To create BobaBoard, we needed to solve a tough problem: how could we build a platform to bring people together when the whole internet—not just fandom!—was the most divided it had ever been?
We found no simple solution. So, we did what any great strategist would do, and ignored the issue. Until today.
Realms are BobaBoard’s answer to the exhausting one-size-fits-none nature of modern social networks. Similarly to ye olden forums or more recent Discord servers, they are self-governed communities with a variety of customization options, flexible moderation tools, and fine-grained privacy mechanisms that help shape their independent character and rules.
Already know all about Realms?
Realms are born from an ambitious yet simple vision: to give their owners (and chosen vassals) the power to carve, shape, and grow a cozy corner of the web to feel at home in, and share it with as much or as little of the outer Internet as they wish.
But, taking a step back, what do Realms look like in practice?
Well, if you’ve been following us (or are a particularly attentive reader), you’ll know that Boards are the backbone of BobaBoard. While we’ll talk more about specific features in tomorrow’s “features deep dive”, you can think of Boards as the thematic sections that Realms are built upon. As a Realm expands, members with the “board creator” permission can create more boards to further delineate cultural pockets within the community, which helps guide members towards the centers of discussion that best cater to their interests, and avoid the ones they’d rather have nothing to do with, or can only take in small quantities.
Within Boards, Threads do the heavy lifting. They keep discussions contained inside their borders, have prominent content notices to help you decide whether to poke further in, and clearly indicate the number of updates since your last visit, so even the busiest among us can keep up with what we’ve missed. Of course, Threads can be hidden and muted as needed, while blocking tags takes care of the rest.
The nested, almost fractal nature of BobaBoard’s community spaces is no accident. Realms are born from the belief that communities are best done in small numbers, with moderation and governance as local as possible to those impacted by them, and escalation used as a last-ditch resort. This is why rather than operating on a strict members/moderators division, BobaBoard implements a flexible, Discord-inspired Roles mechanism. Whether it’s letting OPs have moderation powers over their own threads, giving Worthy Members™ control of a board or two, or electing a task-force of trusted users to add missing Content Notices, BobaBoard’s leading philosophy is flexibility, not prescriptivism.
“That’s nice,” we hear you say, “but how can I find the right home? I have no time to build a community, and most of my online friends were lost in the Great Tumblr Purge of ’18!”
Rest assured, random reader: building Realms is only the beginning. We know many of you have been waiting a long time, suffering through content purges, and helplessly watching the steady corruption of the Internet spaces you used to love. Once Realms can stand on their own (a goal we’re rearing to cross, but that we don’t intend to rush), we have a lot of exciting new missions to move forward to. We’re not yet ready to talk about them all, but we’d like to share two that are directly relevant to you.
First, we believe in the importance of empowering users to make conscious, informed choices about which Realms they decide to join. This means helping them discover who’s engaging in the type of conversations they want to be part of, and also helping them understand—and remember!—the policies and expectations of each space as they warp around the Bobaverse.
While only the experience of living Realms can guide us towards our final destination, here are some things we’re thinking around: global, canonical tags to help you find Realms and Boards; mechanisms to search for (or automatically filter out) Realms with specific content allowances or restrictions; and, as a last example, giving Realms and Boards—and potentially even Threads—the ability to specify their own tagging requirements, be those “none at all” or a specific list of content notices to be easily selected upon contributing.
Next, we remain committed to our anonymity-first approach. While this doesn’t mean every Realm must abide by our ~revolutionary~ flavor of identity management—as you’ll learn tomorrow, anonymity-first is not anonymity-only—it means that we’re committed to giving our users the ability to occupy different identities in different spaces, including (when allowed) none whatsoever. By creating mechanisms of intentional, gradual disclosure, and by encouraging the coexistence of multiple personas, we aim to bring back the sense of freedom found in the earlier Internet, and help people to once again connect with others as their true selves.
After all, wisdom has it , if it’s not fun, why bother?
Realms are still in their inception. Keeping up with BobaBoard’s tradition of building in public, this announcement comes way before they’re ready. With so many open questions, and so many little (and large) unknowns, this is the perfect time for you, your opinions, and even your objections to make an impact.
If you want to help, or just wish you had somewhere to keysmash your excitement, you can ask questions, give suggestions, or pour your heart (and brain) out in our new Open Feedback Form (Realms Era Edition).
And lastly, a special request: while we haven’t defined our final “selection” process, we’d love to hear from those of you who wish to build (or join) a Realm. Sign up through our super special Realms Interest Form, and we promise to not only keep you up to date (and, maybe less enticingly, send follow-up surveys), but swear to use what we learn from you to design the best Realms experience we can.
If you’re content with cheering from the sidelines, you can follow Realms’ development by subscribing to BobaBoard’s mailing list or by following us on Twitter, Tumblr, or Mastodon.
Now, with ~the Next Big Thing~ out in the open, we’ll take a step back and cover the basics: whether you’ve been with us from the start or are just now tuning in, it’s time to dive deep into the core features of BobaBoard.