Preface: In this eleventh installment of the series by Phil Friedman and me, we deviate somewhat from our previous format. This time, we’re talking about beBee, is a relatively new worldwide social media platform based in Europe. It’s been in operation for somewhat more than a year, but has already amassed more than 10 million users. beBee will be launching a long-post publishing sub-platform in about six weeks, and we put CEO Javier Camara Rica on the Q&A hot seat concerning the ins and outs of that upcoming publishing function. We ask some blunt questions, and get some straightforward answers. You’re invited to join the conversation.
PHIL: LinkedIn controls the distribution of updates and long-form posts, and notifications of such, by means of an algorithm that decides who on the platform sees what. How does beBee’s “Affinity Networking” differ from that approach?
JAVIER: Writers can distribute content (called “buzzes” in beBee) through affinity interest based groups (called “hives” in beBee). In other words, if someone writes about marketing, technology, travel, or sports, we expect to have a hive that writers can share their content to with other people around the world who are interested in what they have to say.
Readers have control of their own destiny in terms of the content they read. If a writer does a poor job with their post and shares non-relevant content to the readers in that hive, users can indicate their displeasure through the “hide button” or “suggest another hive.” Once this happens by multiple users, the writer’s content is marked as “non-relevant”, so it is not as widely distributed to all of the members of the hive.
Conversely, if a writer gets a lot of readers pushing the relevant button, that tells us that readers in that hive like what they are seeing from this writer. We will then push that users content to all the users in the hive. We believe our bees (users) are smart. They know what content they like, and we will give them the tools they need to ensure maximum relevancy.
JIM: That makes sense, Javier. As Phil often says, you’re going to let the audience decide. However, Indie bloggers and writers were originally promised help and support by LinkedIn in building our own readerships networks. But after publishing a lot of work on the platform, LinkedIn arbitrarily changed its distribution and notifications policy. These changes were to the serious detriment of indie bloggers and writers here. Are you prepared to make any guaranties to writers and bloggers on beBee that what we see today in terms of operating procedures, will be what we get a year or two or more from now?
JAVIER: Jim, I am here to promise you that writers will always be able to freely reach 100% of their followers on beBee. The post will appear in the news feed and there will be an instant notification to ALL of the writer’s followers. Ok, we get it, you’ve heard this before. So, beBee is prepared to be able to sign an agreement for any skeptical bloggers out there that would feel better about having this guarantee in writing from us.
Here’s the thing, we believe that if someone elects to follow a writer, they want to read their content. If the reader ever decides in the future that they no longer want to receive content from that writer, they will have access to an un-follow button. It’s really that simple, and to complicate it beyond that makes no sense to us.
Jim, if I were going to write an algorithm that decides what content you’re going to get on beBee for potentially the rest of your life, shouldn’t we at least have dinner first? Ha, ha! What I mean by that is, how can beBee possibly know our users’ desires better than they know their own preferences? We will leave it up to our users to operate their Follow and Un-follow buttons.
PHIL: A big drawback of the LI author’s archive page is that it lists every long-form post of the author in chronological order by date of publication. This prevents me and other writers who publish across a wide variety of topics from sorting our posts by general category. On Medium, it is possible to have multiple “publications pages” each with its own writer-assigned posts. Thus, on Medium, I can have a page for my marine industry-specific articles, and another for my (admittedly self-indulgent) socio-philosophical writings, which I don’t necessarily want associated with my industry-specific professional writing. And I could even have a third publications page for my satirical writings and (lately) my stand-up comedy routines. Will beBee’s publishing platform address this issue.
JAVIER: Yes, we’ve noticed that about Medium. We are working on implementing something similar, but with the power of a buzzworthy social network behind it. We have been listening to the conversations from bloggers here on LinkedIn and elsewhere. We have tried our best to include what we’ve learned in the first launch of our publisher which will be live the first week of April. Then, we will be ready for feedback from our bees and to make improvements based on what they tell us they need in future releases. To my knowledge, nobody has ever released a perfect blogging platform on the first try. So, we realize there will be improvements needed as we move forward. For this to work well for both writers and readers, we must take user feedback seriously and actually implement what they tell us that needs to be changed.
JIM: In addition to talking about some of the technical aspects of the new publishing platform on beBee, I’d like to turn to a question about the content itself, and was just wondering if there is any sort of code of conduct in place to keep the content on a fairly high plane and keep too much, say political, content from seeping in. This is an election year in the US and a very controversial one at that. Just wondering if you have been taking that into account?
JAVIER: We will always have freedom of opinion on beBee, it is an open network. However, we also realize the need to avoid having users be offended by content that is offensive to them. As for politics, we have Hives for those types of discussions. Users are encouraged to share content that is thought provoking, educational, funny, or uplifting. Controversial and discussions should be held in the Hives where other users like to engage in those topics. We want our users to have an enjoyable experience. beBee is a happy platform!
PHIL: Okay, Javier, I don’t think anyone can accuse you of mincing words. But here’s an even blunter question for you. Some people I’ve run into online are saying that they find the beBee user interface difficult to navigate. I personally found it took a bit of getting used to, but then (although I hate to admit it) I am generally lost on Facebook and still trying to figure out Twitter fully. Do you have, or are you contemplating having a “quick-start” help section or tutorial available? And what about an ongoing help desk?
JAVIER: In my humble opinion, beBee’s user interface is one of its competitive advantages over Linkedin. It is easy to use and friendly. Anyway, I always think everything can be better. So, we are working on a “How to Use” and a “Quick Start” guide. But while beBee may benefit from a user guide, that does not mean it is not sufficiently intuitive. We always aspire to be understood without guides 🙂
JIM: Will comments, views, likes etc.be tabulated and displayed the same way they are on LinkedIn’s Pulse platform?
JAVIER: beBee will show comments, views and “relevants” in a visually attractive way. I hope you will enjoy it. Anyway, as John White has said, “Don’t expect that the first release is going to be perfect. It will be a first platform, to be reviewed by users; and we’ll do the improvements that are found to be needed. 🙂
Postscript: Our sincere thanks to Javier Cámara Rica for putting in the time and effort to answer what Phil and I believe are important questions for all who might be considering joining beBee, and especially for independent writers who may be considering expanding their efforts to beBee’s upcoming long-post publishing platform.
We also want to thank our pal, John White for introducing us to the beBee platform, and for acting as the main go-between in this effort. John’s clear head and sense of social media decorum was invaluable in keeping Grumpy and Grouchy on point.
Be that as it may, Phil and I certainly do not want to be accused of unfairly favoring beBee in any way. Consequently, we are hereby openly inviting LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner to join us for a similar Q&A session on “He Said He Said”. We’ll keep you posted, but of course we will not hold our hands on our head waiting for a response.
Author’s Notes: Phil Friedman can (and always will) speak for himself. He has published a duplicate of this post under his byline.
If you missed any of the first ten installments in this series, here are the links:
“Conversations Across the 49th Parallel” (No. 1)
“Are the Vast Majority of Writers on Pulse Getting Hosed?” (No. 2)
“What the Hell Are We Doing on LinkedIn?“ (No. 3)
“Personal Branding: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly…” (No. 4)
“Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum, Is Social Media Making Us Dumb?” (No. 5)
“Quit Messing With My LinkedIn User Experience…” (No. 6)
“Authenticity in Writing: Sense or Nonsense?” (No. 7)
“How To Stop Worrying and Learn to Love Your Social Media Obsession” (No.8)
“Groups On LinkedIn – The Beginning Of The End?” (No.9)
“Does Competition in Blogging Ruin Community?” (No. 10)
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