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Yappa Restores Civility to Online Conversations

“Never scroll down.” It’s an unofficial mantra that will be forever blazoned in some people’s minds long after the reason for it is gone. Whether someone is outmaneuvering malicious spoilers of their favorite shows or simply trying to avoid the badly spelled and bizarrely irrelevant invective below an article or video, most people have learned from experience that hazarding the comment section is like Sherlock Holmes descending into the bowels of an opium den: they may go in with good intentions, but it’s odds-on they’ll come out knackered. The same avatars that protect some people from being permanently embarrassed by something they said when they were twelve permit other people to hide cruel words behind clever web handles.

A Time article entitled “How Trolls Are Ruining the Internet” provides an unsavory example of how far some people are willing to go to abuse the privilege of anonymity, but research reveals that what’s known as the “online disinhibition effect” isn’t necessarily limited to those on the extreme end of narcissism, psychopathy, Machiavellianism or sadism. Even those who are more likely to be on the receiving end of crass behavior in person can find themselves being uncharacteristically aggressive online. This tendency has created jobs for comment moderators while simultaneously imparting joy to none.

Enter Yappa World Inc., a self-described “development-stage company that offers audio and video commenting services for Internet websites.” Their goal? Only to completely upend the wasteland of text comments and bring civility back to online discourse.

Quite simply, Yappa is like FaceTime or Snapchat for comments. Instead of a string of text comments with nested (and often nasty) replies, Yaps take the form of brief audio or video messages that are highly visible on the website and then can be shared on popular social media sites including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, WordPress and YouTube. After the Yappa tool is installed on a publisher’s website, a one-time login system allows users to record and publish their audio or video Yaps to the website in real time, via desktop or mobile, without having to download any software. After publication, Yaps can be upvoted, downvoted, flagged, shared, downloaded and replied to via another Yap. On the backend, Yappa’s patent-pending transcription service converts audible content to text, which can be indexed into searchable keywords and converted into critical analytical data for publishers. While the decision to ban or delete content is up to the administrators and moderators of each site, Yappa’s proprietary software has enjoyed a two percent flag rate.

Clearly, the ability to hear each user’s vocal inflections and/or see their facial expressions has had a positive impact on Yappa interactions, and it’s part of a broader trend that encourages users’ voices to be heard. Since Yappa’s founding, numerous sources and surveys have suggested that voice is the future of technology, from voice-activated texts to smart assistants like Alexa and Suri. An August 2018 article on TechRadar describes “the future of voice” as “the new OS,” while Forbes proclaims that it’s not only the future of search but also the future of business.

Already, Yappa can be viewed in action on sites such as theYBF.com, Nevada Speaks, ClearSkin Aesthetics, The Ambitionista and the London Is Blue Podcast, with a roster of other sites expressing interest in launching Yappa soon. In addition, the Yappa app received five-star reviews in its first week on WordPress Support, with one reviewer commenting, “Great widget and seeing results.”

In fact, one of the best things that can be said about the app, in addition to the fact that it restores civility to online discourse, is the way that it drives traffic back to the sites that host it. This is a win-win for site administrators who receive most of their user engagement on secondary sites like Facebook and Twitter. As the younger digital demographic continues to gravitate toward audio-visual apps like Instagram, Snapchat and now Yappa, Facebook and Twitter may cease to be the most-linked social media accounts for sites that want to drive up user engagement. Friendlier online debates and more revenue for publishers? Sign me up!

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes.

By Sheena Jordan
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