Design for a Pluralistic Social Network

Forget Twitter with or without Musk, protects like this (and @Seneca’s Decorum are where it’s at). Even a communally owned Twitter would need to address these issues after breaking away from the profit first business model.

This project is crowd-sourcing the design and the github invites critique and additions to what is there so far.


A pluralistic social network (PSN) framework is a path towards scalable, flexible, and resilient public discourse. We take a definition of pluralism from Glen Weyl: a social philosophy that recognizes and fosters the flourishing of and cooperation between a diversity of sociocultural groups/systems.2

Non-pluralistic networks tend to suffer from two extremes:

  • They are global and autocratically controlled, leading to mass misunderstandings, unhealthy incentive structures, and adversarial behavior.
  • They are siloed and opaque, leading to little consensus building action between groups.

How might a PSN encode a pluralistic structure? Like the Coasian idea that clear property boundaries facilitate cooperation, we use the social group as a clear boundary at which we can develop flexible interaction rules. We consider both intra and intergroup rules.

Some design goals for a PSN:

  • Support a plurality of norms and moderation mechanisms. Successful groups should be homogenous in their values to the extent that it produces constructive communication. This homogeneity may be along demographic, interest, or some unknown dimension. We do not a priori presume knowledge of coherent social boundaries.
  • Bridge diverse information between groups through mechanisms that encourage good faith.
  • Reveal an intimacy gradient, where content is bound to norms and its unbinding requires care.

Consilience is the process by which a piece of information is generally accepted as a diversity of viewpoints reinforce the idea. In science, consilience happens through peer review and wide experimentation that confirms a theory. In the social sphere, critical debate and free sharing of information leads to the eventual acceptance of propositions as facts. Implemented successfully, a PSN embraces natural diversity but also creates explicit bridges that help guide the wider network towards global consilience. It should allow easy experimentation according to group norms, and be resistant to individual and majority takeovers.

This document aims to be just specific enough to establish a focal point for further definition and development. We first proceed with a non-technical theoretical basis for the framework. Then, we move to a technical sketch of how the system might be composed so that we can work with a grounded version of plurality. Both these sections are readable as standalone pieces, though they complement each other. Finally, we propose some practical use cases that arise from the framework…

ref: GitHub - wesc/sf-psn: A Sociotechnical Framework for a Pluralistic Social Network

I’ve read the whole thing and it’s good, well worth a read if you are interested in both the social and technical challenges of a better social network. There are interesting ideas such as Intimacy Gradients (see Social Theory), and References includes a bunch of quotes pulling together ideas from different thinkers.