A friend of mine recently invited me to join a google group called Really Think. Not only have I found it to be incredibly valuable, but it has got me thinking a lot about how certain applications provoke actions online that might have otherwise not occurred.
On the first of every month, members of the Really Think group send out questions/topics/issues to think about. The questions can be about anything you find thought-provoking. They’re often non-tech related which honestly amidst a sea of push notifications can be very refreshing. Examples of questions I’ve come across since joining the group are:
What is the best way to tackle the obesity epidemic in the United States?
Who is Your Idol?
After the questions are sent out, members are encouraged to share their thoughts amongst the group. In general, the group is intended to be a mechanism for members to actually make time to collect their thoughts around topics they’re interested in and then engage in a healthy discussion.
At the core, Really Think helps me to do something that I’d like to do, but frequently fall short on. Sometimes I just have difficulty setting time aside to think about many things outside my immediate environment. I define my immediate environment by the people, places, conversations, tasks, and activities I encounter on a regular basis. The mountain of twitter links, 8 books I want to read, and growing to-do list just isn’t conducive to me consciously taking time to meditate on things that are so important, but rarely engage me directly.
At a higher level, this group is forcing me to do something that I want to do, but just don’t make time for. I want to periodically take an hour to think about how we can solve American obesity and who I should strive to model myself after…yet I rarely do. The main thing that prevents me from doing this is really permission more than anything else. That is, giving myself permission to forego the million things “I have to do” and put time aside to think about these things which are usually far more important. In short, Really Think has removed a barrier that prevented me from doing something I’d like to do, but find reasons not to.
I think this is really powerful and many services have emulated the same effect across the web. My personal favorite is Quora. So many people set out to blog, yet either never do or write three posts and stop. They know they should, but they find reasons not to.
Quora removes many of the barriers to blogging. People can broadcast their thoughts in long form without having to worry about the setup, whether there will be an audience, or what they should write about. This allows Quora to capture activity and engagement online that might otherwise not exist. Its interesting that people mainly identify Quora as a question and answer site, but in many instances its more of a short-form blogging platform. I’d venture to guess that many heavy Quora users don’t have a blog.
I think there is a tremendous opportunity for services that remove barriers enabling us to accomplish things we typically find reasons to push aside. These services provide a ton of value to both users and their eco-systems alike. I’m anxious to see entrepreneurs build services with similar higher-level functions and would love to hear what other services are helping people accomplish things they might have otherwise fell short on.