It’s our birthday! Uncommon began on June 26, 2012 and what better way to mark the occasion than with the 150th dispatch. We’ll look back and look forward, share some news and gamely attempt to express how grateful we are for each and every person who has been part of this story. Uncommon isn’t a product, app, or website. It’s a community of people who share a fierce belief in the inherent value of each person and each moment. We’re so glad you’re here.
Uncommon was born out of a desire to reimagine community online. Over the years, we’ve been told to accept certain tradeoffs in interacting with our fellow humans on the internet.
- The companies that enable these interactions are funded by venture capital
- They succeed only with massive scale and growth
- They make money by selling ads and then, your data, in order to sell more effective ads
- The experience is designed around numbers to encourage self-promotion and competition
- Algorithms are tuned to filter the people and content you see
- These feedback loops slowly cause people to alter what they share to ensure more views and feedback
- The goal is to get people to spend as much time on the site or in the app as possible
- Spam, insults, and abuse are a necessary evil, inevitable even
We were determined to change that. Four years ago, we set out to create a new set of defaults.
- Does not have investors
- Can thrive at any size
- Is funded by the people in the community and completely ad-free
- Is blissfully free of numbers and doesn’t rank people or what is shared
- Makes room for every voice; there are no filters or followers so we’re regularly exposed to new people and perspectives
- Is bursting with honesty, vulnerability, and the joy of being alive because every story about favorite things and moments is freely shared without expectation
- Strives to be an inspiring, refreshing, and small part of your life; there’s no fear of missing out or growing pile of unread notifications
- Is designed at every turn to make potentially fraught interactions extremely unlikely and does not have spam or brands
We created a community that celebrates the uncommon we have in common, but it’s also a place where the uncommon is common. Instead of having to constantly swim against the tide, people in the Uncommon community share a passion for doing online community differently. Eating healthy, organic, enriching food is easier and better at a farm-to-table restaurant alongside people who share the same goal. Every part of the Uncommon experience, online and off, is designed to support and encourage the best of our ourselves in community with others.
There have been hundreds of articles about how to improve our relationship with technology—think pieces about where things have gone wrong and how we can make it better. We’ve linked to many of them and they’re worthwhile, often inspiring, reads.
But we wanted to contribute to that conversation in a different way. We wanted to create a place that shows there is another way and puts ideas into practice. We can embrace the web and technology without sacrificing who we are.
We stripped away all of the things we were told are required and left the only thing that actually is: kind and curious people connected to one another through the things that matter to us most.
And four years later, here we are. Together, we’ve created the internet’s front porch. Together, our future overflows with possibility.
I’m amazed when I reflect on the past four years. I never imagined there would be members in 20 countries or Uncommon gatherings. We created a beautiful print, tee, button, invite card, and two stickers, drew nearly 150 original icons celebrating the community’s favorite things, and made donations to an arts mentorship program. Table for Six conversations connected us in uncommon ways and Fast Company shared our story.
Our online home is a beautiful, welcoming place. Tell the stories behind your 10 favorite things in the world, see everyone who has a favorite in common, and explore their unique perspective. Read the responses to nearly 150 prompts and when inspired, add your own reply. Search for people, favorites, and prompts (one of the more delightful search experiences around.)
Each time you stop by, a small collection of cards awaits you. Every stack features favorites, prompts, introductions to your neighbors, prompt replies, and more. It’s a delightful and deliberately brief experience. We want to spark ideas, enrich your day, introduce you to new people and things, and then let you get back to what matters to you most.
When we pause and look back, it’s hard not to be amazed at what’s been accomplished (you can read more on the Timeline). How many well-funded startups over the past four years have less to show for their money and effort (or have since closed) than what this community has created, together, entirely as a volunteer project and labor of love?
Four years is an amazing milestone, but it still feels like we’re just beginning. There is much to come.
- Online Tables for ongoing community conversations
- Send messages to other members
- Say thanks to someone for a contribution you loved
- New kinds of prompts
- New ways to experience Uncommon
- A new dispatch for members
We want each of these additions to be true to the heart of Uncommon. They should prioritize people above all else, respect your time, and foster thoughtfulness, openness, and exploration. The result will be an even more enriching experience and deeply connected community.
Your spot on the front porch
This is the perfect time to become a member. To celebrate four years, the price for one year is just $24, which includes a year to share with a friend.
Why is there a membership fee? We are building a sustainable community. Free social networks, apps, and sites are not free; they are simply paid for in other ways. Pursuing advertisers to fund the site negatively impacts the experience and forces design decisions which are good for companies, but bad for you. If that approach fails, too often the community fails with it. We’ve all poured ourselves into apps and sites only to see them disappear unexpectedly.
Each person who has become a member has made it possible for Uncommon to still be here four years later. You can help our community be here for four more years.
And don’t forget, we set aside memberships for those who can’t afford them. If you want to be part of Uncommon and money is tight, we’d love to have you. Just let us know.
If you believe we need more neighborhoods in this age of networks, if you want to be part of a friendly community of truly uncommon people, join us!
I could fill a year of dispatches thanking the incredible people who have brought this community to life. They have contributed design, code, ideas, words, art, inspiration, and advice. At so many opportune moments, their enthusiasm and support have pushed Uncommon forward.
We as a community are forever grateful to the amazing group that has contributed to Uncommon from the very start: Brad, Brian, Marius, Andy, Ben, and Lori. Also, a huge thanks to Austin, BJ, Bob, Brian M, Cassie, Clare, Diana, Drew, Erin, Jack, Jenn, Jennifer, Jenny, Jon, Kathy, Lara, Lauren, Lisa, Lora, Nick, Phil, Radhika, Robin, Sara, Terry, and William.
And then, there’s each of you, from the founding members who brought Uncommon into existence to everyone who has replied to a prompt. Whether you joined last week or years ago, spread the word or sent a few encouraging ones, or gave some of your treasured time and attention to enjoy and reflect on these dispatches, your presence and contributions have helped shape this community. Thank you!
A new front door
Just in time for our 4th birthday, Uncommon has a brand-new homepage! It’s a beautiful one-page introduction to our one-of-a-kind community. There is a manifesto of sorts about why Uncommon exists and what makes it different. More importantly, there are lovely quotes from some of you! Thanks to Nick, Andy, and Brian for creating something so perfectly uncommon.
Take a look and share it with friends, neighbors, coworkers, and uncommon people everywhere.
Table for Six
Let’s celebrate 4 years of this one-of-a-kind community with Table for Six conversations! We’ll gather together on Saturday, June 25 and Sunday, June 26 to enjoy the company of friends near and far.
Table for Six is a telephone conversation with your Uncommon neighbors. Each is unique and inevitably awesome. If you’d like to take part, just reply and we’ll get you the details.
Uncommon played a small part in the 2016 Web Science conference in Hanover. Clare Hooper, a founding member, wrote and presented a paper on social machines at the academic conference. I had the privilege of contributing to the paper, along with two other co-authors. It was a fascinating and rewarding experience to look at online communities through the lens of web science.
This paper frames social machines as problem solving entities, demonstrating how their ecosystems address multiple stakeholders’ problems. It enumerates aspects relevant to the theory and real-world practice of social machines, based on qualitative observations from our experiences building them.
Some shabbat days are already so filled with activity I hardly miss the internet. [...] It’s the open-ended days, though, that jolt my sense of time.
In a similar spirit, Uncommon goes quiet each Friday at sundown for 24 hours. We call it sunset.
Think Less, Think Better by Moshe Bar:
These experiments suggest that the mind’s natural tendency is to explore and to favor novelty, but when occupied it looks for the most familiar and inevitably least interesting solution.
If you could share a porch with anyone, past or present, who would it be?