Confess (2004)

"Confess" is a website frequented by members who anonymously confess then score each other's confessions, encouraging "better" confessions for the reward of a higher score. The driving concepts are public catharsis and voyeurism: Members confess not only to feel the thrill of manifesting their secrets in words for others to read, but the excitement of anonymously reading the secrets of others. Because the thrill of confessing is greater when there's a chance of easily deniable discovery (similar to flirting) members will be tempted to involve their friends or secret romantic interests in the site. In this way the Confess website may become a successful meme--It will function as contagious media.

The site also illustrates decentralized control and self-government to a certain degree. Members can only read one confession from another member for each one they themselves submit. Likewise they cannot confess again until they have reviewed another member's confession. ...

Full Description

"Confess" is a website frequented by members who anonymously confess then score each other's confessions, encouraging "better" confessions for the reward of a higher score. The driving concepts are public catharsis and voyeurism: Members confess not only to feel the thrill of manifesting their secrets in words for others to read, but the excitement of anonymously reading the secrets of others. Because the thrill of confessing is greater when there's a chance of easily deniable discovery (similar to flirting) members will be tempted to involve their friends or secret romantic interests in the site. In this way the Confess website may become a successful meme--It will function as contagious media.

The site also illustrates decentralized control and self-government to a certain degree. Members can only read one confession from another member for each one they themselves submit. Likewise they cannot confess again until they have reviewed another member's confession. In this way a 1:1 ratio of submissions to reviews is maintained. Also, each submitted confession is only ever read by one other member, after which it is "sealed." Members rate each anonymous confession they read based on pre-defined criteria, such as "believability" or "scandalousness." Consequently each member gains a rating, or score, based on the average of their accumulated confessions. (Ratings are weighted differently based on their recentness and total number of "recent" confessions.) When a member is ready to read another's confession it is picked for them by the website based on the member's score. Members with "good" scores get to read "better" confessions. Conversely members with "bad" scores are forced to read "poor" confessions. In this way confessing becomes a game. Members encourage each other to make "good" confessions through decentralized policing based on shifting cultural values.

Future goals include improving the rating interface and the site's "replay value." What does the typical user really want? How can a member be encouraged to visit the site regularly for a month? A year? How can the site become more contagious?

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