Pairagraph is a new high-quality discussion forum. What do you think?
Shared by jonathanrstern · 12d ago · 21 comments

Hey Pioneer! I’m Jonathan, co-founder of Pairagraph. (www.pairagraph.com)

Pairagraph is a platform for written dialogue between pairs of notable individuals—politicians, CEOs, philosophers, novelists, technologists, religious leaders, and more.

We love Twitter, but it can be annoying. It’s loud and noisy, it’s replete with echo chambers, and 280 characters is not enough to make a real argument. Pairagraph is our attempt to push back on these trends and build a proper town square for the digital age.

To accomplish this, we’ve made the short-term decision to keep our community closed—only certain people are able to participate in dialogues. The idea here is not to exclude anyone but to establish a track record of quality discussion before opening it up. We think that if we start with quality and move gradually to quantity, we’ll have a better shot in the long run of preserving both.

We’re still fairly new but already have hosted 60+ dialogues, with contributors like Niall Ferguson, Joe Lonsdale, Balaji Srinivasan, Francis Fukuyama, Russ Roberts, and Om Malik.

The format we've invented is: 4 entries, each <500 words, created by alternating authors.

What do you think?

Sal · 6d ago

Who are your upcoming special guests? Would be super cool to see upcoming folks.

And what is the criteria? Where is the bar? I go to the "suggest" tab, but not sure if my suggestions are worth it. One of my friends was a Chess World Champion.

jonathanrstern · 6d ago

Great idea! Would be very cool to build something that shows who all is upcoming. (From time to time, I'll tweet about who's coming soon, but it'd be better if that were built into the site somehow.)

No fixed criteria. "Notable" is a vague, amorphous, ever-expanding classification. As I said in my initial post, the idea here is not to exclude anyone but to establish a track record of quality discussion before opening it up. We’re wary of elitism and committed to including as many people (and perspectives) as possible. This is also why we have a ‘Suggest’ page on the website for readers who are interested in recommending future authors/topics.

Submit the suggestion and we'll do our best to get your friend involved!

Sal · 6d ago

Cool, thanks!

nyootron · 12d ago

This is great work, and you seem to be getting a lot of interest from influencers too. Great stuff! Is there a way for the public to participate?

jonathanrstern · 12d ago

Thanks! Not yet... As I said in the post, the idea here is not to exclude anyone but to establish a track record of quality discussion before opening it up. We think that if we start with quality and move gradually to quantity, we’ll have a better shot in the long run of preserving both.

The good news is that we are discussing opening it up, so there is some chance we will do so soon. We're also contemplating allowing dialogues with >2 participants.

So, to answer your question: "Is there a way for the public to participate?" .... Not now, but maybe soon!

nyootron · 12d ago

That makes sense. Just curious - how do you decide who gets the last word?

jonathanrstern · 12d ago

Yep, great question. Right now, all of our dialogues are 4 entries, each <500 words, created by alternating authors (A-B-A-B). So the author who writes the fourth entry gets the last word.

This has worked well most of the time but there may be room for improvement, so we're planning to tinker in coming months.

jackson · 9d ago

What about an "appeal" feature at the end?

Diminishing character limit. Like an OT, 3m instead of 12m.
Cool product. Take Twitter to task.

jonathanrstern · 9d ago

I don't quite understand. Could you elaborate?
What do you mean by 'appeal' feature and diminishing character limit?

jackson · 9d ago

Like if someone delivers a final verdict in court, you can Appeal that decision. Maybe speaker A can "Appeal" B's final position and get in a last word which is e.g. <200 words instead of <500 (the diminishing part). And whether or not the "Appeal" feature pops up / is available depends on if the audience wants A to get in a Final Word.

Idk, that might not be the vibe you're going for. You may be going more literary, less boxing match.

jonathanrstern · 9d ago

Mmm, interesting. That's definitely worth testing.

I love the idea of diminishing character limit. That would be a great way to "extend" the dialogue beyond 4 installments, without creating too much of a burden for readers. (Most people have loved the length of our dialogues, so I'd hate to double or triple their length). But sometimes dialogues need to go >4 installments. Shorter installments may be a creative way to do that.

manojranaweera · 12d ago

Wow! What a lovely idea Jonathan. Met Om Malik during my first of two visits to San Francisco. Had a coffee with him - in 2008.

Great idea. Quality matters more than quantity. See what happened at Quora. Once a product goes mainstream it's no longer the place for early adopters. They move out usually and try to find a new home.

I was never good at debating. Wonder whether I could hold a debate at your place. Nah, sounds like too much work.

Good luck! Build that high quality community.

jonathanrstern · 12d ago

Thanks -- Om is wonderful!

That's such a great point about Quora. What do you make of Hacker News' ability to "maintain culture" despite being 10+ years old. I've always been impressed by that, but maybe I'm missing something.

You may not be able to have a *debate*... but surely you can have a conversation! I've found that Pairagraph dialogues tend to go best when there's at least some common ground between the authors. Debate is good, but our format works better when the two participants are able to build on what the other is saying.

manojranaweera · 12d ago

I never understood or was welcomed at HN. So cannot comment I am afraid.

andrew-miit.co · 12d ago

Definitely a worthwhile idea, how do you differentiate from something like letter.wiki?

jonathanrstern · 12d ago

Yep, definitely similar to Letter! Having spent some time on their site, there are a few differences:

1. Our approach has been to index as heavily as possible towards *quality*. I'm not sure Letter has done that. They seem to have far more content than we do (but not as many "big names").

2. Our format is more constrained than theirs: 4 entries, each <500 words, created by alternating authors (A-B-A-B). Letter's conversations are more open-ended. Many of our readers have said they love that our dialogues don't go on forever.

3. We'd like to figure out how to allow more than 2 authors per conversation. We've had a number of dialogues where it would have been useful to have had a third or fourth perspective. Sometimes there are more than two sides! We think allowing >2 authors per conversation should go a long way towards boosting quality.

4. To increase user engagement, we'd like to allow readers to vote on who they'd most like to hear from. This will also help ensure that the people participating in conversations are interesting to our readers and well-suited for the discussion.

andrew-miit.co · 7d ago

Nice job. I wonder if there's potential for a move to audio to make consuming the content easier? I can see "podcast on demand'' having huge potential. Great work keep it up!

jonathanrstern · 7d ago

We've considered hiring voice actors to record some of our content but it would be pricey -- hundreds of dollars per dialogue.

What do you think about computerized text-to-speech? Any favorite apps that do this?

jackson · 9d ago

Would be cool if I could subscribe to someone and get emails every time they have a dialogue.

Also, what if there was a timer at the top of the site, counting down to next conversation? Like "@7pm Bezos and Merkel chat Amazon in Germany". And are the updates live? For me the site is currently sitting too far in the corner of traditional publication. Would be sweet to see some gamification / live elements included.

Excellent work though. Highly compelling. Cheers!

jonathanrstern · 9d ago

Gosh, these are awesome ideas.

We just added a 'subscribe for an update' feature for dialogues in progress but I'd love to add something that notifies readers when their favorite authors have returned to the site. I'll bet people would love that.

"For me the site is currently sitting too far in the corner of traditional publication." .... That's all I needed to hear to know that we need to tweak a few things. Would love to add gamification/live elements where it makes sense and is likely to add to the quality of our product and quality of our dialogues.

Really appreciate the thoughtful feedback, Jackson. Thanks!

jackson · 9d ago

Love it! Send another update in here next month. Will be keen to see product updates.