The Dynamite Circle has been on the periphery of my radar since my early days as a blogger. It’s a small, subscription-based social network operated by the Tropical MBA web site, which caters to entrepreneurs running small businesses from exotic locations (I’ve been a guest on their podcast a coupletimes).
This network, abbreviated simply as DC, has around 1200 enthusiastic members. In theory, these individuals could have found each other and organized on existing major social media platforms, using custom hash tags and Facebook Groups, or perhaps gathering on a sub-reddit, or subscribing to each others’ Instagram feeds.
All of this would be free and supported by slick apps with polished interfaces.
Instead, DC members pay around $500 a year to access a custom set of private forums: there are no sophisticated image recognition algorithms auto-tagging photos, or machine learning models carefully selecting posts to maximize engagement. And no one seems to care.
To help understand what’s going on here, I asked co-founder Dan Andrews if he’d allow me to lurk around the DC network for an afternoon. He graciously agreed. What I discovered gets to the core of the long form social media phenomenon I’ve been writing about recently (c.f., 1, 2).
I’m cautiously optimistic about this model as I think niche networks can better deliver on the promise of the social internet while avoiding pitfalls like engineered addiction and emotional manipulation. (These smaller alternatives also tend to be better on the legal-techno geek issues like data privacy and effective contention moderation.)
In response to my recent post on this topic, a reader pointed me toward a fascinating long tail social media case study that I wanted to briefly share, as I think it helps underscore the potential of this movement.
Last month, Jordan Peterson announced he was launching his own social media platform called Thinkspot. Details of the planned service are still sketchy, but it seems like it will include some novel features, such as subscription fees that support the content creators, and a commenting system meant to encourage deeper discussion.
Much of the early press coverage of Thinkspot has focused on the controversies surrounding Peterson and the tumultuous circumstances that led to the service’s creation.
To me, however, there’s a more interesting story lurking. What matters is not why Thinkspot exists, or even whether it will succeed, but instead the larger trend it represents.
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