Picking the Brains at Minds
an Interview with Jack Ottman of Minds
Let us start off with how this idea for Minds came to be? Did you already own the domain name beforehand and then decide what to do with it or vice-versa?
Minds was created with the goal of bringing a free and open-source social network to the world…one that is truly built by the people and for the people. It actually started as “Gathering of the Minds” with more of a real-life, meetup-style mission, but it quickly became apparent that harnessing the Internet makes it much easier to scale to the masses. Bringing it all back to real-life will still be essential though as we continue to grow. We actually bought the Minds domain back in 2011-2012 as we felt it was a perfect brand for our mission, thankfully at a good price.
Trying to understand this cryptocurrency and blockchain is confusing to most of us. Can you put it all into layman’s terms and a bit about how you use it for your Token? I understand you did not use this system in the beginning so why the change?
Jack: We understand that cryptocurrency and blockchain is complicated stuff, but we think it is much like how things were when the Internet first started. No one knew what an IP address or a router or a URL was, but the technology was so powerful that people began to figure it out, and eventually it has become more common knowledge.
To put it as simply as I can, blockchain technology is all about creating a “trustless” system. Many of the problems we are seeing today with social media and our world in general is a result of putting all of our trust into centralized businesses like Google or Facebook. They have total control over the distribution of information online, and it is terrifying. I think people are beginning to realize that we have put too much trust into these players.
The blockchain enables a decentralized model to take shape, because it removes the centralized middleman from the equation altogether, and creates a true peer to peer, incentive based economy. It becomes a “trustless” system because you don’t have to rely on any one company to say something is okay or not…it becomes a direct peer to peer relationship. The philosophy of the technology is perfectly aligned with our mission at Minds, so it was a clear step towards more Internet freedom.
Do you foresee new or have planned for other uses of your Token?
Jack: Definitely. This is just phase one of the token, with our advertising (boost) and peer to peer payment tools (wire). The token is really all about peer to peer incentivization, so there are many other ways we can leverage the technology with other features in the future, and I am sure the community will help us come to those decisions.
Can you tell us about the major differences between Minds, Facebook and other social media platforms that you think are or will be most appealing to current users of them?
Jack: Despite being a similar concept, Minds pretty much does everything the exact opposite of Facebook. Facebook collects your personal data and spies on you, Minds lets you be anonymous and doesn’t spy. Facebook provides no monetization tools for content creators, Minds has made this a priority. Facebook restricts your reach, Minds rewards you with it. It is really about empowering the community versus exploiting them.
Are there any new and cool features in the works that you can tell us about today?
Jack: Well the focus at the moment is getting our token live on the Ethereum main network. There is a lot that goes into it that people do not realize, from a legal and security perspective, so we are being very cautious and making sure we do it the right way. Other than that, the current plan is to improve upon all of the great features we already have: blogs, groups, messenger, comments, boost, rewards, notifications, etc… It is tempting to always try and create a new feature, but we have a wide array of features already, so we need to make sure they are all competitive with traditional networks. With that being said, I know there is a lot of demand for live video, so hopefully we can get to that sooner than later.
I understand you have a fairly small team working on this massive project, but do you have an estimated time frame for planned features to be completed?
Jack: We tend to avoid committing to dates as you never know what obstacles or issues will arise in this business. But within 2018 we plan on getting our crypto live and hitting on all of our core features to upgrade them to the next level.
I read somewhere you have planned user data to be decentralized. Can you give a general description of how decentralized user data works? Also, if a user wants to remove it, how does that work? Is it possible to completely remove user data from a system like this?
Jack: That is the ultimate goal – to remove “Minds” from the equation entirely. The result would be a truly peer-to-peer, trustless network, which is a really powerful concept. But there are reasons this does not yet exist (immature technology, legal implications, etc.), so we are taking a step by step approach.
Decentralized data means that no centralized entity is storing everything – the data is stored by the peers of the network and relayed to one another constantly.
You bring up an interesting point about having data removed. There is an ongoing debate between the compatibility of decentralized tech and the recent GDPR act (right to be forgotten) that is about to take effect in the EU. You actually cannot technically “remove” data from a decentralized model, so the two are really not compatible. However, our approach to this is at the point of entry – this is why we allow anonymous profiles and encrypt any personal data. The main reason people want the ability to remove data from a network is because they do not want their personal information out in the abyss. With anonymity and encryption, all of your information online is de-identified, so even if information is out there, no one can tie it to an individual, thus protecting privacy.
Do you think there will be features that Record Labels, Radio/Blogger folks or Artists/Musicians themselves will find appealing?
Jack: Absolutely. Our whole focus has been on creating a network that empowers creators (of music, art, blogs, anything). With our rewards and boost systems, creators who produce quality content can earn free promotion and views on our network, which is a unique aspect of Minds. We have given out over half a billion views for free through these tools.
In addition, our wire system allows creators to build their own paid subscription services for their fans. A musician, for example, could create content that is exclusive to fans who have wired them 1 token per month. The tiers are totally customizable, so it leaves a lot of room for creativity.
What’s a normal work day consist of for you at Minds? Is there an office environment or is it mostly remotely run?
Jack: We have a hybrid model of office and remote. I do a bit of everything, so there really is no “typical day”. But my main responsibilities are around financing, marketing, network administration, growth and product strategy.
I’m not sure where I discovered you guys back in 2015 but how do you think most people find out about Minds?
Jack: We have not put a lot of resources into outbound marketing (for better or worse), so most of our traffic has been totally organic which is cool. I think most people find out about us when they wake up to what is really happening on the mainstream networks with regards to privacy, surveillance and censorship and want to look for an alternative. So we are well positioned whenever the big guys make a mistake, which seems to be happening more and more lately.
What are some of your greatest difficulties being the COO at Minds?
Jack: I would say there are two main challenges with the role. The first is maintaining growth and getting people to stick around. People expect apps to work as well as the Facebooks and Instagrams of the world, so getting people to be patient with us as we improve the tech is a challenge. The second would be due to the fact that Minds is a family business, so working with my brother and father certainly poses some challenges in itself 🙂
What kinds of help are you guys looking for these days and are they paying jobs?
Jack: We are gearing up to raise some more capital, so we are not really expanding the team until that happens. But the main areas we want to get help is in development and adminning the network, so open to applications for anyone reading this if interested! Also if anyone knows any developers, our code is open source so anyone can check it out and contribute (definitely takes some skill / learning though) https://minds.org
This interview was conducted Live on Minds.com
Jack: I have created the group “Meeting of the Minds” after @indiemusicbus approached me for an interview and had the great idea to conduct it live in a public forum on Minds. I figured our live group conversations tool would be a good place for it.
It will begin tomorrow, 5/9, at 2:30 pm EST so please join in if you are interested. This will be an experiment, but I think it could be a good way to connect the Minds team with the community and provide a forum for future discussions or interviews.