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    • I have owned Adventure Rider for 17 years, a niche motorcycle site that has somehow grown without promotion and with forum software from the 90s to almost 2 million monthly visitors. I always felt that eventually we could turn it into a Facebook Group or Reddit subreddit, or that social medial with its huge teams would cause it to fade away. And yet ADVrider continues to thrive, causing us to add ever more servers. 😲

      The best part of Adventure Rider is the Ride Report section, where amazing adventurers keep us on the edge of our seats as they ride through Africa or the Australian Outback. Those threads get millions of views and thousands of comments from armchair adventurers like me.

      A few years ago a 17-year-old adventurer named Jesse wrote a Chrome plugin to make reading them better. Eh? I thought no one would install a plugin to read ride reports on old forum software, but thousands of people did and say they love it. The reason is it filtered the ride reports so you only saw the OP's (original poster's) posts.

      It isn't that people were trolling the threads; we moderate those pretty well. It's just that they were a little bit noisy in a noisy world. You'd have to scroll through comments like "when you get to my village in Honduras, let's grab a beer!" Or "I have the same tires on my motorcycle."

      The problem with the plugin is when there are several people on the ride posting in the thread, you want to hear from them all, not just the OP.

      I waited all those years from some team to come along and modernize our software, but none did. So a group of 2 designers, 6 engineers and I decided we had to become the people we were waiting for. They are the ones I invited to this inaugural panel. Some of them came by the panel idea independently from me in different ways.

      I realize that when Cake is early with a smallish audience, Cake Panels may seem counter to what the internet stands for. What?! You're not letting me post in the conversation? But at scale, when millions of people are viewing the conversation, I believe we'll all benefit by letting the panel speak, just like we do in the physical world at SXSW, on TV, on podcasts, and at rallies like March for Our lives.

      We can't wait to see what unfolds!

    • In the beginning, when Cake was just an idea, Chris, Brian, Vilen and I hopped on a plane to Hawaii and spent two weeks in an Airbnb eating a diet of fresh fruit and chocolate-covered walnuts, hashing out how Cake would work, creating the first UI designs, and writing the first code. Over the course of those two weeks we discussed virtually every aspect of what we wanted Cake to be and how we wanted it to work.

      Panels, which we initially called "trusted conversations", were one of the ideas we started throwing around while thinking about whether there was a way we could let people talk about things publicly with other people they trust, but without any danger of the conversation being hijacked by trolls or harassers.

      The thing that appealed most to me was the idea that we could give women, people of color, and other people who are often targets of abuse or harassment a safe way to have meaningful conversations with each other online without having to resort to fully private means of communication in order to keep out the trolls.

      On Twitter, Facebook, and other public sites, many people don't feel safe discussing things because it's too easy for them to become targets or for trolls to derail those discussions. But when these discussions get pushed into private venues, the rest of the world can't learn or benefit from their valuable points of view.

      With panel discussions on Cake, there's finally a way to let the rest of the world read your discussion with a group of trusted participants without also allowing randos to jump in and ruin things for everyone. I'm so excited about this.

      📷 The view from the Airbnb where Cake was born.

    • I'm glad that we eventually steered away from the name "trusted conversations". It made sense that you could feel safer since it's likely that there is a greater level of trust between the conversation members, but what about everyone else? Do they suddenly feel untrustworthy? That's definitely not the vibe we want these panel conversations to give off.

      With that said, exclusivity can be both a good and bad thing. We realize this and I think we have some exciting ideas to create different levels of audience participation. We've just scratched the surface with today's release!

    • The origins of Cake was an exciting time for a designer like me. Up until the trip not even a single pixel of Cake was created, so everything was up for grabs. I stared at the blank screen for hours... All the things we could do, but where should we start?

      Our roundtable discussion and coding were held at a dinner table, which probably got the most use for the entirety of 2 weeks:

    • I still so vividly remember waking up early (for me) one morning, stumbling into the dining room, and having a MacBook plopped in front of me playing an animated logo reveal video for the brand new Cake logo you had just designed. It blew me away!

      That was the moment when the spark really lit for me and I felt like we might actually be able to pull this thing off. 🎂

    • Interesting you bring that up, Ryan. I joined Cake over a year later, but had a similar experience when I first learned about panels. That’s when things came into sharper focus for me.

      It clicked instantly. It was simple, powerful, felt necessary, but most importantly, it felt like all the roadblocks suddenly dissolved and I started thinking about all of the possibilities, all of the places it could go, and all of the interesting things I might see along the way. This is a feeling I’m always pursuing as a designer, but it’s not easy to find. I knew I was in the right place.

      I look forward to so many panels: journalists talking about their experiences covering tough issues; interviews with my favorite artists, photographers, musicians, and writers; comedians talking about their process and being hilarious; my friends and I talking about a recent camping trip.

      I’m so excited about the possibilities! Panels weren’t the only reason I joined Cake, but it was one of them.

    • Ha! I'll never forget that night. We were in Kona and Vilen wanted to sleep on the porch where we could hear the surf roar. I woke up in the middle of the night to see the light on in the dining room and Vilen doing something with his MacBook. Huh? I awoke briefly every hour or two and there he was bent over his laptop still.

      The next day I asked why the middle of the night? His simple response: "That's when I had the inspiration."

    • Panels just make sense to me. From day one I imagined astronauts landing on Mars and using a panel discussion throughout the mission to keep the public informed of the latest going ons.

      How exciting would that be? I imagine the stars, literally, every time I think of panels. They present an incredible opportunity and platform for people's and group's voices to be heard in a unique way.

      But panels are like a double-edged magic-wand (good on both ends). They also help solve bullying and trolling problems on the internet.

      For me, it was how incredibly noisy the internet has become, especially over the 2016 election cycle. Cutting through all the garbage posts, lies and memes and trying to find a discussion about actual election issues was nearly impossible. It made me hate logging onto Facebook and Twitter and the like.

      The amount of trolling and bullying is astounding these days and it was just turned up to 11 during the election. It cut out all the people who wanted to have a reasonable discussion. And not only that, those platforms also forced stories in front of you that you had no way of avoiding, other than avoiding the platform altogether.

      Having a Panel now gives us a chance to find people who are willing to have a public debate or discussion without worrying about an audience of trolls and bots spamming and bullying the participants.

      The great thing is that panels aren't only limited to a group of people with similar ideas who want to have a safe discussion. They also give you the opportunity to have an interesting debate with people who have different opinions than you.

      They do this by allowing the conversation owner to control the invite list. So you only invite people who are willing to have a mature discussion, even if you want to hear and absorb different points of view.

      I'm really excited to see what future panels we get to see on Cake. I'm sure they will almost all be more interesting than this one, but hey, we have to start somewhere!

    • There are many mediums where individuals can converse free of noise while broadcasting to large audiences like on TV and podcasts. Participating on those platforms is a difficult and expensive task. On Cake it’s not. That’s what’s so special about panels to me.

      It’s exciting to think about all the possibilities of panels: journalists telling stories of war, presidential candidates debating, climbers documenting their ascent of some unscaled big wall, etc. But panels aren’t just reserved for big public influencers. 

      We give all our users the ability to create panels. Anyone with access to the internet anywhere can organize a panel, and participants can roam globally. I believe we’ll elevate peoples' voices that would otherwise never be heard. We're expanding the gamut of what can be discussed publicly. I can’t wait to see how that plays out.

      Being a part of a team that brings this powerful tool to life is a large reason why I'm at Cake.

      📷: We spent a week together in Truckee earlier this year imagining the endless possibilities for great panels. Chris's mind couldn't stop running, even during the epic Sierra sunsets.