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Show HN: Multiverse.plus – what if blogging was more collage-like and colorful? (multiverse.plus)
281 points by kickscondor on June 23, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 84 comments

So we are glitchyowl and kickscondor - this is a collaboration between us - an attempt to make 'blogging' more expressive and visual, possibly to break a piece off and reboot it, now that it's fallen out of fashion.

The Web seems to have converged on a color called 'gwalb' - gray with a little blue. We've gone from home pages - which users could dump endless animated gifs and marquees on to - to giving everyone a roughly 680x680 square to put a picture or some unstyled, unlinked text into. We think being on the Web can still be expressive and casual.

Multiverse is a place for creating visual essays and collages - closer to comics or slideshows than to a 'blog' on Medium or Substack or Wordpress - which are very close to essays. You can also design colorful frames for your posts, to increase the sense of identity, beyond a name and an avatar.

We're not trying to go head-to-head with social media here - just offering a new tool that breaks ranks from the other software out there. We know many of you care about the Web - it has a very fun and freewheeling side to it that we want to help foster, as well as standards like RSS and Webmentions that still make sense! And it's still a great place to meet people and make memories. We've spent the past six months on this. We will probably offer a paid plan if it becomes interesting to people. Are we on the right track here?

- glitchyowl & kicks

> Are we on the right track here?

You probably mean on an intellectual level, not in terms of user adoption.

The lack of specificity about who your audience is the toughest part, intellectually, about what you’re doing. First let’s assume it’s the Everyman.

Why do people like a 680x680 picture / selfie of themselves? One reason Instagram has demographics much closer to the real world than Medium does: people already know how to express themselves and define an identity using their bodies. The average person - who might have a 2 year college education, or read fewer than 10 books a year, or who uses fewer than 4 third party apps and websites on their phone - has a more intuitive grasp of fashion, makeup, what their hair color and race and jewelry and the setting and etc. says about them than if they tried to write something down.

What about people who like internet nostalgia? Nostalgia is kind of toxic for trying new things. That same audience also would pick a Star Wars movie over an indie movie every time. Nostalgia is the antagonist of new voices, not the friend. People think nostalgia is superficial, that it’s GIFs in the frame, but it’s defining an audience that wants the same stories, the same characters, and to stay in a middle to high school comfort zone. Kind of the opposite of what you want for someone’s crunchy blogs or wonky essays.

Otherwise, can someone have an argument about what’s the best visual design language? It’s very subjective. Websites had their moment as a medium, and now they’re out of the way in terms of delivering what a visitor came to see. People who express themselves outside their bodies, like writers, musicians, political activists, etc get a lot from the gwalb getting out of the way. Because so much is just getting your voice heard, weird websites turn off visitors far more often than it entices them. Not a very exciting opinion though.

> Nostalgia is the antagonist of new voices, not the friend.

There are negatives to nostalgia - but this isn't necessarily one of them. I would use vaporwave as a counterpoint. (Or any resurgence of a genre.) The nostalgic element is the familiar part; the artist might then be unfamiliar. I personally discover new artists all the time in these nostalgic genres.

Not arguing against your general points about writing vs fashion. (And you make a lot of fun points!) But I don't think a rebirth of hypertext styling is dead in the water. Podcasts were originally seen as just the rebirth of AM radio. And they were - but it turned out to be time for that - and enough innovation transpired that they stuck.

Nostalgia a niche market, and every market needs to be served. If he didn't do it, someone else would have as long as there is a demand for it.

It’s been fun to see everyone’s personality come through in how they style posts, and creating blogs in a canvas environment is fun. Multiverse has so much character in it. I can’t wait to see what blog, comic, tutorial, narratives emerge.

I made post on how color wheels work here: https://multiverse.plus/gndclouds/addresses-of-color-space

Hey there! First off, thanks for the submission. It's a refreshing take on the homepages we knew and loved. I'm curious what you plan to have in the paid tier. Can you detail some of your ideas with regard to that? Also, is there an engineering blog that goes into some of the design decisions and mechanics behind the scenes? Very much looking forward to what you two come up with.

Take care, wishing you the best!

gwalb seems like a good example of “Refinement Culture” recently posted on HN.


Hello! I've been a fan of the work both of you do for a while (fraidycat, etc.) and have been pretty excited about multiverse ever since you first started talking about it. However, one thing that has always rubbed me sort of wrong about your stuff is that, as far as I understand, you're employed by Facebook Labs (https://usesthis.com/interviews/kicks.condor/). This interview was the only place I've ever seen that mentioned (and granted it was Nov of last year), so it may no longer be true, but I've always found myself reticent to engage with some of your social experiments because they may be a veiled Facebook R+D project/something that FB would take over if it ever got "too" popular.

I'm hoping you could clear up your relationship to Facebook here and the stuff kicks does - I do truly love all the things you two come up with, but want some peace of mind that I'm not directly helping Facebook build it's roadmap. Thanks!

Yes it's true that I was invented by Facebook and that my website was shutdown by Disney (and then the FBI - as the other commenter points out - for the Disney shutdown turned out to have been a hoax.)

This is all terrible and I hate my origin story - I agree completely. I understand if you need to bow out on this one. I rub myself the wrong way a lot of the time.

“Invented by Facebook.” Does that mean this is a FB labs project or this is a personal project?

Multiverse.plus is a personal project (of glitchyowl and mine.) And I am a personal project of Facebook Labs.

Or possibly the CIA? I get email from two agents who claim to be my handlers and to "come home already". But I don't really know whose story to believe. Can't just look in the mirror to find out.

Ok wow - I am rubbing myself the right direction now!

What is happening here?

Afaict from the GP link, kicks condor isn't a person, but rather a brother and sister playing a person that also wraps up all the relevant attendant lawyers or other roles that go into maintaining the character.

Seems like a persona, created as the amalgamation of personalities, yet self aware of the digital/ephemeral representation of the character.

Feels high-concept and interesting to me, but definitely confusing if you aren't expecting this perspective

Oh. So it is indeed a Facebook Labs research project / persona.

I thought that was sarcasm. Puts this thing under a whole new perspective.

EDIT: I’m utterly confused now. It does seem to be pure sarcasm. Can not find any other mention of this, or who is behind Kickscondor at all.

Where did the parent comment’s claim that he works at Facebook come from, if we have no idea who this is?

https://usesthis.com/interviews/kicks.condor/ according to this it is a Facebook labs personality. The domain owner is obfuscated. Kickscondor didn't provide a valid response to my question. I would rather not participate on any Facebook owned or related properties, domains, projects. Also, I didn't find any privacy or data policies on multiverse.

> Also, I didn't find any privacy or data policies on multiverse.

Another site asking for people to sign up using only their email address, having no TOS/PP, and the people from the project acting like trolls instead of answering simple questions.

Yeah I asked because I was sort of hoping for a simple answer free of irony and trolling. Deflecting and avoiding the question, especially as their comment I initially replied to wasn't in the same tone, is disheartening.

You are "disheartened" by not having it explicitly stated that there are no twins named "Cody" and "Jody" working for Facebook Labs saying things like "So basically imagine one day being able to buy Kicks Condor from Facebook and be him in your world." and that they like Segway electric shoes? Claiming to use VR to interact with personalities they're inventing? Saying they "pull a lot from the amateur cigar-smoking community"?

I'm sorry. Sometimes I don't know how to relate to people who are very serious about the topic at hand. I'm sorry - you asked the question earnestly and I disappointed.

You could still answer my question directly. Every other response you've given to comments in this thread lacks the irony and deference you've given me.

Just a correction - my previous employer was Grape Nuts Marketing. They did a retrospective on me earlier this year: https://web.archive.org/web/20210201092129/https://kickscond...

I know this just makes things worse. But at least it could help be a decisive final blow to my reputation that you all are looking for?

Again the charades. You think you’re being funny, but privacy is a real concern today and this obscurity is honestly a huge red sign for signing up for any of your projects, including this latest one. Who knows where our data will end up.

We are six levels deep in an HN thread. It’s not looking good.

I'm >90% sure that was a joke. In the same way that kickscondor.com was not actually seized by the FBI for Kicks Condor being stolen IP from a National Treasure sequel.

If i have to zoom in on mobile I just move along.

I honestly miss people building random stuff on the internet to showcase unique information on things like Geocities. They were almost always "ugly" but also always visually entertaining.

I remember skimming through hundreds of car Geocities sites by enthusiasts who had no clue how to build a website but wanted to show off their rides. It was always a rollercoaster of poor UX and bad quality images but something was also fun about finding the random image that was a link to some internal page that had more random links on it to more and more and more.

Now everyone just posts info on curated pre-designed platforms and blogs like Facebook or Blogger which takes out half of the appeal for me, I instantly don't care about anything posted on Facebook and don't have a Facebook account. There is some good content on Blogger and the likes but there's nothing fun about most of the posts.

I clearly have been visiting the wrong sites and probably could dig up similar content to what I miss. It could also just be me being old and grumpy.

Well it's dangerous to give people the tools to design themselves - it's a rare skill and very difficult to blend it all together into a cohesive community! I think many startups of the 2010s saw Myspace design as a disaster.

We're hoping that by having some default color palettes and some common patterns and fonts - as well as limits to paddings, margins and border sizes - that it helps people stay in the ballpark of what a Multiverse post looks like. (Kind of like how you can spot something made with LEGOs from a distance.)

But whatever - creating ugly things should be part of the world. Looking forward to the future of 'ugly', 'bad', 'shoddy' design on the Internet. <3

> Well it's dangerous to give people the tools to design themselves

Having built a site builder before, I think you are on the right track. I think you're right to limit the design scope people have access to in order to manage Multiverses' brand image, I wouldn't recommend otherwise. What you've got is much more platform than blog/site builder, the network effect is going to rely on people wanting a "Multiverse" site and that's going to be a particular aesthetic.

In general though, there is a saying in music when someone makes a mistake: "It's only music, nobody died". I think the same could be applied to the web in general, and personal sites especially. Things got reaaaally boring after the "Flat design" trend of the 2010s powerwashed the web of anything remotely interesting, and as much as it brought in good UX and design patterns it also stripped out a lot of character. It'll be nice to see people try on their design pants again.

Wow - this is a very encouraging post. Thank you! If you happen to still be reading - what was the site builder you worked on? Have you written anywhere about your experience on that project?

On the other hand, a ton of us got our start in web design or development due to the freedom of sites like Myspace and Geocities.

yeah im one of the kid that is eternally grateful to sites like myspace and geocities

In the context of hobby websites, the choice of the word "dangerous" is pretty extreme.

"Disaster" is also hyperbole.

That's fair enough, I'm in agreement. I think what I should have communicated (as dentemple did) is that the benefits outweigh the consequences.

Absolutely agree with you as well. I do think it’s “dangerous” - or perhaps it’s better to just call it a “tradeoff” - because you give people greater power over the design of the site. But obviously a tradeoff we’re all willing to make.

This comes down to the fact that learning design, UI, and UX is far harder than learning to code. And that nobody who uses a tool cares how good or bad the code is if it works okay.

Whenever I have looked into learning the design side, I've found it far more difficult to find a good set of resources to go by.

I probably didn't look hard enough

Whenever I see people on here longing for the web of old (surprisingly often) I point them to a great little game called HypnoSpace Outlaw. You play a web enforcer in an alternate reality 90's internet simulator.

It's available on Xbox Game Pass, and here's the Steam link: https://store.steampowered.com/app/844590/Hypnospace_Outlaw/

appreciate what you've expressed @overshard, it resonates

i dont think pre-designed sites and blogs are bad, but I think if/when they are the only (easy/popular) options out there, that's when it feels a little unfortunate

fun and casual is something that we strive for -- a lot of deep and rich things come out of playing and being playful. we hope that we can help contribute a small step toward that

It gave more people a way to share, with a lower barrier of entry. It lets them focus on the message and not its envelope.

>It could also just be me being old and grumpy.

I don't think it's that, I think you're describing the electronic version of an old neighborhood with character versus a modern suburban planned community. Some people genuinely prefer the latter, but there's not much of a choice both online and in the real world these days, so we're all stuck with it.

I think this is great.

It seems to be a popular opinion on this site that ‘everyone should have a personal website’.. but I think the options available don’t make it a likely outlet for a lot of people because there is too much friction required for too little expressiveness. Even for technical people.

This project seems like fun, and that’s a great starting point.

I noticed when clicking around that it is set up so that ‘posts’ are always embedded within the multiverse site styling. This makes it have less of a ‘personal space on the internet’ feeling, but it does keep the experience more consistent, compared to if posts filled the whole page.

Was this a deliberate choice to encourage more ‘post-based’ creation and less ‘personal-site’ type creation? I am partial to the ‘personal-site’ approach but ‘post-based’ suggests other interesting options, like being able to ‘reply’ to one page with another page, and generally being a little more social

i recently learned that the motivation behind creating medium was because of what you've pointed out -- and how curated and pre-designed medium has been is also a trade-off they've chosen to make

striking a balance between easy/fluid ways to express, and blogposts that feel like you is part of why we went to Nintendo and Mac paint for inspirations haha. I personally admire those tools/platforms a lot for how they offer limited yet wildly creative and fun ways to spend time

`post-based` vs `personal-site/webpage` is something we are discussing, maybe there can be a 'full screen' way to remove the frame. fwiw, the first collage blogpost I made didn't have a frame and you can feel it out here: http://weiweihsu.com/2020-07-26/wheres-home

replying to a post and a page imo has a lot of interesting possibilities that are yet to be explored too! the way we have time-based commenting and remixing for videos/audio (on soundcloud, tiktok, etc) has made us wonder in what ways can we get creative with commenting and replying, helping them be less plain

I'm just rambling on and I will pause here. so appreciate your comments here - there's so much work and fun ahead~

I like your goal "to make 'blogging' more expressive and visual, possibly to break a piece off and reboot it, now that it's fallen out of fashion." I have the impression that, with some of your other projects, Kicks, you are trying to do this for all the web, not just blogging.

However, for my taste, this feels a little too close to Tumblr, which I don't think achieves "expressive and visual" in a deep sense. I hope that you will continue to explore and find more ways to differentiate yourself.

Misc. feedback:

I like how you present small blocks of text, but large blocks of text seem cramped sometimes, difficult to read.

The backgrounds are killing me. Perhaps, each background could have a solid-color fallback and readers could toggle to only display the solid fallbacks?

"Composed on today" -> "Composed today" (likewise for "yesterday")

I hope this doesn't come across as negative. What you're doing is very interesting to me and I look forward to seeing where it goes. It just hasn't fully achieved your stated goal, yet, in my opinion.

I can totally see this perspective, lokl! We are very uncertain that we're achieving our goals. I think I agree with you that Multiverse doesn't go too far off from Tumblr - and that's deliberate - we wanted to see if we could offer a stepping stone. Start at a familiar place but move in a different direction.

I'd be interested to hear more about achieving expressiveness in a "deep sense" - don't know if you mean offering more hypertext features - something more in the way of Roam or Notion. For us, aesthetics are rather deep - and offering design tools for fleshing out posts and designing frames seemed like something that had gone neglected. I think the posts that are being published so far show a lot of promise. Perhaps we can offer further stepping stones from here, to build more elaborate hypertext.

Really great question - this is exactly what we talk about between each other as well. Thank you for all of the feedback as well. Very much appreciated.

glitchyowl here, one of the creator of multiverse, thanks for peeking in

we want to make blogging on the web a little more casual expressive than it's been. which is why we've went with a free-form canvas with lots of style customisation options ~*

here's my mic check - https://multiverse.plus/glitchyowl/haiyo-multiverse

Hey, it's all quite inspiring - adding a bit of color. Shameless question coming, is it allowed to rip this off, copy the stylesheets or similar and use a style based off of this on a personal blog?

halo kzrdude! for sure, remixing is part of what makes the web fun! right now, you can also export your post as svg, html, or png if you want to carry it somewhere else

we have had discussions about offering ways to embedding (like on the home page) and exporting the styles in json/css format too

Been using Multiverse for a bit now and I honestly love it so very much. It's a brilliant mix of creative expression and creative limits - I can make cool stuff without having the infinite array of options that I would in design software. I recently wrote about my experience with old forums when I was a youngling on the internet and creating the post was honestly so much fun! I've felt my creativity really coming back since I've started using Multiverse.

ahh wuz you are too kind and your posts are wizardry. it brings me smile to see your (almost) eye-searing pink posts!

in case folks are interested, this is wuz's post on the old forums: https://multiverse.plus/wuz/a-love-letter-to-jred-net

I don't know if I'll be going back but it's an interesting idea. It reminds me of the geocities/angelfire/myspace/a bunch of other content builders of the early 2000s era of web stuff.


Big geocities energy with seizure-inducing gifs. I feel like a kid with a modem again.

beep boop, dial it up!

I like the idea.

I mostly need code examples (with highlights) and diagrams (potentially with animations) in my articles. Is there something planned for that?

text control (including hyperlinking) is something we definitely want to invest more time into, so super yes to code examples

for now, you can copy and paste linked text into the text control, so format the text using something like https://trix-editor.org/ home page - then copy and paste it in

can you share more about what you have in mind for diagrams? drawing them with shapes or detailed diagrams (excel style)

animations and even code based triggers are features we think could really introduce more depth and interesting authoring abilities to this blogging site. if you have examples of animated diagrams, I'd love to see them and plan features with them in mind

I think, it would be nice to illustrate some examplesand easy animations would help.

Like animating the travel of a request through a chain of services, etc.

So, nothing too fancy.

gotcha, thank you for elaborating! could be interesting to leverage stickers/transparent gifs for animations too

ASCII diagrams come to mind, or something like https://flowchart.fun ?

kicks has such a fun & distinctive visual style. Came to comment that the design reminded me of https://www.kickscondor.com/ and now I understand why!

A product that pays so little attention to mobile won’t find much success in 2021. The homepage is almost unreadable on an iPhone.

What if… it wasn’t built for “success” ? Plus it looks like a project, not a product, which I really like.

I started to use this product and it's definitely fun! I'm interested in how the others use and if it is accepted by large number of users. Anyway, I think this merged well of nostalgia and modern service design.

Bring back MySpace! -- almost nobody, ever

I like the idea but I dread what people will do with it.


Wow, if you try this page with dark reader the colors pop even more. Especially the ones at the bottom. Nice idea to bring back more of the creativity in the web, btw. I wish you luck with the project.

It seems to be read only a far as readers are concerned. I couldn't find any way to interact with the posts, so it's not for me I think.

yeah it's read-only for the moment, ways to remix posts and comment on posts are coming soon!

you can get a (loose) feel of how conversing will work by checking out this prototype by kicks: https://www.kickscondor.com/HT2020/

if you have any ideas for how social could work well on the site for you, pls let us know! hello [at] multiverse [dot] plus

I like the playfulness of it, and the ability to customize my "voice."

It has the potential to become a new community.

However... I'm confused how to discover groups.

hey! groups are definitely very limited right now, there are only a fixed # of groups that you can post to but we are looking to expand that

would love to discuss and hear your ideas on it if you are up for it! we are at hello@multiverse.plus or our discord group is here: https://discord.gg/5MvkKjAyrM

and in case its interesting, humdrum shared their thoughts on groups in this multiverse wishlist post: https://multiverse.plus/kvnk/multiverse-wishlist

and @kickscondor also wrote up some thoughts on the social aspect: https://multiverse.plus/kicks/not-just-a-subreddit

I joined the Discord and look forward to chatting about this, and other, Multiverse topics!

I may be biased, but my cat uses multiverse and she liked it 10/10 cat and hooman friendly

Livestream if you want to peek in on Multiverse.plus or ask questions: https://www.twitch.tv/kickscondor/

If I complain about mobile responsiveness I’m missing the point right?

Not at all - we’re just a team of two though and have had to cut corners to get to this point.

Very cool - that said, it appears that I'm not receiving (is it being sent?) the sign-up email for new accounts.

Exciting project. Tasteful design.

Trying signing up on the home page. If it says your email already has an account, try here: https://multiverse.plus/signin

You can also email us at hello@multiverse.plus and we'll look into it. Might be a specific browser issue.

Hey, thanks for the quick response. So I still don't have any emails, and I couldn't find any other Log-in / Create Account functionality on the home page. In other words: I couldn't find any other way to create an account that wouldn't result in me using the form on /signin.

Maybe I'm being a dummy, let me know if you have any additional suggestion otherwise I will get in touch with the email you provided. This is a really cool project, and I hate to admit some of the unfinished amateur hobby projects I've created towards similar ideas to multiverse.plus.

Oh shoot - I missed this comment. There is a sign-up form on the home page: https://multiverse.plus/ Just under the image of the PC.

Ok, this worked. Really enjoy the site so far. I expect to be a medium+ term visitor.

Feature recommendation (that you didn't ask for): Allow users to embed blocks on their own sites.

You can do this! If you look at the source code for the landing page, there is a way to embed a post and specify a size for it as well.

rad. we need a 2021 version of geocities

neocities is fantastic, and one-of-a-kind

This is an interesting concept.

OK first issue… how can we reconcile expressiveness with good rendering on mobile?

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