How Lyra works
Lyra is a space for rich conversations with people you care about.
ConversationsA conversation is a space for discussion and comment. Conversations are either public or private.
- Public conversations can be viewed by anyone.
- Private conversations can only be viewed by a specific audience (set by the conversation owner). No one else will ever be able to access a private conversation.
Each conversation starts with a message. When you participate in a conversation, you can post a reply to any message. This means that messages are organised like a tree, rather than in a line.
Traditional forums display messages in a line:
Lyra displays messages as a tree, which is much more versatile and makes for better conversations.
When messages are displayed as a tree,
- You can reply to any message.
- It is always obvious who is being replied to.
- The conversation can branch and explore different angles.
On Lyra, you can set up groups of people. This is one of Lyra's most important features; groups allow you great power in controlling your news feed and the audience of your posts.
You use groups in two ways: to control your news feed, and to control the audience of your conversations.
- When you read your news, you can select one, some or all of your groups to read news from. This allows you fine control over your news feed.
- When you make a new conversation, you can select one, some or all of your groups as the audience. If you set the conversation to private, only people in the audience can see or comment on it.
Your groups are always private. No one else can ever see what your groups are called, or who is in them. However, when you create a conversation, participants can see who else is in the audience (but never the name of any of your groups).
Lyra is designed to allow you to express a full range of human emotions. Friendships are not always two-way. Sometimes we want to talk to people, but not hear their messages. Sometimes we want to read someone’s messages, but don’t want them to see ours.
Clicking a button to confirm two people as friends is a poor imitation of the depth and range of human interaction. Lyra does not keep track of who your friends are; that is up to you.
Wherever you see a person's name above their message in a conversation, you can click on the name to reach their profile. (This menu also allows you to add them to your groups).
Your Lyra profile is not limited to a small set of details (age, gender, location, etc) chosen by the designers. You are free to enter any information you like, under any heading you like: from music preferences to foods you can't stand.
This is because your Lyra profile is designed to show information about you to your friends and acquaintances: not to organise your personal information for a social network's own internal purposes, such as targeting advertising.
How does Lyra compare to social networks?
Since 2008, Reddit has provided a platform for hierarchical conversations in groups called subreddits. Conversations are sorted by popularity, as are messages within a conversation.
Reddit provides little control over the people you read messages from. You can browse in a particular subreddit, but there is nothing to stop unpleasant or abusive messages from being read.
As a result, subreddits need to be moderated, which mitigates - but does not always prevent - unpleasant behaviour. Reddit used to buzz with intelligent conversation; now, the platform has issues with racism, aggression, and fake news.
On Reddit, you have no privacy. Your entire post history is visible to anyone.
Facebook styles itself as a social network; in reality, it is an advertising network. From April to June 2014, Facebook received $2.9 billion (£1.8 billion) in ad revenue. Facebook takes 5.8% of all the money spent on online advertising in the entire world.
To Facebook, you are not a customer: you are the product. Facebook is funded by advertisers, not users, so it does not really serve you.
Facebook often prompts for information, such as your music and film preferences. This information does not help Facebook improve its service to you: it allows adverts to be targeted more precisely.
Facebook also doesn’t offer a very rich social experience. Conversations aren’t hierarchical. It’s difficult to control who sees your messages. Your news feed is a jumbled mass of posts from your entire list of friends (mixed in with sponsored links and automatically-playing videos).
Instead of containing messages from people you know and trust, your news feed is filled with clickbait links whose only purpose is to entice you to click on them so that you can view yet more ads.
LinkedIn blatantly styles itself for business networking rather than friendly communication. It’s riddled with adverts, and charges a fee to contact certain people. This alone should scare off those interested in a nice chat.
Lyra is similar in spirit to the message boards which used to form the backbone of online communication until the early 2000s.
Lyra will never show you a single advert. Our goal is to enable deep and meaningful conversations with people you care about. We will only ever charge you just enough to cover our operating costs and pay our engineers (a very small annual fee, presently £2.99). We will always operate as a non-profit, and we will never take investment in return for changing this model.
This is why Lyra does not host photos or video. Storing huge amounts of photos is very expensive and would raise our annual fee. We also believe that hosting photos should be done via a website specially designed for this, such as Flickr. It's a good idea to host your photos there and posting a link to your Flickr on your Lyra profile.
Photos also open up a huge potential for nasty behaviour (using offensive images) and abuse (by the theft and publication of private images). Instead, Lyra focusses on designing the best possible system for text communication on the Web. It does one thing and it does it well.
Lyra’s conversation system is hierarchical. Like real conversations, which split off into separate threads and then rejoin later, this system is very powerful. Consider six friends together in a room. They don’t have to take turns to speak: they can split off into groups of two, three or four and discuss things separately in parallel. At any point, they can shout out to everyone, or split into another group. Lyra’s hierarchical conversations offer incredible flexibility.
Groups in Lyra belong to you. Unlike a Facebook group or a subreddit, they only exist inside your account. This means that groups centred around nasty or abusive topics cannot gain an independent existence. It means that moderators and censors are not required. If you don’t want someone in one of your ingroups or outrgroups, simply remove them. They will simply stop receiving your messages (if they no longer appear in the audience for private conversations you post) or you won’t hear from them on your news page.
You can easily add people to your groups from the audiences of conversations you see. Because groups are private, you never have to add someone to one of your groups if you don’t want to.
These are the principles which guide Lyra's design.
- Conversation and discourse are important.
- The written word is the best way to have conversations on the Web.
- Your social experience should be controlled by you, not by an algorithm.
- A trustworthy service does not aim to maximise the amount of time its users spend using it.
- A conversation platform should do one thing, do it consistently, and do it well.
- Advertising is harmful to discourse.
- Profit is not the best motivation.
This is our agreement with you.
- We will never sell or give away any data concerning you. Not one single bit.
(Except where required by UK law. Like many other popular sites, we are using Google Fonts, which allows Google to see certain request headers - but none of your personal data.)
- We will never require you to view advertising.
- Lyra does not assume copyright over any messages you write. Copyright remains with you.
- We will always remain committed to supporting meaningful conversations.
- We will provide a stable, permanent platform which will always work more or less as it does now. We will not sell out or give up control of our platform.
- We are a non-profit. We will never charge you more than is necessary to cover our running costs and pay our engineers.
- We will never discriminate against any group on the basis of race, gender or anything else.
- General enquiries:
Lyra Communications Ltd, UK reg. 10534260
Covent Garden, London
Address available on request.
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