(This article is sponsored by Rabbler)
At heart Rabbler is a Social-Polling app on which one can create any kind of media-rich poll for the global audience. It is embedded on a 255-character micro-blogging layer.
As you dig deeper into the ethos of building such an app, it is apparent that the founding team has also taken cognizance of the key issues that social media inherently faces and has integrated solutions towards the same.
Rabbler Guiding Principles
There are two fundamental issues with social media as it exists today which we want to address with Rabbler, say the founders.
A) Trolls and online abuse
B) The balance of power between publishers and the platform
Trolls and online abuse
As Umair Haque has put it succinctly while describing Twitter "Twitter’s troubles are due to something deeper yet simpler, so commonplace it has become invisible. It is, in a very real sense, a victim of its own blindness. Here’s my tiny theory, in a word, “Abuse”. We once glorified Twitter as a great global town square, a shining agora where everyone could come together to converse. But I’ve never been to a town square where people can shove, push, taunt, bully, shout, harass, threaten, stalk, creep, and mob you…for eavesdropping on a conversation that they weren’t a part of…to alleviate their own existential rage…at their shattered dreams…and you can’t even call a cop.”
According to the Rabbler team, troll prevention is not an afterthought but an integral part of the design and ethos. They could have designed a login based system, but chose mobile numbers as the primary means of verification. That makes it easier for them to eliminate trolls.
Once banned, they will have to get a new mobile number. The cost of getting banned is much higher. Unlike a login based system where you create a new account and resume trolling.
As Amol Agarwala, co-founder of Rabbler says “We want to make it clear to all the trolls that abuse will not be tolerated, no matter how small. Moreover, the big idea is not to eliminate trolls when we discover them but create strong incentives so that trolling does not happen at all.”
As a platform, the app doesn’t have specific rules which decide what qualifies for "abuse" because a rules based system can always be gamed. They follow the ancient Eastern institutional system of “judgment”. You cannot define abuse, but you know it when you see it.
One youth icon cum public intellectual that I actively follow is Chetan Bhagat, Amol says. While I may not agree with all his views, he does raise meaningful issues every now and then. Yet I have not seen a single person engage in a proper debate with him on social media, quips Amol.
“Just as you can see Twitterati engaging civilly on non-political issues, there are people who would like to do that even on political issues, but right now you would have to take on the Twitter lynch mob. It takes courage, and hats off to Chetan for that”
On a more serious note Amol says, “if I were to meet him, I would ask him to give Rabbler a shot. Even though we are a small community, we will offer you more meaningful engagement than your current social media platforms.”
From an assessment perspective, the key advantage with Rabbler is that one can also get a quantifiable mass opinion at the end of a discussion through polls. You learn which side the society as a whole leans towards on a specific issue.
Adds Vivek Singh, CTO and co-founder, “Using a mobile number as verification also maintains the sanctity of our primarily polling platform. We do not want someone with thousands of logins or bots to easily sway polls.”
This becomes relevant in politics where there are vested interests as Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Party discovered to their horror when they tried Twitter polling for the first time itself.
Publishers and Social Media
Social Media as it exists is not kind to publishers. They create great content. They hope that consumers on social media will click links back to their page. They will get more eyeballs and monetize via ads. However Facebook via its Instant Articles and Twitter via its Moments want to ensure no such thing happens. They want consumers to stay on their platform and not leave it even for a moment.
Rabbler claims to have found a solution for this.
At Rabbler, we are going one step further, says Amod Agarwala, the third among the co-founders. Why should the publisher not monetize directly on the social media platform? If you have 5 million followers, you shouldn't have to set up your own website. That social media page should be monetizable by itself. This is what Rabbler is going to address. And we can do that because interspersed with normal content are Polls. A poll belongs to the poll creator and engages the audience so much more than traditional content. And it is also prime real estate to display ads. Any advertisement revenue we gain from a poll belongs to the creator; we just keep a small cut. The poll itself can be embedded into any traditional website, amplifying its reach manifold.
In related news, Rabbler will host all polling activity for Femina Miss India 2016. These polls are prime content and fashion blogs and media outlets would gain by embedding these polls on their portals. And for the first time ever an “Aam Aadmi” has the power to influence who becomes Miss India!