The young Romanian entrepreneur Vladimir Oane believes his app Deepstash can redress our current social-media malaise. Deepstash, which Oane founded in 2019, is a ‘social network for content curation’ where ‘stashers’ can summarise key concepts from various sources on topics which interest them. Its website offers ‘career advice’, ‘practical knowledge’ and ‘insipiring [sic] quotes’. Oane believes it to be an example of a new kind of social media, centred around the discussion of ideas, which he solemnly terms the ‘Knowledge Discovery Network’.
Oane says that ‘current mainstream apps encourage showing off more than real connection’, and, more cryptically, that ‘traditional social media also optimises for reaction’. This may well be a reflection of our times. The focus on ‘superficial sharing’ and the current quality of conversation on social media all speak to the fact that we’re ‘in the early days of the internet and digital communication’.
He thinks that the debate around social-media regulation misses the point. ‘Our approach at Deepstash is rather than complain and try to get the government to step in and regulate … we want to create different alternatives. If we think that social networks around information and around knowledge can exist, we’re gonna build one’.
Oane tells me that ‘people are going to vote with their time’, and, Thatcherishly, that ‘competition pretty much fixes everything’. By his own admission, Deepstash caters to people who take themselves seriously. ‘If you look at my Deepstash profile, I’d say you will realise way more about me than if you look at my Linkedin profile or my Facebook page, because there you might see what uni I’ve been to or what my work history is, but if you go to Deepstash you will learn about my passion’. He’s willing to bet that shared interests trump shared backgrounds.
This belief extends to that most fraught of topics, contemporary politics. Vladimir tells me that with Deepstash ‘we can have a pretty cool conversation which goes well beyond the fact that you voted for a political candidate and I for the opposite. We can still be friends and feel like we have a productive conversation because we are engaging on that level’. It is, of course, also possible to do this in person.
Oane likens Deepstash to ‘a brain enhancement pill you have in your phone’ – an analogy which reminds me, among other things, of Elon Musk’s brain interface Neuralink. ‘Pretty much all software in the future is going to be social’, he asserts. ‘We see that in the enterprise, that definitely all consumer apps are going to be social. Even money is going to be social. You can probably look at blockchain as a social experiment in decentralised trust, which requires a lot of people’s involvement’.
Now on a roll, he continues: ‘If information is so abundant, curating that information and making it so that other people you care about on the internet at large can consume it turns curation into an act of creation’. I end by asking Oane to elaborate (further) his thoughts about our changing relationship with knowledge itself. He pauses for a moment, then replies, ‘I think we are going to redefine this pretty soon, and we hope to be part of this redefinition’.