I'm interested in healthy information ecosystems. Currently, I'm building a social internet at Bluesky.
Imagine you’ve spent 10 years on Twitter, sharing ideas, developing friendships, and building an audience online. If you decide to leave the platform now, you have no choice but to also leave your relationships behind — you have no meaningful control over your social identity there. Struggling to keep up with the latest changes to a black box algorithm or making accounts every few years on the latest, hottest platform shouldn’t be the price we have to pay just to stay in touch with our friends and followers online.
For too long, publishers, creators, even governments have treated Twitter and other platforms as borrowed public infrastructure. What if we made social more like the web itself — open, interoperable, and with lots of choice? On Bluesky:
Big-scale social media, like Bluesky, is excellent at distributing information efficiently and effectively. Here are some key features that Bluesky offers that particularly suit the needs of information dissemination related to elections.
One unique feature on Bluesky is custom feeds — you choose your own timelines, instead of being beholden to private companies and black box algorithms. You can think of them as super-powered lists; they can both be lists of static groups of people or algorithmically-driven feeds. There are already more than 25,000 custom feeds that anyone can build and subscribe to on Bluesky!
Some of my favorites, to give you a sense of what’s out there, are:
Custom feeds can aid newsrooms in owning their relationships with their audience. Instead of posting links and hoping The Algorithm™ surfaces your content to readers, a newsroom could run a custom feed, say, on “NYC Elections 2024.” Now, all residents in NYC can subscribe to this custom feed, which your newsroom has full curation control over, and get accurate information from you directly.
One implication of this is that newsrooms could then monetize their feeds directly: the feed could be gated to subscribers of the paper only, or they could scatter advertisements throughout the feed, etc.
On Bluesky, you can stack multiple layers of moderation on top of each other, as easily as following a new user. One in-progress feature is third-party labeling, and I see fact-checking as an ideal use case for this!
For example, in October 2023, some viral posts that claimed to show the Israel-Hamas war were actually just clips from a video game. A fact-checking organization could run a labeling system to mark posts as misinformation in real-time. I see this as a win-win: users are better informed, and the fact check has a much wider reach on the original post itself than as a standalone article. Users can subscribe to trusted organizations who run labeling systems, and receive any labels (fact checks or otherwise) that the organization creates.
After all, a single private company cannot perfectly understand cultural norms across the globe or industry-specific knowledge of niche fields to execute moderation for the entire world, no matter how hard it tries. Whether the labels are related to geopolitical conflict, scientific accuracy, or just different cultural norms, labeling systems can provide another layer of moderation on top of users’ existing preferences.
If you’re interested in running a labeler when we release this feature, please send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bluesky is a public and open social network by design. We could never pull the rug out from under developers building on the API — the network simply wouldn’t function without it. One of our unofficial company mottos is “the company is a future adversary” (which goes kinda hard, ngl) — the open network that we’re building now must be able to continue to exist, even if Bluesky the company disappears or goes evil.
Technical jargon incoming: On Bluesky, you can “listen to the firehose,” which is a data stream of public actions on the platform. Instead of subscribing to multiple different API endpoints for likes, reposts, follows, etc. separately, you can get all of this data in one place, which makes it an excellent tool for researchers, the OSINT community, etc., and incredibly fun for developers, social scientists, and more.
So what kind of elections-related projects could you build in the Bluesky developer ecosystem? Just spit-balling here:
I shared this article to Bluesky here — join the conversation!
If you work at a news organization and want to learn more, please reach out at email@example.com.
If you’re a developer looking to get started building on Bluesky, here’s a link to documentation.
Finally, here’s a link to Bluesky’s official press FAQ.