Cole Smith had never been able to use social media accounts quite the way he wanted. Apps like Facebook and Twitter allowed him to follow topics and people he wanted, but mixed all of his interests into one news feed where it felt too clumsy to navigate. Sites like Redditt allowed him to navigate specific topics, but weren’t as conducive for building friendships.
While studying law at Oxford and then in New York, Smith decided to stop waiting around to find a site that met his needs, and set about creating one instead. He launched his website Fearless Little online and on IOS Nov. 1.
“When I was in the United Kingdom I was curious about how we structure business contracts and society around law,” Smith said. “There is a lot that isn’t there in our current social network. There isn’t as much controlling how content is distributed or what can be done so there is a lot of bullying and whatnot.”
He same he became passionate about tech.
“I am really interested in it because you can look at the world and figure out what is missing and then launch a product to fix it,” he said.
Smith hasn’t figured out how to stop online bullying, but he has built a site he believes will allow people to more easily follow topics of interest and build communities around those topics.
He recruited his sister Ashley Smith, a mental health professional with a degree in psychology from the University of Puget Sound, to help design a site that would encourage people to engage with one another.
“We wanted to set it up in a way that could create meaningful connections and build an external support network that some people struggle to find and maintain,” Ashley Smith said.
The two settled on a site that operates as a kind of mix between Facebook and Redditt. Several communities within the site cover topics of interests as broad as movies or travel or as specific as “Stranger Things.” Users are encouraged to create their own posts within these topics to further conversation on the matters that interest them, but the site also features a profile function similar to several popular social media sites where users can follow each other to engage across multiple topics.
To try to break the information up, Fearless Little gives users several feeds instead of the one feed used by Facebook and Twitter. Fearless Little users have one feed for the people they follow, and separate ones for their interests.
“We hope to make an improvement in how people engage with topics they are passionate about,” Cole Smith said. “On Facebook, you can tag a group of friends that you think might be interested in a topic and there is a good chance they will see it, but few people, if anyone, beyond that post will see it and you won’t get that outside voice.”
“I’ve had that experience where you realize you are only hearing from the same group of people in some sort of echo chamber,” Ashley Smith said. “We thought it would be interesting to make an experience where you can hear from different people.”
The Smiths say the feature that allows different voices to converge on a topic thread will be especially valuable to certain communities such as those focused on business strategies.