Since the intention of conscious politics is to infuse mainstream news and information with alternative currents of political thought, I have looked forward to using Twitter — rife as it is with mainstream news and information — as a major vehicle for the project. I appreciate that Twitter is and has been teeming with people who do politics for a living in one way or another as well as armchair politicos like me who like to follow it all and chime in as we do. Maybe what’s happening with tech entrepreneur Elon Musk’s plan to buy Twitter and take it from publicly-traded to privately-held will enhance that project, maybe it will derail it, or maybe it will have no effect at all — time will tell. But as a conscious social entrepreneur — one who endeavors to promote social change via conscious business — the entire conversation, centered as it has been on free speech, makes me cringe. I mean, we already have free speech in the United States of America and no American needs a particular man or his for-profit company to be able to assert it.
Yet. As reported by Wired a few weeks ago, Musk stated in a letter to the chair of Twitter’s board that he had originally invested in Twitter because “‘I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy.’ However, Musk wrote, ‘I now realize the company will neither thrive nor serve this societal imperative in its current form.’ His answer to that is to take the company private.” Meanwhile, in its reporting a few days ago about upwards of $7 billion that Musk has secured as his bid for Twitter journeys on, The Washington Post said: “The backing of tech titans such as Larry Ellison, a friend of Musk and a Tesla board member, solidifies the idea that Musk is intent on making Twitter more profitable. This marks a turnaround from last month, when the Tesla chief executive said…he was not interested in the economics of the transaction and acknowledged the deal might not work out.” Musk has also described Twitter as a digital town square so what’s he actually intending for his version of Twitter? To facilitate free speech? To be a place to globally gather? To fulfill a social imperative? To generate more profit? TBD, I suppose. Clear intention is not the love language of entrepreneurs who finance their projects in old-consciousness ways and, to be clear, Musk is under no obligation to clarify any of this for any of us. Moving on.
Except. It all got me to thinking about what creating Twitter from scratch might look like through a conscious social entrepreneur’s lens. (Mine.) I happen to like the whole digital town square idea, described by The Next Web thusly: “If I think of my own ideal ‘town square,’ it might have market stalls, quiet corners where you can have personal chats with friends, alleyways where strange (but legal!) niche interests can be pursued, a playground for the kids, some roving entertainers — and, sure, maybe a central agora with a soapbox that people can gather around when there’s some issue we all need to hear or talk about.”
I have a wiz-bang dashboard of preferences I tweak with abandon. It gets more and more customized. I can’t believe how much is here! It’s easy to find subjects about which I know nothing but can learn lots. It’s easy to ignore subjects entirely. I can choose to be utterly anonymous, unwaveringly public, or something in between and change my mind the next day. This place was made for me!
So yeah, let’s start with a digital version of that. And let’s call it Twitter Two, just for kicks. I’m the one with the funding so I’ll put on my Founder hat and get the ball rolling with my team. Speaking extremely generally — like at a first brainstorming session — I throw a shiny, clear intention on the white board right away: Twitter Two is a thriving, profitable, online platform upon which users share and commiserate about the news of the day — customized to their individual tastes. The team loves it so now we move to a fresh white board and proceed as Users: I choose what I see. I can make requests and ask for suggestions. I change my mind at will. I can go from wanting to know everything about what the Sultan of Brunei has to say to never wanting to see anything related to the Sultan of Brunei ever again. I have a wiz-bang dashboard of preferences I tweak with abandon. It gets more and more customized. I can’t believe how much is here! It’s easy to find subjects about which I know nothing but can learn lots. It’s easy to ignore subjects entirely. I can choose to be utterly anonymous, unwaveringly public, or something in between and change my mind the next day. This place was made for me! I feel welcomed and free and curious and engaged. I’m learning and connecting with new people from all over the world. Then we switch back to Founder intentions on the other board: Twitter Two values and will be guided — in its development and in its operations — by transparency, fairness, and compassion. This is fun!
And because Twitter Two is not about what a singular person or small team wants, it’s time to spend a heap of investor dollars on good ‘ole market research. Armed with all our ideas to present to every type of potential user there is, fast forward…they love it! Potential users really helped to put meat on our initial ideas and our developers and designers are primed with clear direction and eager anticipation. More fun!
So how does Twitter Two make money? Stay tuned. The intention is that it does and conscious practice simply de-emphasizes focusing on the how. Rather, ideas come like crazy — I already have a dozen from this exercise alone — and they are evaluated by the team, one by one, which measures each idea against its intentions for profitability.
No amount of following this story (on Twitter) so far has given me a good sense of what Musk is intending or why. But imagining it all through my own personal conscious social entrepreneurial lens sure feels pretty good. So I’m going to go with that for today.
NOTE: Bad news, good news. I need to take a week off from the newsletter, which means no issue next Sunday, May 15. The good news is I will send a surprise instead.
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What I liked most about this was that you revealed how you can still be a conscious politics practicioner while keeping your mind on the bottom line. So much (all?) of business is about profitability whether anyone admits it or not and it's nice to able to say it aloud, be clear about that, while also keeping the rest of your priorities in mind. I like that they can all go hand in hand and that we don't need to hide, not reveal, or otherwise sugar-coat that we'd also like to make a profit. I mean, honesty is truly the best policy plus the ONLY policy when it comes to CP. Get honest with yourself (and your company, in this case) then the rest of your intentions will fall into place naturally. Another great one. Thank you, Steven!