For Lovers Of The Beautiful: Dreaming Up The Perfect Self-Expression Platform

When Pinterest debuted into the mainstream a few months ago it became ever more palpable just how boring the social networks have become.  The feeling that nothing relevant or new is being added, the feeling of old hat. Friends confess the same, though it’s still the go-to spot for loose information.  Hearing the latest on the 2012 apocalypse theories, looking at friends’ pet albums and “seeing” distant connections is great but it’s been a few years now.  Articles like this TechCrunch article cite “one of the most interesting findings of comScore‘s 2011 social networking report was the surge in sites designed around users’ interests, not necessarily real-life social circles.” Even the Fast Company cover article about the homogenizing effect that competing for dominance has had on Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon — one can feel the rippling effect into the generic zone.  My favorite user-interest sites over the last few years are goodreadspolyvore independent fashion bloggerstumblr blogswe heart it, art sites like society6 and artspace, and now, Pinterest. As someone who makes a living from affiliate marketing I also enjoyed learning about how Pinterest was monetizing with Skimlinks off of the stylized efforts of the millions. Same with Polyvore, goodreads et al.  Interest-based apps Instagram and the new iBooks Author also factor in as do sites like Blurb and Storify as more and more ways to express thyself! And more so, have staying power in which the user is creating real value and not petering off after a few months? How does one create a self-expression platform that rewards the user for their efforts and encourages them to dig deeper and create better value for their followers and the web? What does that model look like? I think it’s a visual twitter for lovers of the beautiful! Here’s what I am dreaming of:

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1. A “gallery” space for each user that’s clean, white, and the perfect backdrop in which to express. Maybe it scrolls left to right like a book. A moving timeline of loves. Following the Polyvore model of simple editing, cutting, placement, image flipping and replicating tools, as well as a library of ready-to-use images from sites like Shopbop (fashion), Goodreads (books), S[Edition] (art), Society6 (art), artspace (art), or any site the user wishes (clip tool).

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2. Ability to filter images into stylized look and feel the way one can in Instagram or Hipstamatic. Built right in to the platform- somehow getting all these options in but still managing an amazing UX. I think it’s a great sign that today Hipstamatic merged their sharing features with Instagram.

3. Photo Upload ease of Tumblr. (Goodbye clunky photo uploaders of WordPress and Blogger). Several well-designed, pre-made gallery themes to choose from in order to showcase one’s interests and thoughts on the matter. Apps that are playing around with this are Path and Tiny Review.

4. A tangible, Real User Reward. I’m not sure how a built-in monetization feature (that basically allows the user, not the platform, to be the affiliate) works psychologically, how it becomes perceived by the user or the audience. Does pay for play make it bad? I don’t know.  I’m sure there’d be horrifically tacky sites trying to make money. But cream does rise and for the lovers of the beautiful the aesthetes who love expressing themselves–would they not be encouraged to work hard and be more detailed if there were a tangible reward system in place? Although money talks, perhaps in the end it isn’t actual money. Perhaps it’s points to redeem with the retailers you heart, or donation credits to nonprofits, or another form of currency. It certainly shouldn’t be anything where you still have to pay, a la Lockerz current model. Perhaps it’s based on a Skimlinks model for the beautiful items of the web- an affiliate group that can be tracked image by image with the original link in tact so that the original retail site gets sent the traffic and chance to sell regardless of how many times an image has been used or resized (whoever invents this technology will kill it!).

5. We Heart It, FabJuxtapost, Pinterest, Polyvore- they’ve cornered it, but there’s no incentive for the user to keep at it, and most of these sites really just involve “collecting” images and making a file that others can see. Thinly veiled affiliate marketing schematas.

6. Is it visual blogging 2.0? With backlinks and tracking figured in so the lay person doesn’t have to go there. It would allow people to create, period. Reward them for their efforts with relevant rewards.  Perhaps the accompanying app is a technology that goes further than Snapette; one is walking along, sees a pair of shoes in a window, takes a pic and uploads it to the Dream Platform, and with a simple label system auto creates an affiliate link on it. Does putting a price on your universe change the experience or bring it into focus?

7. Isn’t merely a clever arrangement of “stuff”, but incorporates one’s overall life experience and expression: personal photos, poems and thoughts, philosophy, quotes, music, video, any medium the user wishes to use creating themselves in a free flow manner. I always enjoyed odosketch andpenultimate, where one can draw directly onto the screen.

8. Ability to pull and aggregate from the many sites we’ve started this process: thefancy, svpply, flickr, Pinterest.

9. The end result would be a wildly creative story about who you are, how you experience life, what is important to you. It can be fiction or it can be real. The Dream Platform tells your living story using all forms of media. It’s a creative, reward-based, story-telling lifestyle platform that blends the creativity of Blurb, Instagram, and Tumblr, and longevity, care, and investment of time that is required to have any real gravitas.

10. I see a site like this built for two types of users. 1. Joe and Jane Smith who like expressing themselves creatively. They aren’t professional creatives but they like using the web to express who they are and are very actively engaged. They have day jobs but love their blog and their Instagram and are more and more learning how to “tell the story of their brand” of who they are and what they are interested in. Their followers appreciate their originality.  (Ex. of this set of people would be the majority of the 10m users on Pinterest).

2. Creative Professionals. Artists, stylists, fashion industry, designers, decorators, story-tellers, dream-weavers, visual-minded. The pros at self-expression. Pre-existing bloggers like the blog owners nominated for the Fashion Blog Awards and the Independent Fashion Bloggers. Creative businesses and brands who use the web to curate their brand.

If you want to change the world, change the way people use the internet.