Nabu News

Raaid, popthebubblenabuprojectsoftware

(formerly Pop the Bubble News)

A few months ago, I made a very simple formatted RSS reader of a website. That first version just pulls the 10 latest articles from a variety of RSS feeds and organizes them into political lanes as categorized by existing research. Check it out here. My friends and close network thought it was a cool idea and seemed to like the spirit of the idea, but it is not the most usable product. It doesn't do too much for ya, so why bother?

The Problem

I, however, haven't been able to let it go. I want to solve this problem: I can't have a conversation with so many people because we aren't even in the same reality. My NPR-listening, NYT-reading world is different from their Fox News-watching world, or your CNN-news-alert world. What am I supposed to do when someone talks about a crisis that I don't think is real? Or if I talk about the impacts of a historical event someone asserts didn't happen? Maybe if they're a friend, and we're face to face, we might stand a chance of getting somewhere. But a stranger? And online, at that? Not a chance.

I was recently talking with a close friend's parent. They were describing anarchy in a major US city, and I had heard absolutely nothing about it, going so far so as to doubt the validity of what they were saying. How could I not have heard of it? What they were describing didn't seem real, and if it was, shouldn't I have heard of it? I, in turn, talked about the horror of the pandemic in NYC last summer, and they responded to me in the same way I responded to them. This was painful. I felt far away. I felt uncertain. What's the alternative? To stop conversation all together? That can't be it.

I have reason to believe that there is an appetite for something that addresses this problem beyond my own. First, there are other efforts to tackle it (though one in particular earns my distrust as it is backed by venture capital and Facebook, of all things). Second, the Pew Research Center published a report on the modern news consumer that I found rather illuminating. Some key points from the report (all emphasis is mine):

There is some subset of the population that is frustrated with bias, and many of those people read their news online. I think we do indeed have a problem to solve.

My Goal

I don't want to live in a world like this. We are at our collective best when combine our ideas, when we challenge each other's opinions, when we experiment to generate knowledge and update our priors. But we (enough of us, at least) aren't doing that. We're entrenched in what we so firmly believe is true, is right. We discount a thought based on where it comes from, and we presume truth from people who say things we tend to agree with even if they might be coloring our outlook.

We can do better.

The world is better off with more critical thinkers, empathy, nuance, and less blind-faith, dehumanization, and binaries. The world is better when we agree on reality. We can get there. We have to.

My Proposal

I won't pretend that this problem can be easily fixed, but that won't stop me from trying. Here is my idea.

A bias-aware, context-aware news system, starting with a weekly email with an algorithmically clustered and annotated view of the week’s news. It will communicate all the facts, the takes, the spins, the incentives, and more.

A few examples (these are hypotheticals with made up details):

More concretely, here are some tools/services that can contribute towards the goal:

My Ask

If any of this resonates with you, I want your help. I need to know what works and what doesn't, what is useful, what isn't. The two most impactful things you can do for me with (I think) as little effort as possible are:

  1. Sign up as a "beta user" to receive weekly emails of a bias-aware news
  2. Give me feedback on the content you receive (text me, call me, respond to the email, dm me on Instagram, any way at all)

If there is anything that you'd find useful to see, any attribute of this problem that I'm missing, something that really works for you, anything that definitely doesn't work, I want you to let me know. The more people find this useful, the more people will use it, and the closer I hope we'd come to being in the same reality.

If you have more time/resources, here are other things that I need help with:

The main reason I need funding is to hire people to help make this and to inevitably iterate on it to make it better when it isn't good enough. I know it is asking a lot, but I think it is an important effort.

If you've made it this far, thank you sincerely. Maybe it will work with some hard work and coffee, support from friends and folks who are as idealistic as me, and a galaxy's worth of luck. But I won't know without trying, and I'm sure as hell going to try.



© Raaid Arshad.RSS