About this project
What is XIRKL?
XIRKL is a social network where any number of people can follow you but you can only follow 21 people. This allows you to focus on the people that really matter in your life and eliminate the noise and commercial clutter we've all been forced to tolerate with online media. XIRKL is about the quality of your connections, not the quantity. And it works because everyone operates by the same rules.
Unlike social networks designed to harvest our most private online activities for advertising and data mining, XIRKL works for its users, not the advertisers. If you join the XIRKL network, you are never "the product". And following fewer people means the people you do follow are more important. It's that simple.
Who Is It For?
XIRKL is intended for anyone with online connections. It's for people who are very active on social media or not happy with their current choices. It is ideal for individuals who want their privacy respected as well as the privacy of the people they connect with; for schools and organizations who need to reach their members without commercial intrusions; for businesspeople who value their time and professional contacts; and for parents who don’t want their children exposed to internet slime, relentless advertising and annoying click-bait.
XIRKL is perfect for individuals, organizations and, yes, even advertisers who want their messages received by people who genuinely want to hear from them — as opposed to simply being endured…or ignored. XIRKL was developed for anybody who hates wading through piles of of irrelevant junk to get to what matters. And its easy to use. Anyone familiar with social media will feel right at home using XIRKL. Voice messages, still images, video and audio files are easy to post on XIRKL. If you want to add XIRKL posts to your other social media networks, that's just a finger-swipe away.
Only 21 People? ...Really?
That’s right. You can only follow twenty-one people in your XIRKL. It’s the limitation that defines the experience — like having only 140 characters to work with or an image file that disappears after you've seen it — but unlike any other social network, you control how you follow those people and how they follow you, including being able to create a two-way communication “Sphere” with your most important XIRKL contacts. But remember: while you can only follow twenty-one people, the number of people who can follow you is infinite.
That's worth repeating: You can follow twenty-one people but the number of people who can follow you is limitless.
In practice, a typical XIRKL user will follow ten to twenty-one people in her feed, but a popular XIRKL member can have hundreds, thousands or even millions of followers depending on one simple factor: interest.
Remember, XIRKL is all about being invited inside someone's inner circle – and being allowed to follow another person's XIRKL posts. No one gets into your XIRKL without your permission and when they do get in, it’s because they were invited. The invitation is the key.
You can invite anyone into your XIRKL from your oldest childhood friend to the most popular recording artist in the world. You can invite your most intimate confidant, your favorite teacher, your supervisor at work, a syndicated news feed or your favorite retail product. The one thing they all have in common is that they mean something to you. Something personal and relevant.
Here's a diagram of what my XIRKL might look like:
You can see that each member has a different number of followers, some only a few and others a few million. Obviously, a celebrity or major retail brand won't follow me in their XIRKL and I don't expect them to. But I do want to know what they're up to and how it affects me. And if they're no longer of interest to me, I can easily drop them from my XIRKL and replace them with someone who is.
You can also see that I've got 234 people following me. They don't expect me to follow them — I probably don't even know most of them — but they've invited me into their individual XIRKLs (probably to keep up with any announcements I might make, say about XIRKL). This is what my dad calls "asymmetry" and it's an important way that we'll hope to keep XIRKL free to most users.
How Will XIRKL Make Money?
When a major brand has thousands or even millions of followers via XIRKL, those connections are valuable to both the individual users and the advertisers. But never forget, every advertiser must be invited into a user's XIRKL which is precious and limited real estate, so advertisers will need to create meaningful incentives to keep these invitations active. Of course, the value of being included in the private inner XIRKL of a potential customer is worth far more than the usual advertising rates that merely blast messages to the universe. So, advertising will be allowed on XIRKL, but it's advertising on YOUR terms, not theirs.
What Is A "Sphere"?
A Sphere happens when two or more people follow each other in their respective XIRKLs. In the example above, I have ten people in my Sphere which means I follow them, they follow me, and we can two-way communicate in real time. Because a Sphere depends on both parties participating, some people in my Sphere will have people in their Spheres that I don't share. It's like adjacent tables in the school cafeteria. If your sitting at my table but turn around to connect with people at the next table, you've just jumped Spheres.
The Sphere is one of XIRKL's most interesting features, especially as the network grows. I can't wait to use it.
What Happens When You Have Twenty-one People?
Once you're following twenty-one people, XIRKL won't let you add another person until you make room for them by dropping someone from your list. While this might seem like a harsh limit at first, it's actually pretty liberating. It allows you to concentrate on who matters in your life and really focus your time and attention on the people who are important to you. If you think about who you'd want by your side during your most fantastic adventures or most challenging emotional times, I'm sure that list would be fewer than twenty-one people. These people would form the core of your XIRKL. You can then fill out your list with people who simply make your life better, more interesting and fun, from long-time friends and colleagues to your favorite celebrities.
XIRKL may not be the ideal platform for people who need constant reaffirmation from strangers. But if you value the quality of your social interactions over the quantity, then XIRKL might be just the thing. And, as with everything else, you control how people are introduced into your XIRKL, how they are informed about your choices, and how they access your posts. XIRKL is a private or public as you want.
We even created a place where you can park people who might not be in your immediate XIRKL but you can keep on "standby" for when the space becomes available. We call this your "Orbit" and moving people in and out of Orbit is as easy as a swipe of your finger.
If I Add Or Drop People From My XIRKL, Will They Know?
That’s up to you. You can change the settings so your followers have as much or as little information as you want.
In fact, there are three basic security levels in XIRKL:
- ADULTS can set their permissions and "follow-filters" any way they chose.
- TEENS (between thirteen and seventeen) who don’t want to be followed by creeps or strangers can set their accounts to prevent this.
- PRE-TEEN users have a special configuration that allows their parents to act as a gatekeeper between the child and their XIRKL followers. In fact, XIRKL is ideally suited for younger users because only users that have been invited (and vetted by their parents) can come into their XIRKL.
Here's a diagram of the top-level permissions and authorizations, if anyone's interested:
I've got dozens of these diagrams which I've given to the developers we're working with. If you'd like to know more about the software development process, drop me a note and I'll try to get back to you asap.
It Seems Complicated. Is It Difficult to Use?
Absolutely not. You can start using XIRKL immediately. The user interface is intuitive, almost like a simple game on your phone. You can swipe to any function from the home screen and if you're lost, holding down your finger will steer wherever you want to go.
Of course, there are advanced tools and personal settings that will help each user custom tailor the application but XIRKL's user interface is designed so the learning curve is measured in minutes, not hours.
Every Kickstarter needs great rewards. We think we’ve come up with the best rewards program ever. Because this is a new platform that we hope will attract many users, we decided to let our Kickstarter supporters reserve their own usernames right now so they don’t have to worry about not getting the name they want once the platform launches.
Here’s how it works:
When you pledge to support XIRKL, you will be assigned a precise timestamp that tells us exactly when you signed up. This timestamp puts you on a “line” to request your username at each reward level. There will be three lines, spaced approximately one week apart, to allow people from each rewards level ample time to submit their username requests.
For example, a pledge at the $2 reward level allows you to request a username with five letters (or more) in the third week of sign-ups. If you pledged $50, you can request a username using three-or-more letters during the first week of processing. As long as someone with a lower timestamp number hasn’t taken that username, it’s yours. At each level, you can certainly request a longer username than the allowed character count but it’s up to you where you’d like to be on each line.
Once our Kickstarter campaign ends, we will send all our supporters a link to where they can confirm their timestamp and submit a desired username as well as a backup name (on the chance someone got there first). We will assign each supporter a specific week during which they must submit their request — the first week for the highest pledge levels and the following weeks for each subsequent level. Each week, we will post the results and notify every new user of their official XIRKL name by email. If you are thinking about the Team or Professional support level, you can reserve up to ten (or fifty) usernames which, of course, you will be able to transfer to other users once XIRKL launches.
Remember, there are millions of possible name combinations so the probability of you getting your desired username is very good at any reward level. Obviously, the odds go up in your favor the sooner you sign up. So…<ahem>…what are you waiting for?
When Will XIRKL Launch?
We’re aiming to release a beta version with about twelve thousand users – including many of our Kickstarter supporters – by February 2016, with the roll-out of a complete XIRKL network by May, 2016.
Just in time for summer.
Risks and challenges
There are any number of risks building a project this ambitious, which is why I went to my father and his business-technology friends to help get this launched. Over the past few months, I was able to secure the XIRKL.COM URL, create a template for the user experience, outline the basic programming flowcharts and other essential "blueprints" for the platform. Also, my dad and I applied for two patents with the USPTO to cover certain specific elements of the XIRKL process.
During this time, we met with developers, category experts and potential investors. Everyone we spoke with seemed more than confident that XIRKL is a unique idea that was both practical and could be built using existing technology. But they challenged me to demonstrate there would be a market for it. So my biggest risk right now is that I don't convince enough people like you that XIRKL is social media platform worth trying out.
When we reach our Kickstarter goal, I think we'll be on a fast track to launch XIRKL by next spring.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
If I increase my pledge, say now, do I lose my earlier time stamp? I.e., will my pledge be dated today, or the day I made my original pledge?
No to worry. We know when your initial contribution was made so we can backdate your new Reward Level to that original timestamp. [Thanks Sara J. Henry. Great question!]
The follower count is not limited to 21, correct? I have noticed many of the people on social media follow celebrities and this is an important part of the platform.
That is correct. Xirkl limits the number of people you can follow to 21, BUT an unlimited number of people can follow you. I'll repeat that because it's important:
You can follow 21 people. An unlimited number of people can follow you.
The goal is to eliminate the clutter and garbage from our social space, but one person’s garbage is another person's content -- which they can invite into their Xirkl any time they want (and remove from their Xirkl any time they want). So it's very conceivable that more than 21 people will invite you into their Xirkl because they want to follow what you contribute. In fact, in some cases, its extremely likely.
A typical Xirkl will have a dozen or so friends and family -- people you really want to hear from. It might also include a few people you NEED to hear from (like teachers, bosses, etc.) as well as a content aggregator or two that represents your interests. Most of these people will probably not follow you, and that's all right. You don't expect them to. (Do you really want your teacher or boss following you?) And each of these people could have a hundred or more followers, or thousands if you belong to a popular club, sports team or political group. But remember, YOU control the gate. You can remove anybody from your Xirkl with a swipe of your finger. And then they're gone until you invite them back. But the real magic happens with the high-volume, celebrity members [So yes, you nailed it!]
Taylor Swift would only be able to follow 21 people in her personal Xirkl -- close friends & family, managers and such -- which is why she'll feel safe using it. But she could have a million or more Xirkl followers -- provided these people all invite her into their individual Xirkls. And they will. So the question then becomes: which is more important to Taylor Swift: ten million people who simply "follow" her with the tons of commercial garbage dropping down from the sky? Or one million fans who have invited her into their most intimate and limited social space?
It takes a few minutes to really understand this asymmetry in Xirkl but it's the key to its success. It's how we will keep Xirkl free for regular users like you and me. In fact, there is a "wheel" diagram in the Xirkl video and halfway down the “About This Project” section that describes this pretty well. Maybe you can check it out.
The mission of Xirkl is to eliminate all the unwanted junk that invades our personal media space so that what does get in is, by definition, important. Protecting that "membrane" is vital to the experience.
That depends on the user's needs. Xirkl will support support multiple, two-way interconnections if a user wants that capability. If a user is more interested in a "broadcast" model, that's easy as well, but only if that user can convince other members to be invited into their Xirkles. But, never forget, each individual user controls who gets in and who doesn't.
What is the posting like? Has that been decided? Is it videos like Vine or words like Twitter and Facebook? Are there limits on the posts as well?
When you use Xirkl, you can post text messages, audio, video, external links and even live streams that anyone else can see, as long as they've invited you into their Xirkl. Users creating a “Sphere” will be able to video chat live with everyone else in that Sphere.
The only way to avoid harassment is to make it impossible for harassers to get to you. Which is precisely what Xirkl is designed to do. If you don't invite someone in, they don't get in. It's that simple.
On the larger scale, harassment only works when it's easy for a pathetic, angry person to infect thousands of feeds with very little effort. Bullying is epidemic because its easy and free. It's a shotgun approach that will eventually hit something. The bigger the barrel, the more people get hit.
But Xirkl users limit their feeds to people they know and trust so they won't see slimy garbage from strangers (or even people they know but don't especially like). It simply doesn't propogate like it does in "broadcast" social network. And if someone does insist on behaving badly, you can drop them with a swipe of your finger. In the end, the effect of any individual bully is limited to how many people invite that bully into their Xirkl. Sure, they can continue to spread rumors and bile, but who's there to hear it?
[Thanks to Adriano for this. Great question!]
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