041. Data privacy breaches by centralized social networks, what’s the alternative?

“Most social networks, big ones, are highly centralized, totally closed source and those two things are pretty dangerous because the community, the user base, isn’t able to understand the code, understand what they’re interacting with, not able to see the algorithms, not able to see if it’s spying on them, and also there’s a censorship issue with the centralized structure.”

Bill Ottman

If Facebook is spying on us and apps are tracking our location data, devices are probably listening in to our conversations too. Bill Ottman created Minds, as an alternative. Minds is a social network, that uses open source technology and is powered by crypto where you earn tokens for your contributions.

Bill talks to me about a Princeton study that was experimenting with people’s moods by injecting positive or negative content into their social network feed, and what they found out is that they can in fact alter someone’s mood!

So, he realized that the next big social network would be decentralized.

His network doesn’t or will not ever spy on anyone. They have videos, images, blogs, groups, encrypted messaging and coming soon — video conferencing.


How does monetization work? As a user, and especially as a creator, you earn tokens based on engagement and according to your contribution relative to the contribution of the network. People can subscribe to your channel monthly, based on things that you offer them. People can tip you. People can pay to join your groups or chat with you or access services or products you offer. Minds is putting content creators first and looking to establish a community where users feel respected and they’re rewarded for contributing to the community.

Bill explains that there’s a demonetization wave with YouTube and big ad networks. He says that these big centralized networks are making unpredictable decisions around not paying some of their successful contributors, who sometimes have tens of millions of subscribers. He’s concerned around the censorship and the fact that they’re not being transparent or loyal to their community.

It used to be much easier for creator to access an audience. The way the news feeds on most of the big networks has changed means it’s more difficult for new creators to create a following. Bill says that they’ve destroyed one of the core tenants of social media, the fact that we follow those we want to know about and unfollow those we don’t want to follow anymore, so we want to be in control of our own feed. Feeds don’t happen that way anymore.

Open Source Allows for Collective Progress

Another issue he raises is the fact that these big centralized networks don’t use open source technology. If they did, others would be able to build on what’s already been achieved and the whole ecosystem would be that much further ahead. Instead, new startups are being forced to reinvent the wheel.

“One of the most offensive things about what a lot of proprietary tech platforms are doing is they’re forcing the open source world to play catch up when Facebook, Twitter, Google, Snapchat, LinkedIn, all of them have already built pretty good social networks but not been sharing code, so they force everyone to build their own. Imagine if we had all put our energy together to build on a common infrastructure protocol, we would probably be decades ahead of where we are now.”

Freedom of Information

And we talked about freedom of speech and freedom of information and how important Bill believes both of these things are.

“I just think that humanity deserves as much access to information is as possible, the more we know about ourselves, the more we know about each other, not necessarily in terms of invading privacy, but the more we know, the faster we evolve.”


Bill Ottman