My Thoughts on Narrative 2.0

Let me preface this by saying these are just my thoughts.  This is a rough outline of how we could go about resurrecting Narrative.  You may disagree with some of these points, or have better ideas.  But since I’m thinking about it, I figured I’d share these ideas, and maybe advance the conversation.

First, I’m going to assume that nothing will come of dealing with the team. In my mind, that’s a good thing… there isn’t much worth salvaging from Narrative, other than the community, and I’d be very distrustful of any involvement from the 1.0 team. So that means starting from scratch.

Starting from scratch requires people willing to put up seed money and invest a lot of time. With this initial seed, you’ll need to:

  • create a formal business entity – an LLC
  • raise money – possibly through a platform like WeFunder
  • hire some (minimally) paid staff to run the business. I think this could initially be three people.
    • A CEO who has experience running and funding startups. The CEO would double as the CFO, with help of an outside accountant when required. They would also work with an outside attorney to insure legal and regulatory compliance of the site and the business.
    • A marketing person with extensive social media skills and resources.
    • A tech person to run the development effort.
  • elect a small board of directors – possibly a split between investors and community members – to oversee and advise the team. This oversight was critically lacking in Narrative 1.0

Beyond that, I think there are a few critical success factors:

  1. Dump the whole cryptocurrency thing. I know, that’s what initially attracted a lot of people. But it GREATLY complicates the task of building the business, and it limits acceptance of the platform. I know that people deeply in the crypto world don’t get this, but the great majority of people don’t know anything about cryptocurrencies and don’t want to.
  2. Focus on quality. Decide right from the start what kind of content the platform will emphasize, and put in place rules to channel the content in that direction. For example, Trybe has a minimum post length. Use automated tools to run grammar and plagiarism checks, and reject posts that don’t pass. On some high-quality sites – such as HubPages – articles appear on your personal page, but don’t appear on the general site until they have been reviewed by a moderator.
  3. Build community. This was supposed to be a key part of Narrative, but the team never provided tools to encourage it.
  4. Establish a clear policy regarding censorship. This is a hot button issue for some users. To be honest, a no-censorship policy will not work. There are some types of content – such as child porn – that are illegal and will get the site shut down. I think a good rule would be: content will not be removed unless it violates US law, or it fails to meet the quality guidelines.
  5. Open-source the code base. The code base should be open source, but directed by a Narrative 2 employee. Key developers could potentially be incentivized with stock options in the business entity. I would completely avoide getting sucked into the language-and-technology-of-the-month thing. Stick with the basics. You’ll have a broader base of developers, and a lot more off-the-shelf stuff you can choose from.
  6. Run ads from day 1! Sign up for Google AdSense. It’s not the best long-term choice, but it’s trivial to implement, and it will generate revenue immediately.
  7. Resolve the name issue. There is some IP uncertainly regarding the name Narrative. It should be resolved before a re-launch. Either secure agreements with conflicting rights holders, like the current Narrative Company and Narrative Magazine, or change the name.
  8. Keep it simple! No manifestos. The site philosophy, goals, and operational guidelines should be expressed in 1,000 words or less. If you find you are building elaborate sets of rules to implement something, step back and find a different way of achieving the goal.
  9. Defer publications. I would NOT try to launch publications, for a long time, if ever. Build a high traffic platform first. Doing publications right is just too big an investment, and startups cannot afford to spread their efforts too thin. Actually, I think there is a real market for a platform that supported publications in a polished, scalable way. But it’s a different market, and it should perhaps be approached as an entirely separate entity. Maybe sharing some of the open source code base.
  10. Listen to your users. Although I saved it for last, this is probably the most important success factor. Don’t fall in love with your own ideas, because your users understand their needs much better than you do.