Anonymous Chat — 2017
We naturally want to share the very best parts of our lives online. This could lead to a belief that others lead happier lives. Is there value in local anonymous communities that enable you to speak your mind without having a profile to maintain?
Map, Location feed and conversation views
We created an alternative, anonymous social network where people can be their most true selves. You can participate in small, anonymous communities with others who frequent the same real-world locations you do.
Team and my role
Our 5 person team consisted of one founder, one product manager, one client engineer (iOS & Android), one backend engineer, and myself. I lead the product design, branding, and prototyping; working very closely with the team to iterate and execute on our concept.
Early structure exploration
Market & Competitors
Whisper is an anonymous community reaching 250m users/month across their channels. They’ve kept the service very clean and have attracted large advertisers.
Defunct apps like YikYak and Secret serve as cautionary tales to the challenges in the anonymous space, while also highlighting the huge demand for such services.
New post sheet and overflow menu
Acquisition - We would need to generate enough usage in specific locations to create a tipping point. The plan was to focus on San Diego neighborhoods at the start.
Anonymity - Encouraging our community to be as open as possible while preventing it from becoming toxic was a key challenge. This would require thoughtful guidelines and moderation tools (human + ML/AI) to ensure we strike the right balance.
Questionable content - We gave people control over NSFW content through the settings panel. If "Obscure NSFW content" is turned on, we swap the rendered text to this redacted typeface for all content self-tagged by the author, found by our tools, or flagged by the community.
A key difference from other anonymous apps is our mechanic around locations. People unlock local communities in the places they visit, and retain access to them by continuing to use the app in those locations.
Notifications & private messaging
• Unlock local communities by opening the app wherever you are.
• Anonymously participate in discussions within those communities.
• Maintain access to communities by continuing to use the app in those locations.
• Vote/rate discussions to influence what you and others see.
• Anonymously chat with other people via private messaging.
Exploring notification effects
What we learned
It can be hard to create a feeling of community when the input is anonymous. We added random-generated usernames to posts to give them a human voice. These usernames were compiled from lists of adjectives and nouns, combined randomly. This added an unexpected fun element to the app—so many funny combinations!
My first pass at visual design was intended to be black/white/anonymous feeling. This seemed logical, but turned out to feel bland to most people and lead us to a design that had more fun and color. First iterations did not include a map, just a list of the locations you had unlocked. After our first internal release, many people wanted a map so they could easily see the places around them.
As 2017 progressed, we began to question if this was an app that should even exist in today’s social climate. There could be plenty of good conversations and enjoyment, but the potential for abuse and hate speech (along with the cost of monitoring for those things) was just too great. Ultimately, the project was canceled and we moved on to the next idea.