Thursday, June 18, 2015

Introduction to Spqrs

What is Spqrs?

Spqrs at is a micro-blogging site created to facilitate open, intelligent discussion while protecting people's privacy. In terms of existing sites, it is most similar to Twitter in that you can create posts, message other users by using @user and use #hashtags to tag your post with keywords or topics. You can also follow users. When you follow somebody, every post they send automatically gets sent to you. In addition, you can also follow a topic. When anyone makes a post that includes the topic as a hashtag (like #topic), it will automatically get sent to you.

Why did you make Spqrs?

The Internet provides a great opportunity to engage with people from all over the world and with people who have different ideas, thoughts, and beliefs. People have touted this feature of the Internet from the beginning. However, there is no good place to do it now. Existing social media sites are not built for the expression of controversial ideas or thoughts. Saying the wrong thing on Twitter or Facebook can result in an Internet "mob" against you. As documented in Jon Ronson's book people have been demonized, fired from their jobs, or even threatened with violence based on what they posted to social media.

Based on this, many people self-censor any possibly controversial opinion they might have.

What about anonymous message boards?

Anonymous message boards quickly get overrun with spammers and trolls. Efforts to ban them are more or less futile because they will just create another account and be back.

How does Spqrs help me discuss sensitive topics online?

In addition to making it easy to post messages and follow users and topics, Spqrs facilitates discussion by masking your identity. With Spqrs, you do not choose a username. When you create your account by typing in your password, Spqrs runs your password through a non-reversible cryptographic algorithms (called SHA-256) and uses that to generate a short username for you. All your interactions on Spqrs are through that username. Don't worry about having to memorize it. You never have to enter your username to log in, only your password.

Because your identity is masked, you can discuss ideas and topics without fearing an Internet mob.

What prevents spammers and trolls?

I thought about different ways to do this. Most of the ways involve either some sort of censorship or else tying your identity to your real name. Then I came up with a simple solution, make this a paid service.

What? Why did you make this a paid service?

If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.
          - Andrew Lewis

I came to the decision to make this a paid service. The cost will be $9 a year. There are several benefits from making this model.

  1. The price is low enough that anyone who is wants to spend time discussing ideas can afford it. It is also expensive enough that it is not worth the money to spammers and trolls. This solves that problem without requiring censorship or loss of privacy.
  2. It allows Spqrs to have enough revenue to run and improve the service without ads. That means a faster and more private website without annoying ads, or cookies, or trackers.
  3. Most importantly it allows you to be the customer not the product. The other online services that are 'free' are really just luring users in with these services, just so they can package them up and sell them to advertisers. Is you privacy worth less than $9?

How do you protect my privacy when I buy a subscription?

First of all, you do not buy an account. You buy a signup key that then allows you to create an account. In addition, we make no assumptions that the person who bought the signup key is the same person who used it. In fact, we assume and encourage that you have exchanged signup keys with others.

Second, you have choices about how you buy. You can either use your credit card or Paypal for convenience, or for more anonymity, you can use Bitcoin.

Third, there is an effort to have distributors who buy in bulk and then sell the signup keys to individuals thus providing another layer protecting your privacy

Finally, Spqrs does not itself store any of your financial or other personal information - not even an email address. It uses a third party service to handle all the financial transactions and provision you with a signup key.

What if I am not happy with Spqrs?

If you are not delighted with Spqrs, we will happily refund your money within 30 days. Just contact help@spqrs and include your username and password and we will issue a refund.

What does the name 'Spqrs' mean?

Spqrs was chosen because it was an easy to remember name that can be pronounced  Speakers, and had a .com domain name available.