Added a post  to  , heterodoxthinking

Keenston uses the so-called freemium model, which means that some functionality is free and some features are only available if you pay. You can participate (comment, react) in all the debates, discussions or take quizzes as much as you want, but in order to create your own debates, communities or blog posts, you have to buy premium membership.

But why don’t we allow everyone to use all the features free of charge because most websites work like this?  The reason is: we do not serve ads to our users AT ALL. Those “free” websites are not as free as one might think… These websites earn money by selling the data about their users to advertisers. The more users they have the more they can earn from the ads. Yes, you don’t pay directly with cash, but you do pay quite a lot with your attention. This is why advertising revenue models make these websites use different techniques to capture as much of your attention as possible.

Since we’re a debating platform, whose goal is to promote critical thinking, let’s be objective... Advertising revenue models can be rather beneficial to users. Users don’t pay cash for using the website/app and in exchange they allow the website owners to serve targeted ads to them. The website owners earn cash, advertisers show their ads efficiently to the proper audience and the users see the ads that are as relevant to their interests and needs as possible. Indeed, users don’t see irrelevant ads, for the most part, they see ads that are based on their browsing history and their online profile. It is clearly a benefit to users and it seems like every party wins in the end.

However, if you go to a website that uses the ads revenue module, you’re not entirely in charge of what you see on the website. Machine learning algorithms show you what you’re more likely to click on based on your previous actions and based on the users who demonstrate a behavior similar to yours. Very often, these websites know you better than you know yourself. Whether, it is ethical or not is debatable (tell us what you think in this debate).

We created Keenston to foster critical thinking and we do not believe that this goal resonates with the advertising revenue module. We would much rather have a few thousand people who pay a small monthly fee, know what they pay for and see what they want to see than have millions of users whose attention is sold to advertisers.

And what is it that you pay for? You pay for the ability to connect with people who are self-aware, who are able to challenge their views and who want to understand other perspectives. This is why our only public module is Debates, where there MUST be an alternative to a certain viewpoint making everyone see at least two different perspectives on a certain issue. Our people also come to Keenston to create their small learning communities, they can start making a small change. Only you get to choose which community to follow, no algorithm will ever push you to do anything.

We do not want to create another addictive website whose goal is to maximize the time you spend browsing different pages. We’d like to create a platform that would allow people to improve their critical thinking skills. The freemium model will not make us do everything to maximize time on site. We’d rather strive to maximize the number of “Enlightened me” or “Changed my view” reactions. Thus, we’ll know that people do indeed learn while using Keenston. In order to learn or enlighten other people, you don’t need to spend hours on Keenston every day :-)

Online Advertising Debate


Added a post  to  , heterodoxthinking

My name is Sasha and I’ve sat in a lot of classes in my life! After high school, I spent six years earning my first degree (5 years at a Russian University and 1 year as an exchange student at an American college) then I took a break and worked in Moscow eventually deciding to spend another 2 years to earn my Master’s degree in the US. I’ve spent 18 years on formal education and certainly I’ve learned a ton. However, I’ve also realized that there are many flaws in the conventional educational system. Very often, education is conflated with indoctrination and educators mold a person into another conforming worker rather than into an independent, unique, inquisitive and creative thinker. This is not right. 

I studied at a regular high school and all kinds of students were brought together into groups of 25-30 people. Despite their different mental faculties, everyone was given the same material and there was always a disparity in how quickly students picked up the material: the slower students were not treated differently at all. That made these students hate their life in high school. For those students who were coping with the material, the whole purpose of the school was to turn them into efficient test takers who could then use their test results to enter universities and make their school proud. However, nobody gave a damn about what the individual student was interested in. Most kids were competing for what their parents and teachers thought was the right fit for the students. 

I was a rather efficient test taker and I got a full ride at a university, the university that looked like the right fit for me. Soon I realized that the university experience was merely a continuation of my high school experience with more specialized classes and exams. Perhaps, it was because of my country’s complicated past: the university system was not helping the students become individuals, it seemed like the system was manufacturing new obedient factory workers. Most professors were cowards who did whatever the administrators were telling them to do. There was only one teacher who stood out in the crowd: he was my literature professor. He was not a conformist and he always said what he thought, that’s why he was not liked by lots of his colleagues. I’d say that he was the only professor in all 5 years of my studying at that university who was truly enlightening his students. 

In 2010, I went to the US as an exchange student to study at a liberal arts college in a progressive state for one year. The experience was different from that at my Russian university: it was okay to say controversial things in classes and the professors could have very different perspectives. We had all kinds of guest speakers who could have their own opinions. It didn’t seem like the professors depended on the administrators too much and I didn’t see any particular agenda that was dominating the college. It felt rather free.

Six years later, when I started my Master’s program in the US in another progressive state, to my dismay, things were different. The professors were teaching their materials effectively and the students had really high IQs but there was clearly a problem with excessive administration and 99% of the students (at least verbally) had the same views on most societal topics. On top of that, I found such concepts as safe spaces and trigger warnings appalling and contradictory to the idea of challenging your views and stepping out of your comfort zone while attending a college. Political correctness was through the roof and groupthink was taking the reins. Strangely, the atmosphere was even more suffocating than that in my post-soviet university. Something had changed in the American higher education. People who had views different from the accepted agenda were afraid to even slightly criticize the vociferous ideologues for fear of being branded a bigot, which they were not at all. It felt rather totalitarian. 

We’re building Keenston to change the perception of how people can be educated, connect those who want to enlighten and be enlightened, help people understand their potential, build their critical thinking skills, be heterodox thinkers, become creators but not copiers and understand the complex world by connecting with people from different cultures. We are going to be an English-speaking site for people who truly care about enlightenment and who want to make education better throughout the world. We will strive to make Keenston as objective as possible; so we will not use echochamber-creating algorithms but give the user as much freedom as possible. We want to foster flexible educational approaches, promote courageous educators, cherish diversity of thought and cultivate nuanced thinking!