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Summary:

Changes brought in by much-hyped Berlin startup Amen were partially intended to stop the opinion service being used as a messaging platform — ironic, given that the CTO was a key early developer at Twitter.

Amen founders Felix Petersen, Caitlin Winner and Florian Weber

As we reported earlier this week, hot opinion app Amen has just undergone some major changes that generally indicate a quick maturation of its platform.

Amen founders Felix Petersen, Caitlin Winner and Florian WeberNow it turns out that several of those changes – the addition of comments, the removal of the ‘new feed’ and the abandonment of the web version – were specifically intended to shut down a certain kind of conversation that was taking place on Amen.

Judging by a blog post the team put up on Thursday, some early adopters had started using Amen as a messaging platform, rather than the like-dislike system it was originally intended to be.

The service lets people tag items, people or ideas as “the best thing ever” or “the worst thing ever”. But some people were choosing a different route. To give an example of what was going on, the team stuck up examples of good Amen usage and bad Amen usage: “New York is the Best Place for Rooftops in the World” versus “I have to go the Gym now, see you Sonja and all the other Ameners is the Best thing to mention right now. Amen.”

It’s certainly become clear why those changes were made. The addition of comments means conversations can happen in a way that doesn’t pollute the main stream: the ‘new feed’ — now abandoned — had made Amen into a place where people could discover new contacts rather than interacting in a new way with people they already knew, as intended.

And the web version went (or was at least neutered) because it’s much easier to type on a desktop than on a smartphone, so that had become the main vector for ‘chitter chatter’.

“Imagine for a second what would happen if Instagram released a bulk upload client and people began uploading archives worth of holiday pictures. Right? We are faced with a similar dilemma of how to encourage quality over quantity without dampening overall activity,” the team wrote.

What’s ironic about this situation is that Amen CTO Florian Weber was the first engineer for Twitter, a platform that famously just provided an engine and let the users establish the norms of its usage.

I can certainly see the point of trying to keep Amen’s usage aligned with its creators’ vision – especially when millions of dollars in investment are contingent on that vision’s execution – but it’s a move that raises interesting questions about who should be in control of what an emerging platform gets used for.

  1. Florian Weber Friday, March 30, 2012

    Just to clarify, we are big fans of people shaping a service. We have lots of people use Amen in great ways, that they came up with by themselves.

    When you are building a product like Amen, you always have to find the balance of quality and quantity. I would think every service deals with such challenges at some point. We made quite a few changes to Twitter in the early days too.

    The main reason to focus on iOS and slim-down our website is simply that we believe that iOS and other mobile platforms are the best platforms for us right now and will allow us to implement our vision. Less “chitter chatter” is just a welcome side-effect.

    -Florian Weber

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    1. Stephanie Sacco Saturday, March 31, 2012

      Florian, as one of my Amen followers, you know that I am one of the early-adopters of Amen who was part of the “conversationalist community.” Yes, at times we “chattered.” However, we also posted opinions that met the original intentions of Amen. As a matter of fact, several of those posts were highlighted in the Amen Blog, on Amen’s Facebook page and were featured in the “Popular” Amens section with several of those posts exceeding between 50 and 200 “amens” each.

      We thought our contributions and efforts helped Amen to become successful, fun, witty, exciting and a site to visit every day, especially for new users. Upon creating a new account, new Ameners are initially introduced to the 11 “Awesome Suggested People to Follow” list. This quickly resulted in inactive accounts because 10 of the “11 Suggested People to Follow” were completely inactive at the time. No wonder many new accounts had zero activity. Funny, how some from the “11 Suggested” list has managed to find time within the past week to resume posting on Amen.

      The Amen Team never notified us that some of our activities were out of line with their vision. It was obvious from our consistent and heavy activity that we cared deeply about Amen’s success enjoyed the site and community. We would have stopped our conversations that “polluted” the Amen feed had we been contacted. As a matter of fact, we often monitored ourselves to limit “polluting conversations.” Further, since last year, we asked the Amen HQ Team for an “Amen Chat area” or comments section yet received no response whatsoever.

      As Ashton Kutcher (Amen investor) is quoted on the Amen app page of iTunes: “Definitive statements are the kinds of statements that relationships are built over.”

      We built those worldwide relationships on Amen and thought that was a good thing not only for us personally but also for Amen. Those relationships continue to thrive on our “Amen Friends” Facebook Group page and via email with those who don’t have Facebook accounts or iPhones.

      I take great exception that the Amen Team has thrown us “polluters” under the bus for their decision to exclude an entire community who does not own iPhones. We know that is not true. Hell No!

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  2. Florian, then get back someone to do PR for Amen, cause from one side (what you write) the reason seems to be mobile users are the best for Amen, but the post on the amen blog is all about content quality, and the title references clearly the group of people that used amen for conversation. Just try to say the same thing everywhere.

    Anyway, there were a thousand ways to get a better quality of the content on amen, and having users login one day and finding out they’re cut off it’s just the worst way to do it.

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