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Show HN: Anonymously Ask a Black Person Anything via SMS (askablackperson.com)
35 points by waynesutton on May 30, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 38 comments

This reminds me of the Berlin Jewish Museum's "Ask a Jew" project / exhibition (most, though not all, of the people who objected were not jewish).

It raised lots of complicated ethical issues that were hashed out in the press (and I could hear people talking about in caf├ęs).

Here's an article about it in English: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/ask-a-jewish-p...

So - under "Recent Questions" - is there a way to view the anonymous responses to the anonymous questions? I have no questions to ask, but am interested in browsing the answers to existing questions.

Hi, that's a great idea. We'll add it to the features list.

I really like this idea too.

I really hope that this will be collected in a data set that can be used for research. I think the analysis and observations will likely be eye-opening for many non-black people.

Frankly, I think we'd learn a lot more about non-blacks than we would about blacks from the data.

thats a great point - I was just thinking the same thing.

In any case, it might help improve society and reduce racism.

so True!

Yes, we're going to study the data for a research report on culture and race.


Are you analyzing the data in an exploratory manner or do you have some hypotheses that you are testing?

If you would rather discuss this privately in order to avoid tainting the data, please let me know. I will contact you.

I think this project has a lot of potential. Thank you for doing it!

thanks can be reached at ask@askablackperson.com

How is it anonymous if I have to give you my number. Is there a way to text from a web client?

Search "receive sms online" :)

Ed: And use the Tor browser.

@waynesutton you've got a potential product. Many businesses don't know how to convert social media to sales. This however is simple

Repackage, repurpose your product for businesses.

Try testing small businesses e.g. Hotels, restaurants, schools to see if they'll pay to have customers chat, ask questions or make reservations over the internet.

However, you'd need a way to bring the cost of adding a new number down for scaling purposes. You could add a routing code to each SMS to transparently share one phone number amongst multiple businesses.

Hope you pivot instead of just shutting down

@vezycash thanks. We're back up and running since Friday and getting hundreds of SMS.

Good idea.

Why doesn't it have a web interface?

I wanted to ask who the best new Black Comedians are, but I can't because I don't have a US phone.

I'm not black, but Hannibal Buress is my favorite. Trevor Noah's stand-up is rather good too.

SMS for now. We'll look at adding a world sms version/way

How does this generate revenue? Is there some secret to cashing in on receiving SMS that I don't know about?

Hi we do plan on generating revenue but that's a long tall play. Traction, growth then revenue.

Good Luck!

What could you possibly want to ask specifically of a black person? What difference does it make to what someone can tell you?

How about "ask a blonde person"?

> How about "ask a blonde person"?

I've played that role.

I lived in Japan for 8 years, some of it in provincial areas. I have blond hair. You would be shocked at the number of questions I got about having blond hair. The most common one was "Can I touch your hair?"

More thoughtful ones were about hair treatment (I was told that my hair is quite fine by Japanese standards). While I didn't do anything special, and not all blond or Japanese hair is the same, there seem to be some treatments that differ based on the type of hair you have.

I am sure that my barber in Japan wished he had a Japanese version of "ask a blonde person" when I first walked in the door, because my appointment apparently caused him to stress out massively. I found this out later as my Japanese got better and I became more integrated into the community.

Are you truly in denial about the fact that black people (specifically in America, but even on a global scale) have a unique set of experiences due to systematic and institutional racism? Additionally, there is a unique brand of racism pervasive throughout American culture (and again, certainly elsewhere, but I can only speak from an American perspective) wherein ignorant comments and questions are routinely made to unsuspecting black people. So given that, I think there are a good number of reasons as to why it's different than "ask a blonde person".

"What's your favourite product to deal with razor bump?"

Are we really turning old Chappelle Show routines into startups now?

I mean, @Wu_Tang_Finance is a pretty hilarious twitter handle, so why not.

>>> "Luckly for you its free!"

Typo on home page.

Thanks, fixed!

Everything I always wanted to know

"I have a black friend who wants to listen to music. What music do I play to please him?"


The tone of the landing page is extremely racist. IMHO.

@pcpolice are you saying that from a black or non-black perspective. What would you like to see changed?

The examples just seem preposterous. Like a sibling post says, "I have a black friend who wants to listen to music. What music do I play to please him?" -- seriously? Would you say that about your friends? What about asking the person in particular, as I'm sure this doesn't generalize to skin color? Or, "Who are your top 5 rappers?" That's making quite an assumption. Or, "I'm having black friends over for dinner, what should I cook?" Like, whatever you normally cook, unless they are e.g. vegetarians or have allergies?

Yeah, in summary, I think the thing that bothers me most is what seems to be gross generalization all over...

Having said all of that, I am not black.

@pcpolice I certainly understand your point but these are actually questions that people are asking. I mean we don't know who they are, what color, age, etc. But that's what people are asking. I mean look at the twitter feed - https://twitter.com/aablackperson All questions from people

Fair enough, I guess the main point is that whoever is being asked (you, I presume) is not offended :) At least, I hope you're not (maybe I can get a non-anonymous question in this way :p)?

@pcpolice I've been in the internet/tech space for a long time. Developed a think skin and unfortunately expected some of the not so good sms. I'm good. It's a team of 9 answering questions and yes we're all black :)

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