- Paper trail→data shadow: http://ur1.ca/i6ct "Privacy: Netflix, Facebook & 'Brokeback Mountain Effect'" http://icio.us/pfzql0 via @viviane212 #
- @viviane212 Very! I added it to our links list: http://bit.ly/75TCmI Feel free to tag bookmarks w/ "KinkOnTap" on Delicious to add your own. in reply to viviane212 #
- ♺ @KinkOnTap Got cool links? Share on Twitter or Delicious.com w/"KinkOnTap" tag to add to our new COMMUNITY links feed http://bit.ly/7lUwAI #
- An important read: Why YOU're in danger thx to the conviction of an accused pedophile http://bit.ly/86R1gk via @DrMartyKlein #sex #KinkOnTap #
- I'm trying, I swear! ♺ @solidadrocks ♺ @ChrisMacDen: Bitter, #jaded #people: if I can have lived the life I have & not be jaded, so can you. #
- Dear universe, I'm feeling very overwhelmed by Stuff-I-Can-Do & Stuff-I-Should-Do-Now dissonance. Please consider providing guidelines. Thx. #
- Why is Yahoo! Pipes unable to fetch #RSS feed for a @Twitter #search query? I'm seeing 503 Service Unavailable errors when I try it. #webdev #
- ♺ @KinkOnTap New #ads "tested w/women" tells #men they're not "wearing the pants" if their pants aren't Dockers brand. http://icio.us/ok4r54 #
- "#Iran gov't…try to humiliate men [w/pics of them in women's clothes] as if being a woman were something bad" http://vb.ly/rtr ♺ @carolqueen #
- Stephen Guest's lecture "The right to obscene thoughts" http://bit.ly/6AQkls looks very interesting, @discworldian. Thx—might watch it soon. in reply to discworldian #
- While walking to #QueerOpenMic, a street light turned off as I walked under it and turned back on after I passed. Worst super power ever. :( #
- @MollyRen I empathize with that. Be glad you're figuring it out. Don't stifle whoever you are just cuz you're not like your friends. Really! in reply to MollyRen #
- Had a wonderful time talking about religion, sexuality & cultural divides at dinner after #QueerOpenMic. Cited @RevDebra lots—follow her! :) #
- Friday's MaleSubmissionArt.com http://vb.ly/rua quotes Margot Weiss' "Politics of #BDSM Representation in US Popular Media" http://vb.ly/ru9 #
- @lanej0 I've resolved never to go an ad/financial sponsors route for my blogs. Tone+feel is everything there. Also, eyeballs+ads? Boring. :) in reply to lanej0 #
- @lanej0 Micro-donations are surely something I'd like to start exploring, but I'm uncertain exactly where to start. Have any suggestions? :) in reply to lanej0 #
- Just asked @seancolombo if I could re-borrow my own book to look up what I wrote about #CSS organization/signposting. http://tr.im/advcss :) #
- @lanej0 That's compelling—lots to think about. Thanks for the link to @jkottke's "micropatron" rationale. How'd it turn out? Did you donate? in reply to lanej0 #
- Wow! This is by far the most impressive #webdev thing I've seen all year: pure #CSS pseudo #3D rollover effect http://ur1.ca/i3vp #webdesign #
- Programmer: "Why should I learn creative writing?" Writer: "Why should I learn information architecture?" Different questions w/same answer. #
- Sharing some thoughts about what we're up to. ♺ @helio_girl: In which I talk about NPR, @KinkOnTap and commitment: http://bit.ly/RadioOddity #
- ♺ @audaciaray AMAZING: "I'm an outsider—I'm thinking a lot of my assumptions re #sex workers are so wrong. We do cultural violence to them." #
- ♺ @audaciaray: Pastor Pat of Metro Community Church: "our communities have a lot in common. Let's come together & support each other" #dec17 #
- Int'l Day to End #Violence Against #Sex Workers: http://vb.ly/rnq "we must work to reduce stigma, gain nonjudgmental #healthcare services…." #
- @helio_girl Thx for introduction. @teaguehopkins I've heard quite a number of good things about you! Would you be willing to chat? DM if so. in reply to helio_girl #
- 4yr old boy suspended from Texas #school for having long hair—I shit you not: http://ur1.ca/i4nw @talkingfigleaf's take: http://ff.im/-d4XF3 #
- "Today's [witch-hunted] are those a little too interested in childhood #sexuality." Florida Criminalizes Arts & Crafts: http://bit.ly/5b2CX7 #
- For @helio_girl to follow: ♺ @alfiekohn: IME, the best #educators are less interested in student achievement than in students’ achievements. #
- #Youth & #education related #wikis: http://HomeSchooling.wikia.com http://YouthRights.net http://ChildrensBooks.wikia.com #WikiWednesday #
- ♺ @KinkOnTap: In episode 20, @kellidunham tells us how she taught a nun to masturbate. http://ur1.ca/hygy So much fun w/her & @maureengh! :D #
- Prospect of daily 8AM call just slammed me into my seat. Recall asking about hrs—should've said "Skype." Struggling w/motivation at $job. :( #
- When I was a boy, my refusal to go to #school branded me a whiny slacker. Those memories terrorize me even now. Collecting myself on a walk. #
- SA: http://vb.ly/rie ♺ @livingsexuality @aboutsexuality: Protect Yourself from Rush to Medicalize Premature Ejaculation http://bit.ly/4T4AiR #
- Excited that a great @KinkOnTap about an important topic is shaping up for next week. (cc @helio_girl @NikolasCo @viviane212 @identitywoman) #
- For 1st time in my life I've ongoing "personal" projects I'm passionate abt—I'm unwilling to compromise them but they don't pay. What to do? #
- Had energizing chat w/ @SexDayUSA. If you got America to have a nationally-recognized sexual freedom awareness day, what would it look like? #
- @lanej0 I dunno…I'm not interested in being a biz guy, y'know? And my other projects like @KinkForAll are social, not commercial, endeavors. in reply to lanej0 #
- Feels good to get 2 http://MaleSubmissionArt.com posts published even if I did stay up later than I'd like. THAT's where my motivation lies. #
- #Bisexuality isn't abt binary gender poles—it's about many sexuality facets w/2 ends: http://vb.ly/j19 @szvan @ccziv @bivisibility @Ms_Goose #
- More on the myth of #bisexuality & the #gender binary http://sexpositive.wikia.com/wiki/Bisexuality cc @szvan @ccziv @bivisibility @Ms_Goose #
- US capitol to legalize #GLBT #marriage: "more than 200 faith leaders in [DC] endorsed same-sex marriage." http://ur1.ca/hxej via @viviane212 #
- Study: Casual #Sex Doesn't Cause Emotional Damage http://bit.ly/5Wx1F3 Danger is purely societal. As if we didn't already know. via @diabola #
- @identitywoman Interesting @RWW post re Facebook's #privacy fumbles. Would you be interested in coming on @KinkOnTap this Sun to discuss it? #
- Fading fast. Self, please remember that you need to get more than 6hrs of sleep tonight. Another 1hr's work on @KinkOnTap, maybe, then rest. #
- @SamLawrence @aprilblackbox @BlackboxRepublic I feel like I might use BBR more if I could post updates FROM Twitter as well as TO. Thoughts? #
- Trust me, you want to hear how @kellidunham taught a nun to masturbate! :D ♺ @KinkOnTap 20: Too Butch for a Bunch of Nuns http://ur1.ca/hygy #
- I guess I get why it's sometimes necessary, but god, project update calls first thing in the morning are an awful, awful, way to wake up. :( #
- @MollyRen I know…and I'm ALMOST ready to ask for some but it's amazing how much work it takes to get to a point where I can do more work. :P in reply to MollyRen #
- @DDog No, your #KFADC video hasn't disappeared. Btw my new day job, @KinkOnTap, etc, I simply haven't gotten everyone's published. Sorry! :( in reply to DDog #
- @viviane212 Seems @smuttysteff's list of 7 annoying Twitter behaviors is just a list of annoying behaviors. They're people I avoid IRL, too. in reply to viviane212 #
- @MollyRen Ooh, that is a good question! I'm trying to answer it with http://SexPositive.wikia.com. /cc @mrsexsmith @butchtastickyle @essinem in reply to MollyRen #
- Dear #SF, I'm surprised how many people are at the post office on a Mon morning. Is that what happens when everyone has flexible job hrs? :) #
- According to @danstuart, my blog is censored in Dubai. http://ur1.ca/hudb Does that mean I've "made it"? All good stuff's blocked, right? :P #
- @danstuart @Scobleizer I'm censored in Dubai? Awesome! :P If it helps, I cross-posted my Blackbox Republic review here: http://bit.ly/829hTf in reply to danstuart #
- @danstuart Well, are other sites like, say, @FetLife, blocked in Dubai? I'd imagine if they want to block sex-positivity, they'd block that. in reply to danstuart #
- Interesting. Twitterformats.org are "light-weight client side Twitter APIs" that "add semantics to Twitter conversations" /via @chrismessina #
- @tylerthepup Seen Lady Gaga #wiki? http://LadyGaga.wikia.com I'm amazed at the amount of stuff I can learn about stuff I don't care to know. in reply to tylerthepup #
- Please, please Tie this into http://Permanize.appspot.com or similar soon. ♺ @rgaidot: #Google releases #URL #shortener http://bit.ly/6HvLTU #
- Amazing. My personal #sex blog is blocked in Dubai, but @FetLife isn't—I bet cuz FetLife isn't in Google. #Censorship is so futile & stupid. #
- Playing w/ Wikia Answers: http://answers.wikia.com A #wiki is such a natural implementation of a collaborative question-and-answer #website. #
- ♺ @DrMartyKlein: American Psych Assn making hebephilia a disease? We'll ALL be vulnerable to arrest as sex offenders. http://alturl.com/on9v #
- I'm having a lot of fun answering #sex questions on Wikia Answers. My answer to "What's the best way to #masturbate women?" http://vb.ly/iyi #
- @emilylewis I get the impression most #sex questions there are #youth pranks, but hey, maybe w/serious answers they'll learn a thing or two. in reply to emilylewis #
- Sigh. My neighbors' kid has gotta be the loudest thing known to man. I hear her running across the apartment next door…every. single. night. #
- Study: suppressing a female-inducing gene gives mice a #genetic #sex change w/o any surgery: http://tinyurl.com/y965xwt (via @sexgenderbody) #
- Freedom of speech "doesn't give you a right to say whatever you want on privately owned site" http://bit.ly/6ICgKr via @cuppy @Cryptic_Daeke #
- Great, succinct point! Add to http://vb.ly/7xc? ♺ @stacycat: Short: #Sex negativity & sexism hurt #youth through devaluing sex & experience. #
- Having a blast listening to @kellidunham & @maureengh on last night's recording of @KinkOnTap again. :D I can't wait to have this published. #
- I am SO tempted to title this @KinkOnTap episode "Too butch for a bunch of nuns!" Whatcha think? @KelliDunham has some hilarious one-liners. #
- Women bloggers "should be more modest. Bite me." Why Still Fighting #Gender Bias: http://bit.ly/7ZFQcq (via @musingvirtual @copywritermaven) #
- @ellinoz Better than, say, "Bouncing bits"? :) Seriously, there's so much title fodder for this episode, I think I need some help to decide. in reply to ellinoz #
- I think I've finally figured out what (part of) the Christmas gifts I'm going to get a special someone are going to be. No one gets to know. #
This post was originally published on my other blog, a much more Not Safe For Work site, at maybemaimed.com. However, it turns out that blog is censored in various countries, such as Dubai. Gotta love Internet censorship. Sigh. Anyways, since I think the material there is interesting and technology-relevant, and in order to help people avoid Internet censorship, I’m cross-posting the contents here. Enjoy.
Social media. Internet publishing. Privacy. Three phrases that have seemed to be at tenacious odds with each other in a multitude of subtle and not-so-subtle ways. For people like me, who have progressive views about sexuality, these three things are constantly on our minds. How do we participate in the online revolution without being forced to “come out” about every sex act we enjoy, some of which are still illegal thanks to draconian restrictions on sexual freedom, even (and especially?) in America.
This month, a new social network called Blackbox Republic (BBR) is attempting to tackle this head-on and aims to create a place for, as Marshall Kirkpatrick put it, this particular
large and unserved group of people. Although BBR is clearly a business, it’s a business whose creators have laudable intentions for positive social and cultural change. In that respect, and in many others, Blackbox Republic is worth a close look.
I was informed about the venture via Clarisse Thorn many months ago. I got in touch with BBR and signed up for a limited-offer “founder” account—basically a private beta. The founder account gave me free access to the features of the BlackboxRepublic.com website for what would normally be a $25 monthly subscription fee.
So, without further ado, here are my impressions about Blackbox Republic, and how its launch may be just what the Internet needs to get us moving in the right direction with regards to personal privacy, and mainstream awareness of the different needs of different people on the Internet.
Mainstream sex-positivity or a VIP room in cyberspace? Or both?
Over the past few months, Blackbox Republic has been building a marketing arsenal of anticipation and intrigue. Its creators are successful in non-sexuality-focused spheres of influence: Sam Lawrence is the respected former Chief Marketing Officer of Jive Software, Inc., and April Donato, has experience in community management. They also both jive (pun!) well with the sex-positive movement, discussing it at length in the early stages of their marketing efforts after de-cloaking the new company.
In an interview for Social Networking Watch, Sam Lawrence said,
[Sam Lawrence:] The co-founder [April Donato] and myself are part of [the sex-positive] community. Sex positive means that your sexuality is not an issue. You don’t have an issue with other people’s sexuality. You’re open to what other people are interested in and what their boundaries are, and you’re open with your own.
[Interviewer:] To what extent do you practice a sex-positive lifestyle?
[Sam Lawrence:] From the perspective of sex not being an issue, I think that love is generated by people being open enough about who they are as people to put all of themselves out on the table. As far as putting all of myself on the table, it’s something that I do every single day.
I have an enormous amount of respect for anyone able to so capably present themselves as authentically as Sam does. On the eve of KinkForAll New York City 2, I met Sam and April at one of their “founder meetups” and had the chance to talk to them face-to-face. Our conversation revolved around the importance of steadfastly holding true to one’s own desires and having appropriate places to express those things with appropriate communication tools. I really liked their emphasis on self-identification over labeling throughout our discussion.
I also really appreciated the way that Sam and April spoke about their target audience. Blackbox Republic will welcome everyone, but it’s not designed for everyone, and I think that’s a good thing. David Evans writing at Online Dating Post says,
BBR has room for everyone, but is not for everyone. Definitely catering to non-mainstream folks, it will soon feature a constellation of micro-communities, or groups, called Camps. BBR doesn’t tell people how to organize their camps; we’ll do it ourselves, thankyouverymuch.
So is Blackbox Republic a dating site, or a social network? Well, both, kind of. Part of BBR’s slogan includes, “Dates will happen. Sex will happen. It matters how you get there.” The implication, of course, being that the current suite of tools for finding love or play online—sites like Alt.com, OkCupid, and countless personals boards—focus too strongly on the end result, turning matchmaking into a meat market instead of the natural process of getting to know one another. The focus BBR is placing on each person’s “journey” is an extremely welcome paradigm shift in the online dating world.
Along with the welcome and (IMHO, painfully obviously better) new approach to online dating, however, Blackbox Republic faces some real challenges. For new users, the service costs a minimum of $5 a month to use (and $9 per month for new sign-ups starting in 2010), which gives access to basic features like a personal profile. For $25 a month, members get added features like the ability to list real-world meet-ups, send private messages, and partake in a virtual “gifting” economy (think LiveJournal’s “virtual gifts“).
For that reason, BBR has been called a “members-only club.” There are some legitimate differences of opinion as to whether this is a positive or a negative thing. In a press release over the summer, Blackbox Republic is reported as stating:
Blackbox Republic will be a members-only experience that will unite the sex-positive community and give them a personal, private and secure way to connect online and in person.
Think of Blackbox Republic as a fashionable online ‘members-only’ club where you might expect to meet people with similar interests to your own, and ideally the person of your dreams. […] Blackbox Republic is arguably an Apple product to Facebook’s Windows look & feel: a much more intimately crafted, fuller featured personal user interface which should appeal to Apple generation sensibilities.
Indeed, almost everything about Blackbox Republic’s marketing and design seems to me as though it’s positioning itself as the equivalent of the hip, new, and exclusive nightclub down the street. There are images of super-chic women in short skirts and tight pants all over the Blackbox Republic promotional pages—way more than there are pictures of men. I was (yet again) put-off by this over-prevalence of women in all advertising material.
This isn’t really a criticism of the site, but rather a statement of disappointment that the marketing gurus behind the effort seemed to me to have succumbed to overwhelming cultural pressure to sell their site with old-school sex appeal: women’s sex appeal, of course. How…traditional.
Not only is the Blackbox Republic intro video markedly gender-skewed, but somewhere along the line Sam and April decided to drop the “sex-positive” phraseology from their marketing:
[L]ike most startups, Blackbox decided it needed to change up. Observers were confused by the sex-positive label.
Oh well. I think this just goes to further showcase how much more social change we really need in our culture.
However, while the clubby, cliquey feel is totally my own subjective perception, there are other issues at play here, too. Most notably, as Clarisse Thorn and many others rightfully remind us very often, the sex-positive movement is overwhelmingly white, middle- to upper-class, college-educated, and privileged in a huge number of ways that many people often take for granted. Even without a for-pay social network, not everyone who wants to can participate in the great-sex-for-everyone party atmosphere of many sex-positive niches.
Will creating a “members-only club” of sex-positivity on the Internet really be a positive thing for “the movement”? Well, maybe. Although it has the potential to exclude lower-income people from the experience, who are sadly also often the people with the most pressing need for the kinds of privacy-related tools BBR offers (school teachers spring to mind!), one upside is that Blacbox Republic promises to pledge a portion of membership dues to a charity of the user’s choice.
It’s $25 a month and $5 of those community dues go to charity. One way to think about it is if you’re sex-positive, you can either spend money on expensive coffee every month or upgrade your social life and meet other sex-positive people like you.
Inescapably, the major selling point of any social network is, of course, the network! If your friends aren’t on Twitter, then you’re probably not going to find it useful. The same truth holds for Blackbox Republic: if the users you want to interact with aren’t there, I doubt you’re going to find the experience fruitful. Due to the membership fees and the socioeconomic realities of the sex-positive community, I’m concerned that BBR’s current business model is too exclusive, and as a result it will have a lot of trouble attracting the kind of diverse community its creators seem to be hoping for.
Yet, some others think differently (pun!). For instance, Dennis Howlett welcomes the for-pay model for a social network:
anyone can join provided they’re willing to pay the $25 a month (I like that he has a pay model from the get go. That sorts out the weirdos and hangers on from day one)
I wonder if adopting a free-mium approach might work better. Still, there are real-world limits to business. Everyone needs to make money, and I don’t think Blackbox Republic’s business model is inherently more exclusive than, say, purchasing access to porn. If anything, BBR’s got some real promise to inject much-needed financial awareness to the sexually insensitive corporate infrastructure of our society. Nevertheless, convincing people to join “the Republic” is going to be a hard sell.
Show me the features!
Let’s say you do decide to join. What do you get? Other than the sex-positive mindset, what’s the benefit?
Well, the bulk of the experience is what you’d expect. Profiles (called “personas”), messaging, user search capabilities (called “explore”), and so forth. A Twitter-like “activity stream” dominates the main page where you can post text, picture, or video status updates. Event listings fill the sidebar. (I’m not going to provide internal screenshots in deference to BBR’s strict confidentiality rules.)
While that’s fun, it’s nothing special. What makes Blackbox Republic different is flexibility, and privacy.
Goodbye drop-downs, hello sliders!
Blackbox Republic’s most visible feature is the way its interface allows you to flexibly self-identify various facets of yourself. Rather than give you static drop-down menus or radio buttons for things like your sexual orientation and relationship status, you’re presented with sliders you can change at will. Perhaps you’re feeling particularly same-sex attracted one day. Just move the “Orientation” slider towards the “Gay” end and away from the “Hetero” end. If that changes tomorrow, just move the slider back. Sho-weet!
BBR offers you 5 different sliders for your profile. In addition to the one for sexual orientation, you also get one for relationship “status” (ranging from attached to unattached, with Facebook’s famous “it’s complicated” neatly in the middle), whether you’re available for more partners or not, how comfortable you are with casual sexual activity, and how eagerly you’re looking to par-tay. I’m instantly reminded of FetLife‘s innovative, if dull-looking, mechanism for specifying multiple relationships. Blackbox Republic gives you similar flexibility as FetLife does but presented in a superb and far more intuitive interface.
All that said, one slider is conspicuously missing: the one for gender. The sliders are a very interesting idea and might just be the most innovative feature of the entire site. It speaks volumes about the sensitive and thoughtful mindset of the developers, and that’s why I’m so disappointed that the interface for self-identifying gender is relegated to the Sex 1.0 days of a single, binary option of “male” or “female.”
What gives? Are polyamorous people more welcome here than those who don’t fit the gender binary? I hope this is simply an omission that will be fixed as the service matures, since I couldn’t find any other reason why gender was absent from the sliders. For extra credit, I hope to see different profile options for “Sex” and “Gender,” two distinct concepts that frequently and incorrectly get used interchangeably. This would make it possible to represent complex gender presentations like additive gender on a social networking interface for the first time ever, and that’d totally be something to write home about!
Privacy and security
The other major selling point of Blackbox Republic is its careful attention to privacy. The entire offering, including its name, is predicated on letting users very carefully segment their information based on their privacy boundaries. I love some of the things BBR has done to enable this, and I can only imagine it’s going to get better from here.
Blackbox Republic’s Web of Trust
There are three levels of privacy, which (as far as I can figure out) map directly to the level of trust other members have gained within the Republic’s community. It works like a web of trust. New users are “un-vouched.” As they begin to interact with others on the site and, hopefully, make some friends, they should receive “vouches”—or votes of trust—from previously-vouched members. As a member, you get to control whether something you do, such as posting a status update, gets sent to the “public,” (i.e., the entire public-facing Internet), to all Blackbox Republic members (i.e, to both vouched and un-vouched members) or only to vouched members.
Additionally, privacy settings allow you to specify whether you want to allow un-vouched members to send you private messages, to follow your updates, to comment on your posts, or to see you in search results.
Unlike Facebook, which has very good privacy controls that almost nobody on Earth is aware of (thus negating the control’s usefulness), Blackbox Republic makes it a point to highlight their privacy controls at just about every sensical turn. Each of the settings I found defaults to the most private setting, not the most public, which is exactly the right move. I gotta say, I found turning off privacy settings instead of having to turn (or leave) them on to be a really empowering feeling.
You’re not a “friend,” you’re an acquaintance!
Moreover, the Blackbox Republic platform makes a native distinction between “friends” (again, like Facebook, or FetLife) and “followers” (like Twitter). When I friend someone, I’m connected to them in a way that I’m not if I just follow someone. I’m not yet certain what the practical distinction between “friending” and “following” are, other than the fact that your view of the people you’re connected with is segmented based on which button you clicked, but I think the distinction is a very appropriate and natural one to embed in the software.
This separation is probably the single most important innovation in the space of social networks as a medium of communication and collaboration that I can point at. I love that I can indicate without ambiguity which people I want to remain in constant communication with and which I simply want to watch from a distance. After all, aren’t at least some of your “friends” on Facebook really just “acquaintances” in reality? I think that for the first time ever in a social network, Blackbox Republic gets this feature right. Now, if only I could figure out what it actually does. :)
What? No on-the-wire encryption?!
With all that being said, there’s still at least one really frightening problem with Blacbox Republic’s careful attention to privacy: as far as I could tell, no part of my session is SSL/TLS encrypted!
The entire BlackboxRepublic.com website is served over HTTP, including the login form and—again, as far as I could tell—every page on the inside of the site. This means that it’s trivial for malicious people who don’t even have a Blackbox Republic subscription to intercept, eavesdrop, and modify my interaction with the site. They could watch—and save—private messages between me and one of my friends (or lovers!), for instance.
In Blackbox’s defense, I don’t know of any social network that protects you from this. FetLife is another example of a website that should seriously consider HTTPS-only pages, but as of this writing hasn’t implemented it. Therein lies one of the most frightening oversights in the entire social networking space: regardless of so-called privacy settings, everything you do on the vast majority of social networks, blogs, and other sites on the Internet are the equivalent of passing notes between friends in a classroom. Better hope that big bully who likes to steal your lunch money doesn’t open the note and read it himself while he’s passing along your login details!
The thing is, few other social networking sites place so strong a spotlight on user privacy and security. Since Blackbox Republic seems to be nobly and rightfully holding itself up to a new standard of privacy, I feel justified in pointing out this glaring omission in their service offering. Given everything else they’ve done so well, and how well-aligned the majority of their technical implementation seems to be with their philosophy, this omission came as a big surprise to me.
Until Blackbox Republic only serves HTTPS traffic for all private areas of their site, I can’t make a recommendation in good conscious that it’s the place to be for privacy-conscious people. But again, despite public opinion to the contrary, I’ve never been able to make that claim for FetLife either.
Blackbox Republic is one of the most interesting websites on the Internet today. Its privacy-conscious and sexually open approach to social networking and online dating deserves huge praise. Its technical implementation—although plagued with some glaring oversights for now—is to be seriously respected.
From a social change perspective, I think the site is a mixed bag. Its exclusivity arguably makes the insularity of the sexuality communities an even bigger problem than it already is. On the other hand, the market-value of that very same exclusivity, if steered toward a benevolent purpose, can end up benefiting philanthropic, non-profit, and other sex-positive endeavors that often struggle to find necessary financial support.
Moreover, Blackbox Republic’s internal gifting economy does seem to encourage a sort of altruistic nature among members. How that may or may not translate into increased support for non-commercial activists has yet to be seen. Nay-sayers should remember that this kind of thing simply hasn’t been done before and the net effect could be quite positive.
Having just launched, however, I don’t think Blackbox Republic should be touted as the go-to site for sex-positive people quite yet. Like other social networks, it needs to grow to become truly useful, and its subscription fee business model poses a serious obstacle to many people. I was fortunate to get in with a free “founder” account, but I have mixed feelings about encouraging my friends to join me knowing they—or someone nice enough to “gift” a limited-time subscription to them—will have to pay for the service.
Additionally, its focus on being, well, a black box and its commitment to not allow Google or other search engines to index its internal content simply doesn’t resonate that strongly with me.
Lawrence emphasizes that what members say in Blackbox Republic will stay private. There’s no danger of what they post inside becoming part of their “Google resume,” as he puts it. He says he would resist efforts from search engines to index content the way Facebook and Twitter allow. “The value proposition is this is the first private, large social network out there,” Lawrence says.
Put simply, and noting that I’m probably not the majority case here, I rely on my “Google résumé,” to use Sam’s words, to live the life I want. My lukewarm reaction to this isn’t a criticism of the goal, simply an observation that it turns out I’m not in the ideal target market for Blackbox Republic’s value proposition.
In other words, I think I’m “too out” for this site to be immediately useful to me. The fact that FetLife is not readily available to the public Internet is the single biggest reason why I don’t sign on to that site very often, and so I have the same reason not to spend all that much time behind the curtains of Blackbox Republic.
Nevertheless, many other people do. If you’re among the cross-section of the populace who’d like a sociosexual experience online and would also like to effectively outsource your social reputation management, if you will, but you feel that sites like Facebook just aren’t cutting it, then Blackbox Republic is definitely worth checking out.
If you do check it out, or even if you don’t, I’d love to know what you think in the comments. And if you’re definitely sold, consider signing up via my partner link. Full disclosure: signing up that way earns me a small commission. If you’d rather sign up but not give me a commission for the referral, just register from the front page.
- "Why did Hope Witsell kill herself? […] It wasn't sexting. It was you, all the adults in her life." http://bit.ly/8FYJkd via @SchoolSurvival #
- @joyynpayne I agree for-pay isn't a panacea to exclude "weirdos" (itself poorly defined) but that said how would you suggest BBR make money? in reply to joyynpayne #
- @textcos The @SchoolSurvival folks reprinted some posts with links to the original. It's the same piece. And it's a fantastic commentary. :) in reply to textcos #
- @textcos No, thanks. But I can't read them now—I just woke up…I can't bear to see more blatant examples of victim-shaming & sexual paranoia. in reply to textcos #
- @textcos Ok—done http://bit.ly/7emWMs I don't really hope the reporter responds as much as I hope he starts thinking about his own coverage. in reply to textcos #
- Getting ready for @KinkOnTap in 45min by re-reading some of these articles: http://delicious.com/kinkontap/20 I'm trying to find happy ones. #
- 15min until tonight's @KinkOnTap. We're already broadcasting & considering what we want to chat about. Tune in at http://Live.KinkOnTap.com. #
- @DDog Yes, @helio_girl used her laptop to record your #KFADC presentation, but I have a copy of it. Sorry I haven't gotten it online yet. :( in reply to DDog #
- I've said my piece about Blackbox Republic. My review: http://bit.ly/84Qs99 Now I want to know what you think. (cc @susanmernit @Scobleizer) #
- Testing posting to Twitter from Blackbox Republic. I found more #bugs, but they're minor and bug hunts are a strange kin… http://vb.ly/ap5 #
- Testing posting to Twitter from Blackbox Republic. I found more #bugs, but they're minor and bug hunts are a strange kind of #fun for me. :) #
- "All of us are public and private beings" Marc Pachter says. I learned a lot from this #TEDTalk. The Art of the #Interview: http://vb.ly/b3q #
- "Everybody is waiting for people to ask them questions so they can be truthful about who they are." http://vb.ly/b3q A must-see. @helio_girl #
- While it's kind of weird to discover 18yr old submissive guys opposed to sex before marriage are reading my sex blog it's also f'in awesome. #
- @DomesticMouse No, they probably just don't want to have #sex until they're #married. That's cool, so long as they've no delusions about it. in reply to DomesticMouse #
- Gah! It's been 7 days since I got a MaleSubmissionArt.com post up. I swear I tried, but btw @KinkOnTap tonight & a painfully hard week…? No. #
- "!Internet Archaeology XXX collection documents graphics of early #porn sites." ♺ @professornoir: It's like I'm 13 again! http://is.gd/5m9ev #
- Think Tiger Woods needs a chastity belt to save his #marriage? Then @taomlin thinks you need #therapy: http://ur1.ca/hnf4 And so do I. #BDSM #
- @MollyRen Oh It happens ALL the time. Celebrity+infidelity? This was totally expected by anyone who spends any time on orgasm denial forums. in reply to MollyRen #
- ♺ @KinkOnTap: Houston, TX elects #GLBT mayor but the political race turned ugly & couldn't avoid playing a #race card: http://icio.us/xysr5h #
- I tried to be extremely fair and objective in my review of 1st impressions of BlackboxRepublic.com: http://bit.ly/84Qs99 Do you think I was? #
- Seems Conservapedia is in the news again even tho it's total crock. In lighter news, check out the way more awesome http://RationalWiki.com. #
- "Testosterone is down 17% in men." WTF? Can't tell if http://AnEmasculatingTruth.com is satire or not—I sure fucking hope so… via @NikolasCo #
- Perhaps better titled #FuckYouRickWarren. ♺ @sexgenderbody Hollow Words: Pastor Rick Warren Is Shamed Into Decency http://ff.im/-cPZLa #GLBT #
- #Quote I use to defend my "arrogance."♺ @livingsexuality "Trbl is the stupid are cocksure & the intelligent full of doubt."—Bertrand Russell #
- Aha. Re AnEmasculatingTruth.com: ♺ @misscalico: @maymaym According to @mrsexsmith, it's part of viral advertising for a Dockers ad campaign. #
- "Anyone who makes your tone a prerequisite for endorsing…your equality may not have your best interest at heart" http://tumblr.com/xyv4njni7 #
- "I was stigmatized BECAUSE I was a #victim [of gang #rape]." http://ur1.ca/hoc0 Oh my god…. One of the most heart-wrenching #TEDTalks ever…. #
- @clarissethorn If I'm reading http://bit.ly/7xX7X0 right (hard to know since its language is somewhat academic for me) I think I agree 100%. in reply to clarissethorn #
- "#Gender roles & behaviors among online gamers" study finds "females under-report playing time," more. http://bit.ly/6HHNDs ♺ @clarissethorn #
- Did you know, using "programming languages for DNA & molecular compilers," you can make a smiley face out of DNA strands? http://ur1.ca/hofv #
- Yay! The #Sex Positive #Resources #wiki had its 1st anonymous edit! http://ur1.ca/hksu Thank you for the typo fix anonymous-whoever-you-are! #
- @starletfallen Thank you for sharing the link to my #adultism #video presentation. I'm really glad to hear that you found it worth watching. in reply to starletfallen #
- ♺ @mrsexsmith: Tune in to @KinkOnTap this Sun, Dec 13 at 8PM EST, 5PM PST, w/my friend the comic, nurse & ex-nun @kellidunham! Gonna be fun. #
- #Porn is in the eye of the beholder. ;) ♺ @echomikeromeo The amount of softcore porn I see in my library data-entry job is sort of shocking. #
- How Best Buy's Using Semantic Tech http://ur1.ca/hl4b "!RDFa improved rank of respective pages in Google tremendously." #semweb #webdev #SEO #
- @svtdragon Some good points in there—I think "good coding practices" is less about explicit standards, more about human perspective. !webdev in reply to svtdragon #
- @svtdragon Some good points in there—I think "good coding practices" is less about explicit standards, more about human perspective. #webdev #
- @furrygirl You are SO right. :( That's same reason why I find the meme of masked or anonymous men in #porn so concerning. http://ur1.ca/hlhn in reply to furrygirl #
- Good point raised about #Google and #privacy by @arielwaldman: http://is.gd/5kbvk There's a distinction btw "out" and "private." #GLBT #BDSM #
- Just read "Consistency: You're just being obsessive compulsive" by @NathanaelB. If you do #webdev w/me, you should too. http://bit.ly/7zDzRZ #
- Fuck I hate Windows. `ipconfig /flushdns` doesn't actually clear IE7's #DNS resolver cache. You have to flushdns AND restart IE…for REASONS. #
- 1 of the most useful #sex #blog posts about #BDSM I've read this year: http://ur1.ca/hlst Good job, @SaschaK. I rarely see sex posts I like. #
- @helio_girl @MollyRen I hear you. Trust me, I'm working rly hard to make a world where gals like you will be able to be w/more guys like me. in reply to helio_girl #
- ♺ @arielwaldman: 2 women I look up to recently received rly mean-spirited tweets while giving talks. Trolls: STFU & get ur own speaking gig. #
- @Adisson89 I think I was a cute drunk boy in someone's social life but then I was exactly that too often & so I'm no longer a cheap date. :( in reply to Adisson89 #
- So thrilled that in 2½ weeks my #KFADC talk on #youth #sexuality & #adultism was viewed more than 600 times! http://vimeo.com/7783159 #
- I swear, I'm trying so hard not to beat myself up for not doing more of my Important Work (hint: not my day job) this week. But that's hard. #
- Oh, wow! I just found that one of my blog posts is (cursorily) cited as a reference on Wikipedia's page about pegging: http://ur1.ca/hmep :) #
- "Every man for himself" isn't what Darwin meant ♺ @alevin @_Carolyn Scientists build case for 'survival of the kindest' http://bit.ly/5Bu11C #
- Wow, I've already been seriously disliking today for hours & it's only noon. I feel like I woke up on the wrong side of the WEEK. *Grumble.* #
- Spectacular follow up to my #KFADC presentation, discussing both #ageism & #adultism: http://ur1.ca/hiht A must read if you care about #sex. #
- didn't even know the #iPhone OS included #VoiceOver! ♺ @musingvirtual: Excellent #guide to iPhone #accessibility: http://ur1.ca/hiii #webdev #
- Fucking rollercoaster of a day: bad, worse, sorta ok, bad again. Motivation's through the floor. This is why I question if I can hold a job. #
- So…now I'm some kinda watchdog group? ♺ @LeatherYenta: UhOh! Wait til @maymaym sees that! ♺ @CarnalNation: New shirts…. http://bit.ly/8Bhiok #
- Hey @CarnalNation, have any plan for future shirts or do you think only female models are appropriate for such designs? http://bit.ly/8Bhiok #
- Y'know…I'm exhausted. Not just physically—I don't want to care abt shit like #sexism or #adultism anymore. I just want to live free & happy. #
- I actually try to stop caring about #sexism or #adultism but then I see it happening & my heart aches & I can't go on not caring anymore. :( #
- Looking forward to this! ♺ @sarahdopp: The guest host for @DeviantsOnline on Jan 12 will be @maymaym! Mark your calendar! http://ur1.ca/hjku #
- Administrators would "rather [their school] be the habitat of actual rapists than perceived as a habitat of mythical ones." http://vb.ly/b06 #