TL;DR Today I’m putting my own twist on an old-school social experiment. It’s called The Stage — a daily email lottery where lucky winners get to introduce themselves and share one link with the entire list.
What would you say to 1 million people?
That was the founding question behind The Listserve - an email lottery giving one random reader full control of the list’s next message.
Started as a project for NYU’s “Designing Conversational Spaces” course in 2012 , the idea was simple and seredipitous.
Winners ended up sharing everything from essays, poems, and recipes — to an open invite to a real-life picnic.
But 6 years and ~25,000 members later, it was shut down. What happened?
The founders weren’t motivated to actively grow the list, instead focusing on hosting a quiet, “delightful corner of the internet”:
I respect that! ❤️
The Listserve also bumped up against an immutable law of the interwebs:
Most people suck at creating good content.
This may seem obvious today, but I salute the founders for having the courage to try something off-the-wall.
We need more people like them!
That’s why I’m announcing my own experiment today, called: The Stage.
Inspired by The Listserve, The Stage is daily email lottery where lucky winners get to introduce themselves and share one link with the entire list.
As a winner, your job is to share the funniest/smartest/quirkiest/most talented creator you know “to the stage” by sharing one link to their best work.
You’ll also get the option to say hi and link to your personal social media.
Just like The Listserve, The Stage opens after 10,000 signups — so please spread the word if this sounds like a worthwhile experiment to you:
Ok, now for the nerdy details 🤓
The Stage is designed as an exploration of The Listserve’s primary shortcoming - referred to by Shaan Puri as the “Interesting-ness Problem”:
While it may not bring the juicy content you need every time, my hypothesis is:
It’ll be interesting frequently enough to earn a spot in your inbox.
I’m also heka-interested in seeing human-powered curation work at scale on a project that doesn’t include upvotes or karma.
Sidebar: I’m reminded of the Three Body Problem trilogy, where (spoiler alert) humanity finds itself at a standoff with an invading alien civilization.
Voting is too slow and irrational — so the optimal solution is to choose a single person to decide the fate of the world!
Considering the unfortunate demise of The Listserve, it’s also important to be mindful of how The Stage can be made sustainable.
Thanks to tools like Substack, it can be started quickly and cheaply with the option to offer subscriptions.
Just a few possible revenue streams:
Members-only podcast interviewing creators / winners
Members-only weekly email with private recommendations from The Stage
Picking from the paying member pool more frequently
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
The beauty of experiments like this, is anything happen — so go ahead, sign up for free and reserve your spot at the first performance!
Spread love, say hi! ✌️