Jumo, the “social network for causes” started by Chris Hughes, launched in beta yesterday. Based on a couple less-than-glowing reviews, especially in comparison to existing sites like change.org and idealist, I felt compelled to get some of my thoughts down.
The typical interaction between a user and a giving site (change.org, idealist.org, kickstarter, globalgiving, etc.) seems to go something like this—
You see a link to a project that a friend is supporting/starting. You visit that project’s landing page and decide whether to invest your money or not, and in turn whether to share it with your own network. You may or may not (cursorily) check out the rest of the site for other causes/projects that interest you, and that’s it— not much else to do.
Generally a one-off, (relatively, if you donate) high investment interaction that doesn’t offer much in terms of engagement, and leads to difficulties in retention on the part of the site.
Jumo approaches the social good problem from another perspective— what if you allow people to, over time, stay abreast of causes they care about in a very shallow, lightweight way? And to interact with their friends about these very causes they share in common— not at the point of donation, mind you, but throughout the duration of their interest?
I believe the notion of “the feed” is a wildly valuable paradigm that will be THE predominant shape in which we receive news, updates, and social interactions (at least based on everything we’ve seen so far with the evolution of the web— the stream is simply the most manageable way to deal with all the information we’re flooded with. Check out this edge.org piece for some good ol’ fashioned prognostication.).
Part of the value is the lightweight investment required by the user— a mere “follow” action signals interest and allows you to receive small updates that, over time, give you an understanding of a topic (vs. the traditional “deep dive” into a subject). For better or worse, the stream is the most efficient way to stay informed in this era of shallow attention and the information flood.
The comparisons of Jumo to idealist, change.org, etc. may be valid in terms of the information and content offered — but I’d much rather gradually learn about causes I care about with a lightweight “follow” where, over time, I can become deeply educated about the topics through multiple interactions on my feed.
The other key aspect of Jumo is its social nature— it looks more similar to Facebook than anything else. Similar to Quora (one of the most valuable services I use), requiring Facebook Connect for sign-in adds a lot of value to the user experience right out of the box. As soon as I signed in for the first time, I had a pre-populated feed that told me what my friends (from Facebook) were doing on the site— what causes they cared about, what topics they followed, etc.— increasing my initial interest in the site.
It’s evident that actions like donating and signing petitions are strongly influenced by social mechanisms— I’m more likely to vote if my friends wear an “I Voted” sticker, for example. Put simply, I care about what my friends care about. Jumo has social baked into its core— it’s not tacked on to the service like in other giving sites, where the sum of social interactions may be the ability to tweet/Facebook out a link to a project you supported. It’s a deep part of the entire experience.
For those complaining about slow load times/server issues— these are non-issues, given that this was day 1 of the public launch. Ditto with the various UX issues detailed here— bugs with consistent messaging around social interactions, setting up organization accounts, customizable URL’s, etc. Again, it’s day 1!
Release early, release often, so the mantra goes. The fact that a site has scaling and reliability issues on launch day just demonstrates how popular— and powerful— the idea they’re trying to execute really could be.
Overall, the combination of social and the stream makes Jumo very promising indeed— it’s a good test case of whether lightweight, “shallow” interest can over time evolve into deep connections with causes that lead to meaningful effort and interaction. Given the deluge of other social-good-oriented sites out there on the web working with similar paradigms (visit the site/landing page—> learn about a cause by reading a bit —> act), it will at least give us another perspective to help answer the critical question raised by Malcolm Gladwell and others— can these “weak” ties engendered on the internet lead to strong offline activism and change?