuse and trolling of the main panel. If you've ever watched the comments on a YouTube Live video or a Twitch stream, you'll know what I'm talking about. It tends to be a cesspool, unfortunately.

      I think we'll have that problem with any approach that allows the world to chime in freely, so I think the closest we're likely to get to something like that might be a moderation queue where panel creators or members could see proposed posts from non-panelists and could choose whether to make them visible to the world.

      But even this could be an avenue for harassment of the panelists, so if we do end up adding a moderation queue feature of some kind, I'd want it to be entirely optional so that people can still create panels without feeling any pressure to allow random people to chime in.

      There are thousands of places online where it's a public free-for-all and everyone gets to talk (including public convos on Cake!), so I think panels are an opportunity to provide something that's more rare: a place where you can talk safely, in public, with people you trust, without fear of being derailed or abused. 🙂

    • This is totally fair. Right now Cake (the company) is mostly white dudes and we're painfully aware of it. 🙁

      There are several factors at play. One is that the tech industry is full of white dudes, and early hires at startups are usually a cross-section of people the founders have worked with before and people who are able to take a big risk and a lower paycheck to do something they think could someday be great. That tends to bias things in favor of...well, more white dudes.

      But this isn't an excuse. We want (and need) to improve this, and we will. It'll take some time and a lot of effort, but we're committed to it.

      One of the things we're doing to try to combat our own biases is seeking lots of feedback and advice from people who aren't white dudes. We've learned a lot, and we're going to do our best to keep learning and to increase the diversity of our own team.

    • "and people who are able to take a big risk and a lower paycheck to do something they think could someday be great. That tends to bias things in favor of...well, more white dudes" not sure if that is the case but perhaps the experience that was found in this instance.
      It is tough and I am glad it is an are of focus.

    • I remember talking to Chris about panels. I’m glad it’s happened. I’d love for them to have a “back channel” to ask questions of the panel.

    • I'm stoked to see this new feature! It's a great idea -- having public, multiple person conversations, while still restricting who can post, really makes it possible for everyone to get access to knowledge that might not otherwise be widely available. As the guy who created the plugin to make it possible to show only the OP's posts on Adventure Rider, I'm glad to see someone improving drastically on the idea...this is much better, and has a broader range of possible audiences :)

      I'm excited to see the discussions that arise from this. I'm guessing there'll be some panels here that would never happen in panels' traditional, physical format.

    • I’m actively seeking panels now when I’m not doing some other job that needs doing and in most conversations with someone who has a high profile, especially with women and people of color, I hear the same comments often: “I turned comments off on my blog.” “I tweet but I never read the replies.” “I’ve never been able to have a reasonable conversation with anyone online. The bots and misogynists ruin it.”

    • Isn't it possible to add self-moderation? Just like websites are rank-ordered by the number of links (vertices on a node), people could rank comments based on an analogous currency such as 'kudos'. If your rank relative to the pack falls below a threshold you would require more scrutny by the pack to have comments seen by panelists, or you could be kicked out.

    • Maybe have a parallel thread for non panelists to comment and discuss. That would keep the clutter out of the main discussion.

      Seems to me anyone could create a “parallel thread” couldn’t they??? What’s to keep someone from starting a thread, “What do you think of blah-blah panel?” and tag it with the same categories? ...And would that be a bad thing???

    • Chris MacAskill

      I expect that. I did it to get ideas for interviewing Carol Guzy. I don't think she'd agree to an interview without it being in panel format, but we can certainly talk about it in a public thread. People would just do it on other forums if not here.

    • Will creating a panel be a power held only by the Curator of Conversation?

      Or will every cakehead have the ability to invite certain other cakeheads to join a panel they want to organize for the purpose of a carrying on a closed but public conversation?

    • Anyone can start a panel on any topic! You can either invite people who are already on Cake or those who aren't yet.

      When starting a panel conversation type in their username or email address (if they aren't on Cake). After publishing your panel conversation, they will get an email with an invitation to see your panel. They can then accept your invitation (after a quick sign up process) and become a panelist.

      Please use your special invite codes (found in the menu under the avatar at the top right corner) to invite your friends who aren't on Cake yet.

    • Chris MacAskill

      We had a meeting with Evan Hansen when he was at Medium and he said they had 37 people knocking on doors getting people to create content. He was the former Editor of Wired for 7 years. Damn. We need a budget for that.

    • I’m sure it’s already worked out but what if one of the panelists is actually trolling or not acting appropriate is there a way for the owner to kick them out or take away their right to post?

      Normally I would make one and play around with different settings and tools but I’ll wait until I feel I have something worth paneling about!

    • I kind of like the idea of a parallel thread where us fans can chat amongst ourselves about the conversation.

      When Steph Curry, Draymond Green and KD are chatting it up about their off-season post championship run we can talk about it on the side thread :)

    • @chris do you envision the option for there to be a designated moderator / host? Not necessarily for all panels but if Walt Mossberg is doing a panel should he be called out as the moderator and his questions @ each person highlighted?

      It'll be cool when people use cake to host their own panels, IE mixergy, indiehacker etc.

    • Chris MacAskill

      Yes, whoever organizes the panel can add or subtract panelists and remove their posts. Even if you start a public conversation on Cake today, you can hide posts by anyone in it from public view. That surprises some people and has generated a few debates, but it's the same as if someone posted a comment on your blog or in a post you made on Instagram.

    You've been invited!