Pinian, the new opinion pages
Pinian is a forthcoming publishing platform designed to increase thoughtfulness in the world and make it possible for more people to participate in answering the big questions of the day. Sign up to be among the first to gain writing access when the limited beta launches.
Public opinion shapes the world around us. It informs the social and economic policy of the day and acts as a check on those in power.
The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. — Frederick Douglass
What people read and hear forms the basis of public opinion. Whether by rallying people to a cause, or widening the Overton Window, strong opinions, stated eloquently — and distributed widely — can change the world.
Before the internet, a select few controlled who wrote and shared influential opinions. Central authorities like churches, news organisations, and political parties acted as gatekeepers to thought.
The internet democratized publishing by giving everyone with a connection the opportunity to publish. Despite this, most people never publish anything. Only 1% of visitors actually create content on many sites. This is especially true of written content. Writing is hard, the blank screen and blinking cursor are intimidating, and pressing publish sets yourself up to be judged by others. While we’ve done a good job creating places where people can publish, we haven’t done too much to help most people actually publish.
If public opinion can change the world, and writing influences public opinion, we believe more accessible publishing can lead to a world that more closely reflects the wishes of its people.
Of course, this is only desirable if those opinions are well-informed.
People don’t arrive at positions independently. Truly original thought is rare, and most people acknowledge that advances in understanding are primarily made by building on the ideas of those who came before us. Despite this, copying and adapting ideas is often seen as plagiarism. We are all influenced by our families, our peer groups, and what we see and hear. But trust in our information sources is at an all time low. Part of the reason for this is that we don’t have easy ways of understanding the provenance of ideas, or the motives of the author.
The world is more divided than it’s been in decades. It’s vitally important that we continue to engage with one another, but as a society, we’ve stopped listening to each other. We yell at each other on Facebook and dash off snarky rejoinders on Twitter, more as a performance than as a serious effort at communication. We seem more focused on our differences than on our shared humanity.
We shape our communication platforms; thereafter, they shape us. Social media is not designed to support nuance, so we don’t use them to write with nuance. Current sites fail at giving people with differing opinions a safe, reliable platform that they can share. Conversations about anything even a little controversial frequently devolve into exhausting arguments that demean, inflame, and enrage. Algorithms that are designed to maximize comfort — and therefore engagement — reinforce our strongly held notions by keeping us in filter bubbles. Very few platforms have invested in building a space for thoughtful discourse that helps us find common ground.
We are building Pinian to provide that space.
Pinian will be a place for people to read, publish, and share their opinions on meaningful questions, like What should we do about homelessness in San Francisco? or Should society place restrictions on the ownership and operation of firearms? or Should we return to the Gold Standard?
Pinian will be designed to encourage nuanced thought, and offer a space where people can understand different points of view, without descending into vitriol. It will expose people to a range of positions on each topic, to give us a chance to escape our echo chambers.
It will be a place that presents opinions as they are: an aggregation of thoughts, informed by multiple sources, arrived at over time. To enable greater participation, Pinian will allow people to construct their opinions in a way that models how they are formed in the real world — by building on and remixing the work of others. In return, it will provide ways for the originators of those ideas to understand and measure their influence in a way that has not been possible before.
Getting to work
Pinian is in its formative stages and will launch later this year. We’re hiring a small, diverse, multi-disciplinary team to help make that a reality. You should get in touch if you are a content strategist, a designer, or an engineer, and you are interested in helping to define a new way of writing and publishing. We’d also love to hear from early-stage investors who are aligned with our vision of building a meaningful business that contributes to a more thoughtful, inclusive world.
You can also sign up to be among the first to gain writing access when the limited beta launches.
The world needs reasonable discourse, now more than ever. Join us as we build something that helps people express themselves, connects communities, and makes us all better informed.