Here’s a thought experiment embodied in the form of an iPhone application: what if a social network featured the content first, allowing friends and other community members to read and connect with the post itself, before getting to see who wrote it? That’s the premise behind newly launched OnStaged, an app which lets you post short updates and photos, which are not anonymous, but are also not immediately associated with the person who wrote them.
The app is the brainchild of two Microsoft developers, Leo Li and Allan Jiang, who have been building OnStaged in their free time. Like Twitter, your posts on the social network are 140-characters in length, but people don’t know who wrote them until they finish reading the post. But unlike Twitter, there’s no following model – your words will reach the entire community.
Explains Allan, “in other social media, well-thought sentences from a less famous person can hardly draw much attention, whereas random words from a famous person can always get tons of likes and followers. We wrote OnStaged with the idea of encouraging users to focus back on content.”
The idea to put the content first is somewhat reminiscent of Potluck, a social networking service from Branch, a company that was acquired by Facebook in January. However, Potluck was largely focused on sharing links from around the web, before shifting into hybrid messaging and news service. In its first version, users would see the link being shared first and would then have to tap into it to see which of their friends or other community members had posted it and were discussing its content.
OnStaged is a bit different. The app presents content in the form of a card-style user interface, which contains the post and photo from the content’s creator. You then swipe up to like the content or down to dislike it, in order to move on. But only after you register your preference do you get a chance to see who actually made the post. (You do this by tapping on the happy or sad face icon above the following post, as instructed.)
You can also share posts you come across on Facebook, Twitter, WeChat and Weibo.
Your liking and disliking behavior doesn’t seem to be serving some larger purpose of personalizing the content you see, nor are your favorited items saved in any way, and there’s no way to go back and revisit prior posts, as on most social networks. That makes OnStaged feel more like a social “game,” but that also means it may be lacking a hook to bring you back for more once you’ve had your fun the first few times.
That being said, content-first is still an interesting concept to pursue, as it straddles the gap in between the fully anonymous social apps popular as of late, like Yik Yak, Whisper and Secret for example, and those where outsized egos and personas still dominate, as on Twitter. If anything, today’s anonymous apps are gaining traction because they do focus on the words and not the people behind them.
But OnStage is still very early, and its community of posters is small, which makes it less appealing – for now, at least. It would also be fun if you could filter posts by friends versus the wider community, so you could play a game of ‘guess who said it.’ But there’s nothing like that yet, either.
Bootstapped OnStaged, only a few weeks old, is a free download on iTunes.