Since its formal launch in December, Fastnote has been enjoying tremendous growth. In this era of controversy, shock and online drama, what makes Fastnote so interesting is its path to success: Short, civil, anonymous notes to anyone, that anyone can read. In other words, going against the trend of in-your-face, aggressive and rude online discourse.
Learn more about Fastnote in the Questions & Answers below.
Q: What was the inspiration for Fastnote?
Fastnote: During the 2008 elections, our founder, Richard Shaffner, wanted to be able to “talk back” to politicians and others and realized there was an opportunity to create a new way to communicate on line through civil and constructive notes.
Q: What is Fastnote’s definition of civility?
Fastnote: Fastnote has a basic set of guidelines that include: “Notes and comments may not contain content that is vulgar, profane, pornographic, abusive, hateful, or degrading to any individual or group.”
More importantly, we are looking to our community to establish the definition of civility by reporting and moderating notes and comments.
Q: Tells us about Fastnote’s position on criticism.
Fastnote: Our goal is to have this be a site for constructive criticism. We recognize that some will perhaps be less than constructive on occasion and that’s OK as long as the notes and comments are civil. Our guidelines do make clear that: “No Malicious Accusations or Rumors: Fastnote is for sharing helpful, well intentioned comments, opinions and suggestions.”
Q: Are people fully able to express what they want to on Fastnote, even if it involves the use of colorful language?
Fastnote: Yes, we believe Fastnote offers people the ability to fully express their thoughts. We’re OK with colorful language but we do restrict the use of obscene and profane language. In addition, via our reporting and moderating processes, our community is helping set the bar on appropriate language.
Q: How do you see Fastnote’s role in the social media landscape?
Fastnote: We see Fastnote as playing a unique role in the social media ecosystem. You can do things on Fastnote that you can’t do anywhere else and we’ve made it easy to share notes from Fastnote via other social media services and e-mail. For example, you might want to express a constructive opinion about a hot topic in your local community but you might not want to have your opinion associated with your name due to concerns on retribution. You’d go to Fastnote, write your note, and you can then share it via Twitter, Facebook, Digg, etc.
Q: At CiviliNation we suggest people use their real names online except in situations where it might put them or the people they care about at risk. At Fastnote you require users to post anonymously. What is the thinking behind that?
Fastnote: Good question. We believe that people can and will write notes where it’s the message that is important – not the name of the writer. We know it’s extremely difficult to verify anyone’s identity on line and it’s remarkably easy to “spoof” an ID and pretend to be someone else. We have extremely strong policies against bullying and harassment and believe these will combine with our strong community reporting and moderating processes to keep things clean and civil.
Q: How does Fastnote’s rating system work?
Fastnote: We have a simple voting system in which users can agree or disagree with a note as well as vote “funny” and “well said”. We’re seeing people use this to curate our content. One example was a note where the writer took a remarkably severe position on an issue. The content was not obscene or offensive. People quickly voted and we saw 11 “disagree” votes and 0 “agree” votes. Pretty easy to tell how the community viewed the note.
Q: Fastnote is a community-moderated site. Tell us more about that and how successful it’s been so far.
Fastnote: We’ve been delighted with the success of our community moderation process. Every note and comment has a “report” button right next to it. It’s easy for any user to read a note, decide that it doesn’t meet our guidelines or that they find it offensive, and then report it. This note then goes to our moderating process in which other users are asked to view the note and vote to keep it on the site or not. This has worked well in the few cases where people have tried to write a note that was clearly not in keeping with the site. In addition, we’ve seen a small number of cases where someone reported a note that was not in any way offensive or not civil – perhaps as a way of expressing disagreement. Other users, as part of the moderation process, reviewed the note and realized that the note was not offensive or inappropriate and voted to keep the note on the site.
Q: How many users are currently on Fastnote and how many Fastnotes have been written so far?
Fastnote: We did a “soft launch” of our beta in September and formally announced in December and we’ve been quite pleased with the growth rates. We’re not disclosing the number of users or volumes but we are now in the top 6% of websites worldwide according to Alexa.com.
Q: How diverse are Fastnote’s users in terms of age, gender, ethnicity and race, education, geography?
Fastnote: Much of our early traffic is coming from North Carolina where the company is headquartered and where our “friends and family” have been helping drive awareness. We seem to have a balanced mix of gender. We don’t have any mechanism to measure ethnicity, race, or education.
Q: What are your long-term plans for Fastnote?
Fastnote: We expect to see Fastnote continue to grow and become a recognized place where people can express their opinions, thoughts, and suggestions in a civil and thoughtful fashion. As we get our next round of investment, we have a set of enhancements we’ll be making to the site and we’re aggressively listening to our users for their suggestions. One early suggestion from our users that we adopted was enabling comments on each note. We’re getting significantly more comments now than notes – we’ve even had one note that generated 70 comments.
Q: What are some other websites or organizations that you feel are positively contributing to online civility?
Well, certainly CiviliNation. We’ve been watching the CivilityProject as well and have been somewhat disappointed to see how few politicians have “taken the pledge”.
Q: Are there any other things you’d like people to know?
Fastnote: Here is the guidance we provide to our community moderators.
Site Violations / Content Not Allowed:
• Non-Anonymous – notes that suggest the identity of the writer
• Accusations, Harassment – harmful, malicious, or insulting comments, threats, or rumors
• Non-English – The site is for English language entries only (for now)
• Obscene or disgusting language
• Private Information – telephone and account numbers, email addresses.
• Speech inciting violence
• Spam – promotional, advertising or sales efforts
• Other inappropriate content
And here are our Ground Rules (you can find out more in our FAQs).
• All Notes and Comments Must Be Anonymous: We don’t want anyone to pretend to be speaking for someone else.
• No Private Information: Names, notes, and comments may not include personal, private or contact information such as telephone numbers, physical addresses, email addresses, social security numbers, account numbers or similar information.
• No Children under 15: Notes and comments may not be about, or addressed to, people under 15 years of age.
• No Defamation: Names, notes and comments may not contain content that is false and defamatory.
• No Malicious Accusations or Rumors: Fastnote is for sharing helpful, well intentioned comments, opinions and suggestions.
• Notes and Comments Must Be Civil: Notes and comments may not contain content that is vulgar, profane, pornographic, abusive, hateful, or degrading to any individual or group.
• English Language Only: We may develop sites for other languages, but for now Fastnote is for English only.
• No Infringement: Notes, comments, addressee names and information may not violate others’ copyrights, trademarks, or other intellectual property rights.
• No Spam or Solicitations: Fastnote is not for solicitations (even for good causes), and it may not be used to spam anyone.
• Legal Use Only: Fastnote may not be used for any unlawful purpose or for promoting illegal activities.