Why is Keenston not “free”?
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 :-)